Three Senators. Three States. Three Days.

June 5, 2019 By Emily Jennings French

As team USGLC welcomed 2019, it was hard to anticipate what was in store. Where would we go? Who would we meet? How could we match— or even top— the successes of 2018? But suddenly it was March, and we were everywhere at once, sprawled across the country from Youngstown, OH to Omaha, NE to Sarasota, FL. We talked about economic development with crowds in Detroit, MI and national security with our veteran audience in Greenville, SC; we discussed agriculture and food security in Manhattan, KS and women’s economic empowerment in Manchester, NH. We hosted Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) in Austin, TX and Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) in Kalamazoo, MI; we brought crowds to see Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) in Lehi, UT and Congressman Matt Cartwright in Scranton, PA (D-PA); and we wrapped up April with Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) in Denver, CO. It was exhilarating and exhausting – but we knew we could not rest. We had more to do.

The Memorial Day congressional recess was upon us— a time to reflect and remember the men and women who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice to keep America safe – and we thought, what better time to travel the country to talk about how and why what happens overseas affects us here at home. So, we packed our bags and took to the skies, landing first in Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix, Arizona

If you know Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), it’s likely you also know that she’s an incredible athlete, as her participation in Ironman races around the world have quickly become the stuff of legend. What you may be less familiar with, however, is her deep knowledge and understanding of the African continent, having completed a Ph.D. dissertation on the Rwandan genocide and serving as a relief worker in Kenya in the 1990s. As you might imagine, this kind of insight led to a fascinating and lively conversation with the Senator, alongside PSI’s President & CEO, Ambassador Karl Hofmann, and General James T. Hill, USA (Ret.).

“It just so happens that one of the smartest ways to protect your own national security interests is to strategically invest in the health and development of other countries in world” Senator Sinema told the riveted crowd in Phoenix. This came as no surprise to anyone in the room – as assembled right outside was an impressive group of Arizonans showcasing their work in global development. From innovative partnerships with the U.S. Agency for International Development out of Arizona State University, to global humanitarian organizations with strong ties to Arizona like International Rescue Committee and CARE, to local non-profits such as Hope for Kids International, community leaders in Arizona are making a big global impact.

Read more on our event from Chamber Business News here.

Bismarck, North Dakota

From America’s Southwest we traveled North – all the way up to Bismarck, North Dakota. What the state lacks in palm trees, it certainly makes up for in heart. For Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), this is personal; so personal, in fact, that a pastor from his local church opened the breakfast at Bismarck State College with a prayer. The crowd was intimate, but the Senator gushed about the impressive group of Bismarck leaders around the table.

Throughout the conversation it became apparent how much Senator Cramer has been influenced by his new seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, proclaiming that while America must maintain a strong military to support our civilian tools “the cost of not engaging is a military one” and “engagement is much cheaper.” The concern over China’s growing global influence was also on everyone’s mind, and with former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Shafer in attendance, we could not wrap up before discussing the importance of supporting food aid programs.

As our time together came to an end, it was a bittersweet goodbye, but we had one final stop to make on our journey across the country.

Cleveland, Ohio

It was a rainy, chilly day in Cleveland, Ohio when we arrived, but Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) brought the heat.  The senior Senator from Ohio spoke firmly to a crowd of 300, saying “In today’s globalized world, we need American leadership more than ever for our economy, for our values, for our national security, and for our way of life.” Those sentiments were later echoed in our discussion with a few local leaders, including former Ohio Governor Bob Taft, Tara Hogan Charles of Procter & Gamble, and Axios Foundation’s President & CEO, Peter Ahern.

While the global economy was certainly top of mind in Cleveland, with Tara Hogan Charles noting “The programs that are supported by the foreign assistance budget create the environment for that we can access 95% of the world’s consumers – and that’s good for U.S. based businesses,” it wasn’t the only pressing theme of the day. We had a record number of veterans in attendance, which was fitting on the heels of Memorial Day. We met with them privately in a conversation led by Colonel James Dignan, President & CEO of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, to share stories about how and why veterans see development and diplomacy as a value-add to our national security, and how to effectively communicate those stories on Capitol Hill. The USGLC left Cleveland with new and reinforced advocates for America’s global leadership.

Bringing it Home

As team USGLC touched back down in DC, we had much to reflect on and much to be thankful for. Most importantly, if you joined us for one of our events, thank you for being there. You joined us from faith and humanitarian communities, businesses and higher education institutions, and as veterans of the military, all with one common understanding – when America leads, we all win.

So, as we look ahead to the second half of the year, we have only one thing on our mind – where to next?