Tara D. Sonenshine, the new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs outlines in this exclusive interview with the New Civil Rights Movement, dozens of ways U.S. foreign policy is advanced on behalf of LGBT persons around the world. Â Â
Under Secretary of State Tara D. Sonenshine, who is the chief of public diplomacy andÂ public affairs at the State Department, gave an exclusive interview toÂ The New Civil Rights Movement this week on the occasion of LGBT Pride month. Â Sonenshine, who came to the State Department from the U.S. Institute of Peace as the Executive Vice-President, has a distinguished career in communications and government, including an award winning tenure in television journalism at ABC’s NightlineÂ as a producer and reporter where she garnered 10 Emmy news awards. Â SheÂ was sworn in on April 24th and Â is the seventh person to hold this position (the photograph of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulating Under Secretary Sonenshine following her swearing-in was provided by the author).
Just two months into her tenure, the savvy social media under secretary can be found on Twitter @Tsonenshine. Â This week she makes her inaugural debut in a liveÂ global Â tweet on Wednesday, June 27, 11:00 a.m. EDT. UsingÂ @StateDeptÂ with hashtag #AskState orÂ @USAenEspanolÂ using hashtag #AskUSA (seven other languages will also be accessible), interested followers can ask Sonenshine questions about the State Department and her responsibilities.
Since her swearing-inl, Sonenshine Â has hit the ground running, traveling to China (along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Chen GuangchengÂ crisis) and later to Pakistan. Â In between, she delivered graduation remarks to Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs 2012 graduating class. Â And not skipping a beat as she pivoted into June’s Pride month, Sonenshine enthusiastically shared the latest public diplomacy efforts to promote LGBT human rights over the weekend in Germany, where the U.S. Embassy participatedÂ Â in Berlinâ€™s famous Christopher Street Day parade. Â According to Sonenshine, Ambassador Philip Murphy joined Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, other diplomats and local politicians to open this yearâ€™s parade. Â U.S. Mission staff and GLIFAAÂ (gays and lesbians in foreign affairs agencies) representatives from Frankfurt and Hamburg came to Berlin to participate alongside their Berlin colleagues.Â A cheering crowd of between 500,000 and 700,000 watched the parade wind its way through central Berlin–from Kreuzberg, through Mitte, before ending in front of the Reichstag (the national parliament building).
NCRM QUESTION: Â You were recently sworn in as the Under Secretary of State for PublicÂ Diplomacy and Public Affairs (relatively new position). What are yourÂ responsibilities? What has been the main focus in getting up to speed onÂ your responsibilities?
ANSWER: Â It is an honor for me to serve in this new position which oversees allÂ aspects of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is a shared means to a sharedÂ goal of extending America’s reach and security by influencing howÂ individuals around the world come to know and understand us. It is about theÂ advancement of our foreign policy goals through people-to- peopleÂ connections in a complex, globally networked world. The under secretary’sÂ goal is to better understand ways in which public diplomacy can bolsterÂ international relations and national security. U.S. public diplomacy leveragesÂ core American values of inclusiveness, diversity, and pluralism both in theÂ audiences we reach and the messages we impart. Â Our public engagementÂ proceeds from a fundamental foundation and a deep historic sense of justiceÂ and fairness, openness and transparency, and inclusion of a multiplicity ofÂ voices and views.
NCRM QUESTION: Â A few weeks ago during gay Pride month, State Department officers visitedÂ the offices of the Washington Blade, a national gay newspaper. Â What was the purpose of the visit?
ANSWER: Â The purpose was awareness building, and outreach. Journalists from 20Â nations visited the offices of the Washington Blade as part of a specialÂ reporting tour organized by the U.S. State Department to brief theÂ journalists on how the U.S. addresses LGBT-related issues.
NCRM QUESTION: Â Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made “people to people diplomacy”Â a top priority. Â And she pronounced that “gay rights are human rights andÂ human rights are gay rights”. How do you see Â doing your job in support ofÂ these strategies and principles with the LGBT community both here in the USÂ and abroad?
ANSWER: Â Using social media and personal engagement can amplify messages. U.S.Â Embassies and consulates worldwide are declaring support for the humanÂ rights of LGBT people through innovative public diplomacy, including: Â publishing op-eds; speaking on radio programs; using social media; hostingÂ film screenings and performances; hosting panel discussions and roundÂ tables; and actively participating in local events. The Department supportedÂ this outreach by posting approximately 100 articles, texts, and transcriptsÂ amplifying remarks by senior administration officials and important eventsÂ related to LGBT.
In addition, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is poisedÂ to issue two new policies to advance LGBT rights: Â (1) the ECA Bureau-wideÂ diversity statement-which lists groups of underrepresented individualsÂ encouraged to participate in its exchange programs-is about to expand toÂ include LGBT persons; and (2) the Fulbright scholars program will beginÂ offering the same benefits to committed same-sex partners that are currentlyÂ being offered to other dependents. Â ECA exchange programs offer LGBT personsÂ who work on LGBT-related issues from around the world opportunities to meetÂ and collaborate with their American professional counterparts. Â InÂ particular, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), has alreadyÂ brought groups to the United States focusing on issues important to the LGBTÂ community and has planned future projects on LGBT-related topics. Â OtherÂ IVLPs already incorporate meetings with LGBT advocacy groups on programsÂ that cover human rights, civic participation and gender issues.
