The tone was set early when Admiral Ziemer said “good prevention touches five Millennium Development Goals: poverty, education, maternal health, child mortality, and disease.” From there, we talked through some of the essential national security programs that are funded with just one percent of our federal budget.
Amie Batson addressed the importance of vaccinations in keeping global diseases from spreading to other countries and back to the United States. Admiral Ziemer argued that good health leads to community stabilization which provides fewer desperate individuals to be recruited by terrorist organizations. Dr. Chabikuli stated the importance of government/local community partnerships in maintaining transparency and accountability in order to ensure that the most needy are getting essential medical assistance.
In approaching national security, I focused on the importance of winning the hearts and minds of citizens in foreign nations. Both Admiral Ziemer and I shared personal stories about times when meeting with locals made a major difference in how America was viewed abroad. I recounted my experience at a town hall meeting in Zanzibar in which I showed that America was not trying to be the world’s policeman, but rather working to help stem the AIDS epidemic. Admiral Ziemer told about seeing a photo of an American ship in a Pacific restaurant and upon asking why, learned that the relief efforts made by American soldiers left such a positive impression upon the locals that their ideas of the West had changed.
This panel’s discussion made clear that by investing abroad we are investing at home, too. By maintaining stability and winning the hearts and minds of those abroad, in turn we are rewarded with health and stability here in the United States. The return on our investment of just one percent is something that we, as Americans, can keep in mind as budget cuts loom. The power of one percent is truly that the International Affairs Budget makes our own country more secure and prosperous.