Exchange Matters / December 11, 2014

Letter from the President: Reflections on the New Diplomacy

Change is in the air for diplomacy. It seems like every other week a conference is being held in Washington on the topic of digital diplomacy or diplomacy 2.0. Young, diverse, innovative, quick, engaging and wired millennials lead these conversations. They appear different from the stereotypical “buttoned-up” diplomat of days past.

Someone asked me the other day for the meaning of our National Meeting theme “New Diplomacy.” What is really new about diplomacy?

“You know it when you see it,” was my first response. On reflection, I pointed out how the signs of the fundamental shift are everywhere—sometimes subtle, but often obvious.

Diplomacy matters as much at home as it does abroad.

As an example, I cite John Kerry’s strategic decision to give his first public speech to several hundred millennials at a university in Charlottesville, VA, in lieu of the more traditional Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department. “Diplomacy matters as much at home as it does abroad,” is the message he wishes to send. Our foreign policy will succeed only if we engage the millennial generation, the most global-minded of any generation in American history.

Fast forward to November 2014, as we reflect on the major outcomes from President Obama’s visit to China: joint agreements to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to extend visa validity for students and business people from both countries to five and ten years, respectively.

Some weeks ago, I attended the Country Promotion Strategies conference in Washington, D.C. This annual event brings together the diplomatic corps, U.S. policymakers, business executives and public relations experts advise countries about deepening their ties with the U.S. while increasing brand recognition, which led to three recommendations:

  • Tapping into local networks is vital. Countries need to build dense networks of personal relationships and partnerships with citizens and societies globally. They won’t succeed by limiting their links to bureaucrats.
  • Countries are looking to normalize relations with the U.S. for economic growth. Jobs, investment, and trade relationships drive diplomatic activities more than ever.
  • Finally, all of us must spend as much time as feasible outside of Washington, D.C., and the visit cities and town in which the networks and resources for economic development are really located.

Jobs, investment and trade relationships drive diplomatic activities more than ever.

These recommendations were the underpinning of our Diplomacy Begins Here Summit in Phoenix, Arizona on November 14, which focused on the International Visitor Leadership Program and its effect on the business relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. Key political figures, students, and hardworking members of our network were on hand. We led another successful summit in Huntsville, Alabama on November 19, discussing youth and diplomacy, among other issues. This event featured the renowned pollster John Zogby, who discussed his experiences with International Visitors living in the Middle East. Visiting State Department diplomats spoke at both events, explaining how this invaluable program furthers American foreign policy—and how it wouldn’t work at all without the support of the Global Ties network. For more information including recaps of past events and a schedule of upcoming summits in your community, visit


Global Ties U.S.’s National Meeting will give us the opportunity to flesh-out more ideas when we meet next February in the historic meeting hall of the Organization of American States in Washington, DC. Among the foreign policy luminaries planning to attend are former Under Secretaries for Political Affairs’ Marc Grossman and Thomas Pickering. They will be joined by former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico James Jones, Representative Joaquin Castro (TX-20), and former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Oscar Arias. Some surprise guests with household name-recognition will also be on hand to help us continue to define how diplomacy needs to evolve over the coming years and decades to meet the challenges and opportunities our new world order presents.

Jennifer Clinton, PhD President, Global Ties U.S.