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Educational and Cultural Affairs: New Directions

Ann Stock, 5 April 2011

Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of State

Remarks presented to the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
DACOR-Bacon House, Washington, D.C.

Thank you very much, Kathy. I'm delighted to be here with you today.

You may be the most savvy and informed public diplomacy audience that I have spoken to. I could hand this microphone to any of you and learn valuable insights into the world of public diplomacy.

So that I can leave time for discussion, I'm going to focus on:

  • Our mission;
  • How it addresses 21st century challenges; and
  • Some of the significant strategic trends in educational and cultural affairs.

Everything I will describe is integrated into a Under Secretary McHale's strategic public diplomacy framework, which encompasses ECA, IIP, the regional bureaus and the field.

Each of you knows the mission well. In short, it's mutual understanding. It is a timeless mission as well as an integral part of the American character.

Since the world never stops changing, even a timeless mission must be adapted and reimagined. Twenty years ago, when the Cold War ended, decades of assumptions about the world order were upended. Nearly ten years ago, 9/11 ushered in a new, more violent era in global politics. And today, we are watching the fast-moving spread of democratic change throughout the Arab world and the slow, but steady rise of emerging powers with whom we are building cooperative relationships.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton recognize the value of our people-to-people engagement. Every major bilateral initiative has an educational or cultural component. These titles don't exactly roll off my tongue, but we now have:

  • The U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission;
  • The U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership on Education;
  • The U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange; and
  • The U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement

... to name a few and there are more.

The bottom line is that the Fulbright-Hays mission fully embodies Secretary Clinton's concept of "smart power" -- by using all the tools available to achieve our 21st century foreign policy goals. Exchanges do just that; they bridge language barriers, open lines of communication, and connect people in immediate and lasting ways.


Every major bilateral initiative has an educational or cultural component.

Two weeks ago, I returned from a fascinating trip to Iraq that highlighted many of these strengths.

I co-chaired the first session of the U.S.-Iraq Joint Coordinating Committee on Education, Culture and Science. The working groups made individual presentations in these three areas, plus youth and sports. This was also the first time the Iraqi leadership realized the full scope of our civil partnership in these areas and shared their ambitious engagement programs with one another.

  • Iraq has one of the world's largest International Visitor Leadership Programs and the region's largest Fulbright Program. In fact, a trip highlight was Ambassador Jeffrey's reception honoring the 60th anniversary of the Iraq Fulbright Program. The spirit of Fulbright today was best captured for me by two young men who are heading to the University of Arizona. They boarded a bus at 5:00 A.M. in Mosul to make the long, and often dangerous, trip to Baghdad just to attend the reception.
  • Additionally, the Ambassador and I visited the Iraq National Museum, where ECA has funded significant improvements. We also established a preservation training institute in Erbil (the only one of its kind in the region), and developed a site management plan for Babylon.

Everywhere I went, I saw firsthand how ECA programs are being used on the ground to fulfill a strategic imperative. First, the partnerships that are being developed through our exchanges are anchoring Iraq in the West.

Second, as the military presence draws down, the civilian presence must ramp up. U.S. soldiers will no longer be present to help secure Iraq's future. PD programs are at the heart of this new phase in an ongoing campaign. This is a dramatic example of the strategic value of educational and cultural exchange: smart power used to secure our most vital national interests.

Next, let talk about the strategic directions we are taking at ECA.

We are increasingly engaged with younger populations. Exchange participation begins at the secondary school level now through our English Access Micro-scholarship and Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs.

We are making a concerted effort to reach underserved youth -- American students who never dreamed of studying abroad and international youth who never thought they could visit the United States. "Underserved" can have many definitions and is not just a socio-economic term. Depending on the country, underserved may signify religious and ethnic minorities, it may mean young women, and it may simply mean citizens living in provincial areas, away from the capital.

We are constantly seeking ways to leverage social media to engage young people. With half of the world's population under the age of 30 -- and their insatiable ability to stay connected -- keeping pace with these young citizens of the world is a full-time occupation.

I'm trying and you can, too, by following me on Twitter: my handle is @annatstate. Now, you can keep pace with me!

