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Outgoing US Cultural Affairs Official Touts Social Networking Website
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Goli Ameri (left) chatted with UCLA student body president Homaira Hosseini , members of Los Angeles-based consular corps, and others following her talk on Monday. (Photo by Ayla Dillard)

Outgoing US Cultural Affairs Official Touts Social Networking Website

At a lecture cosponsored by the Burkle Center and student groups, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Goli Ameri introduces ExchangesConnect, a social networking website intended to bring a "new generation of digital natives" into conversation around the globe. Her bureau will also fund Indonesian dance performances on campus in spring.

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How might we get some of the young people who spend 20-plus hours a week playing video games or polishing up their Facebook pages to turn their attention to global warming or to regional conflicts?

On the first day of the 2009 winter quarter, about 180 students, members of consular corps, and others packed the Kerckhoff Hall Grand Salon to hear Goli Ameri, the outgoing U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, deliver a speech about U.S. public diplomacy in the 21st century.

Ameri touted a U.S.-sponsored social networking website launched late last year to engage more young people in virtual, cross-cultural "hanging out." She described ExchangesConnect, the U.S. government's first official social networking site, as a soft-power front in a global "war of ideas."

"We must exploit new technologies to become the master networker, building global communities and connecting like-minded people throughout the world," Ameri said.

As a Facebook or MySpace explicitly oriented towards cultural exchange, the website is also a place for global activism, according to Ameri.

"In other words," she said of her bureau's approach, "how might we get some of the young people who spend 20-plus hours a week playing video games or polishing up their Facebook pages to turn their attention, even for a few hours, to global warming or to regional conflicts?"

She encouraged students to enter the website's global video contest, which offers two-week U.S. or overseas vacations as prizes, respectively, for foreign and U.S. winners ages 14 and up.

Among the other projects that the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funds in over 100 countries is a collaboration with the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance directed by Judy Mitoma. Under the project, four American performers are completing residencies in Indonesia this month, and seven Indonesian arts educators and dance teachers will participate in workshops on the UCLA campus this spring and put on two performances April 18 and 19.

The Jan. 5 event was sponsored by the Burkle Center, the office of the USAC president, the Iranian Student Group, and Ameri's own Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department. Ameri is currently the highest-ranking Iranian American in the federal bureaucracy.

For more information on ExchangesConnect, visit connect.state.gov.

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