Leaders in the field of U.S.- China relations emphasized the continued importance of investing in public diplomacy efforts, particularly student exchange programs, at the launch of the 100,000 Strong Report on Tuesday. Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of the Asia Society, underlined the strategic value of exchanges:
“These initiatives are not just about feeling good and getting to know each other, but can do big things.”
The Fulbright Program remains vital to the U.S.’ educational, scientific, economic, and political partnerships, according to Tara Sonenshine, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Sonenshine recently wrote a blog post in the Huffington Post underlining the positive impacts of the program on public diplomacy:
The Government of Russia has decided to cancel Russian participation in the 2015-16 Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) high school program, according to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Russian high school students currently in the U.S. on the 2014-15 FLEX program can continue their stay and finish their program.
In a recent Huffington Post blog post, 100,000 Strong Foundation president Carola McGiffert calls for the diversification of study abroad to China. The general homogeneity of study abroad poses a disadvantage for not only underrepresented students themselves, but also U.S. businesses and the U.S. government, McGiffert writes.
Public diplomacy remains paramount to U.S. interests at home and abroad, according to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel. Speaking at an American Security Project event earlier this week, in what was referred to as “his first comprehensive presentation on his view of public diplomacy,” Stengel emphasized the role of the exchange community in public diplomacy efforts:
Confucius Institutes continue to increase in number and funding, despite growing criticism against the institutes in the United States and a questionable impact on China’s soft power, reports The Economist.
The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has posted information and FAQs regarding the ongoing efforts to fully restore its global database for issuing travel documents and visas. This database crashed last week, causing an “extensive backlog” for U.S. passports and visas worldwide.
The Fulbright Program was awarded today with the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, as announced by the Prince of Asturias Foundation. The Prince of Asturias Award is widely considered to be “Spain’s Nobel Prize” and aims “to reward scientific, technical, cultural, social, and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions.” Prior award recipients include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Red Cross, and Nelson Mandela.
James Costos, U.S. Ambassador to Spain, and Ramon Gil-Casares, Spanish Ambassador to the U.S., nominated the Fulbright Program for this prestigious award. More than 20 other nominees were up for the award, including individuals and groups from Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Ireland, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Portugal, United Kingdom, and Spain.
A proposed $30 million cut to the Fulbright Program would “rob the United States of one of its greatest, most lasting, and cheapest diplomacy bargains,” writes Rebecca Schuman in a recent column for Slate:
“Sometimes the soft power of cultural and educational exchange is more effective than official diplomacy, because it involves…a demonstrated interest in the host culture, full cultural immersion, and actual personal connection with locals. It’s for this reason that now is the absolute wrong time to cut the Fulbright program.”
“As tensions escalate with countries that were once touchy allies, what we need are more Fulbright grantees in the world, not fewer.”
In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama stressed the administration’s efforts to expand people-to-people exchanges as a tool to promote a “strong and principled [U.S.] diplomacy.”
The President said:
“You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power including strong and principled diplomacy.”