On a Tuesday night in Bethesda, Maryland, in a buzzing and humming room off the main lobby of Fox Hill, a snazzy retirement condo community, 90-something resident Sherry Migdail is praising the achievements of her fellow retirees.
“My husband and I moved in three-and-a-half years ago; he died a couple of years ago,” she explains as she looks around the room. “But he was the Latin American guy for U.S. News and World Report. The man over there was an oceanographer with the Smithsonian. This lady was a doctor at [George Washington University Hospital] and had been in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation.”
Other residents, she says, were involved with the U.S. foreign service, either as consultants, wives of officers, or officers themselves. And several of those foreign-service officers are responsible for this evening’s gathering: a presentation by Chuck Ford, former ambassador to Honduras. Ford also served as the Acting Assistant Secretary of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service at the Commerce Department. Tonight, he’s visiting Fox Hill to give a talk on commercial diplomacy.
The lecture is part of Fox Hill’s ongoing Foreign Affairs Discussion Group, coordinated by a resident who knows a little something about foreign affairs: retired American career ambassador Bill Harrop. During his 39 years with the foreign service, Harrop did his share of globetrotting, as ambassador to Guinea in West Africa, Kenya in East Africa, the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, the Congo and Israel.