Ismaila Whittier, a PhD student at Harvard Kennedy School, recalls the moment he applied to be a Foreign Service official, in part due to Mr Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
On January 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Mr. Whittier was watching events at his parents’ home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, feeling “secondhand embarrassed”. How could he promote American values abroad if they were turned upside down at home? He wondered.
Mr Whittier, who took the Foreign Service exam in February, applied for the post he had not held during his tenure because the government “disregarded” multilateral agreements such as the Iranian nuclear deal and Paris.
“President Trump was very unusual,” said Whittier. “That completely stopped me from joining the Foreign Service.”
Despite Mr Biden’s promise to “bring the world back”, several Foreign Service candidates said they remain aware that the State Department has plenty of room for improvement, particularly on diversity issues.
The agency, which has a reputation for being “pale, manly, and Yale” has been pushed to reckon with its racing record. State Department data showed that only 80 Black Foreign Service officials and specialists were promoted in fiscal year 2019, representing 1 percent of the 8,000+ diplomats participating. As of last year, of the 189 ambassadors serving in overseas embassies, only three career officers were black while four were Hispanic. according to the American Academy of Diplomacy.
The Biden government said addressing the lack of diversity in the diplomatic corps would be a priority. State Secretary Antony J. Blinken said that in February The department would hire a chief diversity and inclusion officer. In the past few days, Mr Biden has been criticized by lawmakers for not nominating enough Asian-American candidates for leadership positions.