NCRM QUESTION:Â Â As you know, many political regimes do not prevent violence–can evenÂ encourage violence against LGBT people as documented in the StateÂ Department’s human rights reports, for example “corrective rape” of lesbiansÂ in South Africa which Secretary Clinton mentioned at the publication of theÂ 2011 human Rights report and a repeated effort to adopt a legislativeÂ measure that criminalizes homosexuality in Uganda. What public diplomacyÂ methods are used in these situations that can create safer spaces for LGBTÂ people? Another example of violence perpetrated against LGBT people inÂ Uganda occurred when a local Â newspaper The Rolling Stone that named gaysÂ and published photos of them. This hostile situation led to the murder of David Kato inÂ January 2011. What steps has the State Department taken to address theseÂ incendiary practices by local media, besides including the issue inÂ reporting and the human rights report?
ANSWER: The Department has implemented an Urgent Response Mechanism (URM) thatÂ routinizes the U.S. Government reaction to early warning signs of crisesÂ facing LGBT individuals, defenders, and organizations by providing aÂ framework for coordination and action between all relevant DepartmentÂ bureaus. Â We have used the URM to respond to crises in Uganda and Iraq. Â InÂ both cases, the ongoing internal engagement facilitated by the URMÂ facilitated our leveraging of a wide range of resources and expertise toÂ address the situation through high-level diplomatic engagement, civilÂ society consultation, and emergency programming. Through the creation of theÂ Global Equality Fund, launched by Secretary Clinton in December 2011, weÂ have strengthened our capacity to support civil society organizations andÂ programming seeking to advance and protect the human rights of LGBT peopleÂ globally. Â The Department, along with USAID, has already committed over fourÂ million dollars to the fund and is engaging foreign governments and privateÂ donors to contribute to this important effort.
NCRM QUESTION: Â There is early evidence that new U.S. foreign policy on LGBT human rightsÂ has energized the US Embassy’s engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina whichÂ has made a significant difference with the local LGBT community. Â I haveÂ been told Ambassador has met personally with local LGBT representatives. Â This is remarkable as the LGBT community had been driven underground afterÂ violent attacks on it in 2008 and 2009. Being open and supportive inÂ Sarajevo has created a more secure environment for the LGBT community. InÂ what ways are embassies carrying out public diplomacy in situations like in Bosnia? And what are the challenges for public diplomacy in environmentsÂ that are hostile to gay people?
ANSWER: Â There are so many good examples: In Albania, Ambassador Alexander Arvizu promoted theseÂ human rights on a live regional radio program entitled, “We are different,Â we are equal. Â No to discrimination!” and highlighted the human rights ofÂ LGBT individuals in a speech at an academy for public servants. InÂ Kazakhstan, the Embassy has forged a close working relationship with the only NGOÂ that promotes LGBT rights, as well as others civil society groups thatÂ support these communities. In Kyrgyzstan, the Embassy’s human rights officerÂ met with Labrys Kyrgyzstan, the leading NGO focused on LGBT issues. Â He wasÂ successful in establishing open lines of communication and cooperation withÂ Labrys, including on documenting human rights abuses and discriminationÂ against LGBT individuals, some of which was included in the 2011 DepartmentÂ of State Human Rights Report.
In Slovakia, where the 2010 Pride paradeÂ ended in violence, Embassy staff brought together more than 20 ambassadorsÂ from other nations to sign a public statement of support for the march andÂ hosted a debate. The U.S. Ambassador marched in the 2011 parade next to theÂ mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital. U.S Embassies and consulatesÂ worldwide hosted viewing parties of Secretary Clinton’s “Free and Equal inÂ Dignity and Rights” speech on December 6, 2011, which also garnered overÂ 260,000 unique users to the Department’s social media platform and reachedÂ over nine million users on Twitter in the first 24 hours. Â The DepartmentÂ also produced a video of the Secretary’s speech, which went viral, receivingÂ 8.5 times the number of views that typical news stories receive on YouTube.
NCRM QUESTION: Â You have taken foreign trips to China and Pakistan since you wereÂ sworn in. What have you observed in people to people engagement and inÂ interviews with the media?
ANSWER: What I have observed overseas is that even when there are difficultÂ political issues dividing countries, there is still a space forÂ citizen-to-citizen engagement. Â People want education, employment andÂ security. Â There are issues of commonality in every society. Â I alsoÂ observed the power of information and was reminded that information is theÂ oxygen with which a society breathes.
NCRM QUESTION: Â The domestic LGBT community is very interested in the State DepartmentÂ foreign policy on LGBT rights. Many of us follow it closely and wish outÂ loud that our foreign policy could be applied inside the US. What message doÂ you have for the American LGBT community during June Pride month?
