Profiles in Courage: Marie Yovanovitch

Marie Yovanovitch taking her oath before testifying to the House impeachment committee.

Marie Yovanovitch taking her oath before testifying to the House impeachment committee.

Marie Yovanovitch: “I have seen dictatorships around the world, where blind obedience is the norm and truth-tellers are threatened with punishment or death. We must not allow the United States to become a country where standing up to our government is a dangerous act.”

Marie Yovanovitch worked for the State Department for 34 years, ending her career as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. She refused to go along with the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into becoming an arm of the Trump re-election smear campaign, so she was forced out of her post. Then she refused to be silenced, instead testifying under oath in the House impeachment hearings. She showed the highest kind of courage in refusing to give in to intense, high-level political pressure.

As a career State Department officer, Yovanovitch worked under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Career diplomats, unlike political appointees, do not owe allegiance to party or president. Yovanovitch showed that her highest allegiance is to the country she served for 34 years: our country.

Now that she is a private citizen, she has written about her actions and convictions in a recent Washington Post op/ed:

“It was an honor for me to represent the United States abroad because, like many immigrants, I have a keen understanding of what our country represents. In a leap of optimism and faith, my parents made their way from the wreckage of post-World War II Europe to America, knowing in their hearts that this country would give me a better life. They rested their hope, not in the possibility of prosperity, but in a strong democracy: a country with resilient institutions, a government that sought to advance the interests of its people, and a society in which freedom was cherished and dissent protected. These are treasures that must be carefully guarded by all who call themselves Americans.

“When civil servants in the current administration saw senior officials taking actions they considered deeply wrong in regard to the nation of Ukraine, they refused to take part. When Congress asked us to testify about those activities, my colleagues and I did not hesitate, even in the face of administration efforts to silence us.

“We did this because it is the American way to speak up about wrongdoing. I have seen dictatorships around the world, where blind obedience is the norm and truth-tellers are threatened with punishment or death. We must not allow the United States to become a country where standing up to our government is a dangerous act.”

We owe Marie Yovanovitch and our country the courage to weigh information and face painful truths and form our own opinions and convictions. In a time of national crisis, we are called to refuse blind obedience and defend democracy.

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