Wayne McDuffy at ribbon cutting ceremony in Heart, Afghanistan

*It seems almost anomalous when Black men speak.  If still waters run deep, so do the feelings of Black men.   They are painfully and beautifully human.

Too often their voices go unheard.  And when their voices are heard, it is a rich and luminous moment, revealing the deepest insight of their experience and their passion.

In 10 Questions for 1 Brotha, I give a voice to those we long to hear from and who have some much to share. As the ancient scriptures remind us, “With all thy getting, get understanding.”

Meet Wayne McDuffy, 48.  He was born in Los Angeles, California, grew up in the San Fernando Valley. McDuffy is a Management officer with the United States Foreign Service. Currently, McDuffy is stationed in Herat, Afghanistan. He was selected to this sole management position for opening of one of the first two Consulates at the U.S. Department of State’s highest priority foreign policy mission.

McDuffy has been married 18 years to his Salvadoran-born wife Jesus Mejia Martinez de McDuffy.  They have raised 6 children together and have 10 grandchildren. Mc Duffy has a MA in Strategy from the US Army War College; BA in government from Harvard University; he also attended and studied German at the Universität Konstanz in German. He speaks Italian, German and some French.

1.   Describe what was like growing up for you in one word and why that word?

Uncertainty.  Growing up with 9 brothers and sisters, and neither parent working meant a good deal of uncertainty.  We moved four times when I was young.  As the ninth of 10 children, I at least took advantage of watching my siblings struggle with school, neighborhood violence, the police, drugs and unemployment, and avoiding their missteps. While my parents provided what they could, and always tried to instill in us the basic toolkit for survival and success, what I learned from growing up and watching my brothers and sisters was that I did have the choice to avoid the uncertainty of being poor, and that the best way to do so was to get a good education.

2.         Many cultures have a rite of passage for men, our culture does not. Looking back, what threshold did you cross that defined you as a man?

On the one hand, spiritually, it was baptism.  We were members of the Church of Christ, and I was baptized at 13.  On the other hand it was success in athletics.  High school football, track or basketball was normally the litmus test of whether you were a “man” in some sense.  I tended to steer clear of parties, “hanging out”, drugs, or other routine teenage stuff. Being a first-rate athlete in football and track more than compensated for being a bit nerdy in other social areas.

3.         Why are you here on the planet, what are you here to accomplish, your purpose, your mission?

I’ve long since abandoned the idea that each of us is pre-destined with some fated role in life.  What I do believe, however, is that every action we take either expands or de-limits our flexibility to be prepared for an opportunity, purpose, act, or mission that each of us is uniquely suited for – recognizing it when it comes along is the act of destiny, whether we seek it or simply make sure we’re ready when it presents itself.

4.   What do you know to be true about love?

It has very little to with movies, poetry, or “first sight”.  It’s hard work, and the Hollywood tales geared to persuade viewers that once you’re smitten, the rest is little more than holding hands and a perpetual dove-like glance into the other’s eyes are a disservice to what really makes love work.. Love will always be hard work, which may be unwelcome news to a generation that expects everything to be easy, instant, or microwaveable.

5.   What makes you feel most alive?

Travel!  I live to travel, but not for a weekend with a camera and a shopping list.  I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel and actually live in several of the places I’ve visited – 63 foreign countries (plus 39 U.S. states).  What is most intriguing about this kind of travel is not so much seeing the sites and monuments, but the chance to live, work and understand the people, learn their customs and habits, meet their family and friends, cook and eat their food, celebrate their weddings and birthdays, learn a little of their language, and to the extent feasible, actually be accepted as one of them.

6.   What has been your toughest challenge?

Earning my commission as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.  There was never any toleration of excuses or second-best.  The Marines have a long and hard won tradition of exceptional standards, exceptional performance and exceptional expectations of anyone who wears the uniform.  The 6 months that I spent in The Basic School, Officer Candidate Course, and Infantry Officer Course tested me physically, mentally and emotionally.  Success meant that I was ready to lead Marines, which I believe to be one of the most rigorous challenges that still exists in our country.

7.         What are you most proud of?

My first assignment in the Foreign Service was to the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.  I was assigned as the General Services Officer.  On November 4, 1996, former Israeli Prime Minister, Itzhak Rabin.  Rabin had been assassinated by a radical Jewish patriot, who did not believe in the Peace Process between Israelis and Palestinians.  by the next afternoon scores of U.S. dignitaries had arrived in Jerusalem for the funeral.  They included President Clinton, several Supreme Court Justices, several Cabinet Secretaries, and nearly half of the U.S. Congress.  My job was to ferry them safely between the locations on their itinerary: from arrival at Ben Gurion airport, to a ceremony at the Ministry of Defense, to the funeral itself at Israel’s National Cemetery, to a reception at the King David Hotel, then back to airport for departure.

8    What do you finally get and why?

That despite dreams of a world of equity and fairness, nobody owes you anything.  No one will take care of your needs, so you are well advised to equip yourself with the tools, skills and abilities to do it yourself, and the will to fight for what you believe you deserve.

9.   What is your deepest desire?

That the world we leave our children be one that is not marred with more and more virulent warfare and environmental chaos, that they can enjoy at least the same standard of living that we have – and hopefully a higher one.

10. What are you looking forward to?

To seeing and hearing the successes and stories of many happy, healthy grandchildren, who, hopefully will remember their grandfather as the Former Ambassador to ?? (Doesn’t really much matter to where, by the way).

I’d like to feature other brothas in the column and ask them 10 questions, some new and some mentioned above. Those with passion, determination, and fearless candor NEED apply. Just send me an email and picture to [email protected]. In the subject line type in the phase: 10 Questions. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Veronica Hendrix