Senate Co-Chairs Share Advice and Wisdom

As summer comes to a close, we know that many students have headed off to college or are starting that all-important senior year of high school.  Some of you may even be applying to the USSYP right now!  If you are looking for advice and counsel on finding success in school, career and life, we offer some excerpts from the keynote addresses given by our Senate Co-Chairs over the years.  Each year two senators, one from each party, serve as the USSYP Senate Co-Chairs and each give the students an evening of their time, providing a keynote address and a lengthy Q & A session.  Let’s start with our 2015 and 2014 Co-Chairs and stay tuned for more to come!

(All photos by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin)  

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

 2015 Democratic Co-Chair Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

  • No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • What you can’t recover from is thinking, “I could have done it, and I didn’t. I didn’t try. I was afraid to step out and take that risk.” That’s the one you can’t live with, because that will haunt you. That keeps you up at night sometimes, thinking, “I could’ve made a difference.  I really could have.” We all have those moments in life. 
  • Take care of others. As my grandfather used to say, “Leave a little meat on the bone for the next dog.”
  • You have to take care of yourself. Keep yourself strong—mentally, physically, and financially – do the best that you can.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the Senate Youth Program’s 2015 Democratic Co-Chair, has been the center of much legislative activity since the evening he spent with the USSYP delegates. He has strengthened his reputation as a consensus builder willing to work across party lines on common sense solutions. He has lead bipartisan efforts on gun control, and taken to the Senate Floor to raise awareness of the prescription opioid and heroin abuse epidemic.

During his keynote evening, looking out on a sea of young faces, Senator Manchin reflected on his own childhood. “My grandfather told me to keep myself strong mentally, physically and financially if I ever wanted to be able to help anyone else, and I learned the meaning of real service to others from my grandmother, Mama Kay.” It was his grandmother who, in providing a safe haven, work and meals for those in need, showed her young grandson a template for government to serve as a helping hand. She also told him these indelible words:  “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 53rd annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 7-14, 2015. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

He spoke frankly to the delegates about the perceived price of being involved in public life and the intensive scrutiny it engenders. ”Wouldn’t this be a heck of a place to live if everyone was afraid of that risk and wouldn’t serve?” he reflected. “It’s such a small price to pay for democracy, such a small price.”

Senator Manchin currently leads the Democratic side of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee in charge of Army and Air Force programs, as well as the Energy Subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Additionally, he serves on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

 

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin
2015 Republican Co-Chair Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

  • Never stop learning.
  • Lead an ethical life and treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Love your country, your family, friends and schools. Love people and use things – don’t use people and love things.
  • You will need a deep and abiding faith to get you through difficult times.
  • Have respect for your fellow human beings.

Two months after 2015 Republican Co-Chair Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) spent an evening with delegates, he had a life-changing announcement to make to his Senate colleagues and Georgia constituents. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Continuing the strength and leadership he showed at the Archives, he announced, “My diagnosis has not impacted my ability to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate. I remain devoted to public service, to my state and to my constituents.”

The senator certainly has a lot on his plate, being the only Republican in the Senate chairing two committees — the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where he and Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) heralded the July passage of bipartisan legislation to increase veterans’ disability benefits. He has made Veterans’ Administration reform a top priority, frequently speaking out on the Senate Floor and penning powerful op-eds.

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

Addressing the delegates at the National Archives, Senator Isakson shared profound words on the meaning of public service and he has exemplified that priority since his early years. He is the first Georgian since the 1800s to have served in the state House, state Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In keeping with his focus on youth, he has also served as the chairman of the Georgia Board of Education.

The closing comments of his keynote address are written in many a USSYP leather journal. “Be willing to dream, for in America you have the opportunity to be whatever you dream you want to be, if you prepare through your ethics, through your respect for your fellow man, through loving your fellow man, through respecting the institutions that have gotten you here, and learning every single day.”

Senator Isakson is running for re-election in 2016.

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin
2014 Democratic Co-Chair Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

  • Live up to great expectations like Montanan and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield did. Show leadership and work together.
  • When you find a mentor or meet a leader, ask them who inspires them. Ask them how they make their decisions. Ask them what matters most in our future. Then you’ll find out what kind of leaders they are, and you’ll find out what kind of leaders you may want to be.
  • Learn new things and diversify. “That’s why I went off and majored in music. I was going to become a diesel mechanic. My folks said, ‘You know what? This farm may not be here forever, so you’ve got to broaden your horizons a little bit and diversify,’ so I went from going to school to be a diesel mechanic to being a music teacher. That’s pretty good diversification, right?”

 

“You come from every corner of the country, but the common bond that unites you is that each and every one of you has something to offer this great nation,” Senator Jon Tester, the 2014 Democratic Co-Chair proclaimed to begin his keynote speech.

Exhorting the delegates to never doubt their prospects for success, he humorously gave himself as an example, “I am not exactly your typical senator,“ he said, jokingly pointing to his non-Ivy League college degree, non-existent law degree, flat-top hairstyle and the loss of three fingers on one hand to a meat grinder. “But I walk in the footsteps of Mike Mansfield, in fact I sit in his seat now– he who led the Senate as majority leader for a record sixteen years and held the expectation that leadership means being willing to work with those of differing opinions to do what’s right for your country.”

Senator Tester exemplifies leadership and dedication to bipartisanship in his recent efforts to improve the Veterans’ Choice program. He is the vice chair of the Indian Affairs Committee and has pending bipartisan legislation with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) to preserve Native American and tribal culture. He has traveled the United States extensively this election cycle in his chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The senator’s support for the USSYP continues, including serving on the 2017 Senate Youth Program Advisory Committee. And he has confidence in the abilities of the next generation, as evidenced by his optimistic closing remarks. “Our country is always changing, as are the people who lead it, although we face challenges that have existed for generations, every challenge is an opportunity to shape our future.”

