Goli Ameri Gives Farewell Speech About Public Diplomacy
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)
"When I came
to the United States to attend Stanford University, I was one of [about] 100,000
international students [in] the U.S. Among the myriad of things I learned was
the value of freedom and democracy, the fundamentals of critical thinking, the
questioning of ideas and a profound sense of empowerment. I learned that it's
okay to be a woman; it's okay to be an immigrant, and most importantly, it's
okay to be a dreamer. Where else in the world would a first generation immigrant
be nominated as an Assistant Secretary of State?"
These were the words of Goli Ameri, guest speaker at the Iranian American Bar
Association's (IABA) Washington, D.C. Chapter reception on January 10, 2009.
Ameri is the Assistant
Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA),
which seeks to foster mutual understanding between peoples across the world
through a variety of cultural and educational exchanges. The event, held at the
home of Robert Babayi, was a great success and provided networking opportunities
with attorneys, law students, and other distinguished members of the Iranian
American community in Washington, D.C.
IABA members and D.C. Chapter Representatives began the evening by highlighting
the organization's mission and accomplishments. The IABA is a tax-exempt,
non-profit legal organization dedicated to protecting the interests and
promoting the advancement of the Iranian American community at large and the
community of Iranian American attorneys in particular. Among its achievements,
IABA conducted and published an independent report concerning the detention and
treatment of Iranian nationals under the NSEERS program, and held
two bipartisan briefings on their findings on Capitol Hill.
In her speech, Ameri spoke about the challenges of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the
21st Century and new opportunities in the digital age. "The definition of public
diplomacy has been tweaked and modified over the years, but the core meaning has
remained constant: the mandate of public diplomacy is to understand, inform,
engage, and influence foreign publics," said Ameri. "No aspect of the U.S.
Government's public diplomacy is more of a marketplace, more of an open dialogue
and more of an ongoing community-driven interchange than our international
educational and cultural programs."
Through a variety of exchanges and other programs in more than 165 countries
around the world, ECA has nearly 1 million alumni, including 40 Nobel Laureates
and more than 300 current and former heads of state including Tony Blair,
Nicholas Sarkozy, and Hamid Karzai. Under Ameri's leadership, the ECA has
enhanced efforts to engage its alumni to facilitate greater understanding with
the other countries, launched a public/private initiative to provide additional
opportunities to strengthen bilateral relations, and launched the
first social-networking site
owned and operated by the U.S. government, which is intended to push
international exchanges into cyberspace and take advantage of opportunities in
the digital world.
After a gap of nearly thirty years, the U.S. Department of State resumed
official exchanges between Iran and the United States in late 2006. In the past
year, over 250 participants have come from Iran, including artists, athletes,
attorneys, medical professionals, and Persian-language teachers.
As her speech came to a close, Ameri reflected on her time as an Assistant
Secretary of State.
"Given how near the mission of this Bureau is to my heart, I don't hesitate to
share with you the feeling that my tenure has been all too brief. I have known
exactly when this day would come," said Ameri. "It is one of the enduring
features of our government, the peaceful transition of power. The advent of a
new President is imminent and, eventually, a new person will guide our
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