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It’s no challenge trying to find an American flag and seal in the U.S. State Department. Almost every place you look, you can find our nation’s beautiful seal decorated with these powerful words, “E Pluribus Unum” meaning Out of Many One.
But the reason I went to the State Department was not just to admire the flags and phrases, but to attend a conference,  The Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum.  As an Iranian American, I was interested to hear from Hillary Clinton about how diaspora communities like mine fit into the diverse American tapestry.
Kris Balderston opened the conference and noted that nowadays the meaning of our nation’s motto has transformed into a similar concept that we are one nation united under the precepts of being Americans working together towards common goals. No matter what country of origin, ethnicity, religion, or gender the citizens belong to, they are all striving towards the same things whether it is education, freedom, or peace. The purpose of this conference is to recognize and connect all the different Diasporas in the United States and provide them with a road map to the future full of success and achievement of common goals. Additionally, the conference encourages building bridges from the Diasporas in the U.S. to their countries of origin, via people to people interactions.
Did you know that over the past 45 years, the number of people living outside their county of origin has almost tripled from 76 million to 215 million? How about that the global Diaspora has sent over 351 billion dollars to their families in developing countries which is more than governments spends on foreign aid? Or how about that the U.S. has the largest global Diaspora members of any country, with 60 million first or second generation Americans?  Diaspora communities are very important in our country. Hundreds of thousands of people immigrate to the United States in pursuit of a happiness, better life, and freedom.
Then it was time for the keynote speaker, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.  “We all believe Diaspora communities have enormous potential to solve issues in their countries of origin,” Clinton said.  There is only so much the government can do to try and fix relationships between countries or resolve problems within other countries, but there is so much more the empathetic Diaspora members can do whether they are Latino-American, Chinese-American, Irish-American, or even Iranian-American.
So, what was conspicuously absent was the lack of the Iranian-American Diaspora’s presence at this conference, though there were a few individuals in attendance. Due to the broad and indiscriminate sanctions in place that restricts just about any cooperation or transaction with Iran, many of the lessons preached at the conference were simply not applicable to the Iranian-American community.
However, Ms. Clinton’s speech, while not directed to the Iranian Diaspora per se, could still be applied to Iranian Americans who are working towards greater unity, mentorship, networking, participation in the greatest democracy in the world by voting, and hopefully affecting the broad sanction policy that limits even simple interactions like people to people exchanges.
One story shared by Secretary Clinton that really hit home was about her recent trip to Ireland. She said she sat down with two Irish women who had never spoken, not because of their location or another reason, but solely their religious beliefs. One was Protestant and the other was Catholic. When asked what they were most afraid of, their answers were quite surprising. One answered saying she was afraid her husband would go to work and not make it back home. The other woman said she was afraid that her son would not make it back alive from school each morning. Their concerns were the same. Ms. Clinton said, “There has to be a way to reach across the divide of history together and unite them knowing their husbands, sons, daughters, and loved ones would make it home safely.”
Although this is taking place in Ireland, it can apply to a lot of things near and dear to our hearts even more broadly in the Middle East or even throughout the world. It doesn’t matter if we live in Washington DC, Dublin, or even Tehran, we are “wasting the great gift god has given us,” according to Ms. Clinton, by arguing and fighting over irrelevant topics and issues that are history.
Instead, as Tara Shoeshine, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs said wisely, “It is the people to people connections, heritage, and feeling very warm and positive towards another cultures that last beyond layers of time.”

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