Mobile Donating Could Raise Millions for The Ebola Crisis

Dear readers, this is not a typical post and may not help you pass the FSOT, but it is linked to the State Department and the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Please read it and if you agree, kindly send it on to your contacts.  The goal is to create a groundswell for State to take action as it once did just after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti…

Best, Bill

The attached paper is addressed to all those who care about foreign affairs, global pandemics, and the crisis that grips West Africa, where according to the Centers for Disease Control’s worst-case estimate the Ebola virus could infect up to 1.4 million people and kill nearly 1 million (with a 70% mortality rate).  I have a way to channel private U.S. donations to the fight ongoing in the Mano River region.  Please read the following:

Dear Subscriber:

Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. State Department did a curious thing. Embracing social media and tech savvy like no other Administration, Hillary Clinton’s State Department set up a mobile donating platform for Americans to give $10 by texting the word “Haiti” to the shortcode 90999. The donations, charged to the donors’ phone bills, topped at least $43 million. The money went to the Red Cross.

CNN published a story by Amy Gahran in 2012 to highlight the lessons of this unique and unprecedented State Department idea at

I propose that the State Department do this again to help the suffering populations in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone and especially those volunteers working on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis. In this case, instead of the Red Cross or a UN organization, I propose that the donations go to international Mèdecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), one of the NGOs leading lifesaving activities in the Mano River region.

Unfortunately, those who came up with the Haiti mobile donating idea have pretty much left active government, and while I believe there is enough institutional knowledge to replicate this effort, I don’t know if the idea has occurred to the Secretary Kerry’s State Department.

So it’s time for everyone who has an interest to begin sending messages via email, telephone calls, tweets. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram to Secretary Kerry to stand up this mobile platform once again to help those suffering in this unprecedented pandemic in West Africa. Feel free to use the attached text message and let your voices be heard. And please spread this message

CNN published a story by Amy Gahran in 2012 to highlight the lessons of this unique and unprecedented State Department idea at

Begin text:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing to you about the terrible tragedy that is taking place in the Mano River region of West Africa. The Ebola virus has spawned a pandemic the likes of which have the potential to rival the AIDS crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published a worst-case scenario that would see up to 1.4 million people infected with the deadly virus. Even with a reduced mortality rate of 70 percent compared to past Ebola outbreaks in East and Central Africa would mean a death toll of nearly 1 million. Yes, that’s one million people dying from Ebola. It would be higher than the Rwanda genocide and nearly five times higher than the death toll in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Mr. Secretary, I am writing to ask the State Department and you to stand up a mobile donating platform that was last used during the 2010 Haiti earthquake to raise money for the Red Cross. Americans and others donated $10 at a time by simply texting the word “Haiti” to the shortcode 90999. This was a State Department Initiative dreamed up by Secretary Clinton’s tech advisors and rolled out by the Secretary herself. With the assistance of telephone companies, the $10 contributions were charge to donors’ telephone bills. In the end, the total raised for Haitian earthquake victims was $43 million.

Can’t we do the same for the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, who are and will be suffering from the Ebola catastrophe in West Africa? We need State Department leadership once again to stand up and ask the American people to be as generous as they have been since the start of the Republic.

I would ask that the State Department to coordinate with telephone companies to allow mobile phone operators to text “Ebola” to a new number or shortcode to send $10 to help the victims and those fighting on the frontlines on their behalf in the fight against this deadly scourge.

But instead of sending the donations to the Red Cross or to a UN agency, I support sending them to the international arm of the NGO Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), which has been fighting on the frontlines since the outbreak of the disease.

Mr. Secretary, please accept my deepest gratitude and please make this campaign a reality.


[Your Name}

The Honorable
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC 20520




State Dept Guidebook for Oral Assessment

For those of you facing the Oral Assessment phase of the Foreign Service Exam, I want to call your attention to the outstanding manual that the Department has recently released. It’s not only an excellent overview of the assessment process, but provides a lot of examples on how to handle the group exercise, the writing assignments and other sections. Take a look even if you’re not yet facing this part of the Exam.

I know I frequently criticize how State runs the assessment process, but I’m pleased to say that the Oral Assessment Guidebook is superb.  Take advantage of it.




John Kerry: Foreign Service is in my blood

The new boss…

From YouTube of John Kerry’s testimony before the SFRC on Jan 24, 2013:



Just Do It — Deadline for February FSOT

The February FSOT is fast approaching.  Don’t miss the chance to take the test.  According to the State Department site — the bible for the FSOT (so check it out immediately, if you haven’t) — the deadline for signing up to take it overseas is today.

For those taking it at US test centers the deadline is January 30.  Borrowing from Nike, just do it!   The test is free, it’s a half day out of your lives and you may get it.  The exam process itself is something of an education, well, maybe an education in how truly bureaucratic the State Department and the whole US Government is!

I’ve been offline for a bit.  Started a new job, and yes it’s in the private sector.  I will continue to talk about the Foreign Service, the exam process and so forth, but I will also add my two cents on management/leadership writ large as well as life in the workplace and how to get ahead (or not).

Best of luck to all








Last Day to Register for the FSOT — Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You have until Wednesday, September 26 to register for the upcoming Foreign Service Exam.  If you’ve forgotten or been sitting on the fence, you really should sit down at a computer and complete the registration process.  You’ve really got nothing to lose.  It’s free, failing is not held against you and it gives you a shot at the most exciting career in the U.S. Government.  Yes, it’s a long slog, but in my opinion one well worth doing, even if you serve for only a few years.  I’ve had many colleagues who left after two or three years, and have gone on to careers and jobs that satisfied them more.  Face it, serving overseas as a Foreign Service Officer looks great on your CV.

Okay, I’m off the soapbox and leave it up to you.  Ask my 17-year-old son, he’ll tell you I’m a crappy parent and my advice is worthless…  Ah, raising a teenager is so much fun.