This week, in accordance with “American Heroes Week,” we brought attention to the work that so many Americans are doing to help others. Around the world, my colleagues at the U.S. Department of State and USAID are leading efforts to feed the hungry, fight disease, and reduce instability, all of which makes us safer here at home.
When I was a reporter, I visited Sudan in 2004 and saw firsthand the dedication of USAID staffers. I remember the pride that I felt when I first saw the slogan “From the American People” stamped on a bag of wheat that was distributed in South Sudan and also Darfur. Today, American diplomats and development professionals are working to stave off famine, as the world faces the worst food security crisis since World War II.
State Department and USAID employees also work daily to drive advances in the prevention, the care, and the treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculous, and malaria, while saving millions of preventable diseases, such as cholera and polio. In the last 15 years, our government-funded interventions have contributed to a 45 percent decrease in maternal deaths and a 51 percent decrease in deaths of children under five. This week, the United States announced that through support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) four African countries are approaching control of their HIV epidemics. Our assistance abroad is a testament to the generosity and the goodwill of the American people.
Our highest priority is to protect the lives and interests of the American people. Since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017, the Department of State has issued 15.6 million passports for U.S. citizens and nationals in order to travel abroad. State Department Consular Officers support the welfare of these U.S. citizens abroad through routine and emergency services at our embassies and consulates around the world. If a storm or something else disrupts their travel plans, Consular Officers alert Americans through Travel Warnings and other country-specific information – which is a good reminder that regardless of wherever you’re traveling, go to our State Department website and let us know where you will be. In the case of an emergency, we’ll be able to reach you.
The State Department supports the security of U.S. borders while also facilitating legitimate travel. In Fiscal Year 2016, we issued non-immigrant visas to more than 10 million foreign nationals to study, visit, and do business in the United States. International visitors contribute more than $240 billion to the U.S. economy, supporting more than one million U.S. jobs.
Promoting freedom and democracy and protecting human rights around the world are also central to U.S. foreign policy. The United States uses a wide range of tools to advance human rights and protect freedoms, including bilateral diplomacy, multilateral engagement, foreign assistance, reporting and public outreach, and economic sanctions. State Department and USAID colleagues work with democratic partners, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, and engaged citizens to support those seeking freedom and advance universal rights that we cherish, such as freedom of speech.
The lifesaving and tireless work of our diplomats and aid workers embodies America’s dedication to creating a safer and more prosperous world. I’ve been impressed by the hard work and dedication of the Foreign and Civil Service employees at the State Department and USAID, and we’ve highlighted some of these colleagues on the Department’s Instagram account. It’s seems particularly fitting that we recognized their courage and achievements this week, as we also celebrated the State Department’s 228th birthday. Two hundred and twenty-eight years later, the Department remains as dedicated to U.S. national security, economic prosperity, and the safety and security of our citizens as it has ever been.
State Department and USAID colleagues view their work as a calling, a duty, and an obligation to represent what is best about America to the world. State Department and USAID public servants experience their work with great pride, with honor, and a calling on behalf of our country. I’m personally honored and humbled to have the opportunity to join them every day and speak on their behalf as Department Spokesperson.
About the Author: Heather Nauert serves as State Department Spokesperson. Follow her on Twitter at @StateDeptSpox.