About the Authors: Rachel Miller and Clarissa Unger serve as U.S. State Department Interns posted at the U.S. Mission to the European Union.
When someone thinks about Brussels, waffles, chocolates, NATO and the European Union usually come to mind. Secretary Clinton is likely to hit each of these while she is here (with only the waffles and chocolates being questionable!). Though her main purpose for coming to Brussels was the Foreign Ministers’ meeting at the NATO Headquarters, Secretary Clinton also made a point to speak not only with the current leaders of the European Union, but with the future leaders of Europe as well.
At a town hall meeting in one of the buildings of the European Parliament, the home to the world’s only democratically elected international institution representing 27 member-states, Secretary Clinton addressed nearly 400 young people, who are making an impact in Europe today and will be the movers and shakers on this side of the Trans-Atlantic relationship tomorrow. Participating in the conversation with the Secretary were young professionals, EU, NATO and other interns; think tank staff; students and others.
Before the Secretary spoke, there was great excitement in the crowded room that had completely filled 45 minutes before she was scheduled to speak. Close to 800 others began gathering in various overflow rooms throughout the EU Parliament. One guest from Ireland even told us that after working as “stagiaire” (the French term for interns) for five months, getting to see Secretary Clinton speak would definitely be the highlight of his time in Brussels.
The excitement only grew once Secretary Clinton and the President of the EU Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering entered the room. President Pöttering opened the town hall thanking the Secretary for her life-long contribution to public service, calling her a role model for generations old and new.
Secretary Clinton then gave brief remarks to the young professionals stating, “The future we are attempting to shape is one that certainly poses many challenges…It will be up to you, the next generation, to take it to the next level.” Before taking questions from the participants, the Secretary encouraged the next leaders of Europe to continue to work with the U.S. to strengthen the Trans-Atlantic alliance and to tackle global issues.
As soon as the Secretary opened the town hall for questions, hands went up around the room. Questions ranged from the U.S./NATO relationship with Russia to combating climate change in the midst of the global economic crisis. To a question posed by a Moldovan wearing an “I love Hillary” t-shirt, the Secretary’s response that “human rights is one of the pillars of our foreign policy” drew warm applause.
The town hall ended with a standing ovation for the Secretary. For these two interns from the U.S., it was exciting to see one of our highest officials so well received by our peers on this side of the Atlantic. We agreed with a participant from Bulgaria who called the town hall with Secretary Clinton and the next leaders of Europe “inspirational.”