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Diplomacy in Action

Opening Plenary Address For EducationUSA Forum

Tara Sonenshine
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs 
Washington, DC
June 27, 2012


Hello everyone. I would like to join Ann Stock – Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – in welcoming you all to our EducationUSA Forum. This is our third such meeting and it just keeps growing. In our first year, we had 200 members of the higher education community. Now we are up to 450.

We are delighted with this growth for many reasons.

First of all, this is a terrific opportunity for everyone here today. The regional educational advising coordinators and senior EducationUSA advisers – who work overseas with students – come to share their expertise with U.S. college and university representatives, so they can enhance their recruitment of international students. Let me take this opportunity to recognize and thank all 50 of you for traveling from points around the world to be here today.

I also want to thank the more than 40 foreign embassies who have accepted our invitation to send their educational or cultural attaches to join our advisers tomorrow. They are an important part of this, too, and their contributions will be very valuable.

Secondly, forums like this help to expand the flow of global education. As President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear, education is very much on the agenda in our bilateral discussions with many countries. They recognize – as do more and more governments around the world – that education must always be part of the equation when it comes to economic development, innovation, and social progress.

Third – and here’s where I am especially interested as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs – this forum helps to foster people-to-people connections between countries. Those ties are essential because they strengthen our international relationships, grow our economies, foster scientific and research efforts, and better inform our policies. So we consider this forum to be public diplomacy at its productive best.

We hope this forum will be productive and helpful for all of you. Negotiating the decentralized U.S. system can be daunting for many international students who worry about getting visas or paying tuition costs. Our EducationUSA network is eager to work with you to help students understand our system and see that the United States has a great deal to offer them.

We have a wide diversity of higher educational institutions of different sizes, missions, philosophies, and program offerings. This means we can bring opportunities to many students – beyond elite circles.

We believe that’s why we are still the top choice for international students around the world – and we want to make sure that continues.

So we are committed to supporting all efforts to give international students positive experiences in the United States. And last year, Secretary McHale spoke about EducationUSA’s mobile advising outreach, which has connected with more than a million students around the world.

Of course, the benefits don’t just flow in one direction. We also want to make sure that Americans study abroad and deepen their experience, understanding, and engagement with other cultures.

That’s a fundamental principle of our educational exchanges, such as our 100,000 Strong Initiative which works to create a two-way flow of American and Chinese students, and the 100,000 Strong in the Americas which seeks to do the same with Latin American students.

And of course, our Fulbright, Gilman, and other educational exchange programs also work to foster exchanges between U.S. students and more than 150 countries.

EducationUSA is thriving because of its partnership with you. No single institution can recruit in every country around the world, and we are eager to help you to expand your efforts in places you might not be able to reach without us.

We are all working together to support the future leaders of this world, including the economists who identify the patterns of financial flow that will influence markets … the artists who help to illuminate human existence … the political leaders who run governments …. and the civil society activists who will hold them to account for human rights and environmental and labor practices.

So thank you for what you do. And may the next three days help you expand your networks and recruitment, so we can provide more opportunities for more students from more diverse backgrounds to study in the United States.

Thank you.

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