Exchange Matters / May 26, 2021

In Conversation: Countering Extremism with Public Diplomacy

By Brooke Scott, 2021 Emerging Leader 

During the Summer of 2020, I began an internship at the San Diego Diplomacy Council, which allowed me to put my theoretical education in peace and justice studies into real-world practice. While working alongside professionals driving positive change through local and global engagement, I realized not only the breadth of diplomacy, but also my passion for international exchange.  

At the completion of my internship, the Executive Director nominated me for the Global Ties U.S. Emerging Leaders Program. I was delighted to be accepted into the program. Although the 2021 National Meeting took place virtually due to the global pandemic, I had wonderful experiences connecting with like-minded leaders and colleagues who recognized their positionality as global citizens. From the networking opportunities and breakout sessions to the panel discussions and plenaries, these experiences helped strengthen my commitment to diplomacy and international exchange. 

In particular, I was drawn to the fireside chats where I had the immense privilege to hear from changemakers in the field like Katherine Brown, Ph.D., President and CEO of Global Ties U.S., and Anne Grimes, Director of the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State. In fact, I chose to borrow from these fireside chats when developing and executing my very own project: Diplomacy – A Tool for Countering Violent ExtremismDomestic terrorism has reached new heights in the United States and the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 reignited national attention on domestic violent extremism in the nation. As such, I worked to hone in on the ways in which both public and citizen diplomacy serve as counterterrorism tools in preventing extremism by engaging three key stakeholders in conversation:  

Philip Seib – Professor of International Relations, Journalism and Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California 

Elizabeth Moore – Educator on racist extremism and the dangers of hate groups 

Mohamed Amin Ahmed – Founder of Average Mohamed, a nonprofit that uses popular culture to counter extremism  

Watch Brooke Scott’s conversation with three key stakeholders in the video above.

Each participant offered a wealth of knowledge from the realms of academia, lived experience, and diplomacy in action. We had a rich discussion on how diplomacy serves as a piece to the larger puzzle of countering and preventing violent extremism, the role of citizens and governments in addressing hate, and lessons learned from the past along with the best means by which to move forward as a nation. We explored diplomacy and its capacity to address a challenging issue like violent extremism.

Specifically, Professor Seib noted that, within a larger, holistic approach, “Public diplomacy can reach general publics and provide messages that explicitly or implicitly counter messaging of extremist groups.” Elizabeth shared that her own narrative of leaving white supremacy might bring hope to others facing radicalization because as she sees it, “The more people who can recognize the signs of radicalization, the more likely we are to catch people before it’s too late.”

Lastly, Mohamed, recipient of the Global Ties U.S. 2018 Citizen Diplomat Award and the 2020 U.S. Department of State Citizen Diplomacy Award emphasized why it is imperative that we not underestimate the power of citizen diplomacy and recognize that it takes an idea to defeat an idea, saying that “When citizens-to-citizens talk, when neighbors-to-neighbors talk, we can take over the streets and make it hostile to extremist ideology.” Overall, this was a dynamic group of stakeholders and a fruitful dialogue from which I personally learned so much. 

While I have come to the close of my graduate career, I truly cannot articulate the impact and wonderful opportunities that my program has had on me , including interning at the San Diego Diplomacy Council and serving as an Emerging Leader with Global Ties U.S. To my fellow young professionals interested in careers in public diplomacy and international exchange: I encourage you to research opportunities in your city or state.

The Global Ties Network is vast and it has been wonderful to meet many fellow peers who served as past years Emerging Leaders or who came across this Network through other channels. Yes, our global society is facing an array of urgent global challenges – but the network of interns, citizen diplomats, ambassadors, foreign service officers and so on should give you immense hope that there exists a brighter future ahead.