By Tanaaz Jasani
Contributing Writer

Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger are a few names that come to mind as faces of American diplomats. Our image of a diplomat is often one filled with gray tailored suits, large conference rooms and awkwardly-staged photo ops.

This illustration largely misses the depth of diplomacy that can be fostered in everyday interactions. Relations between the United States and the world are constantly being forged on a community level, even on our very own streets of San Diego, where every day San Diegans come face to face with international delegations and visitors.

The San Diego Diplomacy Council [1] has been a corner stone of the city’s public diplomacy efforts since 1979. The Council effectively demonstrates the multifaceted levels of cultural diplomacy that exist within our city. Such efforts include exchange programs that cater to developing Iraqi Youth, as well as the International Visitor Leadership Program, which offers curricula designed for professionals within diverse fields and hosts 500 professionals from 100 different countries yearly. These programs not only allow for international delegations to experience the sunny beaches of San Diego but also provide San Diegans the opportunity to interact with people from all around the world on an informal level.

Furthermore, the Council is an excellent example of the community’s outreach on an international level through the countless volunteers that serve in hosting dinners and home stays for the international delegations. Such examples make clear that American diplomacy can extend beyond the hustle bustle and quick talks of Washington DC – it is even fostered right within our San Diego student community. The University of California, San Diego hosts approximately 2,500 international students from 80 different countries and provides on-campus housing for international students, so that students from all cultural backgrounds can intermingle with one another [2].

Easy-going friendships and bonds created on such everyday, intimate levels seem far from the traditional image of a diplomat. However, these very connections and experiences are what inspire international collaborative efforts and serve as the basis of strong diplomatic relations. Joseph Nye, an expert within international affairs, expresses the importance of such educational exchange program in promoting cultural diplomacy, noting that many world leaders choose to educate their children in the US toward this end [3]. Specifically, Nye highlights the benefits of this exchange – many of China’s leaders have their children educated in the US, who are than capable of portraying a more realistic view of the US to balance the image put forth in the Chinese media [4]. Such exchange thus allows for better understanding of respective values and cultures.

It is certainly true that such bonds created between us, regular San Diegans and the city’s many international visitors will not necessarily bring world peace nor will it bring about the end of any war. Our professional diplomats will continue to engage other countries in implementing US foreign policies, and we will continue to see the resulting photo ops.

Yet even though we might not create “world peace,” our engagements with international visitors and delegations improves the quality of all of our lives as we learn to look at the world from a new perspective and help develop the seeds of solutions that otherwise would be over looked.

It is of great importance that we alter our image of diplomacy with the recognition that relations between our country and the world hold great depth, one that makes our local community a stage for global influence. It is no wonder that Joseph Nye’s statement continues to remain prescient, that “the best communicators are often not governments but civilians, both from the U.S. and from other countries” [5].

Image by US State Department via Wikimedia, used under a Creative Commons License.

Works Cited

[1] San Diego Diplomacy Council, “Programs,” <>

[2] University of California San Diego, “International Students and Scholars Office,” October 11, 2011. <>

[3] Nye, Joseph, The Means to Success In World Politics. NY: Public Affairs, 2004.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

One response to “ARE YOU A DIPLOMAT?”

  1. Great job on your article and it is so true! Think how much different a world we would have if each of us thought of ourselves as a diplomat with the goal of creating a more peaceful, respectful world. Our world culture would feel more like an extended community of people caring for the feelings and needs of one another. Diplomacy is too important to leave to select politicians,we are all diplomats. Thanks for writing to remind us of that fact.


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