Clinton to Carnahan: "Double or triple" exchange programs

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) noted, during a Q&A conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that he believes citizen diplomacy and international exchange programs are “critical” aspects of U.S. public diplomacy. Sec. Clinton stated her agreement, saying that she would “double or triple” student exchange programs if she could, and that she is a “big believer in people-to-people diplomacy”:

MR. CARNAHAN: … But I’d like to focus my question really about the voices of democracy that are really rising across the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere, and the need to reevaluate our public diplomacy tools, certainly looking beyond our traditional state-to-state diplomatic efforts but about citizen-to-citizen diplomacy, the cost effectiveness of that – I was especially reminded of that this past week. I had a bipartisan town hall meeting with Congresswoman Emerson and Clay at Washington University. And a student came up to me there who’d studied in Cairo the previous year, was continuing to have contact with students there in Cairo, and how those kind of engagements are so critical in those countries. Could you talk about that? 

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I agree with that completely, Congressman. If I could double or triple our student exchanges, particularly into this region right now, where we have more of our students going to Cairo, to Tunis, to Amman, to places where young people are voicing their desire for democracy and more people coming from those regions. We have tried to increase our international visitors program and specialized programs. But I’m a big believer in people-to-people diplomacy, and I’d like to see us do even more of that.

This exchange came on the heels of Secretary Clinton’s formal statement in which she argued in support of the International Affairs Budget and said that the cuts to the Department of State budget included in the House’s recently passed bill, H.R. 1, would be “devastating to our national security.” Clinton made the same argument — for a lean yet strategic State Department budget that makes key investments in our economic growth and national security — in front of the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday during a hearing on the President's FY 2012 budget request.