Meridian Exchange | November/December 2020

2020 has presented some of the most challenging health, economic and environmental crises of our time, and we're reminded of these challenges even more as the holiday season approaches. International collaboration is the only solution—and Meridian remains committed to strengthening U.S. engagement with the world through diplomacy, global leadership and culture.

See below for highlights from the last month 'at' Meridian and be sure to check out our upcoming events at the bottom of the newsletter.

The U.S. must remain a beacon of democracy

"We all recognize the existential threats facing the United States. Reestablishing our international alliances is key in dealing with these issues," former Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) said on December 4 during a discussion on the upcoming transition to a Biden administration with fellow panelists Hon. John Boehner (R-OH) and former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater. Stressed throughout the conversation was the need for strengthening U.S. global collaboration, which the speakers expressed optimism for following Biden's cabinet picks. "He's looking at them as a team, not individual members," Slater said, calling incoming Treasury Secretary Janet Yellenone of the most capable economic minds in the word. While COVID-19 is the top priority for the Biden administration, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson asserted that civil rights must also be on the table during a November 10 discussionon impacts the racial justice movement had on U.S. elections. “We cannot tout our democracy globally if we don’t practice it domestically,” he said, adding that he hopes Biden's future cabinet selections will reflect more of America’s ethnic and racial composition. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) said he places high importance on the next administration's ability to restore faith in the U.S. within the international community during a November 18 discussion on legislative priorities, watch the full program here.

Embracing fashion as a diplomatic tool

The clothes public figures choose to wear are political, social and environmental statements. On November 19, Meridian, in collaboration with the National Museum of Women in the Arts, hosted Diplomacy X Design, a virtual panel discussion on the role fashion plays in advancing diplomacy. Moderated by New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, panelists included industry experts Wes Gordon, creative director, Carolina Herrera; Mara Hoffman, founder and creative director, Mara Hoffman; Abrima Erwiah, co-founder and co-creative director of Studio One Eighty Nine; and Aurora James, founder and creative director, Brother Vellies. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ white suit, designed by Gordon, was a hot topic. "There are a lot of women who fought very hard to get Kamala Harris in office, especially women of color. How she chooses to operate in the fashion space and express her own culture and values is something everyone is going to pay attention to," James stressed, noting that Harris’ choice to wear white symbolized hope and optimism. Echoed throughout the virtual dialogue was the assertion that fashion is a powerful tool for communicating one’s values, and all eyes will be on how the new administration uses that tool. Watch the full program here.

International exchange alumni connect from home

International Education Week (November 16-20) brought an opportunity to celebrate Meridian’s international education and youth exchange programs. In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Meridian hosted the first-ever virtual Alumni Reunion of the Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) from November 17-20. Meridian has implemented PAYLP since its inception in 2014 and continues to support an alumni base of over 800 emerging leaders and adult mentors from 40 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Both anglophone and francophone members of the PAYLP alumni community came together for four days of networking, skills-building workshops, inspirational speaker sessions and opportunities to reconnect with American host communities in Burlington, VT, Detroit, MI, Huntsville, AL, Kansas City, MO, and Seattle, WA. Despite diverse levels of internet connectivity and bandwidth among alumni throughout the continent, Meridian used a variety of digital tools and adapted virtual programming models to provide inclusive access to the online event, which culminated with each participant making a PAYLP Pledge outlining a renewed commitment to community engagement and collaboration. One 2018 alum pledged, "to help the youth in my community be confident in themselves and their abilities through personal development and public speaking training. I remain convinced that the future of my country and our continent is in the hands of the youth, so we will work for the future now, together.” Read more here.

In Case You Missed It

Click here for a full list of our upcoming events.

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