Kwan Named America's First Public Diplomacy Envoy

by Laura Fawcett
Michelle Kwan with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

(11/9/06) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today introduced five-time World champion Michelle Kwan as America's first public diplomacy envoy. Secretary Rice, along with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen P. Hughes, made the announcement Thursday afternoon in the Treaty Room of the U.S. Department of State.

“Michelle embodies the American dream,” Secretary Rice said. “The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she rose to the heights of artistic and athletic excellence through her discipline, her drive and her determination. Even before Michelle won her first World Championship at age 15, she had already captivated the imaginations of people everywhere with her personal story … a story that is deeply an American story. Now, I am pleased that she is devoting her good name and her patriotism to help further our nation's public diplomacy efforts.”

In her new role, Kwan will work with Hughes and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Dina Habib Powell, in their efforts to help promote cross-cultural dialogue with international youth and to increase understanding of America by sharing her story and life experiences. Kwan will reach out to international young people by visiting their schools and clubs to speak about leadership and to engage them in a dialogue on social and educational issues. As a public diplomacy envoy, Rice said that Kwan will help “foster understanding of our democratic principles and the rich diversity of our people.

“One of Michelle's greatest objectives will be to engage and spark dialogue with young people all around the world by helping to tell America's story through her own story,” Rice said.

Rice and Kwan have a few things in common. The secretary was also a competitive figure skater as a child, and Kwan is following in Rice's footsteps by attending the University of Denver and majoring in political science and international relations.

Rice said the challenges she faced in figure skating, including handling constant performance appraisal, dealing with constant media scrutiny and the judgment of the international community, helped in some ways to prepare her for her role as secretary of state. Those same challenges will help Kwan as she embarks on a new journey.

“It is a real honor to accept this appointment,” Kwan said. “As an athlete, I was very proud to represent the United States, and now to do it in this position is really, really special to me.

“I started competing around the world and representing the United States at age 12, and I can say that the last 14 years I was in training for this position and this job today. I've always wanted to somehow serve our country, to contribute and to make a difference, and I feel that in this position I can do just that. I look forward to sharing my experience – my story – and the lessons that I've learned in competition – things like dedication, setting goals and how to go about achieving them; the importance of teamwork, and the reality of life that it's not always smooth sailing, and sometimes you have to pick yourself up and keep on going. I believe these are universal experiences.”

Kwan said she is excited to interact with young people across the world and share positive things about the culture and the people of the United States.

“I hope in small way I can bring people, and maybe even countries closer together.”

In addition to her studies and duties associated with her official appointment, Kwan continues to perform in skating exhibitions, work on special projects and serve as a corporate spokesperson.

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