Finding Common Ground to Connect: UGRAD Students Gather in Washington, DC

Students participating in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program pose for a photograph in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Daniel A. Nicolas serves as a public diplomacy intern in theBureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

I often recall those words that Atticus Finch offered his daughter, Scout, in Harper Lee’s American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. I am mindful of Atticus’s advice on occasions when I meet groups of foreign exchange students and hear them talk with each other about their experiences. Gaining a greater understanding about — and an appreciation for — others is one of the reasons why I believe exchange programs are so powerful.

I recently saw the impact of one such program at an event for participants in theGlobal Undergraduate Exchange (UGRAD) Program.… more »

U.S.-Japan Friendship Continues To Blossom

In this photo taken April 18, 2011, cherry blossoms are seen in Fukushima, northeastern Japan. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Susan Stevenson serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

An enduring legacy can start with a single idea.

Each year in Washington D.C., the arrival of spring is celebrated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Did you know that the festival marks a gift of trees from the people of Japan? The blooms signify not only the changing season, but also the long-lasting friendship between the United States and Japan. On March 23, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington celebrates Japanese Culture Day, and we honor this special bilateral relationship.

Over one hundred years ago, Japan sent the United States a gift of 3,000 cherry trees. The first tree was planted along Washington, D.C.’s tidal basin, joined by hundreds of others to bloom into an annual rite of spring.… more »

How Miss Minnesota USA Promoted U.S. Business and Instilled Good Will in Laos

Nitaya Panemalaythong, a Lao-American and Miss Minnesota USA 2012, brings smiles to the faces of Lao children in a rural village in Luang Prabang, Laos, January 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Paul Mayer serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

American diplomats meet interesting people every day. It’s one of the things that make our careers so exciting. I’ve met presidents, Olympic gold medalists, and civic activists. In Montreal, Stevie Wonder told me I was cool. And, in Vientiane, I met a beauty pageant winner who helped American public diplomacy efforts in Laos.

This past January, as part of an economic diplomacy initiative, our embassy organized a campaign designed to deepen U.S.-Lao business ties and promote the newly-established Lao chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). The economy of Laos has emerged as an attractive investment opportunity for American businesses. A number of U.S. companies have already entered the Lao market, but unfortunately operate under structural and cultural disadvantages compared with companies from the region.

We, however, have an unexpected advocate… more »

Supporting Culture and Better Futures in Afghanistan

In this Feb. 6, 2013, photo, Afghan actor Fawad Mohammadi 14, rides a horse on Nader Khan's hill at the one of the areas where a part of the Afghani Oscar Nominee film titled Buzkashi Boys, shot in Kabul, Afghanistan. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Tara Sonenshine serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

This past month I had the opportunity to meet two incredible groups of young artists from Afghanistan — and to see firsthand evidence of how our public diplomacy efforts for young people in that country are bearing fruit. It was also a chance to underscore our commitment to support the strengthening and preservation of national cultures around the world.

The first artists were students of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), who began a State Department-funded tour in the United States with a concert of traditional Afghan music. I had the pleasure of introducing them, and we were joined by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who shared his own love for music with the audience. Over the course of their… more »

A Diverse and Socially Inclusive America Needs to Share Its Story

Wheelchair athlete, left, races along side able-bodied high school runners, April 19, 2006 in Rockville, Md. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Tara D. Sonenshine serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Diversity is our strength, and everyone, including persons with disabilities, has important contributions to make.

That was one of the overarching messages at the 10th Special Olympics 2013 World Winter Games in South Korea this month, where athletes Tae Hemsath and Henry Meece — born in South Korea with developmental disabilities — returned to their birth country as Special Olympics athletes. Tae competed as a snowshoe racer, Henry as a snowboarder.

That same message resonated today throughout a public forum, where participants at Gallaudet University came to learn about opportunities in international exchange for persons with disabilities, and for members of the deaf community.

The audience was moved by the words and experiences of speakers, including U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former Army helicopter pilot who lost…more »

Technology Advances U.S. Diplomacy Goals

In this photo taken, Nov. 8, 2011, a woman poses with her Blackberry mobile phone in Johannesburg. The woman says she cherishes her phone as a link to family and friends, and also sees it as a radio, a library, a mini cinema, a bank teller, and more. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Tara Sonenshine serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

When we apply technology at its best to public service at its most critical, we can make powerful differences in the lives and well-being of people.

Advances in communications and information technology are allowing us to do just that, whether we are using crowd-sourcing or Twitter, or reaching people via mobile phones or Skype. We are assisting survivors in the wake of natural disasters. We are monitoring elections to ensure they are free, safe and fair. We are reaching more people in non-permissive environments. Technology has become not only our virtual eyes and ears, but our helping hands, in a variety of ways.

Take Ushahidi (“witness” in Swahili), a crowd-sourcing platform developed by Kenyan citizens in 2008 that uses technology to collect, verify, and map information from citizens on a variety of issues. That can include incidents of violence,… more »

Two Women, Two Countries, Two People: A Growing Partnership

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shakes hands with Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., January 15, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Tara Sonenshine serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

There is no more effective form of engagement than face-to-face communication. That’s a fundamental principle of our public diplomacy. And thanks to a strong friendship and understanding between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , we have just signed an important agreement between the United States and Liberia.

One year ago, this month, Secretary Clinton traveled to Monrovia to attend the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf . At the time she said, “Democracy hasn’t just sprouted in Liberia, it has taken root.”

The relationship struck between Secretary Clinton and President Sirleaf — strengthened by their own personal narratives of empowerment and their mutual commitment to changing the lives of women and girls, peace-building,… more »

Miami Hub: Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign (en Español!)

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Mike Hammer participates in a radio interview at a station in Miami, Florida, December 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Mike Hammer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Miami for my visit to our Media Hub of the Americas I sensed a certain dynamism. As I met with journalists, members of the business community, academics, and students during my visit, I found that this energy permeated throughout my meetings, as all were eager to engage to further strengthen the ties that bind the United States to Latin America.

The Hub of the Americas is a part of the Bureau of Public Affairs’ network of six media hubs around the world; and it is the only hub located domestically. Our media hub in Miami takes advantage of the city’s location as a gateway to Latin America to communicate our policies not only to audiences in the Hemisphere but also to the growing Spanish-speaking community in the United States. During my trip,… more »

Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine Responds to Your #AskState Questions on Twitter

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine, @TSoneshine, participates in a Global Twitter Q and A on December 5, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Hannah Johnson serves as an Assistant Editor for DipNote.

This week’s “Photo of the Week” comes to us from the Office of Digital Engagement’s Jeff Jackson and shows Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public AffairsTara Sonenshine participating in a “Global Twitter Q & A” on December 5, 2012. 

During the event, Under Secretary Sonenshine answered questions submitted on Twitter in eight languages, including ArabicChineseEnglishFarsiFrench,… more »

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine, @TSoneshine, participates in a Global Twitter Q and A on December 5, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine, @TSoneshine, participates in a Global Twitter Q and A on December 5, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]