About the Author: Arturo A. Valenzuela serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
As part of my trip through the Southern Cone December 12-20, I visited Brasilia and Sao Paulo for a series of meetings with government officials and representatives of the private sector and civil society. It was a great opportunity for candid discussion of the bilateral relationship with so many of the actors who shape it. We talked about issues like confidence building measures, regional conflicts, citizen safety, and ways to strengthen the ties between our two societies. I was struck in our conversations by how many fundamental priorities our peoples have in common. These lead to similar views on many key issues in the hemisphere and in the world.
One encounter really stands out. In fact, I’d say it was a highlight of this trip. I was able to meet with nine talented young Brazilians who are part of some programs the State Department supports, including the Youth Ambassadors program, the Student Leader Exchange, and the English Immersion program. These bright young leaders asked important questions. They were interested, of course, in the Obama Administration’s approach to U.S.-Brazil relations. But their questions went right to the heart of the issues and challenges that our societies face in this rapidly changing 21st century.
I remember one young man in particular, Pedro Henrique Torres, a 2008 Youth Ambassador, who noted how interesting it was to see “how diplomacy engages youth.” I was very impressed by that observation, particularly because this Administration is committed to finding new ways to generate real dialogue with youth in Brazil and throughout the hemisphere.
So, I want to thank Pedro and the other students for their insights and ideas. I have carried them with me to Washington and will keep them in mind as we think through ways our policies can further the sort of common interests I sensed on my trip. Obrigado Brasilia!
You can check out pictures from my meetings with these Brazilian youth leaders on U.S. Embassy Brasilia’s Flickr stream.