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

2014 Republican Co-Chair Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

  • Master a skill early in life; become an expert.
  • Set a bold vision for yourself.
  • Give back – no matter what age you are, no matter where you live. Be selfless.
  • Adhere to your principles, but stretch a little to be open to compromise.

Against the stunning backdrop of the National Archives Rotunda where our nation’s founding documents are displayed, the 2014 USSYP Republican Co-Chair Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee summarized his own personal story and offered the delegates several key guideposts for life: “First, master a skill early on. Become indispensable. This will give you the confidence you need to propel yourselves into your futures and will afford you the independence that comes from doing something exceptionally well.”

Senator Corker’s leadership skills, mastery of public policy, and desire to improve the world have been recently lauded in his bipartisan efforts to end human trafficking. He is well positioned to tackle this issue as the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation (S. 553) was unanimously voted out of the Foreign Relations Committee in February 2015, and was signed into law by the president as part of an appropriations bill in December 2015. The senator is also serving on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, the Budget Committee and the Special Committee on Aging. He has developed a high profile policy presence on the Sunday news shows in this year’s election cycle, especially sharing his perspective on preventing terrorism in light of recent events in Paris, Brussels and Nice.

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

The National Archives was perhaps the perfect setting for the senator’s 2014 keynote speech. His love of American history was evident when he was asked about the nation’s charter documents illuminated behind him. He spoke eloquently about the Constitution musing that he wished he could delve into what the framers were thinking as they “wrote this document that has guided us and so many other countries trying to create their own; a document that sets out and embraces the values that we have as a nation.”

  

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

 

 

 

 

 

 

USSYP Alumni Reflect on Amazing and Intense Experiences at the National Party Conventions

USSYP Alumni Reflect on Amazing and Intense Experiences at the National Party Conventions.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a delegate or work at a national political convention? Several of our USSYP alumni did just that and we thank the individuals listed below for telling us how those experiences changed and shaped their views. Read on to find out what it was like to be directly involved in these historic events – and to glean insight and share a great snapshot of democracy in action!

Convention Participants:

André Gonzales – USSYP 2016 – New Mexico

Matthew Keating – USSYP 2015 – Maryland

Michael Kikukawa – USSYP 2013 – Hawaii

Kate Krolicki – USSYP 2016 – Nevada

Richard Yarrow – USSYP 2015 – Maryland

What was your overall impression of being at the convention? What did it feel like?

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André: There have been two times in my life when I had to take a step back and just appreciate how lucky I am to be experiencing such amazing things, those two times being during the United States Senate Youth Program Washington Week and at the Democratic National Convention. The convention was a fast-paced, content-rich week that I had the absolute pleasure of spending with thousands of others who are so passionate and dedicated to the continuity of our democracy. From being able to listen to eleven-year-old Karla Ortiz stand before the nation and share a deeply personal story about her upbringing to witnessing history unfold right before my eyes as Secretary Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee, that week in Philadelphia truly changed my perspective on the United States and the world.

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Kate: Being at the Republican National Convention truly felt like I played a part in history. The hype and excitement behind the party and the nominee (good and bad) engulfed everybody within the Quicken Loans Arena. Every speaker exuded an energy which captivated their passionate audience. To a person like me who loves this country and is fascinated with the political process – it bordered on a spiritual experience. No matter one’s opinion on the nominee, we were all bonded by our conservative beliefs and personal decisions to be Republicans. In the arena we were all one and the same, and that was a feeling I will never forget.

Matthew: Being at the Democratic National Convention was both invigorating and exhausting. A gathering of tens of thousands of people all focused on the same goal of promoting a shared vision for America is exciting, especially when you have worked hard over the years to help implement bits and pieces of it in your home state. Every staffer and delegate I talked to had donated their blood, sweat, and tears through campaigns and advocacy work to promote the ideals of the Democratic Party. The convention itself was wonderfully produced, with amazing speakers ranging from politicians at the local level to even President Obama himself. Caucus breakouts allowed delegates and staff to hear and discuss the party’s work in communities ranging from LGBT, to women, the disabled, and organized labor. The energy in the air was electric, and the historic nature of this convention only compounded this sentiment. Many people inside the stadium became emotional when Hillary Clinton officially accepted her nomination – as it was a milestone in American history and another solid step towards the full political and social integration of all kinds of Americans into the public sphere.

Photo 3 2016 Convention Blog Kikukawa III Monday lanyard

Michael: My overall impression of the Democratic National Convention was one of party unity and optimism for the future of our country. I was overjoyed to hear from a diverse array of speakers on a wide range of topics — from civil rights and Black Lives Matter to economic and foreign policy concerns. The most memorable speeches, however, were also the most emotional: ones given by the “Mothers of the Movement” and families of fallen officers, as well as the address by Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Every speaker painted a picture of America as a country with its brightest days still ahead of it. I left the convention filled with hope that we can work together to make the world a better place.

Richard: It was incredible. I could feel the rush and excitement in the air even at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, far from where the speeches took place. At the Wells Fargo Center, everything practically reeked of bustle and novelty: the crowds of first-time delegates; the creative hats (including one with a miniature Trump “wall”) and quirky handouts (Facebook provided a fan with Hillary Clinton’s face); the ambitious energy of some of the lesser-known speakers; the determined push of media crews desperate for a story and the equally determined push of visitors hoping to snag a selfie. I think, like many other Democrats, I came into the convention ambivalent about the candidates (to be honest, I split my primary vote between delegates for Sanders and Clinton). By the last day of the convention – and with the conclusion of the convention’s grand, overarching narrative – I felt thrilled about Clinton’s chances and ready to go out and campaign for her.

What was a typical day for you at the Convention?

