About the Author: Andres Delgado serves as a Trade Officer in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in Washington, DC.
The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) brought officers who work on economic policy at U.S. embassies in the Western Hemisphere and at the State Department in Washington together in St. Louis to coordinate the U.S. message abroad and to touch base with the American public. The meeting's topics included the global financial crisis, food security, trade policy, the upcoming Summit of the Americas and public diplomacy. In addition, our officers were able to witness Missouri’s leading role in research and development of agricultural biotechnology, where food and fuel meet, and tap the expertise of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency’s Commodity Office, which is located in nearby Kansas City and buys and distributes U.S. Government food aid for developing countries.
Outside the conference, our officers met with representatives from local universities, business organizations, and even Soldan International Studies High School -- the St. Louis magnet high school for international affairs -- to explain U.S. foreign policy. These encounters underscored for our colleagues that what happens at the local level impacts what the State Department does at the global level and helped us connect the micro and the macro in our work. The high level of sophistication of these conversations and strong interest in careers in public service among many high school and college students reminded us that the America’s strength comes not only from military might but also from our intelligent, curious and energetic people eager to serve our country.
Matt Rooney, Director of the WHA Bureau's Office of Economic Policy, said “I was struck by the thoughtfulness of the questions from the audience at the Soldan International Studies High School. One young man asked, ‘what would be the impact on your work if Fidel Castro were to pass away?’ I was heartened to see that our countrymen and women think carefully and strategically about foreign affairs -- we can and should talk to them about our work in a sophisticated manner.”
Ambassador Charles Shapiro, speaking to a group of International Relations majors at Washington University of St. Louis, encouraged all to consider careers at the State Department and answered their questions ranging from what it is like working in an embassy and the impact of this exciting career on families to how the foreign policy process operates in Washington, DC.
Additionally, our officers visited science research facilities to get a first-hand look at the production of new crops. Leading scientists at the Danforth Plant Science Center and Monsanto’s headquarters shared their latest research, explaining how new methods were producing higher yields of crops, addressing concerns for food shortages in the hemisphere, as well as protecting the climate by reducing the need for irrigation, plowing, and fertilization. In addition to technologies that add nutrition to food crops for subsistence farmers, the Danforth Center develops drought-resistant seeds and is developing algae and other advanced biofuels technology.
Dr. Roger Beachy, the President of the Danforth Center, noted that in 2009, one third of all funding for research is dedicated to the developing world. Dr. Beachy also told our group that one metric in the Danforth scientists’ contracts measures the extents to which the scientists promote international collaboration.
We came away impressed by how efforts in St. Louis to address energy and food security challenges have a global impact on our foreign policy. With meetings like this, our government is able to conduct a coherent regional diplomacy that enhances our security by improving the living standards of our neighbors. The United States is committed to supporting the aspirations of the peoples of the Americas for a better life through democracy and development.