News & Updates
November 9, 2016
This morning, the morning after the 2016 election, President Obama, Secretary Clinton and President-elect Trump have all made the obligatory calls for unity, for us to come together as a nation. But after eighteen months of highlighting divisions, how do we do that? I think all of us in the U.S. woke up this morning knowing one thing for sure – our country is divided. On cable news, social media and over the dinner table, people have been in deep arguments over the state of our nation, and no matter who our preference for candidate, we are dismayed that anyone could ever vote for the other.
Last Sunday, I had a lively discussion with my father about politics. He lives in rural Texas and was telling me how he doesn’t know a single person who supports Hillary Clinton. I live in California’s Silicon Valley and said the same thing about Donald Trump. It occurred to me during that conversation that we live in two separate realities – worlds that might appear to be the same, but where we have different life experiences, interact with different people, and for the most part, have different priorities for what we want out of life.
As I begrudgingly logged into social media this morning, I witnessed people expressing shock and dismay at the outcome of the election, while I also witnessed people taking gleeful joy that the nightmare of the last eight years is almost over. I personally have felt a variety of emotions over the last 12 or so hours, but I think the emotion that stands out most is sadness. Not sadness over the outcome (although admittedly there is a little of that), but sadness that as Americans, there is such a deep divide in our society and we are somehow not able or willing to understand what the other is going through.
At the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, one of our guiding principals is the South African concept of ubuntu. Archbishop Tutu has explained ubuntu as meaning “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” That is to say that we are ALL part of a greater whole – not just the people we agree with, not just the people that have the same passions and desires as us – ALL of us.
One thing that has struck me today is that so many are now cutting people out of their lives – people that they once considered friends and in many instances, people that are family. I don’t personally think this is a great idea and I feel it is contrary to the spirit of ubuntu. It isn’t recognizing your shared humanity with people who disagree with you – it is doing the opposite, choosing to instead divide yourself even more. I understand that sometimes one feels the need to get perceived negativity out of their lives. But I would encourage everyone first to reach out, and learn more about what factors are going into their decision making process. Your assumption that someone is racist or homophobic or misogynistic might be totally accurate… OR ,that person may have been out of work for most of the last 2.5 years and can’t afford rent this month and saw one candidate as a someone who was working to address their needs.
Today, some of us are celebrating the outcome of this election and some of us are mourning it. I encourage everyone to take the time they need to do what they need to do. But despite candidates over the last 18 months telling us differently, there really is more that unites us than divides us. We need to remember that we are all in this together and it is only by listening to each other, working with each other and respecting each other, that any of us will have a way forward.
This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post
September 19, 2012
Did you know that the United States State Department has a specially designated position for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Digital Strategy or that they have 10 official Twitter feeds (English, Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, etc.)? This U.S. focus on digital networks and technologies to serve foreign policy goals has been called 21st Century Statecraft.
To meet these 21st century challenges, we need to use the tools, the new 21st century statecraft. …we find ourselves living at a moment in human history when we have the potential to engage in these new and innovative forms of diplomacy and to also use them to help individuals be empowered for their own development.
~ Secretary Of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
As the world continues to become increasingly interdependent and globalization swells, foreign relations and diplomacy mechanisms are changing in response. According to Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, the key to successful foreign policy in today’s world is networked diplomacy: “Managing international crises requires mobilizing international networks of public and private actors.” And this interconnected world is relying to an increasing degree on social media.
One example of the effectiveness of social media in diplomacy was reported in the Japan Times. In the summer of 2010, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) became India’s first government department to start using Twitter. As the security situation in Libya continued to deteriorate, India became increasingly alarmed about the welfare of its citizens living there. MEA ultimately decided to use Twitter to communicate information concerning the evacuation schedule. The communication soon became two-way, with MEA receiving tweets about hundreds of Indians stranded at the port of Misratah, which was temporarily closed and thus beyond the reach of organized evacuation attempts. Thanks to this effective use of social media – where people and the government successfully connected in a highly time-sensitive situation – the Indians trapped in Misratah were ultimately evacuated.
Ambassadors and diplomats throughout the world are rapidly adopting Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools. Alec Ross, the State Department’s senior adviser on innovation, tells the many ambassadors who take a course on statecraft, “You only have one mouth but you have two ears, so use this as a way not just of communicating with the citizens of the country where you are serving, but also understanding the point of view of people who may not be sitting at a mahogany table inside the embassy.”
The Power of Social Media
Not too long ago, Twitter was thought of as a mere celebrity gossip tool and Facebook just a means for college kids to exchange party photos. It’s heartening to see the influence that social media is now having throughout the world. It is leveling the playing field, giving voice to so many who were previously silenced, providing real-time communications in often precarious circumstances, and allowing diplomats and citizens from around the world to exchange critical information.