More than 500 people are attending a summit in Washington D.C. this week to address what’s called “citizen diplomacy.” The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy is a Des Moines based organization that encourages every American to seek opportunities to work with people in other countries. Board member Ted Townsend says all people of the country are responsible for foreign relations, not just the government.
“The idea of citizen diplomacy is separate of public diplomacy, related to the state department. The goal is to use people to people exchanges, eye to eye contact. The phrase that many people use is ‘one handshake at a time’”, Townsend says. Townsend says this type of interaction is lost in the current electronic age.
“We can accomplish a great deal more in personal interactions than we ever could through all of the social media or electronic means that are available today,” Townsend says, “People develop loving, genuine, caring relationships when they meet one another, and they learn that the differences among us as human beings on a shared planet are superficial and not all that important when the real fundamentals get understood.”
Townsend says relations between countries can be forged by businesses, non-profits, cultural groups and others who seek out opportunities to interact with and understand people around the world. The summit in Washington D.C. includes speakers ranging from cabinet members to ordinary citizens who have found ways to have an international presence.