July 1, 2005

Commentary:

What We Can Do For Our Country

By Billy Colestock

In addition to parades, picnics, and fireworks, the Fourth of July is inevitably a time of soul-searching for us as a nation. Our soul-searching is even more important this year as various surveys yet again document that negative stereotypes of the United States still flourish around the world.

How do we counter these trends and get beyond the headlines? How do we affirm our basic ideals and share them with others?

“This is really not the government’s work alone. It is the responsibility of all our citizens, and they’re ready and willing to help.” Says Dina Powell, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs,

There are already many volunteer citizen diplomats doing just this.

These citizen diplomats belong to the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), a nonprofit association founded in 1961 that promotes citizen diplomacy. Citizen diplomacy is the idea that individual citizens have the right – even the responsibility – to help shape U.S. foreign relations, as NCIV members phrase it, “one handshake at a time.”

NCIV is comprised of program agencies, individual and corporate members, and 92 community-based organizations throughout the United States. Each year NCIV member organizations involve more than 80,000 volunteer citizen diplomats in their activities.

Citizen Diplomacy Council is the NCIV member organization in San Diego. Since 1979 their members have opened their homes, offices, and schools to these distinguished foreign leaders who daily make decisions that affect U.S. political and economic interests in their countries. It’s a people to people exchange. New connections are made. Opinions of the U.S. are updated and improved.

The 4th of July is an ideal time to celebrate the contribution these citizen diplomats make out of their generous hearts. For more information on San Diego’s citizen diplomat organization go to www.CDCSD.org or call 619.291.8105 to get involved.

Billy Colestock is Program Director, Citizen Diplomacy Council of San Diego (formerly International Visitors Council)

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