July ended on a high note at the Department of State, where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met hip-hop musician will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas. During their meeting, Secretary Clinton highlighted the importance of educational and cultural ties between the United States and China, in particular, furthering the goals of President Obama's 100,000 Strong Initiative to increase dramatically the number, and diversify the composition, of American students studying in China.
As a summer intern working on the 100,000 Strong Initiative, I helped coordinate the Secretary's meeting with will.i.am, as well as a video interview with will.i.am before an audience of nearly 100 at the State Department. In late June, the 100,000 Strong team first learned that will.i.am had agreed to perform with other American and Chinese pop stars during a Beijing concert organized by Americans Promoting Study Abroad, a U.S. non-profit organization that offers full scholarships to public high school students in the United States for language and culture studies in China. While the details are still being finalized for the Beijing concert, its purpose is to raise funds to support and help operate study abroad programs in China for underserved American students -- a cause that is central to the 100,000 Strong Initiative and the reason we were eager to arrange this event at the State Department.
On July 29, after all of the paperwork and the details for the meeting were complete, we stood ready to greet will.i.am and his colleagues at the front of the Department of State building. As will.i.am approached us, I knew instantly that he was not your typical State Department visitor, mostly because of the rock-star studded shoes that completed his business attire. Then as we all waited for will.i.am's scheduled meeting to begin, will.i.am discussed with the 100,000 Strong team his musical influences and his prior travels to China.
Then, will.i.am met with Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock and Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell before heading to Secretary Clinton's office. Once there, Secretary Clinton welcomed will.i.am and thanked him for supporting the President's 100,000 Strong Initiative. will.i.am explained that his support for the Initiative is rooted in his own upbringing and demonstrates his efforts to "pay it forward," by helping students from underserved backgrounds attend college and study abroad. He added that "to become responsible global citizens, young people need to experience the world around them.... Kids from underserved communities rarely have the opportunity to study and travel abroad, and we want to change that. We must make sure that American students have the cultural awareness and skills necessary to succeed in a global economy."
After his meeting with Secretary Clinton, will.i.am participated in a video interview, during which he detailed the importance of studying abroad and explained that he wants to be part of 100,000 Strong to inspire kids. will.i.am then graciously posed for dozens of photographs with Department employees who had all, in some way, helped the 100,000 Strong Initiative. Then he was off to prepare for a Black Eyed Peas concert that night in West Virginia. Overall, his visit was remarkable. As an intern it was an amazing experience as I had a chance to witness a personal exchange between our Secretary and a very dedicated, philanthropic hip-hop star! We are now looking forward to working with will.i.am in Beijing.
To learn more about the 100,000 Strong Initiative, visit our website: www.state.gov/100000strong.