Back Issues of PDAA Today

Back issues of PDAA Today, PDAA’s quarterly print newsletter are now online and available for download.

Philip Brown – Moscow: A SecState Visit Interrupts a Reunion

During our first six years overseas in the Foreign Service, my wife’s parents visited us three times — in Dakar, Yaoundé, and Algiers. My parents did not. It was simply beyond their means and so they went two years at a time without seeing their only grandchildren.

I was thus very excited when ten years later, in April 1978, they arranged to visit us in Garmisch, Germany, where I was studying at the US Army Russian Institute in advance of my assignment to AmEmbassy Moscow as IO/Press Attaché.  Garmisch is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, we were enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime family experience and I knew I could adjust my schedule to spend quality time with my parents, including some side trips.

And then, just three days before they were due to arrive came the bombshell. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance would be visiting Moscow and it was determined that I should go there for a week on TDY to help out and to learn how to handle the press during a SecState visit. I would have to leave Garmisch just days after my parents arrived and they would have departed by the time I returned.

I didn’t break the news to my parents until I picked them up at the airport in Munich, and they took it as I would have predicted — disappointed that I would not be there for much of their visit but proud of me. They would have much to tell their friends (I might even say bragging rights) when they returned home.

We did find time for an overnight trip to historic Rothenburg ob der Tauber before I was off to Moscow. The good news is that thanks to my wife, my parents saw and enjoyed Garmisch, and I had a most productive and positive professional experience in Moscow.

The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (

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