Rachel Poynter is a foreign affairs officer serving as the lead on environmental, health, and border economic development issues on the Mexico Desk in Washington.
When I heard that the North American Leaders Summit was going to take place in my home state of Louisiana, I jumped at the chance to represent the State Department in organizing this meeting. I wanted to make the connection between my daily job as a health, environment and science officer in the Office of Mexican Affairs at State and the daily conditions and situation of my own community, my own family.
I surprised myself by how many connections were taking place between the discussions of the leaders and our daily lives in Louisiana. Our leaders have been talking about making our businesses more competitive so fewer jobs would go overseas; about sharing technology and research on clean energy; about making sure products which cross our borders are safe; about coordinating our responses when emergencies or disasters occur. For a full read-out on the meeting as well as the latest photos, you can check out the White House web site.
What I am seeing is a foreign policy which touches our lives in concrete ways, and positively. I am reminded how the Canadians and Mexicans offered spontaneous support to the distressed people of Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. I am reminded in this great port city of how much trade from Canada and Mexico transits here, how we get more of our foreign supply of oil from our two neighbors than anywhere else on earth. It’s true that North America comes together in New Orleans.
One more vignette. Our world famous jazz music greeted both the Canadian and Mexican leaders on their arrival. When President Bush went to the ribbon-cutting at the Mexican consulate, he was greeted by mariachis. This brought home to me one other truth. Each of our countries have our own proud traditions which will remain strong and vibrant even as we do draw closer together.