About the Author: Ambassador Carmen Lomellinserves as the Permanent U.S. Representative to the Organization of American States.
Last Friday, I visited my home town of Chicago to speak at the United States National Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLIL) national conference. Addressing the gathering -- composed of high school and college students from across the country, elected officials, and representatives from national organizations -- I highlighted the importance of public service and efforts to bolster recruitment of Hispanics for careers in government.
The nature of public service has evolved since President John F. Kennedy's historic challenge of "ask not what our country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Today, that vision endures and is carried forward through the work and contributions of individuals and grassroots organizations in support of important issues and causes as demonstrated by the collective response to the January 12, 2010 tragic earthquake in Haiti.
I conveyed to the audience the commitment of the U.S. to robust multilateral engagement at the Organization of American States, noting how today a common agenda -- rooted in the principles of representative democracy, respect for human rights, and the recognition that all states are equal partners -- has formed a shared regional vision for advancing the progress and development of the countries of the Americas.
The nations of the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, understand well that we are bound together by geography, history and, often, family, and that we are inevitably destined to grow closer together. Values also bind us. Today, these common interests and values converge on democracy, economic growth through free trade, and good governance, as agreed upon by our leaders at the Summits of the Americas -- most recently in Trinidad and Tobago last year.spaceWe may have our differences on how to reach these common goals or on how to deepen our shared values, but there is no dispute on what our goals and values should be.
During my participation at the USHLI conference I also highlighted the importance of a good education and encouraged the participants to consider careers in public service. We need creative and diverse thinkers to help us forge and strengthen our ever-changing global partnerships, and the young people at the conference can be part of this effort.
Our diplomatic corps needs to reflect the diversity of our population and our cultural diversity. It was gratifying to see so many young people participating at this conference, and I hope I left them with some food for thought about how they can play a role in representing America to the rest of the world with the U.S. Department of State.