America needs a new and compelling call to action that will energize and motivate its citizenry to become globally engaged-to become citizen diplomats.
While America's image abroad is improving, numerous polls and studies prove anti-American sentiment still exists around the globe. We need to dramatically increase our capacity to reach out to the rest of the world to foster mutual understanding and find common interests and values.
Citizen Diplomacy is the concept that individual citizens have the right and responsibility to help shape U.S. foreign relations, "one handshake at a time." In an era of increasing globalization, more and more people develop their most lasting impressions through face-to-face, personal encounters, when people visit the United States or when Americans travel abroad. In this context, the ‘citizen diplomat' is a powerful force in defining the United States to the rest of the world.
The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy is calling on all Americans to sign a Letter to the President urging President Obama to convene a National Summit on Citizen Diplomacy in order to bring this issue to the forefront and provide opportunities for global engagement at all levels of American society.
Photo credit: Greg Mortenson and Central Asia Institute
Congratulations on your historic ascendance to the Presidency of the United States. Throughout your campaign, you stated that, if elected, a major goal for your administration would be “restoring respect for our country throughout the world.” We heartily applaud and embrace your persuasive vision. Consistently, you have inspired Americans across the country to say, “Yes we can.” Now we are asking, “How can we help?”
Americans of all ages and backgrounds are ready to work with you to bring about the changes you so eloquently put forth. The non-partisan U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, based in Des Moines, Iowa, has compiled the opinions and expertise of many national experts and organizations with long histories in international affairs and multicultural relationship building. This group constitutes a bi-partisan body of men and women who daily experience the rewards of engaging with thousands of counterparts around the world. We know firsthand the goodwill that comes with the citizen-to-citizen bonds that are forged.
As you have affirmed in many of your speeches, it is essential to increase significantly the nation’s commitment to citizen engagement in international relations, whether at home or abroad. We agree completely. Together, we respectfully propose a new program to utilize the untapped spirit of individual, diverse Americans as a key component in your strategy to repair American foreign policy.
Tremendous opportunities exist to involve many thousands more Americans in this vital work, contributing as citizen diplomats in a variety of ways. A program that expands and utilizes their talents and expertise will greatly help the United States regain its stature as a respected, positive force throughout the world. Much of our thinking builds on the successful models of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, and leaders such as J. William Fulbright.
Based on the thoughtful recommendations of a broad based group of experienced Americans, our Call to Action is a call to all Americans to become globally conscious, literate and engaged through education and study abroad programs, development assistance, commercial enterprise, international volunteer service, community-based initiatives, and exchanges in the arts and humanities, as well as through sports and tourism. The goal is to multiply the connections between American citizens and their counterparts overseas fourfold by 2016.
Our proposal describes a multifaceted approach centered on American values, principles, diversity and hope. We encourage you to designate this initiative as a central component in your vision of tomorrow’s world, and to advance dialogue on this issue through the creation of a National Summit on Citizen Diplomacy. We look forward to your response in consideration of this undertaking and stand ready to follow your lead.
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