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Posts Tagged ‘citizen diplomacy’

I am slogging home on an overcrowded train through an ice storm from a two-day conference in DC, exhausted but also energized. The conference, really a summit, was organized by the Coalition for Citizen Democracy, an umbrella of affiliated organizations promoting outreach and exchange, all with the same general goal – to engage Americans in the world. Citizen diplomacy is, according to the website, the idea that the individual citizen has the right, even the responsibility to help shape United States foreign relations “one handshake at a time.”  The breakout topics ranged from America’s tarnished global global image to the positive difference that organizations like the Peace Corps or the League of Women Voters are making. There was a focus on promoting international awareness beginning in high school  – not a moment too soon, I’d say. If you watch “Jay-walking” on the Jay Leno show,  which features folks on the street who know absolutely nothing about politics, geography, social studies or history or if you caught the popular You-tube video of Miss Teen USA South Carolina taking a verbal pratfall over a simple question, you realize that too many Americans are frighteningly ignorant.  Worse, too many people think that’s something to laugh about.

According to one presenter, more than 75% of Americans don’t hold passports, primarily I’d guess because they don’t need to, or want to travel. Maybe it’s because they believe the world will come to them. Possibly it’s because they’re concerned about traveling where they’re not liked. It’s too bad because we citizens really have some work to do; convince a highly skeptical and sometimes hostile world that Americans are not out to do them in.

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