America’s Unofficial Ambassadors is a soft power, citizen diplomacy initiative aimed at countering violent extremism before it can take hold, working at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World and in the United States too.
We send Americans to volunteer in areas of human development in communities throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Our unofficial ambassadors support local leaders who have dedicated themselves to addressing basic, universal challenges such as in education, human rights, and public health. Together, we form people-to-people partnerships that yield substantive outcomes in these important areas of human development while dispelling commonly held stereotypes of “the other.”
Our unofficial ambassadors then become ambassadors of the experience and their host community. They publish articles and blog posts about their experiences and deliver presentations on campuses, in faith communities, at schools, and at public libraries throughout the United States to help reduce stereotypes and combat extremist thinking here at home.
Each one of us has the power to make a difference – through our volunteer service and through what we say and do in our communities. Community leaders, diplomats, international development professionals, soldiers, and journalists all have unique and important roles to play in countering violent extremism, but ordinary citizens have an important complementary role to play, too. We don’t send our volunteers to educate children in war zones, nor do we expect them to write for the opinion pages of the New York Times. We do recognize, though, that extremist behavior can take hold in any place, from Allentown to Zanzibar. There is value in addressing development challenges everywhere and to sharing the first-hand lessons of these experiences with everyone.