U.S. Department of State Launches Inaugural Citizen Diplomacy Award

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”― Martin Luther King Jr.

As Secretary of State John Kerry has said, diplomacy is not the exclusive domain of meeting rooms in capitals, but also takes place in communities, large and small, around the world, as well as around the country. In today’s interconnected world, community influencers play a monumental role in shaping the perceptions of our country overseas so that both foreign publics can better understand us and our values.

These principles are the driving force behind the State Department’s Inaugural Citizen Diplomacy Award that was launched with a ceremony at the Department on January 9, 2017. During the ceremony, the Department celebrated the role citizens play as key partners in foreign affairs, by highlighting the work of “citizen diplomats” in promoting public diplomacy and U.S. foreign policy.

The Citizen Diplomacy Award was created to recognize American citizens and organizations that are leading efforts to renew and strengthen important international relationships that further U.S. foreign policy. The award also reflects the Department’s “Engage America” public outreach initiative, which strives to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the American public about the important value of diplomacy and its tangible impact on American lives.

Acting Under Secretary Wharton Presents the First Annual Citizen Diplomacy Award to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International, Inc. Executive Director Marianne Winfield [State Department Photo].

The 2017 recipient of the Inaugural Citizen Diplomacy Award is Marianne Winfield and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International, Inc. Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International encourages the local community to engage with the global community. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International’s legacy spans 55 years and across 18 cities in 16 countries on 6 continents. Its local volunteers work diligently to preserving the efforts and achievement of all who have participated throughout this exceptional organization’s history. By continuing to develop humanitarian, educational, cultural and economic development programs that are dear to their own hearts, these volunteers carry on this important mission.

Over the past 12 years, Ms. Winfield, who is the Executive Director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International, has volunteered her time with this all-volunteer based organization which shares the Fort Lauderdale community with 18 sister cities around the world. In her role Ms. Winfield develops cultural, educational, humanitarian and economic development programs, seminars and exchanges. By combining efforts with dedicated volunteers in Africa and Haiti, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International provided assistance after hurricanes and earthquakes, and also introduced educational initiatives helping the local populations become more self-sustaining. These programs are beneficial to volunteers and recipients alike, and laid the foundation for recent exchanges and programs with volunteers in Mar Del Plata, Argentina; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Haifa, Israel; Medellin, Colombia; Panama City, Panama; Mataro, Spain; Venice, Italy and Mugla, Turkey.

CItizen Diplomacy Awardee Marianne Winfield on stage with Under Secretary Wharton, Spokeperson John Kirby ,,and DAS Karen Richardson. When asked to define a sister city, Winfield responds, “It is a volunteer organization providing programs, exchanges and opportunities for the local and international community to come together, continuing the founding mission of President Eisenhower, ‘getting to know people’” [State Department Photo].

Ms. Winfield and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International exemplify the important role that American citizens can play in furthering and complementing our diplomatic efforts on the world stage.

The interactions that Americans have with international visitors are helping to define how others see us as a nation. Treaties can enshrine our international relationships, but the actions of individual Americans and the relationships they form with other citizens of the world allow us to keep them.

Through events like this we see how citizen diplomacy truly begins at home, and every citizen can play a role in modern diplomacy by creating genuine relationships and friendships abroad so that consensus and compromise can be reached. The work of Ms. Winfield, the the Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International and other community influencers and organizations around the country who are engaged in similar efforts will have an impact on a world far beyond the borders of their own communities for years to come.

Acting Under Secretary Bruce Wharton presents first annual Citizen Diplomacy Award to Marianne Winfield, Executive Director of Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International at Department of State on January 9, 2017. Spokesperson John Kirby opens the ceremony.

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