It may surprise you to know, ECA was the first State Department bureau to launch its own social networking site: ExchangesConnect.

In addition to young people, we are focusing on women and girls. Let me give you a feel for our programs:

  • The FORTUNE/State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership has connected 50 of America's senior women executives from 30 companies with emerging women leaders world-wide. In May, 26 women from 15 countries and Gaza will soon be in U.S. for a three-week mentorship. This is public- private partnership at its best.
  • The TechWomen Program, provides a five-week, project-based mentorship in Silicon Valley for 38 women from the Middle East and North Africa who work in the field of technology. It launches in June.
  • Last month, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day, we kicked off the Women's Leadership: The Next Hundred Years. We brought 100 women leaders from 92 countries convened to explore women's political, economic, and civic leadership. This year, 25 IVLP projects will engage more than 300 female leaders.

We're also focusing on English teaching. English is the gateway to everything: from economic empowerment, jobs, and countering violent extremism, to education and engagement with America. This is one of those very rare areas where what other countries want from us is exactly what we want to give them. Our plans range from more web-based applications to more Regional English Language Officers.

Next, we are expanding the scope of our educational advising around the world. America must remain the destination of choice for the best and the brightest. International enrollment in the United States is now at an all-time high with nearly 700,000 students, who contribute $20 billion a year to the American economy.

Increasing opportunities for American students to acquire critical language skills is a very high priority for me. I am pleased to say that the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship -- which help American students with financial need to study abroad -- has a participation rate by African-American, Latino, and Asian communities that is two to three times greater than the national average. Nearly half of the Gilman scholars are first generation college students.

Our National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) and Critical Language Scholarships teach foreign languages of strategic importance -- such as Mandarin, Arabic, and Farsi -- to American students. For this academic year, 630 high school students and 575 university students received merit-based scholarships.

We are also enhancing our efforts in the arts and sports. Secretary Clinton said recently in an interview that, "There are certainly times when music conveys American values better than a speech." And we all know exactly what she's talking about.


Today, there are over 1 million ECA exchange program alumni world-wide. They include 50 Nobel Laureates and 350 current and former heads of state and government ....

In culture, there are no great or small nations, no superpowers and their satellites; no First, Second or Third World nations. There is simply a human connection. Each of the world's cultural traditions has equal stature and each voice has an equal claim on our respect.

I'd like to share one example of a project that illustrates just that. Recently, I met with the President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to discuss the opening of their Islamic Art Galleries following an eight-year renovation. This is a milestone occasion in the history of Islamic art in the United States. We brainstormed various ways to collaborate and in May a senior delegation from the Met will be at the State Department to see where we can get operational and put this plan into action....

This is cultural diplomacy at its best. It highlights the key role cultural heritage and preservation can play. And it shows the power of outreach to the private sector and of leveraging technology. Much of the cooperation between the Met, the field and ECA will be digital.

And, finally, I must share the latest exciting news involving our alumni.

This year, I launched an Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund, which asked our alumni world-wide to submit proposals to address global challenges, such as food security, civil society and the empowerment of women and girls. For their ideas to qualify, however, alumni must form a national, regional or international team. All alumni could view and vote for their favorite proposals. We received almost 700 proposals; so many that we had to extend the submission deadline when the site almost crashed from the volume.

Today, there are over 1 million ECA exchange program alumni world-wide. They include 50 Nobel Laureates and 350 current and former heads of state and government, such as Dilma Rouseff, the first woman president of Brazil, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President of Turkey Abdullah Gul, and Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico.

I didn't nominate these future leaders. You and your colleagues who served around the world did. Colleagues like the recipients of the Public Diplomacy Achievement Award. You went above and beyond your job description- always keeping an eye out for talent, for the open mind. We reap the benefits of the work you did.

Today, we have a new mission: to pay it forward in two ways. First, we must ensure that these valuable exchanges continue and that they are of the highest quality. Second, we must always make sure the field has the support it needs. If we do both, the next generation can look back and thank us the way that I am thanking you now.

I look forward to your questions and comments.

Ms. Stock leads Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which promotes international mutual understanding through academic, cultural, private sector, professional, youth, and sports exchange programs.

(Photo: Alan Kotok)

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Updated: 6 April 2011.

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