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Archive for the ‘Public Diplomacy’ Category

Earlier this week I attended an event at the Brookings Institution called “U.S.-Cuba Relations: Moving Policy forward in 2011 and Beyond,” that was organized in light of the Obama Administration’s move to expand academic, religious and people-to-people exchanges between the United States and Cuba earlier this year. The panel of speakers included former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; Patrick Kilbride, the senior director of the Americas Department at the U.S Chamber of Commerce; and Stephen Propst, partner at the international law practice of Hogan-Lovells U.S., LLP.

To help determine what exactly falls within the realm of the President’s authority on relations between Cuba and the United States, Propst presented an analysis he recently conducted of relevant U.S. law and the legal boundaries of the President’s authority. The analysis reveals that the President can take further steps to expand the avenues for exchange between the United States and Cuba. The President is granted this authority under laws passed by the U.S. Congress that encourage action on the part of the United States to support democracy building and humanitarian efforts in Cuba.

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Sargent ShiverI wish to note the passing yesterday of Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. For many of us who are returned volunteers, it is our commitment to Peace Corps that led us to the international education profession, which I view as grounded in the same values of peace, collaboration, and international understanding.

In my case, these same commitments led me to my “first career” on Capitol Hill, working for more peaceful, constructive U.S. policies in Latin America, and then back to the Peace Corps, when President Clinton honored me by naming me the Peace Corps’ director for Latin America and Caribbean programs.  It was a natural and fortuitous segue to my second—dare I say final?—career in public policy advocacy for international education at NAFSA.

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Last Friday, the international education community cheered when the White House took decisive action to expand academic travel to Cuba. President Obama has directed changes to regulations and policies – expected in the next couple of weeks – to “increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.”

Since the Bush Administration placed harsh regulations on academic travel to Cuba in 2004, these changes have been a longtime advocacy goal of NAFSA, a broad and diverse coalition of organizations we have worked with, and the Connecting Our World community. To all of the advocates: thank you for your persistence in writing letters to President Obama on Cuba. This is a major victory for you, U.S. colleges and universities, and all American students who would like the opportunity to study in Cuba. It’s also a victory for U.S. engagement in the world, to which the President has once again demonstrated his commitment, through this action.

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If we are able to observe in the afterlife the accuracy of the statements that we made while on Earth, there must be no one more blessed with eternal happiness than the Spanish philosopher George Santayana, whose famous observation, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is confirmed every day.

Right now, Santayana must be particularly delighted with our colleagues at the Heritage Foundation, who, it appears, have forgotten yet again how important educational and cultural exchanges have been for America’s security, public diplomacy, and international leadership. The foundation’s October 28, 2010, Backgrounder on Budget and Spending proposes eliminating these programs entirely (along with many other worthy international programs). This is particularly dismaying because, only a few years ago, NAFSA cosponsored an event with the Heritage Foundation and others at which leading experts made a strong case for placing international education and exchange at the heart of America’s public diplomacy efforts. In 2008, when NAFSA released International Education: The Neglected Dimension of Public Diplomacy, which advocated more resources and a strengthened role for exchanges, Heritage’s Jim Carafano wrote: “The association has to be commended for bringing attention to a vital issue impacting on national competitiveness. Americans need to pay attention.”

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Peace CorpsFifty years ago today, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, in now-famous remarks, challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country by volunteering a year or two abroad in the service of developing nations. Less than six months later, the new president signed an Executive Order creating the Peace Corps to serve as our country’s official vehicle for such service.

I was a sophomore in college at that time, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I joined immediately upon graduation in 1963, when the Peace Corps was still new—the first wave of volunteers, sent out in 1961, had not yet returned.

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President ObamaAs President Obama addressed the American people last night, he highlighted how the United States will be turning the page from combat operations to soft power and public diplomacy in Iraq. He said, “What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.”

Expanding international education and exchange partnerships is one clear way to fulfill this promise, and it is already happening on campuses across the country as part of the Iraq Education Initiative. The Initiative is a program that aims to rebuild Iraq’s higher-education system by providing scholarships at foreign universities for students who will later return to Iraq and take part in the revitalization of the country.

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By Kyle D’Souza
In remarks delivered at her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock highlighted the positive impact that educational exchanges can have on participants and on U.S. foreign policy. Noting that “in the last six weeks alone, six of our program alumni have become heads of state or heads of government,” Stock went on to say that “through our ongoing contacts with these ‘alumni,’ we foster relationships with new generations and fuel an engine for change that is perhaps unprecedented in American diplomacy.” Next month, a seventh alumnus will become president of Colombia. These seven alumni and the programs they participated in include:
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Lee Hamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, and a former U.S. Congressman, makes a powerful case for investment in and advancement of international education in “Exploit soft power of colleges” published yesterday by The Indianapolis Star. Hamilton writes:

To remain economically competitive and culturally vibrant in the 21st century, we need to have the world’s best educated work force. International education will strengthen our country and enhance the quality of our lives.

NAFSA couldn’t agree more. International education has a clear role in enhancing America’s competitiveness and long-term economic growth. Students who study or volunteer abroad and learn foreign languages are far better prepared to compete in the job market, as cross-cultural competency and global experience are now widely recognized as essential skills and the keys to innovation and competitiveness in the global economy.

Yet today, only 1 percent of American college students participate in study abroad programs each year, and, as Hamilton points out, minorities and students of limited financial means are underrepresented. Hamilton argues that we need to expand educational exchanges, and he is a strong supporter of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, which aims to send one million American college students abroad annually in ten years time. The Simon Act will encourage diversity in student participation as well as locations of study abroad, particularly in developing countries.

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Citizen Diplomacy

Does your institution have an innovative program that engages students and faculty and helps address global challenges?  If you answered yes, then you could be recognized by the Obama Administration in the U.S. Summit and Initiative on Global Citizen Diplomacy on November 16-19, 2010 in Washington, DC.

The Higher Education Task Force of the U.S. Summit & Initiative on Global Citizen Diplomacy, co-chaired by NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson and Community Colleges for International Development President and Executive Director John Halder, is seeking nominations from U.S. institutions of higher education about innovative, sustainable, and replicable programs or projects focused on engaging students, faculty, and/or staff in an international activity at home or abroad.

The deadline for submission is quickly approaching — April 7 — but here’s the good news:

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