I recently led a delegation of young U.S. political leaders to participate in the 2012 Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 22-24, 2012. This training conference provided an excellent opportunity to strengthen relations between emerging minority leaders in the United States and Europe. Initiated by the Special Representative to Muslim Communities and the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the meeting was co-sponsored by Copenhagen Mayor for Employment and Integration Anna Mee Allerslev; the Danish Ethnic Youth Council; the German Marshall Fund; and the Transatlantic Minority Political Leadership Conference. This initiative was supported by U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Laurie S. Fulton, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), and Hannes Swoboda, MEP.
Over 70 elected leaders and civil society activists under the age of 35, from across the United States and Europe, representing 26 different countries, attended this first ever transatlantic exchange of young minority political leaders. During two and a half days of intensive training and open dialogue at the Copenhagen City Hall, participants explored the challenges facing minorities in politics on both sides of the Atlantic as well as shared strategies to overcome these challenges.
I was honored to be in the presence of so many young elected leaders who share my passion for public service. Both the United States and Europe can benefit from this visionary new generation of young leaders who are dedicated to creating more open and representative institutions. As leader of the U.S. delegation, my role was to serve as a connector and catalyst to strengthen communication and ties among these young peers.
The young political leaders came together, in these uncertain times, amid the clamor of extremist voices during this era of economic hardship. And yet, they strove to strengthen the voices of moderation for inclusive governments. The conference participants did indeed learn a great deal from each other as they discussed differing views and actions on how to approach the work of integration and inclusion. On a personal level, delegates described the event as "inspirational, profound, life-changing, and a memory they will not soon forget."
President Obama and Secretary Clinton are strong advocates of inclusive governments. On many occasions, Secretary Clinton has stressed that it is "important that women and minorities have access to opportunity and participation. Nations cannot flourish if half their population is consigned to the margins or denied their rights."
In the United States, our diversity has made us stronger, more vibrant and more successful, and, in many ways, has defined who we are. And yet, as a nation, we still have a long way to go in order to achieve full political inclusion for minorities. Both the U.S. and European delegations frankly shared their experiences in the hopes of facilitating inclusive governments.
In that spirit, each leader left Copenhagen with the full confidence that we are building a vibrant self-sustaining transatlantic network of young minority elected leaders dedicated to building more inclusive governments. Drawing upon the expertise of the German Marshall Fund and IMPACT, and utilizing modern technologies, all of the participants are dedicated to nurturing an on-line space to exchange best practices, to provide peer-to-peer mentoring, and to encourage future generations to play an increasingly active role in politics. The young attendees plan to reconvene in smaller groups, to make working visits to the United States, and to expand the group by convening capacity building events for even wider circles of transatlantic inclusion leaders.
I personally left Copenhagen with a sense of optimism that these dedicated young minority elected leaders and activists will do all they can to promote racial, ethnic, and religious diversity and inclusion, including political participation, in the United States and Europe. Their diversity and awe inspiring talent gave me hope knowing that the future of our countries is in their hands. While the group brought a wide array of experiences to Copenhagen, they shared the common goal of creating more open and representative institutions.
I look forward to working with them and younger generations of minority elected leaders to build a better future.