It has been one year since the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the day still looms over the diplomatic community. Dozens of countries and international institutions condemned the violence. Foreign leaders and diplomats followed suit with many calling it for what it was – an attack on democracy.
Eleven months later, U.S. President Biden emphasized the need to restore democracy in all its facets, calling it the defining challenge of our time at the inaugural Summit for Democracy in December 2021. However, his tone remained largely optimistic, saying, “Democracy — government of the people, by the people, for the people — can at times be fragile, but it also is inherently resilient. It’s capable of self-correction and it’s capable of self-improvement.” He called for global cooperation among the nations taking part in the Summit, stressing the collective need for democracy both at home and abroad.
Though some may see this confident optimism as a smoke-and-mirrors display of a strong America after minimal international engagement and major democratic backsliding, is rebuilding democracy on the global stage still possible?
In the eyes of public diplomacy: yes.
While the world fixates on every move of the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack and the media listens to the loudest voices in the room, few recognize the small, yet highly impactful democratic work happening in the field of international exchanges. This important and necessary tool of public diplomacy is still in full force, working person to person, in a truly democratic fashion, to deliberate and collaborate on solutions to shared global challenges.
The January 6 insurrection left many around the world questioning the resiliency of American democracy and we believe the U.S. must honor democracy at home before preaching it abroad. Meridian is committed to upholding our country’s democratic values by providing a platform for truth, collaborative solutions and equitable justice for all. Our public diplomacy work is vital to ensuring trust and accountability at all levels of leadership. As we navigate addressing larger forces like misinformation, corruption and fragility of democracy head-on in our work, we trust the robust U.S. public diplomacy infrastructure like international exchanges to foster a more collaborative understanding based on truth and transparency to create a more secure, prosperous world.
Through our programming we aspire to help international leaders from budding and mature democracies – each experiencing their unique challenges – connect with the current context in which they visit the U.S. We aim to provide insight into building relationships on shared democratic values to inspire change and improve the quality of life across arenas: women and girls’ empowerment, business and trade, human and civil rights, and energy and the environment.
While threats to democracy remain a real danger and should not be dismissed both within the U.S. and globally, there is room for optimism and hope in the work of public diplomacy to prepare the next generation of leaders who wait in the wings.