Our Mission To #EngageAmerica in International Service

I am always eager to make the case with the American public that the best foreign policy starts with making it less foreign. Last month, I had the opportunity to engage with students in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was my privilege to moderate a Peace Corps-sponsored roundtable discussion on diversity in international service at Morehouse College with a group of students from that institution as well as from Spelman College, and Clark-Atlanta University.

During the discussion, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet underscored the Peace Corps’ dedication to fielding a volunteer force that reflects the rich diversity of the American people.  She described how the Peace Corps has seen a 28 percent spike in minority recruits -- an all-time high -- after  increasing its recruiting efforts in under-represented communities. 

Peace Corps Director Hessler-Radelet also pointed out several benefits of public service. For example, Peace Corps volunteers not only get to make hands-on contributions to improve the lives of others, they also gain a significant competitive edge in pursuing careers and educational opportunities post-service. Two Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in Mozambique and Togo, who joined the conversation via Skype, shared their personal experiences and reiterated the benefits of public service to the students. They each pointed out that public service not only affords participants once in a lifetime travel opportunities, but are personally rewarding in that they offer a sense of greater purpose.

Several experienced Diplomats – both current and former – also joined the discussion to share their experiences working for the Department as well as to provide advice and guidance to the students on careers, internships, and fellowships offered by the Department. Similar to the Peace Corps participants, Isiah Parnell, the State Department’s Diplomat in Residence at Spelman College, emphasized that international service offers a realistic and attainable way of forging a challenging yet rewarding future. 

Karen Richardson poses with panelists at an event for Atlanta area students hosted at Morehouse College. [State Department photo]

Two former Diplomats -- Julius E. Coles, the Director of Morehouse College’s Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership and Hugh F. Williams Jr., a retired Foreign Service Officer -- also joined to share their journeys and perspectives.  Messrs. Coles and Williams, who both enjoyed long and distinguished careers in the Foreign Service, emphasized that the State Department should look more like America. Reinforcing the message Secretary Kerry has shared in recent remarks around the country, they both underscored the strength of our nation’s diversity and how a more inclusive and diverse workforce can more aptly enable us to anticipate and solve the global challenges of the 21st century. 

In addition to the Peace Corps forum and an interview with Clark-Atlanta University-TV, I rounded out my trip to Atlanta with a meeting with members of the World Affairs Council. We discussed how foreign policy matters to cities across Georgia, whether related to trade, business development, or international educational exchanges. I hoped to make clear, that while funding for the State Department only accounts for one percent of the federal budget, it earns people in Atlanta – and cities all across America -- an enormous return on their investment in terms of jobs, education, entrepreneurship, travel, tourism, security, and robust trade and economic affairs.

Today’s global challenges and those of future generations require cross-cutting, dynamic, and nimble responses from a diverse workforce reflective of our country.  I am grateful to be able to routinely talk with Americans to ensure that they are partners in diplomacy and to encourage them to join us in international service because our country will be stronger and more prosperous when all our citizens participate in the critical work of diplomacy. 

About the Author:  Karen Richardson currently serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.



Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
April 30, 2016

Ok Karen, let's put this engagement thing to the test here on Dipnote. And see if you'll entertain a hypothetical question.

State currently has a budget of aprox. 1% of the total annual for the entire US gov. to fund all of its programs, train and hire FSO's, maintain embassies and posts, etc.

Let's assume for this question that a former Sec of State gets sworn in as US President next Jan.

What are the chances that State's budget will be increased to 2% given the increased demands on the need for diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and good governance globally?

And as a follow-up,

How would you all at State react to being properly funded @ 2% level, and what immediate benefit to the American public would come of it?

The best form of engagement often comes as food for thought.



Karen Richardson, discusses her career path during an event at the U.S. Department of State.
Posted by Karen Richardson
April 28, 2016


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