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Travel the World on the Government Dime

Travel the World on the Government Dime

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Chris McConnell | GovCentral

Profiles in Public Service: Charles Ray

Global travel. Learning new languages and experiencing cultures. These are just some of the reasons that people decide to join the Foreign Service at the Department of State.

The Foreign Service is a group of citizens that are the face of America internationally. Their mission is to strengthen peace and support prosperity by promoting our business interests and protecting American citizens throughout the world.

To be considered for the foreign service, you must be whip-smart and pass a rigorous application and interview process.

Take Charles A. Ray, Ambassador-Designate to Zimbabwe.


Charles A. Ray, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to Zimbabwe

Ray started his career as a Foreign Service Officer in 1982 after retiring as a Major in the Army after 20-years service.

Before he retired, Ray wondered what his next step would be. A librarian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA suggested he look at the State Department.

Then dominated by Ivy-league graduates, Ray admits that the Foreign Service seemed an odd place for a kid that grew up in East Texas.

Successfully completing the application and interview process, he initially had a tough transition from giving orders in the Army to taking them as a junior Foreign Service Officer.

According to his White House Biography it seems he’s had some success:

Since joining the Foreign Service, Charles A. Ray has served in China and Thailand, and was Deputy Chief of Mission in Sierra Leone. In 1998, he was appointed as the first U.S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In 2002, he was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, where he served until 2005. Mr. Ray served as Diplomat in Residence at the University of Houston for the 2005-2006 academic year.

When asked his opinion about Generation Y and the next generation at the State Department, Ambassador Ray saw many similarities to those inspired by President Kennedy. However, he stressed that their enthusiasm can also lead to frustration when they are not automatically put into leadership positions.

“Be patient and learn,” Ambassador Ray advised.

Learn more about becoming a Foreign Service Officer at the State Department.

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