The Obama administration released its national security strategy yesterday. The document recalls the spirit of the President’s inaugural address, when he pledged to renew America’s global leadership and charted a path which, as we said at the time, “seeks to return America to its core principles, to reaffirm our commitment to extending a hand of friendship and understanding to the global community, and to assert our shared humanity in the advancement of peace in our world.” That quote is from our statement, Renewing America’s Global Leadership, in which we articulated why international education—connecting students, scholars, educators, and citizens across borders—is integral to fulfilling the President’s vision. We committed ourselves then to working with the administration to foster constructive U.S. global engagement through international education. Now, on the occasion of the release of the national security strategy, we renew that commitment.
We welcome the administration’s commitment in this strategy to “educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global,” and to “engage civil society and citizens and facilitate increased connections among the American people and peoples around the world.” We applaud the fact that an element of the strategy is to increase international education and exchange through, among other things, more foreign-language and intercultural learning and welcoming more international students to the United States, and that another is to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. But it is important to get beyond programmatic thinking. International education is not simply one set among many programs in the strategy. It is integral to the strategy’s entire approach.
Leaf through this 50-page document and you will see that it is replete with commitments and objectives that simply cannot be fulfilled unless Americans deepen their understanding of the world and its peoples. Strengthening alliances; promoting development; strengthening international institutions and norms; promoting peace among different peoples; advancing our long-term security through speaking to people’s hopes; shaping an international order that can meet the challenges of our time; galvanizing collective action that can serve common interests; understanding that our own interests are bound to the interests of those beyond our borders; engaging nations, institutions, and peoples around the world on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect—such phrases leap out. These, much more than specific programs, are the commitments that make this strategy uniquely Obama’s—and it is a fantasy to think that we can pursue them successfully if we don’t understand this “world” and can’t communicate with these “peoples” that the strategy refers to.
International education is far more than a section of the strategy; it is its very foundation. We look forward to engaging with all who are willing to work with us to increase America’s capacity to pursue this enlightened approach through international education.