ANSWER: I think this is a time to celebrate the freedoms that America provides. Â AllÂ around the world people want to come to America and learn about our country. Â We have to remain open-minded, tolerant and internationally minded if weÂ want to prosper in the global community and the global marketplace of ideasÂ and ideals.
Â The photo of Under Secretary Sonenshine speaking to Columbia SIPA graduating students was taken by the author. Â The photo of Under Secretary Sonenshine in her office is courtesy ofÂ the U.S. State Department.
Tanya L. DomiÂ is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs atÂ Columbia UniversityÂ who teaches human rights in East Central Europe andÂ former Yugoslavia. Â She is aÂ Harriman InstituteÂ affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues and media freedom. Â She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. She is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
Enjoy this piece?
… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.
NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.
Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.
Die-Hard MAGA Trump Supporters in Arizona Think ‘It’s Very Possible’ States Will ‘Decertify’ the 2020 Election
Donald Trump’s most recent rally in Arizona brought many opportunities for his supporters to explain why they think the former president will be back in office any day.
Politico spoke to a few MAGA folks on the ground at the event and got their thoughts on what’s next in the Trump movement.
“I hope states decertify the election. I want to hear him say it’s over, we are ready to move on and hold a new election,” Politico cited Ray Kallatsa from Tucson. “I do think it’s possible, very possible.”
His thoughts echo those of pillow mogul Mike Lindell, who spoke to the crowd ahead of the former president. He cited QAnon language.
“Can you feel the storm building? It’s America,” he said using the allusion of “the storm” which is part of the conspiracy group’s messaging.
The storm, “refers to excessive social conflict that is predicted to occur prior to society reaching the point of ‘The Great Awakening,’ explained Murray State University.
See the photos from the event at Politico.
‘Avalanche of Lies’: Trump’s Arizona Speech Smacked Down by CNN Host
The morning after Donald Trump rehashed all of his complaints about the 2020 presidential election that saw him lose to President Joe Biden and then attacked fellow Republicans, a CNN host dismissed his words as an “avalanche of lies.”
During the speech, the president also asserted that his “Stop the Steal” rally crowd was massive, telling the crowd, “They talk about the people that walked down to the Capitol, They don’t talk about the size of that crowd. I believe it was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before, and they were there to protest the election.”
After sharing clips of Trump’s ranting about critics within his own party who aren’t buying into his election lies, host Abby Phillip cut to the chase and also noted the former president’s defense of the Capitol insurrectionists.
“I don’t actually recommend people listen to the avalanche of lies last night,” she stated, “but it’s notable how much effort went into defending these January 6th defendants and saying that they were being held as political prisoners. It’s a window into where this is all headed for Republicans.”
Sedition Indictments Reveal the DOJ Is Looking Beyond the Jan 6th Insurrection: Former US Attorney
Appearing on MSNBC on Saturday morning, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance explained that a deep reading of the federal seditious conspiracy indictments filed against eleven members of the Oath Keepers revealed that the Department of Justice is looking at more than the Jan 6th insurrection.
Speaking with host Ali Velshi, Vance suggested more indictments are likely to follow.
“One of the keys to understanding this indictment is it doesn’t look at January 6th as just one day,” she began. “The conduct starts shortly after the election and continues to January 6th. We now seemingly have a more firm answer to the direction whether the DOJ is looking at January 6th as a standalone day or is this continuing course of conduct surrounding the big lie.”
“The fact they are looking at the longer spectrum of conduct is good news for people who want to see people who were involved in the day’s events held responsible for all of the efforts to interfere with the election, not just the violence that manifested on January 6th” she continued. “This is prosecutors continuing to move up that ladder of responsibility. They’ve now hit a point with people involved in a definitive way and the violence on that day. The question is whether some of these individuals and other people who have been indicted will decide to cooperate with prosecutors and if they decide to cooperate, what information they may have to share.”
- RIGHT WING EXTREMISM2 days ago
Virginia’s Republican Attorney General-Elect Fires Dozens of Lawyers Including in Civil Rights Division
- CRIME3 days ago
Morning Joe Reveals the Damning Closing Argument Against Trump if He Got Charged With Seditious Conspiracy
- PAGING MERRICK GARLAND3 days ago
Listen: Kevin McCarthy Reveals Just Days After Capitol Attack Trump ‘Told Me Personally’ He Bears Responsibility
- 'SCANDAL-PLAGUED SENATOR'3 days ago
‘Delusional Huckster,’ ‘Charlatan,’ ‘Political Grifter’ and a ‘Virus’: 100-Year Old Newspaper Destroys Ron Johnson
- CRIME2 days ago
‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli Ordered to Return $64 Million in Profits After Boosting Price of Life-Saving Drug
- CRIME2 days ago
Former Federal Prosecutor: DOJ Believes It Can Prove Insurrection Was ‘Armed Effort to Overthrow Our Government’
- News2 days ago
Watch: Fox News’ Peter Doocy Admits There Are Republicans ‘That Don’t Agree With Voting Rights’
- CRIME2 days ago
Sedition Indictments Reveal the DOJ Is Looking Beyond the Jan 6th Insurrection: Former US Attorney