Consular Talesby William S. Shepard
William S. Shepard always wanted to join the career American Foreign Service. Years later, a law school classmate remembered Shepard's career choice. Why not join a Wall Street law firm? "I wanted to know what it was like to wake up and see the sun rise in Singapore," Shepard had said in law school.He got that chance in Singapore, and lots of consular action besides, from dealing with sailors to repatriating the down and out and conducting security investigations. The local color was intriguing, as Shepard found out the local importance of ghosts, appeasing tree spirits, and keeping one's back to the wall when pursuing drunken sailors in the downtown dock area. Saigon during the Viet-Nam War is shown through a Consul's unique perspective. Shepard discovers the way that the Viet Cong shipped guns into Saigon during the Tet Offensive in coffins, and describes the painstaking work of a consular office in facilitating adoptions of Vietnamese children. In Budapest during the Cold War, security shadowing was a normal part of the everyday diplomatic experience. So was Shepard's friendship with His Eminence Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty, then in refuge at the American Embassy on Freedom Square. Shepard describes his walks with Cardinal Mindszenty, as Hungarian security police strained to take pictures of them and record their conversations. Shepard also takes us on a journey to eastern Hungary to visit a very old woman, whose Social Security claim needed verification. Her view of the United States and what our country could be was a highpoint of the author's diplomatic service. Shepard knows from experience that a Consul's day doesn't quite end at a predictable hour. He also shows us that the next problem that a Consul faces could affect the security of the United States, or the outcome of a presidential election, citing the attempted renunciation of his American citizenship by Lee Harvey Oswald at the American Embassy in Moscow, and the mishandling of the passport files of Bill Clinton when he was a student in England during the 1992 presidential election. From Vice Consul to the highest consular official, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, the work requires dedication, competence and common sense. As Shepard tells us, "It matters, it matters greatly, and it cannot be done by telegram, from somewhere else."
Consular Tales was inspired by the closing of the American Consulate General in Bordeaux, as a budgetary decision by the Clinton Administration in 1996. This was our oldest American Consulate General, opened by President George Washington in 1790. The mission was only closed briefly twice in its long history, when war between France and the United States seemed possible at the end of the eighteenth century, and then again during the Second World War, during the Nazi Occupation. Shepard hopes that by demonstrating what consular work actually is done at a Consulate General, that more young Americans will be inspired to choose this work as their career. And now that national budgetary pressures have eased, the reopening of the most historic American Consulate General should follow. If it does, Consular Tales will have served its larger purpose, and an important chapter of American consular history will be preserved and extended.
- Xlibris Corporation
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I recently passed the Oral Assessment portion of the Foreign Service Exam and can attest to the relevance of William Shepard's experiences in "Consular Tales" to the type of hypothetical situations raised by the examiners. A Foreign Service candidate will learn not only from the specific examples cited in the book, but more importantly from Mr. Shepard's thought process while handling a wide variety of issues facing members of the diplomatic corps. Page for the page, Consular Tales is the best study guide for preparing yourself to take the Foreign Service Exam.
I enjoy books that contain other people's experiences. How else to compare or learn about one's life. 'Counslar Tales' not only has Mr. Shepard's expiriences, but history and an eduaction about our governments foriegn service. Many of the tales are also approached humorously, a few adventures as well. Who would benefit? People interested in foriegn travel, or have loved ones that do, someone interested in government or people that enjoy history.
Anyone interested in a career in the foreign service should read this book. Anyone interested in knowing what intrigue living life abroad can be should read this book. This is real adventure as told only by one who has experienced it first hand. This book exposes the personal as well as the professional aspects of serving one's country in the diplomatic corp. I have no intention of living abroad or joining the foreign service but I enjoyed reading Consular Tales. You will too.
Consular Tales offers personal insights and experiences of a foreign service official who has served in a variety of locales. Forget Hollywood, forget Clancy, this is real life adventure. If anyone interested in a foreign service career or what it is like to represent America abroad misses this book, they miss the opportunity to live the experience vicariously.