What a powerful assortment of learning opportunities this president and his administration have provided! It is an ongoing educational experience for this retiree beyond the usual opportunities of travel, volunteering, reading and taking greater advantage of cable news. The president has revealed hundreds of opportunities for examining our government and its works.

During what other administration have we heard “Second Amendment rights,” “presidential accountability,” and “no one is above the law” thrown around so often? It’s a far cry from the dry lectures of my youth, intended to give me what I needed to know about three branches of government and balance of power necessary between the Congress, the president and the courts. 

The recently broadcast congressional hearings preparatory to possible impeachment of the president have given me a whole new insight into the critical value of a well-trained and disciplined diplomatic corps thanks to the testimonies, among others, of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, Ambassador William Taylor and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, all of whom have been working on behalf of the United States and Ukraine. Ambassador Taylor has recently been called back into duty to replace Ambassador Yovanovitch who was unceremoniously fired in June by our president after serving in that position three years and before that in other challenging locations as a valued career diplomat with expertise in uncovering corruption.

Teachers of government classes would do well to use video clips of the testimonies of these trained diplomats because they exemplify what it means to serve without ego or political affiliation to assist other countries and our own. Their several backgrounds as children of immigrants who came to this country to escape persecution in Europe and Russia stand out as primary motivation for the work they ultimately undertook. Dedicating their life’s work to the security of our country by formally linking themselves with other countries in working toward self-government and respect is of benefit to the whole world.

Thorough training, experience and expertise were apparent in the answers they gave to all questions: respectful, no assumptions, fully informative without nuance, straight facts. It is clear that the appointment to Ukraine is one of the more crucial positions where scholarship, experience and expertise in diplomacy are needed. There is no comparison to other ambassadorships where the less trained and experienced may be appointed because they are mega-donors to the seated president. Case in point: Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sundland, a million-dollar Trump donor with no previous diplomatic experience whose testimony was more vague because according to his testimony he never takes notes, has memory lapses and the State Department refused to let him access his own communication record.

During the three initial public hearings it became clear that career State Department employees feel abandoned by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who failed to respond to their multiple concerns for what was happening in Ukraine and specifically threats to Ambassador Yovanovitch, not from Ukranians but from the president and his “alternative channel” to Ukranian leaders led by Rudy Giuliani. Clearly Pompeo’s oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and be responsible for the safety of this country and his people in the State Department has not been upheld, causing very low morale among its dedicated employees. 

Why be concerned about Ukraine? Russia is fighting them on their own turf in an area as large as Texas. Ukraine needs the help of the United States in fending off Russian aggression. Russia has not given up trying to take over or control the world while Ukraine is aiming with new leadership to get rid of corruption (the buying of privileges of power). It has just lost one of its most skilled supporters in that effort, Ambassador Yovanovitch.

It is a privilege to be able to watch the workings of the government through the hearings. Regardless of political affiliation much may be gained from listening and observing those who have put their personal and professional lives on the line doing what they were trained to do: seek the truth in activities that affect our country’s security as well as that of the country to whom they are sent. Whatever the outcome of the hearings it has been reassuring to realize that fully lived patriotism such as these career diplomats have revealed is something for which to give thanks.

Melinda Stibal lives in Coloma. Her email address is: 2mstibals@comcast.net