A Diverse and Socially Inclusive America Needs to Share Its Story

Posted by Tara D. Sonenshine / February 12, 2013

Wheelchair athlete, left, races along side able-bodied high school runners, April 19, 2006 in Rockville, Md. [AP File Photo]

Diversity is our strength, and everyone, including persons with disabilities, has important contributions to make.

That was one of the overarching messages at the 10th Special Olympics 2013 World Winter Games in South Korea this month, where athletes Tae Hemsath and Henry Meece -- born in South Korea with developmental disabilities -- returned to their birth country as Special Olympics athletes. Tae competed as a snowshoe racer, Henry as a snowboarder.

That same message resonated today throughout a public forum, where participants at Gallaudet University came to learn about opportunities in international exchange for persons with disabilities, and for members of the deaf community.

The audience was moved by the words and experiences of speakers, including U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former Army helicopter pilot who lost… more »

President Obama Signs Memorandum Institutionalizing the Office of Global Women’s Issues

Posted by Melanne Verveer / February 01, 2013

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a photo with the recipients of the 2012 International Women of Courage Award, on the 101st Anniversary of International Women's Day, March 8, 2012, at the State Department in Washington. [AP File Photo]

I am happy to share some very good news. On Wednesday, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum ("the Memorandum") that will help ensure that advancing the rights of women and girls remains central to U.S. diplomacy and development around the world -- and that these efforts will continue to be led by public servants at the highest levels of the United States government. Secretary Clinton was proud to be at President Obama's side as he… more »

U.S.-Africa Partnership: The Last Four Years and Beyond

Posted by Johnnie Carson / January 29, 2013

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson observes elections in Dakar, Senegal, February 26, 2012. [U.S. Embassy photo/ Public Domain]

After more than 40 years of experience in Africa -- and the ebbs and flows of hope and conflict -- I've become ever more optimistic about Africa's future. As those of you who know me are aware, I like to base my conclusions on analysis and factual observations. Here, too, my optimism is grounded in real developments: expanded democracy, rapid economic growth, and greater security and opportunities for Africa's people. It's now realistic to think that the 21st century will not only be shaped in Beijing and Washington, but also in Pretoria, Abuja, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa.

In my January 16 remarks at the Wilson Center, I elaborated about this optimism and the Obama Administration's policies in Africa. Somalia and South Sudan are two places where no one previously believed… more »

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Posted by Michael Kozak / January 29, 2013

Memorial candles are lit in front of a photo taken during WWII showing refugees fleeing from the Nazis at a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Russia's first Jewish Museum in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 27, 2013. [AP Photo]

When many of us reflect on the Holocaust, the horrific gas chambers and ovens of the death camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka immediately come to mind. Yet in parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, there is a lesser known aspect of the terrible genocide perpetrated against Jews, Roma, and other victims of the Nazis and their allies between 1941 and 1945. During this period, death squads of German soldiers and local collaborators carried out mass executions of millions of men, women and children, leaving remains in unmarked mass graves. This so-called "Holocaust by Bullets" is the subject of a documentary produced by Yahad-In Unum.

On January 28, the State Department marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day by inviting foreign diplomats,… more »

Ghanaians Observe President Obama’s Inaugural Address

Posted by C. Pat Alsup / January 22, 2013

Young leaders watch a television broadcast of U.S. President Barack Obama's second inaugural address at the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana, January 21, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

During the last year, as I joined Ambassador Gene Cretz to pay courtesy calls on Ghanaian government officials and politicians, one thing which struck me was the constant reference to President Obama's visit and his speech in Accra in 2009. For most people, President Obama's call to build strong institutions in Africa was most intriguing.

Most people I have met in Ghana indicate that the destinies of the United States and Ghana have increasingly become intertwined. Earlier in the month, as I witnessed President Mahama's inauguration,… more »

United States Celebrates 57th Presidential Inauguration

Posted by DipNote Bloggers / January 21, 2013

President Barack Obama waves to crowd after his Inaugural speech at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington on January 21, 2013. [AP Photo]

More: The 57th Presidential Inauguration -- Be Part of History

Today, President of the United States Barack Obama was sworn in at a ceremony marking the beginning of his second term and delivered his inaugural address from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

During his speech, President Obama said, "America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.… more »

Technology Advances U.S. Diplomacy Goals

Posted by Tara D. Sonenshine / January 17, 2013

In this photo taken, Nov. 8, 2011, a woman poses with her Blackberry mobile phone in Johannesburg. The woman says she cherishes her phone as a link to family and friends, and also sees it as a radio, a library, a mini cinema, a bank teller, and more. [AP File Photo]

When we apply technology at its best to public service at its most critical, we can make powerful differences in the lives and well-being of people.

Advances in communications and information technology are allowing us to do just that, whether we are using crowd-sourcing or Twitter, or reaching people via mobile phones or Skype. We are assisting survivors in the wake of natural disasters. We are monitoring elections to ensure they are free, safe and fair. We are reaching more people in non-permissive environments. Technology has become not only our virtual eyes and ears, but our helping hands, in a variety of ways.

Take Ushahidi ("witness" in Swahili), a crowd-sourcing platform developed by Kenyan citizens in 2008 that uses technology to collect, verify, and map information from citizens on a variety of issues. That can include incidents of violence,… more »

Demonstrating U.S. Commitment to the Asia-Pacific Region

Posted by Kurt Campbell / January 16, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi speak to the press at her residence in Burma, Nov. 19, 2012. [AP File Photo]

This was an historic and consequential year for U.S. diplomatic relations with the Asia-Pacific region. Following Secretary Clinton's announcement of a "pivot" to Asia in late 2011, the United States substantially increased efforts to refocus and strengthen its relationships across the Asia-Pacific. We witnessed dramatic improvements in our bilateral relationships and an unprecedented level of engagement with the region's multilateral institutions. As the Secretary said, the Asia-Pacific is a key driver of global politics and home to the world's fastest growing economies. As a Pacific power, the United States is irrevocably and geographically bound to the region and our future security and prosperity will be largely defined by events and developments there. With that in mind, the Bureau of East Asian… more »

A New Dawn in Ghana

Posted by Gene A. Cretz / January 10, 2013

A new year means new challenges and new opportunities. In my corner of West Africa, both were on display this week. On Monday, January 7, as I drove through the red, yellow, and green clad streets of Accra towards Independence Square, I reflected on how privileged I was to witness history in the making as Ghana's fourth president of the Fourth Republic was on his way to the Square to be sworn in, after successfully concluding a hard-fought political campaign. Unfortunately, my previous diplomatic postings did not afford me an opportunity to see a peaceful assumption of power after a democratic election.

Witnessing the on-time arrival of dignitaries and convening of the new Parliament alongside a stage full of political leaders from across Africa and notably, Ghana's former presidents John Kufuor, Jerry Rawlings and former Secretary General Kofi Annan was an unforgettable… more »

Advancing Human Rights Vital to U.S. National Interests

Posted by Michael H. Posner / January 07, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with participants of the Lower Mekong Initiative Women's event in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on July 13, 2012. [State Department photo by Paul Watzlavick/ Public Domain]

As we start the New Year, I want to reflect on four events that took place in the last few months of 2012 that illustrate how the Obama Administration's human rights policies are achieving concrete results.

• In November, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Burma. This visit was the culmination of 18 months of active diplomatic efforts between the United States and Burma focused significantly on political and economic reform and the protection of human rights. During the President's visit, the Burmese government announced a series of important human rights commitments, including access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to prisons and conflict areas, the opening of… more »

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