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André: My typical day at the Democratic convention began with breakfast at around 8:00 am where the New Mexico and Arkansas delegations got to connect with each other and hear from prominent figures about what is at stake in this election. Then after that, usually I took off to the Convention Center for the caucus meetings. On one of my days I addressed and answered questions from 100 high school students from the Junior Statesmen of America who were in Philadelphia for the convention as well. Then in the afternoon I would try to make it to one of the luncheons that I had been invited to before finally making my way to the Wells Fargo Center for the floor session. After the floor session at the Wells Fargo Center, there was usually an evening reception to attend which would wrap up the festivities for that day.

Matthew: Every morning I woke up around 7:00 am to have breakfast with the Maryland state delegation, where we received a briefing from the state party chair and hosted a guest speaker. I reported to work around 11:00 am where we set up the press distribution center for the day. Even before the convention was convened at 4:00 pm, speeches were released by the Democratic National Campaign Committee (DNCC) communications team on embargo for reporters.  That simply means that the speeches for that day were available for reporters to read, analyze, and report on before they were even delivered on stage. My job was to deliver these early copies of speeches to the media – ranging from big news outlets like CNN, NBC, Fox, to major newspapers, to the wires (AP, Reuters, etc.), to foreign media and university press outlets. Often several speeches were released at the same time, and with hundreds of outlets to deliver to, the runs had to be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. “Press runs” at times literally meant running. The runs would continue until the DNCC had no more speeches to release. At that point, we were free to observe the convention and listen to the speakers.

IMG_7628Richard: I stayed on the other side of the Schuylkill River. Every day, I would wake up around 6:00 am, eat breakfast (sometimes with the state delegation), and take the Market-Frankford line toward the Pennsylvania Convention Center. I would then spend a few hours helping the DNCC, visit some of the caucus or council meetings, survey the vendor areas, or go to a political event near Broad Street. Around 4:00 or 5:00 pm, I would take Philadelphia public transportation (the SEPTA – Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) to the Wells Fargo Center, explore the arena, and talk with delegates. I usually would be somewhere on the floor (for two days, in the Florida delegation) during many of the speeches. By midnight, I would finally leave the Wells Fargo Center and would go on to a post-convention event (for instance, one held by People for the American Way). Afterwards, I might get to sleep by 1:00 or 2:00 am.

How were you selected to participate?

André: Since I was a delegate, I had to go through an election process in order to go to Philadelphia. For my particular position, I ran for a statewide position and had twelve other candidates seeking the same spot. After all was said and done, I was able to get close to 50% of the votes cast at the state convention. I was elected as an At-Large Delegate which means that I helped represent the 110,000 voters in New Mexico who voted for Secretary Clinton during the primary.

Photo 5 2016 Convention blog Krolicki III with TV lights

Kate: I filled out an application and needed to be nominated by at least two of the three members of the Nevada’s elected Republican National Convention delegates. This application asked questions about political activism and extracurricular activities. Each state has a different application process, but the Republican convention’s Committee on Arrangements selects and approves each application/nomination from every state.

Matthew: I applied for my position through the Democratic National Committee’s communications team.

 

 

 

What did you see or participate in that surprised you or was different from your expectations before you arrived?

André: I know that many of those at home may think that this year’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia was a sign that the Democratic Party is a party divided. However, after actually being there at the convention and seeing it all for myself, I could not think of anything further from the truth. What I saw in Philadelphia was thousands upon thousands of people coming together and showing just how passionate and invested they are in our democracy. It was quite a beautiful thing to see and to observe the camaraderie that was on display from everyone, regardless of whom they supported during the primary.

Kate: I knew that the convention would have the nation’s attention, but I never considered the extent to which the media truly played a part in making that happen. Most of the arena boxes were filled with makeshift newsrooms, ready to film and commentate on the action. The Republican convention also renovated the parking garage across the street and transformed it into “Media Row.” Everywhere I looked there was a camera, a news backdrop, and free Snapchat/Twitter swag. Media was a constant part of my convention experience, and that is something I didn’t even think about before I arrived. I only thought about the formal political process of securing the nomination, and not the organization of the event itself.

Matthew: I was surprised by how massive an operation the convention was. Our unit of press distribution was just one of hundreds of teams working to execute a specific role that insured a smooth convention. Volunteer positions ranged from directing delegates at the airport, to controlling access to the floor, to insuring everyone got enough food (by far the most important responsibility!). A pleasant surprise for me was the accessibility of our elected officials – senators and other congressional leaders could be seen walking on the floor and open to interaction with convention goers.

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Richard: I attended Bernie Sanders’s July 25th address to his supporters, which was in a corner of the Pennsylvania Convention Center about ten hours before Senator Sanders gave his televised convention hall speech. The room was packed, and a series of progressive speakers first energized the crowd. One threatened that “civil disobedience will follow” if Secretary Clinton didn’t follow through on some of her campaign promises; another said that “we don’t have someone on the platform, on the chair who’s with us.” When Senator Sanders spoke, the crowds cheered him as he described his campaign’s goals and accomplishments. When he said, “We have got to elect Hillary Clinton,” though, the crowd broke into loud booing and shouts of “We want Bernie!” That outcry really surprised me, but what also surprised me was how quickly it seemed to change. By the last day of the convention, I saw delegates with signs that read “First Bernie, now Hillary,” and other delegates waving both “Bernie” and “Stronger Together” signs. If the Democratic attendees weren’t entirely unified at the beginning of the convention, it was remarkable – and comforting – how quickly they became unified by the end of it.

If you were working in any professional capacity, what was your function?

Photo 6 2016 Convention Blog Krolicki I with Nevada sign

Kate: I was a page working for the Republican National Committee. Our main duty was to distribute all of the official convention material. Every morning or afternoon before the delegates arrived we placed different documents (i.e. the official Party Platform, Order of Business, Seating Chart etc.) on the delegate and alternate delegate seats. We were also responsible for passing out all of the signs television viewers would see being waved about. All signs on the convention floor were distributed by Republican National Committee pages, and some we even made ourselves. As pages we also had miscellaneous duties, such as being “seat fillers” within a delegation section, or even escorting people to the restroom facilities in media row.

