Foreign Policy Classroom: Engaging Students in a Real World Setting

November 20, 2014
Secretary Kerry Speaks at a Foreign Policy Classroom Program

The State Department’s Office of Public Engagement (OPE) launched Foreign Policy Classroom, a student outreach program that engages youth on key foreign policy priorities, in January 2012. Modeled after a college-style lecture, Foreign Policy Classroom invites students to the Department for a one hour briefing in which diplomats lecture for 30 minutes and then engage in lively discussions. This unique opportunity allows students to gain a real-world perspective by walking the halls of the State Department and interacting with diplomats in the very rooms where historic foreign policy decisions are made.

In his first week as Secretary of State, John Kerry spoke at Foreign Policy Classroom, highlighting the importance of student engagement: "This is a complicated time in the world, and I’m glad you are taking part in this Foreign Policy Classroom, in an effort to really get you involved and to try to impress on you the realities of some of the choices that we make so you can become ambassadors, if you will, in your own communities, in your schools, in your homes."

Since its inception, Foreign Policy Classroom has welcomed thousands of students to the State Department and reached hundreds of others through Skype and campus visits. In 2014, the Classroom has covered issues ranging from U.S. counterterrorism efforts, to protecting our ocean, and U.S.-China relations. Most recently, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Bisa Williams, engaged students on  Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities in U.S. – Africa Relations; and Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, David Turk, engaged students on U.S. Efforts to Address Global Climate Change.

Foreign Policy Classroom plays a key role in the Office of Public Engagement’s mission to connect the Department of State to domestic audiences. In his first major policy speech at the University of Virginia, Secretary Kerry underscored the crucial role of domestic engagement. The Secretary said, "There is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy. More than ever before, the decisions that we make from the safety of our shores don’t just ripple outward; they also create a current right here in America. It’s important not just in terms of the threats that we face, but the products that we buy, the goods that we sell, and the opportunity that we provide for economic growth and vitality. It’s not just about whether we’ll be compelled to send our troops to another battle, but whether we’ll be able to send our graduates into a thriving workforce."

The Office of Public Engagement looks forward to connecting with new audiences and universities via Foreign Policy Classroom. As we celebrate International Education Week November 17-21, 2014, we wanted to make you aware of these opportunities. If you are interested in attending a Foreign Policy Classroom in Washington, D.C., or hosting one on your campus, please contact foreignpolicyclassroom@state.gov.

About the Author: David Duckenfield serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

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