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Opinion: How to be a citizen diplomat in international relations

In Utah, international relations are of utmost importance. With our language skills, business connections and refugee friends, we can all be citizen diplomats

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Tammy Merryweather holds a candle as she attends a vigil to honor the life and service of Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, one of the 13 U.S. service members killed by the terrorist attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City.

Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

The last year has put America’s foreign relations to the test. The exit from Afghanistan resulted in over 700,000 internally displaced people. While U.S. sanctions have slowed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they won’t be the catalysts for ending the war. And it will take time to fully understand the outcome of Pres. Biden’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

Customarily, many believe that only those in Washington, D.C., can advance U.S. foreign relations. But that is not true.

People in Utah should care about foreign relations also. International businesses support more than 95,000 Utah jobs, we have a significant refugee community and more than 120 languages are spoken in Utah daily.

Furthermore, thousands of people worldwide visit our state each year, meeting thousands of Utahns along the way. While some visit Utah as tourists, others are invited by businesses, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, schools and religious institutions to build international relations. These interactions dispel negative stereotypes and foster mutual respect and understanding.

So the secret sauce to Utah’s global connectivity is its people. Everyone can be a Citizen Diplomat. Everyone has the right, even responsibility, to shape U.S. foreign relations, and it’s done one handshake at a time.

Felecia Maxfield-Barrett

Salt Lake City