Matthew: My job on the Press Distribution team was to deliver embargoed speeches to members of the media. My assigned section was the news-wires and writing center located right off the floor – which included major outlets like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and members of the White House Press pool.

What did you see and do as part of your state delegation?

André: I was part of the New Mexico state delegation. As a delegation, New Mexico was invited to many different receptions and events throughout the week. Since we shared a hotel with the Arkansas delegation, they did invite us to one of their receptions where we got to hear from President Bill Clinton. There was also another event that I attended with the Latino Leadership Network where we got to hear from Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro as well as New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

Michael: I wasn’t an official member of the Hawai’i state delegation, but I did find them on the convention floor to say “Aloha.” It was a pleasure to meet the people who were representing my state so proudly; to talk about home and how excited we all were to be in Philadelphia and participate in a history-making convention. I was also able to talk to Senator Mazie Hirono, who I had interned for two summers ago. She gave me an update on members of her office whom I hadn’t seen in years, and we talked about how enthusiastic we were to support Hillary Clinton as our next president. The delegation reminded me why I am so gratified to call Hawai’i home, and I proudly wore the kukui nut lei and Democratic Party of Hawai’i pin they gave me.

Photo 7 2016 Convention Blog Kikukawa II with Senator Hirono

What would you like to tell other USSYP alums and future delegates about the importance of the party conventions?

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André: If there was one piece of advice that I could give to my fellow USSYP alumni as well as future delegates, it would be to run for and take advantage of these types of opportunities when they present themselves. I submitted my paperwork to run for a spot on the delegation out of pure impulse, not even thinking about the financial resources necessary to run the campaign or take part in the convention after I was elected. I learned that there are so many people and groups out there who are more than willing to help young people overcome these barriers. Young people absolutely deserve to be able to take part in these life-changing experiences and like the old saying goes, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Michael: The party conventions are an important part of our representative democracy. They are a reflection of the diversity of opinion within each of our parties and are an excellent way to measure the health of our body politic. The conventions serve as an important stage from which each party is able to present its vision for the future, and to advocate for the changes in public policy and public opinion that each pursues. If you are ever given the chance to attend a party convention, I recommend that you jump at the opportunity. They are at the same time extravagant and fun, serious and wonky, and we are all the better for watching and listening to them.

Richard: I met some amazing delegates with phenomenal stories. One older delegate from California had campaigned for social justice causes for decades. One Indiana delegate had immigrated to the U.S. from Argentina, became active in progressive causes, and had travelled around the world promoting peace and nonviolence. However, I saw almost no delegates younger than 25. The Democratic Party may boast some impressive older delegates, but it’s missing the perspectives of youths and young adults. I think USSYP participants should be bold about filling in that gap and trying to become delegates for their states for future conventions.

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Photos courtesy of André Gonzales, Michael Kikukawa, Kate Krolicki and Richard Yarrow.

 

 

Alaska Students Come From Far Away for Washington Week but Soon Feel Right At Home

Senate Youth Program 2016Alaska Delegates Lucas Arthur and Kiera O’Brien with Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan at the 2016 USSYP Annual Senate Reception

Alaska students must make a long journey to attend Washington Week. In fact, to be assured of arriving for the official start time of the program, Alaska delegates usually have to miss school and fly a day early, as they have to change planes at least once, and sometimes more than that depending on how far they live from a major city in their state. But the long journey is more than physical.  Read on to learn how our 2016 delegates Lucas Arthur and Kiera O’Brien felt about their USSYP experience.
 

USSYP 2016

Please tell us about your high school experience growing up in Alaska and how your Senate Youth Program experience built upon that.

Lucas: Living in Alaska, I’ve had a thorough and extensive education, however, I’ve always felt somewhat isolated academically. During Washington Week, I found myself suddenly immersed in a refreshing dialogue about politics and all manner of other things for the first time as I began to connect with my USSYP peers (possibly at the detriment of my schoolwork.) 

Kiera: I grew up on an island in Southeast Alaska. I had the same classmates for 13 years, and very little exposure to political activism and engagement due to our isolated location. My parents and my AP Government teacher fostered my interest in politics, and my school counselor encouraged me to apply for USSYP. At home, I lacked politically-minded peers. In my fellow delegates I found the community I was looking for.

I felt at home as soon as I arrived at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. That’s because I knew the people who’d be arriving soon after me were my friends already. We were interested in the same things, and no, we didn’t always agree, but over the course of the preceding three months, all 104 of us had participated in dynamic virtual discussions in a group chat.

USSYP 2016

Do you have a teacher or mentor who was instrumental in your decision to apply to USSYP or for fostering your interest in politics or public service?

Lucas:  Instrumental for my selection to the Senate Youth Program was my experience with Student Government at the local and state level, and integral to that experience is my Student Government advisor, Ms. Barbara Jackson. Ms. Jackson has provided the necessary support for running an effective student government, but for me she is more than that. Every day at lunch I make my way to her classroom where we have political discussions and look over the latest New York Times articles. It is largely due to our conversations that I’ve maintained an interest in politics and public policy and without them I would have been in no way prepared for Washington Week.

USSYP 2016

Do you keep in touch with your fellow USSYP 2016 delegates? If so, how and how often?

Kiera: Those discussions that began prior to Washington Week continue today and have grown to include multiple small group chats centered around common interests. For example, I’m a part of a group chat of USSYP 2016 alums who are all going to be attending Harvard in the fall. Beyond the group chat, we also regularly do group google hangouts, which is like facetime, but for multiple people. These are just a couple of ways we stay close. The real treat is knowing that no matter what state I’m in, I have a friend there. And whenever we’re nearby, we organize reunions.

Lucas: Since just over a week after I found out that I had been selected for the U.S. Senate Youth Program, I have been in the 2016 delegates’ famous home-grown group chat. From day one we have been very active, and after a day off of the chat it wasn’t uncommon to have over 1000 missed messages. Now, months later, the group chat is still active, although not at its peak. I also have several close friends whom I talk to on an almost daily basis, many of whom I expect to remain close with for years to come.

