Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch accepted the Trainor Award on Feb. 12 for excellence in the conduct of diplomacy. The award is named for J. Raymond Trainor, who was Secretary of the School of Foreign Service from 1935 until his retirement in 1956.
Yovanovitch received the award in part due to her conduct during the House’s impeachment inquiry against President DonaldTrump. After she was ousted from her post as ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch testified in multiple House committee depositions as part of the inquiry. In her opening statement to the House Intelligence Committee, she claimed that she had been the target of a smear campaign by President Trump’s affiliates, ultimately leading to her removal because of her role in obstructing Trump’s efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.
At the award ceremony, several speakers remarked on Ambassador Yovanovitch’s testimony. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, commended her for her bravery. “Masha was among the first to have to make the very tough decision between what she was ordered to do [by President Trump] and what her oath to the Constitution required her to do,” he said.
Former Ambassador Barbara Bodine, director of Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, was similarly complimentary. She said “it was very much her eloquence, professionalism, and grace under pressure that she so wonderfully exemplified what career service really means.”
Following the opening remarks, Yovanovitch delivered a lecture on the continued relevance of diplomacy in the conduct of international affairs. As part of the conversation, she referenced President Trump’s foreign policy and State Department budget cuts and vacancies. She argued, “an amoral, keep ‘em guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear, and confusion cannot work over the long haul, especially in our social media savvy, interconnected world.”
Ambassador Yovanovitch argued that the State Department should continue its investment in diplomacy. “The State Department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage. This is no time to undercut our diplomats. With so many challenges, we need to double down on our diplomacy,” she stated.
Yovanovitch also emphasized the importance of training diplomats and cultivating bilateral relations with allied nations across the bounds of each successive presidential administration.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright affirmed this commitment to diplomacy in a message she wrote for Ambassador Bodine to read at the ceremony. She argued, “there is much more to diplomacy and there is more to service than the advancement of interests and the conclusion of major deals. There is the advancement of values, principles, and ethics and leadership. It is more than doing well, or even doing good, but it is also doing right.”
Albright added that Yovanovitch exemplified this conduct in diplomacy. “At a difficult moment in our country’s history, Ambassador Yovanovitch was called upon to speak the truth,” she wrote. “In doing so, she demonstrated to the American people and world the finest qualities one can hope for in a foreign service officer: courage, honesty, and a deep devotion to the Constitution.”
Ambassador Yovanovitch ended the lecture with a call to action. “We all need to be contributing to making our community, our country, our world the kind of place we want it to be.”
“No one else will do it for us,” she said.