WASHINGTON, DC, September 30 — As issues of national security are on the minds of many Americans lately, students participating in the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security visited the Department to discuss U.S. foreign policy priorities. Jennifer Harris, a member of the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, discussed the issuance of an Executive Order by President Obama last week that imposes sanctions on eight designated Iranian officials responsible for serious and sustained human rights abuses since the disputed election of June 2009. Ms. Harris also focused on the United States’ removal of all combat troops from Iraq in August 2010 as part of the Obama Administration’s goal of ending its combat mission and taking a step forward in responsibly ending the war in Iraq. In addition, Ms. Harris spoke about the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which provides an opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-China bilateral relationship through discussion of political, strategic, and economic issues.
Jennifer Harris is responsible for global markets, geo-economic issues and energy security on the Policy Planning Staff, the Department of State’s internal think tank. The Policy Planning Staff undertakes broad analytical studies of regional and functional issues, identifies gaps in policy, and initiates policy planning and formulation to fill these gaps.
WASHINGTON, DC, September 27 — In the midst of many important and pressing foreign policy issues occurring around the world, the Department of State believes it is important to communicate with the public in an open dialogue. With this goal in mind, the Department hosted a group of high school students from Keene, Texas for a discussion on U.S. foreign policy priorities.
The students, who are enrolled in Chisholm Trail Academy, met with Dr. Dafna Rand, a member of Secretary Clinton’s Policy Planning team. Dr. Rand spoke to students about the issues most important to them as well as the Department of State’s role in Afghanistan and in the re-launching of Middle East Peace negotiation. She also discussed the roles of two important leaders in each of these topics; Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell. Civic responsibility and how each branch of government interacts with each other was also a topic of interest for students.
Dr. Dafna H. Rand joined the Policy Planning Staff in May 2010. The policy planning staff functions as the Department’s internal think-tank. Her portfolio covers Middle East and security issues. Previously, she served as a professional staff member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. She received her AB from Harvard University, and her MA and Ph.D. from Columbia University.
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VERMILLION, SD, Sept. 24 — Catherine Stearns, Public Affairs Advisor, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, represented the U.S. Department of State at the National Music Museum's public unveiling of the Henry IV Amati Violin. This stunning instrument was built and embellished in 1595 by the Brothers Amati in Cremona, Italy, to honor Henry IV, King of France.
In her keynote speech, Ms. Stearns linked the violin's fascinating historical journey to the relevance and "smart power" of U.S. cultural diplomacy. She spoke with curators, researchers, University of South Dakota (USD) undergraduate and graduate students, and museum trustees during the event.
Ms. Stearns has presented U.S. public diplomacy for 18 years to American and international audiences. She’s responsible for a wide range of public affairs activities, with an emphasis on strategic communication planning, media relations, public and intergovernmental liaison, and public speaking.
Founded in 1973, the National Music Museum is housed in a restored Carnegie library building, built in 1910. The Museum’s renowned collections, which include more than 15,000 American, European, and non-Western instruments from virtually all cultures and historical periods, are among of the earliest, best-preserved, and historically most important musical instruments known to survive.
WASHINGTON, DC, September 16 — Strategic dialogues are an important part of the diplomatic process. The U.S. has held dialogues with both India and Pakistan over the past couple of months; with the goal of strengthening the growing relationships with these important countries. This significant topic guided a growing conversation between American University students and State Department officials. Students from around the U.S. participating in the AU Washington Semester program visited the Department to discuss U.S. relations with India and Pakistan in light of the Strategic Dialogues that have recently taken place.
John Spykerman from the Office of Pakistan Affairs discussed his experiences in the changing dynamic in Pakistan, invigorating the discussion with anecdotes about his time in Pakistan as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO). Spykerman also focused on Pakistan’s relationship with its neighbor, Afghanistan. Basant Sanghera, who works in the Office of Indian Affairs, also engaged with students in a conversation around the U.S relationship with India. He emphasized its multifaceted nature and the vibrancy that accompanies such an important relationship. He also discussed President Obama’s planned 2010 visit to the country (link).
John Spykerman covers Pakistan’s internal and external politics and the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (link). His previous postings include Afghanistan, Thailand, and the Department’s Bureau of African Affairs.
Basant S. Sanghera works on internal Indian politics, external relations and the U.S.-India defense relationship in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. He is fluent in Punjabi.
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Washington, DC, September 15 — In the run-up to the opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York next week, American University (AU) students visited the Department for a policy briefing. David Bame, who works on public outreach in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, engaged students from AU’s University College program. He defined Smart Power, Secretary Clinton’s innovative approach to the full range of tools at our disposal. Mr. Bame provided the students a behind the scenes look at how Department officials use Smart Power at UNGA to advance U.S. priorities.
David Bame, an FSO (Foreign Service officer) since 1988, has worked on Middle East, European, and political-military issues. He has twice served in the Department's 24-hour Operations Center, including as a Senior Watch Officer on September 11, 2001. He has served abroad in London; Ankara; Jerusalem; and Riyadh.
WASHINGTON, DC, September 14 — The New START Treaty, U.S. priorities in sub-Saharan Africa, and the National Export Initiative are three issues the University of Wisconsin Badgers delved into at Tuesday’s briefing. Students in UW-M’s Washington Semester in International Affairs dissected these issues with Department officials.
Edward Kemp, who works on sub-Saharan Africa issues in the Bureau of African Affairs, discussed U.S. efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, increase economic growth, promote of public health, as well as USAID’s work on the Feed the Future Initiative.
Business students were especially intrigued with Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Kimberly Bell’s presentation on the National Export Initiative, President Obama’s plan to double American exports over the next five years and create two million jobs.
Students also met with Scott Smith, Bureau of Human Resources, for a discussion of student programs and career opportunities within the Department.
WASHINGTON, DC, September 13 — As Secretary Clinton pushed forward on Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations in Egypt on Monday, The Fund for American Studies students initiated their own conversation on peace talks with Department officials.
Dr. Wesley Reisser and Julia Jacoby, who work in the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, looped students into the conversation Secretary Clinton had in her travel to the Middle East this week on a potential peace agreement and two-state solution in the region.
Dr. Wesley Reisser currently serves as a desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where he works on the Israeli portfolio. He previously served as a desk officer for Egypt, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.
Julia Jacoby also serves in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where she maintains the Palestinian portfolio. She is a career Foreign Service officer (FSO) who has served in Tel Aviv and Berlin and previously served as a financial economist in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.