USSYP 2016

USSYP 2016

USSYP 2016

What was your personal highlight in terms of speakers or leaders you met during Washington Week?

Lucas: I have always been a science nerd, and unlike many of the participants in the Senate Youth Program, my interest in science exceeds my interest in politics. So, for me, NASA  Administrator Charles Bolden was the most compelling speaker with whom I was able to interact. I made sure that I selected a seat for lunch at the same table as Administrator Bolden, and we had many intriguing discussions on the future of space exploration and emerging technologies.

USSYP 2016

What are your future goals and how did USSYP impact or shape them?

Kiera: During Washington Week and in the time spent getting to know my fellow delegates before and after the week itself, it was clear to me I was among the best and the brightest. Objectively, this was demonstrated when 8 students, myself included, were admitted to Harvard College. Growing up in a rural, island community in Alaska, an Ivy League education wasn’t on my radar. I had planned on attending a small college on the West Coast and had only applied to Harvard on a whim. After we were admitted, we talked in the group chat about our options. For me, this connection was life-changing. Realizing that as many as 7 of my favorite people to talk to could be my classmates in the fall gave me the courage to commit to a rigorous school and moving across the country. For that courage, and for all the doors that choice has subsequently opened, I have USSYP and my fellow delegates to thank.

I’m currently living in Washington, D.C., interning in the office of Senator Dan Sullivan, the junior senator from Alaska. When I met the senator at the USSYP Senate Reception he encouraged me to apply for this position, and being able to have that inroad, getting to meet him, but also having the Senate Youth Program vouch for me through my selection for Washington Week, was a great connection to have. After every interesting experience I’ve had on the job in the past few weeks, my first thought is always to tell my friends from USSYP. There are a handful of us working in D.C. this summer, most of us on the Hill, either interning or paging, and one in the White House, and knowing I have someone familiar to grab lunch with is nice.

Just this morning I ran into a California delegate and Senate page on my commute to work! Being here in D.C., first for Washington Week, and now for work, has reaffirmed that I want to dedicate my life to public service, and I can’t wait to see where that takes me. After my internship this summer, I’m heading to Harvard to study government, and I can honestly say that would not be the case if it weren’t for USSYP.

USSYP 2016

USSYP 2016

Read Lucas and Kiera’s complete delegate essays through these links.

Kiera O’Brien

Lucas Arthur

USSYP Senate Co-Chair Showcase

Each year, the U.S. Senate Youth Program asks two sitting senators, one from each party, to serve as active Co-Chairs, each committing to an evening keynote speaking event that gives the students a rare chance to hear personal stories and career and life advice from some of the most influential elected officials in the country.  Co-Chairs have used humor, rousing enthusiasm, quiet personal reflection and lessons from our nation’s past founders and leaders to inspire and educate.  The delegates are given a generous opportunity for Q & A with the Co-Chairs, and through the event the students gain a personal connection to a dedicated public servant.
Here are reflections and advice from last year’s USSYP Senate Co-Chairs and we will continue the series during the summer.

Jump to: Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) | Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)


2016: Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

  • You don’t need to “act like you belong” because you do.
  • You belong here in Washington, D.C.  You belong in your schools and your communities, and you belong in the great history of our country.  And while we face challenges unlike any we’ve ever seen, never forget that you belong in this nation, not as passive observers of what’s happening around you, but as active participants who will solve those great challenges.
  • Go out and do great things. And go bold. Because our country is depending on you.

The infectious enthusiasm that Senator Gardner has for the U.S. Senate Youth Program comes with good reason. Not that long ago he was a high school senior sitting at the ceremonial opening night of Washington Week amid the trumpet flourishes of the Color Guard and the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. “I’m here in the United States Senate representing the great state of Colorado because of the United States Senate Youth Program,” said the 1993 — Colorado alumnus serving as the 2016 Republican Co-Chair, “It was here that I became enchanted with public policy, having discussions with the other delegates around the tables, hearing viewpoints that I’d never been exposed to, to with people who, like me, were so interested in politics.”

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).
Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado with Delegates Deanna Christensen and Se Young Cheong.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

He regaled the students with stories from his time at the program, flying on an airplane alone for the first time, hearing from Senator John Kerry and Secretary of State Colin Powell and falling asleep mid-sentence while relaying the excitement to his parents on the car ride back from the airport to his small rural town of Yuma.

His father provided some early lessons in politics as well, the first-term Senator explained, when after his son’s urging, and against the wishes of the Mayor, he convinced the City Council to erect a light on a municipal basketball court so Cory and other teenagers could play after dark. “I realized later that it was about more than that that one light on that court; it was a part of a bigger, broader conversation about how we spend tax dollars for services, and how to create a better, brighter future for everyone.”

Senator Gardner outlined key issues he champions in the Senate today, denoting the ‘four corners’ of his focus:  energy, the economy, education and the environment.  Each presents priorities and challenges reflecting the rapid pace of technological change that impacts our economic competitiveness and society at large.

”You can’t stop innovation,” he said.  “What if we had said to Ford, you know what, we like the car but the problem is the poor buggy workers are going to be out of business? This is a country that marches forward with innovation, but your generation will have to find solutions to the displacement of jobs and manufacturing in the economy of the future.”

Tying his deep optimism for the future to understanding of the past, Senator Gardner reminded the delegates that, “Two hundred years ago political scientists and philosophers were pondering how did this ragtag group of rebels and farmers break away from the greatest military power on the face of this earth and create an unprecedented Constitution?”  Quoting Alexis de Tocqueville, he said “It became possible because within the heart of each and every person swelled the passion to rise.”  “I hope that you will someday realize that you, too need to be a part of the fabric of our community, to be leaders,” he said, “Look around you.  The people who control our future are right here.  The people who control our destinies are sitting to your left and to your right, and I hope that you will take that to heart.  I hope that you go out and do great things and go bold.  Because our country is depending on you.”

