Exchange Matters / April 30, 2015

Letter from the President: A Look Ahead: 2015 Holds Much Promise

Just back from kicking off the 2015 Diplomacy Begins Here summits in Seattle, I am very excited about what 2015 holds for public and citizen diplomacy across the country and around the world. The event in the Pacific Northwest was nothing short of first rate, thanks to the super team at World Affairs Council of Seattle, the dedicated speakers, and an enthusiastic audience.

Our forthcoming summits in Detroit and Los Angeles will offer more of the same. The Motor City will showcase the contributions of our country’s Arab American community, a living testament to what can be achieved when individuals and communities come together to secure a better future. Our Los Angeles summit will highlight the growing importance of exchange diplomacy through education, while noting the changes underway in how (and what) we teach our young people. “STEM” (education in the sciences, technology, engineering and math) in particular will be on display.

Global Ties U.S. is also sponsoring the Discover Diplomacy Weekend in Washington, DC from May 1 to May 3. This is the forum to attend for citizen diplomats across the country to see how foreign embassies work and how policy is made. Over 60 foreign missions will open their doors to the general public, something they do just once per year. We will sponsor a luncheon and panel discussion entitled “Leaning In: Women in Foreign Policy,” including the participation of current and former female ambassadors. Discovery Diplomacy is an event not to be missed.

Each and every calendar year brings us the potential for momentous changes in foreign affairs. I believe historians will look back and conclude 2015 was a remarkable year given some of the monumental shifts taking place in America’s role in the world.

The United States and Cuba are about to turn the page on decades of suspicion and hostility. Though public images suggest otherwise, anecdotal reporting tells us Iranians mostly favor a good relationship with the United States. Iran’s young people are particularly eager to come to know us. The agreement Secretary of State John Kerry brokered between our country and Iran could be the first step towards reversing more than 35 years of mutual hostility.

I don’t mean to suggest that all is well in the world. Conflict remains unabated in Ukraine, the Middle East, and many other hotspots. Climate change, human trafficking, and minority rights still need to be addressed in a globally meaningful way. Nevertheless, recent events demonstrate how much we can achieve through diplomacy. Don’t be surprised to see a ramping-up in the numbers of Iranian and Cuban International Visitor Leadership Program participants.

The year 2015 marks 75 years since the founding of the International Visitor Leadership Program. While much has changed over the past eight decades, one salient fact remains: international exchanges are vital to our efforts to ensure America’s foreign policy leadership. Inviting current and emerging leaders to our country for a meaningful dialogue at the early stages of their careers is seen universally as diplomacy at its smartest.

I look forward to seeing or speaking with many of you over the coming months and continuing this conversation!

By Jennifer Clinton, PhD, Global Ties U.S. Follow her on Twitter: @CDJClinton