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State Department: The Kremlin & President Putin, on 'the wrong side of history'

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President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin accepted the results of a hurried vote in a referendum in which the people of Crimea indicated their preference for the option for their "semi-autonomous territory" to be annexed to Russia, following months of protests that were often violent, and led to the eventual ouster of Crimea's former president earlier this month.

In a previously-scheduled event described as a “University Town Hall,” U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry issued the first response to these events, here, noting that the Kremlin and President Putin were on “the wrong side of history:”

“I was really struck and somewhat surprised and even disappointed by the interpretations in the facts as they were articulated by the [President, Putin], and with all due respect, they really just didn’t jibe with reality or with what’s happening on the ground.”

Encouraged by Secretary Kerry to ask questions, the focus of the University Town Hall event was “to make foreign policy less foreign.”

The State Department extended the invitation to students and their professors, as part of a formal unveiling of a new initiative referred to as Diplomacy Lab, in which both the students and members of the faculty in their respective schools grapple with a wide range of global issues and then contribute from their academic perspective, toward the creation of State Department foreign policy.

Secretary Kerry marked the occasion with the announcement of a new interactive map – now called Department of State by State – where users are invited to explore the State Department's engagement in each of the 50 states – state by state.

The audience for the event on Tuesday was comprised primarily of students and Washington-based interns, who waited their turn in long lines in order to interact with Secretary Kerry who encouraged them to become politically engaged in the area of foreign policy:

“Get involved in the political system. If you don’t think somebody else is making good choices, go tell people what the better choices are and show them how you can follow through on them, and don’t get bought out by the vast sums of money in American politics. Fight that and give people’s voices back to people. That’s how you do it.”

The Secretary also noted that he had given his first foreign policy address as Secretary of State at the University of Virginia on February 20, 2013. (See the UVa Today article for that event, here.)

The Diplomacy Lab and the University of Virginia manage the interface among the students and the faculty. The State Department, and UVa's OpenGrounds has enabled the cross-disciplinary collaborative work across the 'academical village,' and has played a substantial role in the University's participation in the Diplomacy Lab's pilot program.

The State Department selected students and faculty from the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary specifically, to participate in the national pilot program which began last fall, designating the two Virginia Schools as “founding partners.”

OpenGrounds serves to build bridges of interaction among each of the disciplines in Jefferson's ideal of having an "Academical Village," where knowledge can be exchanged in an interdisciplinary approach, generally:

OpenGrounds is building new networks to connect faculty, staff, students and diverse partners, inspire those who take risks at the frontiers of their fields and collaborate across boundaries, to create new disruptive ideas that make a real impact in the world.”

Delegations from both William & Mary and UVa were invited to come to Washington on Tuesday, as special guests, and were seated in the front rows for the event. Third-year students at the University, Schuyler Miller -- a double major in government and foreign affairs in the Department of Politics Honors Program; and Daniel Rosenfeld,who is majoring in political philosophy, policy and law -- both helped to design an implementation strategy for a project to remake the Community of Democracies, which is a "global democratic group whose goal is to promote and strengthen democracy worldwide," continuing a State Department endeavor that had been in the process of development earlier on.

In the era of Social Networking -- combined with the trend for browsers like Google Chrome and others which are now accommodating their having more of their users access the internet through tablets and smartphones, and that has led to the layout and design of websites having a singular look -- overtaken by fonts most appropriate for 2nd or 3rd- graders and conveying language that is reduced to snippets of information of to 140 characters, or of up to 100 - 200 words, which are then read by users who are now accustomed through short video taglines and audio soundbites to be consumed in an attention span approximately equal to the average elementary school-age child.

It will be interesting to learn, as these customs become entrenched to the point of no return, perhaps, whether these College and University students and those who succeed them can adapt to a language of diplomacy that will be sufficient to take civilization to a more peaceable geopolitical perspective, in the 21st-Century.

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