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

 


 

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

  • Have the courage to take risks.
  • Venture outside your comfort zone.
  • You can make a difference in someone else’s life, no matter your station in life.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono’s voice echoed fluidly around the massive domed interior of the National Archives Rotunda.  Behind her the original founding documents of our nation glowed softly against the curved stone. “I am the only immigrant serving in the United States House or Senate right now,” said the diminutive junior senator from Hawaii, a magnificent geometrically woven ceremonial orchid lei about her neck. “I spent most of my childhood being raised by grandparents on a rice farm in a very rural part of Japan, where there was no running water.”  Senator Hirono revealed the hard path of her childhood to the delegates, including her mother’s courage to escape a difficult family situation and bring her young children, with one shared suitcase, on a steerage immigration passage to the American state of Hawaii. Her mother’s decision, heart-rending as it must have been, led to Senator Hirono’s life of opportunity and leadership.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

“So you see, there are two things I want to talk to you about tonight,” Senator Hirono began, “that everyone can make a difference in someone else’s life, and that you must have the courage to take risks.”  “We can all make a difference, whatever station in life, wherever you come from,” she said, paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  “We can all be great if greatness is defined by making a positive difference in someone else’s life.”  Senator Hirono, the USSYP 2016 Democratic Co-Chair, embodies the USSYP philosophy of education, leadership and public service, coming to the United States Senate after decades of holding local and statewide elected offices, and serving in the U.S. House. Senator Hirono also holds the distinction of being the first elected female Senator from Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate and the first U.S. Senator born in Japan.

The senator’s legislative imperatives reflect her personal experience. Speaking of her hope for comprehensive immigration reform, she said, “We should continue to put the family unit as the guiding principle, because no matter how smart or what type of educational attainments an immigrant has, in order to be happy and fulfilled, you need your family around you.”  On the subject of income inequality, a central topic in the current presidential campaign, she said, “I know what it is like to run out of money by the end of the month and you don’t have enough money for rent or food.” These experiences “shape a lot of the battles that I fight. I know who I am fighting for. These are people who don’t have a powerful voice in the political arena. I was one of those people myself and I certainly empathize with the desire and the importance of creating opportunities for everyone,” she explained. Senator Hirono serves on five Senate committees, and when eager hands went up for questions, she bounded easily from subject to subject.

She described the incredible challenge our nation faces in understanding the intentions of the North Korean government, the difficult process of stabilizing the Middle East and spoke passionately about the need for America to accomplish as much as possible through diplomatic channels instead of military intervention. She moved to domestic policy, engaging with the delegates on the importance of strengthening early education opportunities for all children and understanding the impact of governmental regulation on our nation’s small businesses. As the evening closed, Senator Hirono looked out at the faces in her audience saying that she knew she was looking at “Future senators, members of the House, and presidential candidates,” and she urged the USSYP Class of 2016 to make a difference and take the risks needed to venture outside their traditional comfort zones to accomplish great goals.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).
Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii with Delegates Perry Arrasmith and Zachary Espino.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

View from Abroad: the United States Senate Youth Program Ambassador Luncheon

The USSYP Ambassador Luncheon is traditionally held on Wednesday of Washington Week in the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel

The USSYP Ambassador Luncheon is traditionally held on Wednesday of Washington Week in the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel

Have you ever considered a career in diplomacy? Many Senate Youth delegates are passionate about international relations, so it is a cherished Washington Week tradition to welcome Washington’s diplomatic elite at the Annual Ambassador Luncheon.

Invariably the Ambassadors offer delegates a deeper perspective on international affairs, foreign policy and America itself. In addition to providing an overview of their home countries’ politics, history and culture, the Ambassadors also share personal wisdom and advice and describe their paths to public service in the diplomatic corps.

Ambassador Bjorn Lyrvall of Sweden touched on all of these themes in his 2015 address. He spoke about the importance of longevity in relationships, noting that Sweden enjoys one of the longest diplomatic relationships that the United States has had with any nation – a partnership established in the days after the end of the Revolutionary War.

Nelson Mandela’s spirit and legacy was brought to life by First Secretary Aluwani Museisi of South Africa who addressed the delegates in 2014, several months after President Mandela’s death. Secretary Museisi spoke eloquently of how forgiveness and the power of education has led to South Africa’s transformation, and inspired all in the audience with his belief that “a brighter future beckons.”

At the 2013 Ambassador Lunch address, His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae of Japan defined the U.S. – Japan relationship cogently, “We have each other’s backs.” Operation Tomodachi (meaning ‘friendship’ in Japanese) was fresh in his mind at the luncheon, describing America’s humanitarian and  military response to Japan’s devastating Fukushima earthquake and tsunami that occurred two years earlier.

For the 50th Anniversary of USSYP in 2012, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott spoke about building and maintaining relationships – emphasizing the human contact that can overcome the endless 24-hour news cycle and the cynicism that it may engender.

In 2011, Former Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan reflected on his nation at the nexus of Asia, Europe and Africa, and admired what he described as a quality unique to the U.S., “America is the only country on the face of the Earth, where once you step in, you do not feel like you are a foreigner,” he said.

These international leaders all offered heartfelt invitations for delegates to come experience their homelands firsthand. We remember their humor, graciousness and dedication to peace and diplomatic relations. Delegates have benefited from their wisdom and inspiration – and some have followed their footsteps with careers in international relations or the State Department.

Here is an in-depth look at the past five years of United States Senate Youth Program Ambassador Luncheon speakers.

2015: Swedish Ambassador Bjorn Lyrvall embodies humanitarianism, public service

The affable and understated Swedish Ambassador to the United States quickly built a strong rapport with his audience at the annual USSYP Ambassador Luncheon. Bjorn Lyrvall of Sweden began by reminiscing about the high school exchange program that brought him to New Wilmington, Pennsylvania many years ago. “It was a great American experience, with homecoming and the prom, with evenings driving around with my friends in a four wheel drive Chevy truck in beautiful Amish country, and playing the Star Spangled Banner in the high school band.”

