Selling the world on spirit of Atlanta

That is why, this October, I am leading a delegation of nearly 50 foreign ambassadors from all over the world to visit Atlanta as part of the State Department’s “Experience America” program.

Our goal is to plant the seeds of new partnerships between organizations, businesses, and local officials and their counterparts overseas. The relationships that grow out of these visits can help create new jobs and educational opportunities, and they can burnish Atlanta’s reputation around the world.

Working closely with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the Office of the United States Chief of Protocol has organized a substantive and exciting itinerary for these ambassadors.

Highlighting technology, education and entrepreneurship, we will visit Georgia Tech and tour some of its premier research facilities, including a joint program with Emory University on biomedical engineering. New relationships abroad will help expand the reach of both these great Atlanta universities and create new opportunities for their students. We will also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a tour and conversation on global health with Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator at PEPFAR, and Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Focusing on Atlanta’s business community, Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam A. Williams has invited us to an event with Mayor Reed and the heads of many Atlanta companies. The event will emphasize Atlanta’s vibrant business community, international environment and send a clear message: Atlanta is a great place to do business.

The ambassadors will also meet with senior executives at CNN, a global icon and Atlanta institution. Of course, no trip to Atlanta would be complete without a visit to the World of Coca-Cola, where the ambassadors will be hosted by senior executives, learn about the company’s global operation and discuss new possibilities for partnerships.

At the Carter Library, the ambassadors will meet with President Carter and learn about the many initiatives spearheaded by the Carter Center, from election monitoring to the eradication of Guinea worms.

We hope to provide our visitors with a deeper understanding and appreciation of America’s people, culture and values. Where better to do that than Atlanta, home to so much of the legacy of the civil rights movement? The ambassadors will tour Morehouse College, receive a presentation on the papers of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. housed there, visit the King Center and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at his tomb. I hope they will carry some of what they see and learn there back with them to their homes around the world.

These diplomats will leave Atlanta with a new network of partners, businesses and organizations they can work with in the future. The result could be new educational exchange programs and research projects, new investment opportunities and business relationships, and a deeper cross-cultural understanding. That would be good for Atlanta, good for America and good for the world.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that “America has a great story to tell and we need to be telling it every day in every way.” That’s the spirit behind this trip.

I can’t wait to show off Atlanta and its famous Southern hospitality. Together, we’ll give our visitors a view of America they’ll never forget.

Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall is chief of protocol of the United States.

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