What They’re Saying in the Heartland: Next Generation of Local Leaders Travel to DC to Advocate for A Globally Engaged America

July 14, 2022 By Nezar Jamal and Eric Moorer and Zane Francescato

Last month, members of the next generation of American leaders gathered in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s annual Global Impact Forum (GIF). GIF brings together some of the most influential voices in American foreign policy to discuss U.S. global leadership and the importance of continued global engagement. From food insecurity and climate change, to global health and security crises, speakers and attendees engaged on some of the most pressing global issues impacting Americans here at home. 

USGLC’s network of Next Generation (Next Gen) leaders joined this two-day event and added their valued voices to the program, learning about foreign policy, welcoming new opportunities to build connections, and advocating for a fully-funded International Affairs Budget on Capitol Hill. Here is what some of the NextGen leaders had to say about the Forum.

Nick Hayen, President, Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN)

How has GIF improved your understanding of foreign policy and diplomacy? 

GIF connected me with some of the biggest names in foreign policy and diplomacy. The breakout sessions and guest speakers provided a wealth of information about the importance of America’s role in the world and how we can better advocate to continue this role. My favorite part of GIF was Capitol Hill day and the important connections I made while lobbying for global engagement. It is truly an honor to know that I have done my part in keeping America at the forefront of international affairs.

Reece Allen, Graduate Student, University of Nebraska

Why did you come to GIF?

I came to the GIF because it was a great opportunity to meet civic-minded and serious foreign policy advocates from across the country. I knew there would be many impressive people in attendance with much more political experience than me, and I wanted to learn from them and hear their stories. Despite my lifelong interest in politics, I had never directly engaged with my state representatives, and I was excited to advocate for issues that matter to Nebraskans – and to the country as a whole – with “my” lawmakers. Some of the members of my state’s Capitol Hill delegation were originally from countries that are recipients of U.S. foreign aid, and they shared their stories of how that aid positively impacted their lives. Through their stories I came to a better understanding of the importance of U.S. diplomacy. For someone like me who has been enamored with politics since elementary school, I was truly, nerdily excited to walk through the congressional offices and speak directly to my representatives. Time will tell, but it felt like they listened to our stories and took our ideas into consideration. Everyone I met at the GIF was deeply engaged and took the USGLC mission very seriously. While our nation may be deeply divided, I saw little evidence of that at the GIF and often had no idea whether I was speaking with a Republican or Democrat. Because of this, I feel more hope for our future as a country on the world stage. Finally, I had been to D.C. once before as a tourist and recognized it as a world-class city, so I could not pass up the opportunity to return. 

Kevin Rejent, Senior Counsel – Regulatory & Government Affairs, Energizer Holdings

What was your favorite part of GIF and why?

While the speakers were incredible, the most memorable parts of the GIF for me were the conversations I had with the other participants. My fellow Next Gen leaders, tablemates during meals, USGLC staff, and people met at the receptions all had fascinating backgrounds and perspectives on global issues. Developing these relationships can only result in a better understanding of issues, and a greater ability to implement ideas through a network of like-minded professionals. The ability to interact with those making and executing policy is invaluable to understanding the “why” and “how” of specific actions on the global stage. 

Pranadhi Koradia, COO of Transphere Inc 

How has GIF improved your understanding of foreign policy and diplomacy?

GIF was very enriching in terms of networking and bringing various perspectives from around the country. It helped me understand the gravity of foreign policy and diplomacy, and how decisions in these realms directly affect commerce, national security, and humanitarian outreach which is essential for a robust local economy. This being my very first time attending GIF in person, I was a novice not knowing what to expect and was absolutely pleasantly surprised by how organized and effective the program was. The Forum provided absolute clarity of agenda, and an excellent flow of schedule. The experience offered education, inspiration, and opportunities to contribute. Concluding the Forum with a visit to Capitol Hill was truly a highlight and surreal experience for me. I never thought I would have the opportunity to sit side-by-side with my State Representative and take my voice to Congress.