In celebration of Black History Month, more than 800 students, faculty, and staff from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were in attendance for the 12th Annual HBCU Foreign Policy Conference, “Building Leadership for the Diplomats of Tomorrow,” held on February 25 and 26. This year’s conference took place virtually over two days for the first time due to the global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On day one of the conference participants were given a warm welcome from Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris an HBCU Alumnus of Howard University. Vice President Harris’s remarks emphasized the importance of the Biden Administration’s commitment to U.S. foreign policy priorities. She inspired HBCU students by stating, “Our strength at home depends on what we do abroad. Restoring our alliances, leading with diplomacy and supporting international institutions. And that’s why we need the brightest minds to forge new partnerships, to advance new policies, and to help solve these challenges.”
— Department of State (@StateDept) February 25, 2021
Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken delivered welcoming remarks as well as providing an overview of his top priorities.“The Biden Administration has major challenges on our to do list – bringing an end to COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, and creating a humane and effective immigration system. Not a single one of these challenges can be met by any one country, even the United States acting alone.”
Delighted to be part of this year’s HBCU Foreign Policy Conference. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have raised up American leaders for nearly two centuries, mobilizing change in communities, across the country, and around the world. We need your talents on our team. pic.twitter.com/Qm1hIbsFiV
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 25, 2021
The afternoon breakout sessions featured various bureaus discussing their top policy priorities from regional and functional bureaus, including climate change, emerging technology, and digital diplomacy. The annual power panel spotlighting African American trailblazers spoke on the importance of striking the balance between prosperity of your people and your civic duties to your organization. Ambassador Teddy Taylor shared, “If each of us does our part, it becomes a larger effort with a larger impact. You have to define the prosperity.” When asked to name an influencer and their impact on their careers, Sr. Foreign Service Officer, Hugh Williams and Ambassador Teddy Taylor, named our third panelist and pioneer, Ambassador Aurealia Brazeal. Amb. Brazeal shared an anecdote from her personal influencer, Barbara Watson, the first black person and the first woman to serve as an Assistant Secretary of State. “I don’t buy turkeys even on Thanksgiving. When you attain a position with responsibilities and you have a staff, you don’t let other people be assigned to you, you choose your staff, you pick the people you want.”
This year a new segment was added to the conference, a virtual networking lunch. This offered a number of regional and functional bureaus the opportunity to share their policy priorities live to the audience.
The Department was able to engage with more HBCU students and faculty with a virtual experience. Participants were able to engage in conversations between fellow students and department officials. The advantage of hosting a virtual conference is that it offers more students and faculty the opportunity to participate.
The Bureau of Global Public Affairs is delighted to engage with more HBCUs over the course of the year to promote U.S. foreign policy priorities, opportunities at State, and resources for engagement.
More information on how you can participate and support HBCU students and universities can be found here.
You can read more about why you should explore a career with the State Department here.
More information on career opportunities at the State Department can be found here.
About the Author: Kyla Hammond currently serves as a Management Analyst for the Bureau of Global Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.