Preparing a New Generation of Global Citizens

Students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Listen to a Speaker Addressing International Affairs.

Today, hundreds of college and university students from dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Black Student Associations visited the U.S. Department of State to participate in the 2016 HBCU Foreign Policy Conference.

The State Department first hosted this conference in 2010 as a way to engage an important demographic in conversations on some of the most pressing foreign policy issues we face today. Since then, this event has become an annually honored State Department tradition, demonstrating our strong appreciation for the historic role HBCU’s have made to the general welfare and prosperity of America. This conference provides students with a valuable experience of meeting face-to-face with Department officials to gain insights into current U.S. foreign policy priorities, as well as career opportunities in foreign affairs. Today’s event began with a special video message from Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he encouraged the students to “lend their energy, knowledge, and talents to a cause that matters.”

As a graduate of Howard University — an HBCU — and a lead Department advocate for engaging the American public on the direct impact international affairs has on them, I am pleased that — six years after its conception — this conference remains an important platform to engage with and empower our future leaders. HBCUs, established by visionary leaders, have for over 150 years produced many of the nation’s leaders in diplomacy, business, government, academia, and the military, and have provided generations of American men and women with hope and educational opportunity.

We are pleased to host this event each February because as President Obama has noted, Black History Month is an opportunity to “…illuminate the living threads that African Americans have woven into the tight tapestry of this nation — to make it stronger and more beautiful, and more just, and more free.” Through this engagement we witness how hundreds of HBCUs across the United States are continuing to lead these efforts as they work daily to prepare a new generation of Americans to succeed in the 21st century.

Our annual HBCU conference is just one way we aim to ensure those who will soon inherit our global challenges are armed with the information and connections to engage in public service, see themselves represented amongst our diplomatic leaders, and feel empowered to join the ranks of the many global citizens around them working toward a brighter future.

This entry originally appeared on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State’s Official blog.