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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

2012 G8 and G20 Youth Summits

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Funger Hall, George Washington University
Washington, DC
June 8, 2012


Good morning and thank you Carlos for the kind introduction. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you today as you conclude the 2012 G8 and G20 Youth Summits. I understand that this is the first time in the conference’s history that it has been held in the United States. Let me offer a warm welcome to Washington, DC to all of the delegates representing the United States and some 28 countries around the world. I applaud your energy, enthusiasm, and desire to make a difference. Thank you for taking the time to participate in this challenging and yet incredibly rewarding experience.

I am told that the G8 and G20 Youth Summits could be described accurately as the World Cup of diplomacy simulations. As you deliberated this week to develop proposed solutions to current global problems, you likely encountered many of the same themes and challenges in 21st century diplomacy that we at the State Department are also focused on.

While bringing the cultural values and national interests of your countries to the negotiating table, you have exhibited your generation’s ability to effect change. As future global leaders, you had the opportunity to engage in the truest form of peer-to-peer engagement. You indeed are forging a path for the next generation.

Around the world, young people can learn a great deal from each other. As current and future young leaders we should pursue the goal of building more cohesive societies that draw on the talents of all members and in which all feel respected and valued.

Secretary Clinton believes strongly that if we are going to solve our greatest global challenges, we need to tap the majority of the world’s population that is under the age of 30. The Department of State’s global youth agenda is about utilizing this tremendous potential for entrepreneurship and innovation. It is about making sure that young people are harnessed to create the jobs around the world that, for the most part, come from new business initiatives and where youthful creativity is going to be essential. It is about harnessing them to be champions of good governance and overturn old enmities and obstacles to progress, as we have seen young people do in such a powerful way in the past year.

I serve in a unique position as one of Secretary Clinton’s Special Representatives. She has made clear that foreign policy and diplomacy goes beyond nation to nation, and that the time has come to engage U.S. state and local elected leaders with their subnational counterparts abroad. That is why the Secretary created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs in 2010.

In creating this office, it has been my mandate to reach out to governors, mayors, and county officials to collaborate on international issues, such as trade, investment and economic development, energy, sustainability, organization, and global health. To further Secretary Clinton’s vision of 21st century diplomacy, we amplify a multitude of U.S. priorities by providing leadership in building relationships and conducting outreach to subnational leaders around the world.

This work is accomplished on a people-to-people level. We focus on what’s happening at the grassroots, what’s happening at the local level, and we serve as a connector.

Our work on subnational issues is similar to what you have been endeavoring to accomplish at this Summit. We seek to build networks of likeminded thinkers to effect positive change. In doing so, we are focused on the next generation because that’s the generation that can build partnerships over the long term.

Your presence at this event exemplifies engagement for the 21st century – engagement which must be built first on listening, seeking to view and understand the world through the eyes of others, and forging uncommon partnerships.

While listening and learning from each other are key first steps, true change will only come from building partnerships. When we work together, whether in government, academia, a nonprofit organization, or as entrepreneurs, we each bring a unique perspective. Harnessing these different perspectives towards partnerships for action enables us to work together for the common good.

Your participation in this Summit is just a beginning. I urge you to leverage this opportunity for one another and for yourself to seek partnerships. Understand the language of one another. Mentor and coach each other. Share best practices with one another and always keep it simple. Connect what you learn here with your communities. Train the trainer!

In pursing these partnerships, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I urge you to reach out to your contemporaries to fight for your position, but more importantly, to fight for what is right.

This course of action requires a “get it done” attitude. As you seek to collaborate in your communities, talk about what you are doing. If you talk about it, it will get done.

Secretary Clinton has said that President Obama “has led us to think outside the usual boundaries. He has launched a new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values and mutual respect.”

America shares interests and values with people and nations around the world. We seek to advance those common interests through partnerships, the power of example and the empowerment of people.

When you return to your communities, I strongly encourage you to continue to network and to communicate with one another in support of building a new generation of young leaders who are dedicated to creating more open and diversified communities with representative institutions. Utilize social media and other digital technologies to tell your stories, build your support bases and connect to your community of peers and the world.

We at the Department of State look forward to standing by you on this journey. Secretary Clinton firmly believes that we ignore youth at our own peril. And, I would say that it goes both ways. This is a moment where our leadership is listening. So the ball is, to some extent, in your court. I urge you, young people of the world, to take advantage of that. Build solutions in your communities, make your voices heard, and don’t stop.

And with that, I am happy to take your questions.

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