#EngageAmerica: The DiploCity of New Orleans

Giving Americans and those living in the United States greater insight into foreign policy and the global work of the State Department is the driving force behind Engage America, an initiative launched by the Bureau of Public Affairs earlier this year to help explain why diplomacy matters to American audiences. For department officials and officers, Engage America provides an opportunity not only to interact with citizens and stakeholders across the country, but to spotlight the global reach of America’s great cities. From Los Angeles to New York and the many in between, there are important stories to tell about how cities are engaging globally through people, business, education, trade, and more. In no place is that more true than the vibrant and resilient city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Built and strengthened by the contributions of Africans, people of the Caribbean, the French, Spanish, Germans, Irish, Sicilians and more, New Orleans’ diversity is one of the city’s and our country’s greatest assets.

Photo from the bow of a ship traveling down the Mississippi River toward the Port of New Orleans. [State Department Photo]

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans to see first-hand, not only the city’s influence on American and many cultures across the globe, but how the city has secured its place as an international business and trade center.  As a beneficiary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it is clear that New Orleans is hard at work for the State of Louisiana. In 2015, New Orleans exported $27 billion in goods to world markets.  Many of those good routed through the Port of New Orleans, a deep-draft multipurpose port at the center of the world’s busiest port system.  The Port of New Orleans is the fastest growing, import/export port in the United States and is connected to major inland markets and Canada via 14,500 miles of waterways, six class I railroads, and the interstate highway system.  The port is the ideal gateway for containers and cargo, as well as passenger cruises, which provide locals and visitors alike the chance to explore the Caribbean and parts of Latin America.

New Orleans also offers other ways to explore the world.  From new students to seasoned professionals, there’s no shortage of cross cultural educational opportunities in the “big easy.”  At Xavier University for example, students are offered study abroad opportunities in countries including France, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Japan, The Netherlands, Ireland, Greece, England, Germany, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Austria, and Columbia. Through specialized partnership and programs, students earn Xavier credit toward their degree and gain language skills, self-awareness, confidence and personal knowledge of other cultures.  Just down the street at the Citizen Diplomacy Council, community leaders arrange professional appointments and cultural activities for approximately 500 international leaders sent to Louisiana each year from the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program and other government and private professional exchanges.  In fact, last year 274 exchange visitors from overseas visited Louisiana and 141 Louisiana residents travelled overseas as part of the Department’s educational and cultural exchange funded programs.

Students at Xavier University after a careers in foreign policy session with Deputy Assistant Secretary Richardson and Diplomat-In-Residence Kali Jones. [State Department Photo]

In New Orleans, there’s global engagement at all levels. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the city’s leaders worked tirelessly to build a stronger -– and more secure -– community. And following the 2010’s oil spill in the gulf, the natural disaster experts once again put on their hard hats and helped the community rebuild.  Now more than ever, the people of New Orleans are working at the crux of critical global issues like climate change.  At Dillard University’s Deep South Center for Environmental Justice students and community influencers are working hard to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our planet and the people who inhabit it.  Last year, Dillard helped to facilitate the travel of forty-four delegates representing 15 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to France to participate in the 2015 United Nations Paris Climate Conference (COP21), an experience which would help them to shape climate change conversations and solutions back in their communities at home.

 These examples demonstrate how, in today’s ever-globalizing world, diplomacy, trade agreements, people-to-people exchanges and citizen engagement abroad has a direct impact on American lives. Cities like New Orleans, with its vibrant culture, art, music and food, have emerged as key players in building bridges between people and economies. From the history of the city and its strong southern culture, to the efforts that have been made to improve and enrich the world, New Orleans represents the best of America, which is a result of its citizens who are engaged globally and look to understand their role in securing America’s future. 

About the Author: Karen Richardson serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Outreach in the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

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Stephen H.
Louisiana, USA
October 26, 2016
Thanks for the great article about the international focus of our fair city. I wish it were easier to 1) comment and 2) post this on social media. Thanks, Stephen
Looking out towards the Mississippi River, in Crescent Park in New Orleans.
Posted by Karen Richardson
October 25, 2016


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