Yesterday I was in Washington DC and attended a conference with my husband at the State Department where Secretary Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address. WOW! It has been a dream of mine to meet her one day, but I never put it on my official bucket list because it seemed so out of reach. What I have learned from my husband is that nothing is out of reach. If you make your wishes known, sometimes it just happens. So let that be a lesson to any of you reading this that have some BIG wishes. It can happen to you!
|Secretary of State Hillary Clinton|
|Sec. Clinton and Mr. Kris Balderston, Special Rep. for Global Partnerships, US Dept. of State|
I had to look up the definition of diaspora, as it was a new term for me. A diaspora (from Greek διασπορά, "scattering, dispersion") is "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland" or "people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location", or "people settled far from their ancestral homelands".
Basically it was a great opportunity for people who had been born outside the USA and were doing great things in the USA and abroad to share their stories. It never really occurred to me that there were so many people from other places working here in the US until I visited Washington DC several years ago. It's the one place where you will hear dozens of languages in a single day. I had always had an interest in working at the United Nations or the state department when I was much younger, but then the Air Force took me to foreign places and I ended up staying there for an entire military career. At this conference, I was the minority. We had been invited by Mr. Romi Bhatia from the US Agency for International Development. Abdulhamid met him when we were in Washington DC in Spring and they discussed ways Somalis living in the USA might be able to help Somalia become a place where people could earn a living and raise children peacefully. Abdul's idea had been to create civil engineering jobs by rebuilding infrastructure and bring irrigation to the land outside Mogadishu so women could grow crops and sell them at the marketplace in the cities. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed during the war that started in 1991, which was basically a genocide against the well educated, well to do tribe that his family was a member of. Now peace is beginning to occur and naturally many Somalis want to be part of the revitalization because they have either family members there or a real desire to help their homeland.
So Secy. Clinton kicked off the conference with the most passionate speech about how it bothered her, as she traveled around the globe over the past decades, to see so much fighting in places where people should just get along. They chose instead to see their differences based on color, religion, tribe, etc. and made battle. She mentioned how she loved walking through New York city and saw people from different cultures all living peacefully side by side, while their families back where they came from were at war with each other. She painted a picture of America as a place where possibilities are endless and that's what attracts so many people to come here. Of course, there's no way to possibly deliver a speech as eloquently as she did. She rarely used notes. She never paused to find her place. She never once said 'Um". She is an incredible woman and has seen so many things in her life. It would be a treat to hear her stories all day.
Our trip was a very short one. We arrived late Tuesday night and left again wednesday evening. If we had more time, the conference was 2 days. The first at the State department and the second at the US AID building. The networking sessions they set up sounded amazing. They were giving tours of buildings and focusing on the people who were making things happen in the science and technology field. I only wish we'd had more time, but Abdulhamid was fasting due to Ramadan and the timing wasn't good. Maybe next time, the date will be better for Muslims who want to attend. It seemed like every taxi driver in Washington DC was Muslim. Just know that there are many people working this time of year who are not eating or drinking for 16 hours of the day.
|Here's the international group of people at our lunch table|
There were break out sessions in the afternoon. Abdul attended one about banking and met a former state department worker who became so frustrated with the way funds were being distributed abroad, that he started his own cell phone money transfer service and is now a multimillionaire. I attended a session with some amazing women who had started technology companies and done work to administer funds to wishful entrepreneurs. One of them, Anousheh Ansari, was the first Muslim woman in space! I was so humbled. I've learned that when you see a "foreigner" in the USA, you shouldn't assume they are not well educated. I was the one without a PhD!
|Look closely at the 2nd from the left and that's what a space traveler looks like!!!|
We also stayed at the historic Willard Hotel- lovely! Had dinner out on the patio and watched people go by. Had a nice view of the Washington Monument and we were just a block from the white house. The Capitol was in view from the front door of the hotel. And if you saw my facebook story, we were checking in and the desk clerk said to me, "you look familiar. Have you stayed with us before?" I was about to say no when my husband quickly said, "she's famous. She was on TV last night" and he was joking about a 40 second piece on our local Milwaukee news where I was interviewed about the weather this summer and how it was affecting electricity and water usage. I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow after that we were upgraded to a 'king suite' and it was lovely. Overall this was an amazing experience that I cherish.
|You can see the Washington momument behind this building, and the guard shack to the Whitehouse in the far right|
|The Capitol at the end of the street|
|Nice in room coffee bar with my husband's favorite brand of Italian coffee|
|our living room in the suite|
|Willard Intercontinental Hotel lobby|