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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Remarks at the Annual AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony

Heather Higginbottom
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources 
C St. Lobby
Washington, DC
May 2, 2014


Thank you, Bob and thank you, Raj for those remarks. And thank you to all of you for being here. Foreign Affairs Day is a day to honor the many Foreign Service professionals who advance America’s interests and values through their work. And this ceremony is a poignant reminder that this vital work does not come without danger. The names on this plaque represent courageous women and men who volunteered to serve their country abroad. They volunteered to protect their fellow citizens, to strengthen our country, and to promote our values. They stood for peace, for prosperity, and for freedom, and they made the ultimate sacrifice.

Each name on these memorial plaques represents a story of courage and sacrifice. These individuals did not think of themselves as heroes, but we do. We are proud of them and we salute them. The first name memorialized here is William Palfrey. In 1780, Palfrey, who was an American diplomat, was lost at sea while serving his country. Many others since then have given their lives in service, lost to disease, to disasters, to accidents, and to war. We honor and remember them today.

We also honor our Foreign Service colleagues who continue to make sacrifices in order to carry out the mission our government has asked of them, whether in Kabul or Cairo or Madrid or Manila. One of these heroic public servants lost her life last year in Haiti. Today, we honor her: Antoinette “Toni” Beaumont Tomasek. Today, we pay tribute to a woman whose love of country, love of humanity, and love of service to others led her to devote herself to aiding the poor and needy around the globe, to saving lives, to giving hope. Her commitment to helping others inspires us.

Today, we also honor her family. Adam, Alex, Amelie, thank you for sharing Toni with us. Marilyn, thank you for giving the world such a wonderful daughter. Raj has told us much about Toni, and we all share his admiration for her dedication and her professionalism.

Toni was remarkable and she was effective. As a first tour officer in Indonesia, she designed and developed the Community Empowerment of People Against Tuberculosis program. This program is now running all over Indonesia and serving thousands of the poor, a lasting legacy. From everything I’ve heard and everyone I’ve spoken with about her, it’s clear that Toni had a positive impact on everyone she met and everyone she touched through her work. Though we mourn her loss today, she will live on in the lives that she touched, the friends that she made, and the service that she provided.

When asked about Toni, her colleague Eric Davis said, “We work in an agency where people have usually chosen their job because they want to be a force for good in the world. But because of the nature of daily life at a bureaucracy, it’s easy to forget why we are here. But Toni never lost track of why she was doing what she did.” We will never lose track of it either. We will remember and miss her.

Bob, will you please unveil the name of this year’s honoree? Antoinette Beaumont Tomasek. I’d like to now ask Father Moretti to offer a prayer.

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