When I was young, my hometown of Kansas City felt like an island surrounded by an ocean of open land. Like many Midwestern towns, the world seemed to end at the city limits.
Sometimes it felt like empathy ended there with it.
I grew up thinking that all that matters was in driving distance. That the affairs of foreign countries were of no consequence, and the issues their citizens faced were not my concern. I went on believing this until an exchange program tore me from the illusion. I realized then that the values we hold and the issues we face are too similar to allow distance to separate us.
So I made it my mission to bridge that gap.
My journey to gain the tools needed to build bridges brought me to places where no one in my family had gone before. I became the first person in my family to go to college, leaving Kansas City to study journalism at Howard University. I was convinced at the time that news reporting would be how I could connect people.
I was trained to communicate clearly and concisely but decided that proficiency in one language would not suffice. So, I decided to spend a year studying French in Paris.
During my time in France, however, my confidence in journalism began to shrink.
My French classmates had read a lot about the United States, but they remained skeptical. It seemed as if the power of language was blunted at a distance.
In contrast, when I had face-to-face conversations with classmates, the words appeared to carry more weight. So, I returned to Howard with a new focus: facilitating people-to-people connections.
The question then became how to make a career out of such work.
After graduation, I bounced around from one short-term job to another. I worked as a program assistant for the Mandela Washington Fellowship then returned to France to teach American history and English. I later found myself on Capitol Hill working to introduce the American public to international events through Congressional briefings and reports.
All the while, these experiences were quietly forming a path for me. They led me to a place where my specific passions and skills converged—the Department of State. A career as a foreign service officer became that perfect union.
I applied to the Pickering Fellowship – a pipeline designed to help underrepresented communities enter the foreign service – and was fortunate to receive the award. With fellowship in hand, I completed a Masters degree at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and prepared to join the foreign service.
In a few short weeks, I will officially begin my career at the Department of State. The path was not always straightforward, but it has led me to a longtime goal. As a diplomat, I can report on international issues and lead dialogues abroad while also managing programs that build bridges like the one that opened me up to the world.
– Erick Boone, Pickering Fellow, U.S. Embassy Singapore