U.S. Diplomats’ Insights on World War I, Civil Rights, American Literature and the American Elections

U.S. Diplomats’ Insights on World War I, Civil Rights, American Literature and the American Elections . Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

By Victoria Triegaardt, Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy Wellington and Mara Hosoda, Public Affairs Section, U.S. Consulate General, Auckland.

The last three months were action-packed with opportunities for U.S. Diplomats to reach out to youth in Auckland and Wellington high schools. Upon request from New Zealand high schools, U.S. Diplomats presented U.S. history topics through the American Insights Program.

On March 22, 2016 Public Affairs Officer Rob Tate was invited to share his insights on the global roots of American music to a group of 25 Wellington College students, their parents, and teachers. The group of students and teachers will soon embark on a journey to the U.S., specifically Los Angeles and New York. Rob’s presentation and insights from an American perspective offered relevant insights for students and provided a context and background for their trip.

PAO Rob Tate addressing students, parents, and teachers at Wellington College. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.
PAO Rob Tate addressing students, parents, and teachers at Wellington College. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

On April 6, 2016 Year 13 Media Studies teacher at St Catherine’s College in Kilbirnie requested an American Insights speaker from the U.S. Embassy to speak to her students on the topic of dystopian sci-fi (and its development from 1970s-2010s). The students have been studying this film genre and one of their learning aims is to understand the context into which films of this genre (e.g., Soylent Green, Blade Runner, Children of Men, and The Hunger Games) were produced. LtCol John Black (SCO Chief) represented the U.S. Embassy, shared insights on the political context in the US during each decade, and entertained questions from the students.

LtCol Black and Media Studies students at St. Catherine’s College. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.
LtCol Black and Media Studies students at St. Catherine’s College. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

On April 8, 2016 The U.S. Embassy American Insights program brought Deputy Chief of Mission Candy Green to Wellington Girls’ College. Physics teacher Mark Collard requested for an American Insights representative to speak on the topic of climate change and climate change policy. Ms. Green shared insights on U.S. commitment on climate change as evidenced in the follow-on initiatives to the Paris Agreement.

DCM Candy Green speaking on climate change to Physics Students at Wellington Girls’ College. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.
DCM Candy Green speaking on climate change to Physics Students at Wellington Girls’ College. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

On May 9, 2016 Diplomat Megan Salmon presented and discussed the important topic of U.S. Civil Rights. Salmon focused particularly on the role of African American women throughout the Civil Rights Movement from the 1960s until present. Salmon enjoyed engaging Onehunga High School history students in an honest two-way discussion on their views of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.

Diplomat Megan Salmon with Onehunga High School History class just after her presentation and discussion of the American Civil Rights Movement. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.
Diplomat Megan Salmon with Onehunga High School History class just after her presentation and discussion of the American Civil Rights Movement. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

On May 13, 2016 Sergeant Jay Rusniak spoke to students at Rongotai College on the American Elections. Sgt. Rusniak gave an overview of how state primaries help parties chose their nominees for presidency. Additionally he spoke about the upcoming Senate elections and the role of the Electoral College. He also skillfully answered questions from the students who were very interested to hear about the current election.

Sgt Jay answers questions from the students who were excited to have an American speak about the electoral process. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.
Sgt Jay answers questions from the students who were excited to have an American speak about the electoral process. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

On May 16, 2016 Diplomat Conor Dickinson introduced Pakuranga College students to America’s role in World War I. Dickinson led a critical discussion on the ideas of isolationism, international security and U.S. foreign policy. Many of these concepts resonate with the role of the U.S. in international affairs today. The students appreciated the American perspective Dickinson offered.

Diplomat Conor Dickinson presenting to Pakuranga College on the U.S. involvement in WWI. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.
Diplomat Conor Dickinson presenting to Pakuranga College on the U.S. involvement in WWI. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

On May 19, 2016 Economics Officer Andy Covington spoke to students at St Patrick’s college on the American Elections. He gave the students an overview of the electoral process and the events of the current election. The students were grateful for the opportunity to hear about the American electoral system and the session finished with a lively Q and A.

Economics Officer Andy Covington Speaks to St Particks College on the American Elections. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.
Economics Officer Andy Covington Speaks to St Particks College on the American Elections. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

In the coming month Foreign Service Officer Scott Ceier will be speaking at Onslow College on the topic of American Literature.

For details on how your school can request a U.S. Diplomat presentation, please fill in and submit the American Insights Request form (pdf).