International diplomacy is more than formal meetings and smiling for pictures. It is sharing music with a far away friend and collecting money for a needy family across an ocean. It is listening to a stranger's story and adopting a child from another country. It is discussing an important international issue with your peers. The 341 student teams from 30 countries who participated in this year's Doors to Diplomacy contest did just those things by giving up their free time to create educational websites illustrating the many faces of foreign policy. The Department of State has partnered with Global SchoolNet since 2003 to provide this opportunity for kids ages 11 to 18.
This year's winners, from Shanghai, China, and Plainsboro, New Jersey, worked in teams with a teacher coach to build websites that teach their peers about diplomacy through international adoption and Muslim culture, respectively. Four girls from Shanghai Community International School conducted interviews with families who adopted children from other countries and highlighted the regulations and difficulties faced by those wishing to adopt from many of the most popular countries such as China and Russia. They got involved with their community by hosting a bake sale and donating the proceeds to charity.
Two students at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North teamed up to teach diplomacy through Muslim culture. Much of their research focused on both historical and contemporary art that showed how people around the world have used theater, music and dance to connect to one another. When they ran into a stumbling block, the students reached out to the author of the foreign policy book they were using in their research. Not only did this correspondence allow them to acquire the photos they needed to complete their project, but it also led to a professional relationship that will extend beyond this competition.
The exceptional students who participate in this contest year after year never cease to surprise us with their creativity and desire to learn more about the world around them. They overcome limited Internet access and busy schedules to create websites on topics that they virtually become experts on. The Doors to Diplomacy contest gives students with an interest in foreign policy an outlet to showcase their talents and encourage those around them to get involved.
I invite you to take a moment to look at these impressive websites. Don't be surprised when you learn something new!