Thus began a lifelong affection for the United States for the ambassador who relayed some history between Sweden and the U.S, starting with his nation as one of the first to recognize the post-Revolutionary War United States.  Benjamin Franklin and his Swedish diplomatic counterpart, Gustaf Philip Cruetz, signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1783 which still stands in effect. Other strong factors in the U.S. – Sweden relationship include a large wave of Swedish immigration during the late 1800s and early 1900s when approximately one fourth of the Swedish population immigrated to the United States due to poverty, resulting in a large number of Americans with Swedish ancestry today.  As Ambassador Lyrvall noted, most people in Sweden, including himself, have someone in the family who emigrated to the U.S.

As a nation, Sweden holds the core values of openness and transparency, and shares with America the identity of “Being a place and a refuge for people fleeing persecution and oppression.” He provided evidence of his nation’s achievements, as a global leader in the arts, technology, diplomacy and commerce. Citing Volvo and Ikea as more obvious examples, he also pointed out that Spotify, Skype, Candy Crush Saga and MineCraft are all Swedish companies, and that Sweden was rated as having the second highest standard of living in the world, based on the most recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development survey. The students also learned that Sweden is the third-largest exporter of pop music after the United States and the United Kingdom, and that music and technological innovations may stem from the long, dark Nordic winters fostering lots of creativity.

Ambassador Lyrvall also discussed progressive Swedish policy initiatives, relaying the facts that Sweden has cut greenhouse emissions by 20% since 1990 while still growing its economy by 60%, and that Sweden is making strides in breaking the glass ceiling for women, with 50% of the Cabinet, 45% of Parliament, and 38% of its ambassadors being female. One of the largest donors of foreign aid in the world, at slightly more than one percent of its Gross Domestic Product, the ambassador noted the philosophy that fuels this aid is more than altruism,  “This is not only beneficial from a quality of life perspective for those in developing nations,” he said,  “Poverty feeds instability; it feeds conflict.”

Ambassador Lyrvall knew to expect many questions from such a global-minded audience and he graciously gave of his time to share his thoughts on Swedish educational policies and subsidized college education, diplomatic relations with North Korea, compulsory military service and the political tensions in the Ukraine. His parting words of inspiration reminded the delegates of the centuries-old friendship between Sweden and America, “We need to stand united, and we need the United States to keep leading the global efforts of the free world.  We need it today and we need it tomorrow, when you might be the leaders of this great country.”

2014: Aluwani Museisi, South Africa’s First Secretary, reflects on the life of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s death in December 2013 evoked worldwide commendation of the life of one who exemplified leadership, courage and service to humanity in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. South African diplomat, First Secretary Aluwani Museisi of South Africa’s Embassy in Washington came before the delegates to commemorate the former President of the Rainbow Nation, and to impart lessons gleaned from Mandela’s life and words for the audience of young people deeply committed to serving the common good.

Mr. Museisi shared how Nelson Mandela had given up what could have been a comfortable life to fight against intransigent injustice. Twenty-seven years in prison did not diminish his abiding belief in the cause of equity and equality for all. For Mr. Mandela, education was a key in overturning years of inequality, as he said, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, and a child of a farmworker can become the president of a great nation.  It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given that separates one person from another.”

Mandela fought to better the lives of all Africans with the global view that “South Africa cannot be an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty.” Critically, after emerging victorious in the creation of a new nation, when he could have sought revenge and retribution, perhaps Mr. Mandela’s greatest legacy is that he chose forgiveness.

That was, as Mr. Museisi said, “The path less travelled. Nelson Mandela showed South Africa, and ultimately the world, that reconciliation is better than retribution. When he stepped out of that prison, the majority of Africans said, ‘Give me a gun, Mandela. I will die for you.’ He responded by courage, that only true leadership can have.  He responded by leading people towards peace. In a time when the chief decisions were taken based on polls, if he had succumbed to the request for war, it would have been understandable. However, this was not the leadership Mr. Mandela espoused.  He was not a leader for convenience.”

Mr. Museisi shared his personal story with the students describing his background in economics and love for diplomatic work. “After all, if we are all to coexist in peace and prosperity, we need to communicate effectively and find solutions to our common challenges,” he said.

The delegates were rife with questions: whether the racial inequalities of the past have been truly addressed in South Africa today if he felt that lessons learned in forging peace in South Africa could be applied to the conflict in the Middle East or elsewhere, and questions about water scarcity and other environmental issues.

One student posed the thought that the United States is an opposite reflection of South Africa’s “island of prosperity in a sea of poverty.” Could America’s urban areas be islands of poverty in a sea of prosperity? (Full video of this presentation is available on the USSYP website:  www.ussenateyouth.org).

Mr. Museisi, touted South Africa’s beautiful cultural and environmental treasures encouraging the  delegates to visit, and closed by reminding the students of  Nelson Mandela’s call to young people everywhere, “A brighter future beckons. The onus is on us, through hard work, honesty and integrity, to reach for the stars.”

2013: Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae of Japan Highlights Mutual Respect and Friendship

“What do I mean when I say Japan and the United States have an alliance? To use American vernacular, we have each other’s backs, you know?” smiled His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae the newly received Ambassador of Japan to the United States at the 51st annual U.S. Senate Youth Program Ambassador lunch.

Ambassador Sasae spoke movingly about the United States’ response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 2011, “The word ‘tomodachi’ in Japanese means friendship. U.S. military support during Operation Tomodachi is a testament to our alliance, and it is a kindness Japan will never forget – I will never forget in my life.” He described a most touching moment amid the destruction and the chaos of that event, “When the American military personnel left in their helicopters from Sendai Airport, which had been under water and clogged with debris, they looked down from the air and noticed someone had spelled out — on the beach with logs and pine trees and driftwood — they spelled the word, “arigato,” which means “thank you” in Japanese.”

