WFU to host new program for U.S. and European youth
June 26, 2006
This summer, Wake Forest University will be the first university in the nation to host a new, U.S. Department of State-sponsored program aimed at strengthening U.S.-European relations by building bridges between youth from the United States and 32 European and Eurasian countries.
Named in honor of America’s first diplomat, the “Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative: Summer Institute for Youth” (BFTFI) is the first youth-oriented program funded by the U.S. Department of State to focus exclusively on U.S.-European relations and to involve youth from all regions of Europe and Eurasia. Wake Forest was selected to host the program in its inaugural year and awarded a $171,750 grant from the State Department.
While in Vienna, Austria, earlier this month for the annual U.S.-European Union summit, President Bush emphasized the need for fostering American connections to European youth. He told a group of young Europeans, “One of the things that is very important for our country is to have exchanges with students such as yourselves. And the reason that I say that is because I want you to get to see America the way it is.”
Approximately 35 high school age students from Europe and Eurasia, ranging from Norway to Kazakhstan, and 10 American high school age students from across the nation will come to Wake Forest July 1 and stay through July 22. The students will live together in a residence hall, participate in three workshops addressing diplomacy-related topics, complete a community service project, visit the European Studies Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, stay for a weekend with Winston-Salem area host families and take field trips to Williamsburg, Va., Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.
“This program aims to empower the younger generation of Americans and Europeans to face global challenges in the 21st Century together,” said Allan Louden, director of the BFTFI, associate professor of communication and director of debate at Wake Forest. “We hope to achieve this by improving the understanding the participants have of the political and cultural environments in each others’ countries.”
Two of the workshops will be led by Wake Forest faculty. John Dinan, the Zachary T. Smith Associate Professor of Political Science, will lead “Comparative Constitutionalism” in which students will examine the U.S. process of constitution-making and compare it to the constitution-making processes in European and post-Soviet countries, as well as within the European Union. Ross K. Smith, Wake Forest debate coach, will oversee “Media Criticism in the Age of the Internet” in which students will explore how the Internet and blogs impact the media, public opinion and political situations around the world. The third workshop, “Bridging Differences though Public Argument” will be led by a professor from the University of Pittsburgh.
State Department officials say they hope the summer institute will pave the way for the establishment of other programs aimed at building bridges between American and European youth under the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative.
“Support for freedom is the foundation of our foreign policy, but America cannot advance freedom alone,” said Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried. “Europe and the United States are partners in this great task. A new generation is growing up in Europe and America for which the Cold War, the advent of democracy in 1989 and the break up of the Soviet Union are history, not memory. It is only by renewing this close relationship between younger Europeans and Eurasians and American young people that we can continue this critical partnership in the 21st Century. That is why this program is so important to me.” For more information on the BFTFI, go to www.bftf.org. For more information about U.S. policy goals in Europe and Eurasia, see www.state.gov/p/eur/.