Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale delivered remarks at the Exchange 2.0 Summit. Under Secretary McHale spoke about the State Department's commitment to promoting opportunities for exchange, and strengthening and expanding personal connections in the 21st century.
She said, "...I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you today about the State Department's unwavering commitment to promoting opportunities for exchange through every possible venue -- face-to-face and using connective technologies. We want to find new ways to interact with one another and use technology to augment the reach and retention of our exchanges. But the underlying principles of international exchange remain unchanged. In all we do, we must strive to create the sense of shared belonging and mutual respect that is so critical to lasting peace and understanding.
"We know that stand-alone, government-to-government diplomacy is no longer enough. More so now than ever, public diplomacy is a vital component of the foreign policy of the United States. Engaging with and telling our story to people around the world both advances our national interests and enhances our national security.
"As we do this, facilitating exchanges and face-to-face interactions between individuals is the bread and butter of our public diplomacy work. Our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs works around the clock to maintain a wide range of high-quality exchanges between youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and emerging leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries. Exchange participants quickly become citizen ambassadors. They create spaces for conversation and opportunities for cooperation while traveling abroad. And they build even larger communities of understanding when they return home.
"We have over one million alumni of State Department led exchanges living and working around the world today. It is a network that includes more than 50 Nobel laureates and more than 350 current or former government leaders. This is an invaluable asset to help us engage with countries at every level and inform our policy objectives -- if we harness it correctly.
"Expanding and strengthening our people-to-people relationships is a major pillar of our public diplomacy framework at the State Department. It is a commitment that guides our strategic outreach in every region of the world. And exchanges are the human heartbeat holding it all together. But we must also navigate this new world of global connectivity and the never before known opportunities it provides. The Internet has made it possible to reach more people in more places. But it has also shifted power and influence to such an extent that it is necessary to engage with more people. So we need to do more to connect with people -- all 6.9 billion of them -- to better ensure the stability and security of our world.
"Operating in this new world also means recognizing that people themselves are different from previous generations with whom we sought to engage. Today, more than 60 percent of the world's population is under the age of 30. These young people are savvy, connected, and increasingly well educated. They will be the drivers of change in their countries and throughout the world in the coming decades. We are already seeing it across North Africa and the Middle East as a rising wave of young activists demand their rights and remake their world. This is a critical inflection point for these newly empowered youth, which makes this a critical moment for the United States to redouble our efforts to support and engage them."
She continued, "...Connective technologies can provide the first introduction between two people that sparks a curiosity to learn more about one another. Or they can be the second contact that helps cement and build a relationship over time and distance. Each interaction leaves a different impression and shows a person he or she is important to us. That too is a core function of exchanges. And Exchange 2.0 adds several elements that help us better achieve our goal of strengthening and expanding personal connections in the 21st century.
"First, connective technologies allow us to scale up and adapt our exchanges to reach a wider, more diverse audience. With social media, we can maintain a connection to communities we have never before had the resources or opportunity to engage. If our goal is to engage with everyone, particularly communities and populations that may have been marginalized in the past, online exchanges make that goal a real possibility for the first time.
"Second, social media provide a platform to sustain our meaningful engagement with alumni once they have completed an international exchange program. Setting up an online group for alumni allows us to continue the conversation long after participants leave their host countries. And it keeps the network alive for participants to more easily share ideas and best practices among themselves as well.
"Third, social media allow us to engage with youth where they live -- whether online or on their mobile phone. We cannot remain wedged in a model of engagement that requires youth to come to us. There are too many streams of information competing with us for influence, and important conversations will happen with or without us. If we do not enter the marketplace of ideas and join forums where youth are already active, we risk marginalizing ourselves permanently.
"And finally, social media allow us to keep up with the speed at which our world happens. We have to be able to respond to rapidly changing environments. I recently returned from Tunisia, a country that is changing minute-to-minute. Journalists were asking for assistance to learn the basics of how to question their politicians in an open media environment. So we are setting up an online, rapid mentorship program to connect journalists in Tunisia with their counterparts in the United States and France and throughout the Middle East. With Tunisia's first democratic elections in over two decades less than three months away, our support must not be too late or too little.
"Added to these assets is a bonus advantage: Exchanges using social media technology cost relatively little to implement but can return large benefits. Soliya's Connect Program is an excellent example of combining technology tools with the core principles of exchange to produce impressive results. Soliya tracks the before and after attitudes for each participant in their Connect Program. Nearly twice as many students, both Arab and American, strongly agree that they have a lot in common with their counterparts after participating in the semester-long virtual exchange. Even better, the Connect Program has a viral impact as 93 percent of participants say they shared what they were learning with others in their community. No miles are traveled. No one meets in person. But attitudes are changed.
"We need to explore more ways to strategically and consistently incorporate connective technologies into our exchange efforts. As President Obama has said, we need to "create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo." With the help of many of you in this room, we have already started down this path at the State Department. Our Global Connections and Exchange Program has been in operation for ten years. This landmark public diplomacy initiative connects students who may never share a lunch table or walk home together. But with online classrooms, there are no limits on sharing their ideas. Together, they learn to be positive forces for change in their local communities."
In conclusion, Under Secretary McHale said, "...Secretary Clinton has challenged us to think of ways we can make the special experience of international exchange available to the greatest number of people possible. To figure out how we can sustain interactions and turn passing encounters into permanent friendships. Connective technology undoubtedly has a central role to play, and I challenge each of you to find new ways to incorporate it into the great work you are already doing.
"Let us build momentum toward a near future where online exchanges are a baseline expectation for our citizens in a globalized world. Let us work together to harness the power of networks and apply them to our people-to-people exchanges. And let us never doubt the universal ability of dialogue in any form to promote intercultural good will.
"The path to understanding always takes a different route. It can be a long haul or an uphill climb. But without fail, in every country and across every culture on earth, it starts with “hello” and ends with “go in peace, my friend.”
You can read Under Secretary McHale's complete remarks here.