In 2013, as more people than ever sought their news through social media, the State Department expanded its digital engagement. Our goal was, and remains, to find ways to give you more access to foreign affairs information and more opportunities to offer your opinions. Here are 13 stories from 2013 that shaped our world, as told through social media.
1. The Passing of Nelson Mandela (December): Dr. Maya Angelou, on behalf of the United States, sent this touching poetry tribute as a special message to the people of South Africa after the passing of one of the world’s greatest leaders. The tribute has been seen by over 1,000,000 people.
2. Direct Contact with Iran (September): For the first time in 34 years, a U.S. President talked directly to an Iranian President by telephone. Later that week, Secretary Kerry sent what has been called a “historic tweet” about the shift.
3. Syrian Chemical Weapons Deal (September): With the issue of American involvement in Syria dominating the news, Secretary Kerry explained the situation directly to the American public in a Google+ Hangout with the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof and Syria Deeply's Lara Setrakian. The event also included questions from American schoolteachers who are affiliated with a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum education program. Two weeks later, the international community reached a deal to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons.
6. Typhoon Haiyan (November): Following the destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Secretary Kerry encouraged people to donate to the relief effort by contributing an “unselfie” to the worldwide effort to inspire charitable contributions on #GivingTuesday. For his "unselfie," the Secretary held a piece of paper highlighting the website that contains information about donations for typhoon victims.
7. Combatting Climate Change (November): After two intense weeks of climate change talks in Warsaw, all countries agreed to announce their commitments to a new global climate agreement by early 2015. The United States is already working on its contribution. In this animated illustration on Tumblr, we see the dramatic increase in temperature anomalies worldwide in the last century.
8. Egyptian Transfer of Power (July): Since the removal from power of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, supporters and opponents of the new government have clashed repeatedly. The United States has called for nonviolence and respect for human and civil rights on both sides. In this picture from our Flickr photostream, Secretary Kerry speaks with the General Sisi of the interim government about the importance of a having a democratically elected government that is brought about through inclusive, free, and fair elections.
9. China-U.S. Cooperation (April): When California and Guangdong Province signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on low-carbon development, it marked a partnership on energy cooperation between the U.S.'s most populous state and the world’s most populated province. Read the story of California Governor Brown’s trip to Guangzhou and the deep connections between our two countries.
10. LGBT Benefits (August): After the landmark Supreme Court decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, Secretary Kerry announced that the State Department would begin extending benefits to same sex couples applying for visas around the world.
13. Recognition of Somalia (January): After decades of conflict, Secretary Clinton announced that, for the first time since 1991, the United States and Somalia would reestablish diplomatic relations.
About the Author: Douglas Frantz serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.