RealJobs: Bernadette Meehan


I’m on duty this weekend, so I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m. so I can review emails to catch up on everything that’s happened around the world overnight.  This includes summaries of press stories covering global issues, sent out by our Public Affairs office; emails from our embassies and consulates around the world; and alerts from our Operations Center.  I receive several hundred emails a day, and one of my primary responsibilities is to sort through what rises to the level of the Secretary, and what can be addressed at a lower level.

6:35 a.m. – Alas, my plan to sleep in until 7:00 a.m. has been foiled, as my phone rings with a call from the Operations Center.  “Ops”, as they are known inside the Department, is our communication and crisis management center.  They monitor world events; facilitate communication between the Department and the rest of the world; coordinate the Department’s response to crises; and support task forces, monitoring groups, and other crisis-related activities.  Ops will call me or Nima anytime they receive urgent information from around the world that needs to reach the Secretary, or when people throughout the Department have questions for us.  This morning they are calling to connect me with Timmy Davis, our fantastic Political Chief in Basrah, Iraq.

6:55 a.m. – I seriously debate the utility of sleeping the extra five minutes until my alarm goes off, and I wistfully decide it will just make my inevitable wake-up harder.  I forward several updates to our Deputy Chief of Staff and the Executive Assistant, and hop out of bed.  The Secretary is scheduled to make phone calls to two foreign interlocutors this morning, so I need to make sure there is no need to update the briefing papers I gave her last night before she left the office.

7:24 a.m. – I receive an email from the U.S. Ambassador to the country whose Foreign Minister the Secretary is scheduled to speak with later this morning.  There is some additional information she thinks it would be useful for the Secretary to have before she makes the phone call.  I read through the information and agree that the Secretary should see it, so I’ll need to update her papers and send her a revised copy.

11:30 a.m. – I arrive at the office wearing jeans and a sweater.  I update the briefing paper for one of the Secretary’s phone calls and send it to her.

11:30 a.m. – Something has come up at work, so I reschedule my 12:00 p.m. appointment to try on wedding dresses.  I met my fiancé while we were both working at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and we’re getting married this summer.  Planning a wedding has been a (fun) challenge with my schedule!

1:00 p.m. – The Secretary has completed two phone calls to foreign interlocutors, and I provide readouts to colleagues who will need to follow-up on various issues resulting from the calls.

2:00 p.m. – I leave the office and head to my rescheduled wedding dress appointment, Blackberry in hand.


8:00 a.m. – I sleep in an extra hour this morning, and repeat the routine of catching up on overnight world events.

11:30 a.m. – I head into the office to finish the Secretary’s briefing book for Monday.  She is hosting a working lunch and a bilateral meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.  We gave a robust and wide-ranging relationship with Turkey, so there are a lot of issues to cover.

2:30 p.m. – I send tomorrow’s briefing book to the Secretary and head back to my apartment.  Throughout the afternoon I track the results of the Arab League meeting on Syria, and field several phone call from Ops throughout the afternoon and evening.

It’s been great sharing my week with you!  The Foreign Service is an amazing opportunity to serve our country, and I feel lucky to love my work.  For anyone interested in learning more about the issues the Department of State covers, visit  For those interested in a career with the Department of State , visit


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