There's Nothing Foreign About Foreign Policy: On the Road As We #EngageAmerica

Posted by Richard Stengel
June 9, 2016
Seattle skyline. [Shutterstock Photo]

There’s nothing foreign about foreign policy. That’s what Secretary Kerry said at the University of Virginia in 2013 in his first speech as Secretary of State. It’s no secret that many of us at the State Department -- from the Secretary on down -- spend a lot of time traveling around the globe to improve our diplomatic relations. What you might not know is that many of us at State are devoting even more time right here in the United States, traveling domestically as part of the Secretary’s Engage America initiative.

Why spend time in Omaha instead of Oslo? From trade agreements to countering violent extremism, every action the State Department takes is aimed at protecting and promoting the interests of the American people. In 2015 over 250,000 students came to study in America and in the process contributed $30.5 billion dollars to the U.S. economy. Our trade agreements help produce millions of jobs annually. The COP21 climate change accord, adopted by 195 nations, will protect the environment for our children and grandchildren. The Iranian nuclear agreement, achieved through diplomacy, ensures the United States and our allies will no longer face the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

We need the best minds in our country to be part of the solution to our nation’s most difficult international challenges.  People may disagree with some part of U.S. foreign policy. It’s our job to explain why we do what we do -- and that mission doesn’t begin at the water’s edge, it begins at home.

In March I traveled to Boston to talk foreign policy with students at Harvard. Many of the students I met showed an amazing level of engagement with foreign policy -- from Cuba, to Iran to ISIL’s social media prowess, young Americans are helping to reshape the way the State Department thinks about diplomacy in the digital age. Last month I joined the #EngageAmerica program again and went out to the west coast on World Press Freedom Day. 

[Watch as Washington State University Dean Pintak hosts a special conversation with Under Secretary Richard Stengel to mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, 2016.]

In Seattle I had the opportunity to meet with some incredibly talented foreign policy thinkers from Washington State University and the World Affairs Council of Seattle. Over two days in May we debated and exchanged ideas on the new Global Engagement Center built to combat ISIL’s presence online, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and US efforts to improve journalist safety worldwide.

Before heading back to Washington I sat down with the Mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray. The mayor praised the impact of the Pearson Fellowship program, which enables Foreign Service officers to advise local governments in their hometowns. I chatted with one Pearson Fellow, Paul Neville, who has been working for Mayor Murray for nearly a year. His energy and commitment to improving his own community inspired me. In the coming months we hope to expand this program to help ensure that American cities are brought into the US foreign policy conversation.

We also managed to have a little fun. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll find a great video of the flying fishmongers at Pike’s Place Market. My team insisted I see the market before we left town -- and they were right!

This trip is one of dozens undertaken by State Department officials in recent months.  From Ambassador Cathy Russell, who crisscrossed the country speaking to student groups on women’s rights to Under Secretary Gottemoeller, who traveled to Utah and Alaska to highlight our arms control efforts, we are working every day to share our foreign policy vision with the American people. And there’s much more to come.

In June I’m headed to Stanford for the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. This event brings together the best young entrepreneurs from around the world. What better place to host these talented delegates than the international hub of innovation and creativity -- Silicon Valley?

The 7th Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be held at Stanford University June 22-24, 2016. [State Department photo]

The State Department will always represent American foreign policy overseas. But as we continue to Engage America and answer the Secretary’s call, our goal is to have a stronger voice at home. We hope to see you out on the road. 

About the Author: Richard Stengel serves as the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:


Leave a comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.

Filtered formatting

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <blockquote> <ul> <ol> <li><p><span>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.


Victor M.
Maryland, USA
June 9, 2016
Hello, my name is Victor Nvewilla Mark I was born in Sudan. After undergoing severe catastrophic civil war in the country, thanks to the International Rescue Committee and the United States government for opening their arms to welcome me into this country. However, I have tried my best to assimilate to the American values and beliefs. I do hold Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) Degree, Bachelor of Science (B.S) Degree, and Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree. I am looking forward to contribute for cause, because I have a courage, commitment, and determination to offer service to the global community.


Latest Stories

October 20, 2016

Protecting Digital Diplomacy

Every October, the State Department celebrates National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a collaborative effort between government and industry that encourages the… more