Michelle K. Warren: 2009 PMF
As I near the end of my four-month rotation in the Political Section at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, it is difficult to imagine a more challenging yet rewarding experience. Within days of arriving at "Post" and taking up the Religious Freedoms and Human Rights portfolio, I was tasked with accompanying the Ambassador to meetings with local religious leaders and government officials. I also acted as control officer for several high-level USG visitors - including the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Russia and Ukraine and the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues - and had the privilege of serving as site officer during the Secretary of State's visit to Ukraine on July 2. This included co-organizing a civil society roundtable and "meet and greet" event with local NGO and religious leaders (photo to the left, I am second from the left).
In my capacity as Human Rights Officer, I am regularly called upon to make quick judgment calls and advise my supervisors, the Political Counselor, and the Ambassador on delicate politicized issues regarding property restitution issues in Ukraine. On August 4, I represented the United States at an important commemorative event of particular importance to the Jewish community in western Ukraine, affording me the opportunity to experience public diplomacy work and to supervise the work of the Political Section's most senior local staff member. Moreover, I regularly meet with religious leaders, government officials, and NGO representatives in my efforts to update the Embassy's draft of two Congressionally-mandated reports on the state of religious freedoms and human rights in Ukraine.
Working at an Embassy has given me a unique insight into the role of the Foreign Service in the implementation of U.S. foreign policy. I will undoubtedly take this newfound knowledge and experience back with me to my home office in Washington, where I coordinate nonproliferation and arms control policy for the European and Eurasian region. On a more personal note, I will forever value the chance to live and work in a country like Ukraine, and to travel to other post-Soviet countries in order to more fully appreciate their emerging national political cultures and identities.