The Ambassador discussed the mutual bond between the two nations, a friendship symbolized by the 3,000 cherry blossom trees lining the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial. “The heart of the Japan-U.S. alliance is based on a shared belief in freedom, democracy, the market economy, the rule of law, and respect for human dignity,” he said. “We believe that a world based on these values is more peaceful and also more prosperous.” Ambassador Sasae highlighted the need for economic cooperation between the U.S. and Japan as the center of global growth moves to Asia, “We recognize that the situation in Asia is getting more tense – China is building up its military and is becoming more assertive on the seas, and the North Koreans are shooting missiles and testing nuclear bombs. But whatever happens in the Asia-Pacific, I believe that the strengthening Japan-U.S. alliance is key because we share the values of democracy and liberty.”

Recalling the warm welcome and profound learning experience he had as a high school exchange student in Chillicothe, Missouri, a small Midwestern town know as ‘The Home of Sliced Bread’, Ambassador Sasae encouraged the delegates to consider participating in the Japan Exchange and Teaching program, “The Japanese people will like you, welcome you, and I believe it will be one of the best experiences of your life. You will find you are in a Japanese community that is the equivalent of’ ‘The Home of Sliced Bread’ to me.”

2012: Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott of the United Kingdom Reflects on History and Partnership

“The life of a diplomat is a lot like a permanent university,” began Sir Peter Westmacott, the United Kingdom’s 48th ambassadorial envoy to the United States. “It is a career of constant change, constant education, constant variety.”

Only a few weeks into his new assignment as Ambassador in Washington, Sir Peter enthusiastically agreed to be the keynote speaker for the annual U.S. Senate Youth Program Ambassador Lunch and spent several hours with the 2012 student delegates describing his fascinating and peripatetic forty years in the British Foreign Service. He pointed to a keen understanding of human relationships and a firm grasp of history as key attributes for success in his field.

Having begun his career in pre-revolution Tehran in the 1970’s, he later went on to become UK Ambassador to Turkey and most recently served as his nation’s Ambassador to France.  At a recent farewell dinner in Paris, he recalled a good friend chiding him on the subject of history, saying he hoped Sir Peter had honed his diplomatic skills in France. “I looked at him rather wonderingly as I wasn’t sure what lay behind this question.  He said, ‘because, of course, you are about to have to defend the conduct of British soldiers on the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 when your people burned down the White House.’”

Fluent in Persian, Turkish and French, the Ambassador spoke about the British-American military alliance in Afghanistan as one example of the strong ties between our two nations, “We are partners in so many ways, “he said, “The United States is the biggest foreign investor in the British economy, and the United Kingdom is the biggest foreign investor in the United States economy. And in the area of higher education, we have common standards of excellence and tens of thousands of students from both of our countries enrolled at each other’s institutions of higher learning.”

Ambassador Westmacott outlined other issues of common interest between the U.S. and the UK that he will be working on, including sovereign debt crises in the Euro zone, Britain’s own economic downturn, the Arab Spring, the role of China in the world, Iran and its access to nuclear power and shifting geopolitical power balances with the rise of the BRIC nations.

He conceded that with a 24-hour news cycle and instantaneous global communications that some have questioned the value of on-site Ambassadors in the 21st Century. “For all the relationships that you might have between the principals in capitals, there is still a very important role for people on the spot who are resident. They are movers and shakers who are in the administration who can project the values and describe the policies represented by their country, who know how to negotiate, who have an understanding of the local, political, economic, and other considerations – all of which is key when you are trying to persuade another government to take a certain decision.”

Nonetheless, he said, we do “have to adapt the advice, the analysis, the negotiation, the work that we are doing as diplomats to the rapidity of that news cycle, — If we are too slow, then we are out of a job.” The delegates enjoyed an in-depth Q and A session, including one pointed question asking what is the most prominent issue on which the United States and the United Kingdom disagree? “Well, of course,” the consummate diplomat replied, tongue in cheek, “there’s absolutely nothing on which we disagree.”

2011:  Ambassador Namik Tan of Turkey Reflects on His Country at the Nexus of Many Cultures

The U.S. Senate Youth Program welcomed His Excellency Ambassador Namik Tan of the Republic of Turkey as keynote speaker for the USSYP annual Ambassador dinner. Addressing the delegates after a Turkish-inspired dinner in the beautiful Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower hotel, Ambassador Tan gave the students a snapshot of modern Turkey in addition to an eloquent invitation to visit his country. “When you come to Turkey you will find world class museums, snow-capped mountains with some of the best ski runs in the world, ancient ruins that tell the story of humankind, unique cuisine, crystal clear seas for swimming or diving, sultans’ palaces that will overcome you with their grandeur, artwork to impress you, culture to inspire you, history to astound you, and people to delight you,” he said.

Noting Turkey’s unique geographical position in the world – the nexus of Asia, Europe and Africa – Ambassador Tan described Turkey as “a beacon of stability, peace, and democracy … we take pride in being a source of inspiration for many beyond our borders,” he said, adding, “as a secular democracy with a predominantly Muslim population, a free market economy and the only country that has a history in both Europe and Middle East, Turkey can and does reach out to different identities in different worlds.”

Ambassador Tan applauded the close bilateral relationship Turkey and the U.S. have shared since the Korean War and expressed his hope that it would deepen and diversify with greater trade and business relations. He cautioned that the U.S. should not let the impact of 9/11 change its unique character of being “the only country on the face of the earth where once you step in, you do not feel like you are a foreigner. It’s a great, great asset and you shouldn’t compromise it.” The Ambassador took a range of questions from the students who avidly sought his thoughts on recent political developments in North Africa and the Middle East, among other topics, providing the students with a fascinating insight into global diplomacy and foreign policy.