Hillary Clinton, State Department Officials Encourage HBCU Students to Foreign Service

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke briefly yet powerfully to students on the need for international participation during the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Foreign Policy Briefing.

“I am so happy you all are here today,” Clinton told 300 scholars from 20 HBCUs dressed in business attire and armed with briefcases. “Historically black colleges and universities play a vital role in overcoming barriers and showing leadership. By your being presence, you are ready to amplify your voices globally.” 

Clinton also spoke on the need for students to see their potential.

“Human talent is universal, but opportunity is not. Your generation has more inherent power because of social media.”

The briefing, hosted by the State Department on Feb. 23, stressed the importance of HBCUs involvement with foreign affairs as well as global leadership. 

Held in the Loy Henderson Conference Room, scholars were attentively writing notes as officials from the State Department spoke on various foreign affairs topics. Topics ranged from having more black involvement in foreign service to the relationship between China and the U.S.

“We’re hoping that some of what you are doing [at school] relates to foreign and diplomatic policy,” said Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and emcee of the event.

“We held this event to strengthen the international capacity of HBCUs,” said Benton.

John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities spoke on the importance of black students becoming global leaders.

“All American students need a global perspective. However, HBCU students lag behind,” said Wilson.

Through the White House Initiative on HBCUs, Wilson and his coworkers plan to increase HBCU participation in international programs.

“Out of the 105 historically black colleges and universities, 40 have already taken steps to make international affairs relevant on their campuses,” Wilson said.

“HBCU students must travel abroad, think globally, and put people to work; not work for them,” Wilson said over a loud round of applause.

The briefing included a small networking ‘snack break’ where students and a few officials were allowed to mingle with one another and share valuable advice. “As an African-American woman, traveling overseas changed my life,” said Ariel Howard.

Howard, assistant to Mike Hammer, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs, has served in Ethiopia and Pakistan with the State Department’s Foreign Service Program giving tours.

Howard is a graduate of Xavier University and said that being black and living and working overseas was a learning and teaching experience for her and others.

“When I was overseas, people would come up to me and say ‘where are you from?’ I would use that time as an opportunity to talk about the diversity in the U.S.,” explained Howard.

“The world is getting smaller and students must see themselves as global citizens,” said Hammer.

Howard University students were present at the briefing, and were able to share their study abroad opportunities with the audience . “I enjoyed seeing young, professional black students sharing a common interest in becoming global leaders,” said Khadijah Norman.

Norman, a junior Political Science major at Howard University, has already taken steps to becoming a global citizen.

“With my minor being Arabic, I studied in Jordan for six months and as of late I went to Egypt in December,” she said. Norman, who will be going back to northern Africa this summer, has a special interest in “diplomacy and peace negotiations in the Middle East.”

Norman praised Howard University on their push for student involvement in international affairs.

“I’ve talked to students who attend traditionally white universities and they always mention that their schools make a huge push for their students to become global citizens. Even though HBCUs aren’t known to make international affairs a top priority, it is good to see and experience Howard taking initiative to make this topic prominent,” said Norman.

Norman also stated that the university is doing a lot more to engage and encourage students to be involved in study abroad opportunities.