Posted on 17 September 2012.
Graduate Veterans Rob Sedgley (L) and Michael Rodriquez (R) with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, from New Hampshire.
In the middle of July, three members of the Dartmouth Graduate Veterans Association traveled to Washington D.C., to attend the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s (USGLC) “Impact 2012 Symposium.” As the only student representatives from the Ivy League, this small contingent of graduate veterans had the chance to interact with powerful players from government and politics, the national news media, and national non-profit groups.
The USGLC advocates for a consistent expansion of the U.S. diplomacy toolbox. At the core of its mission are the three D’s; diplomacy, development, and defense. Preaching the importance of “Smart Power,” the group recognizes that America’s best tools to build a safe world are strengthening its humanitarian commitment and building economic prosperity in developing nations.
Veterans have an important position in the USGLC’s mission. As former soldiers, they have a intricate understanding of the ramifications of state instability, as well as a first-hand knowledge of the power of diplomacy and “smart power.” Veterans Ron Bucca, Mike Rodriguez, and Rob Sedgely traveled to the conference in hopes of learning more about the state of international affairs – they came away realizing they had a lot to give to the effort.
“Veterans are credible messengers,” said Brendan Flynn a Coast Guard Academy Graduate and Military Outreach Coordinator for the USGLC , during the Vets for Smart Power evening dinner. The USGLC values veterans, who know first-hand about the importance of maintaining a strong military, and are also aware that the military cannot face alone the problems abroad.
On the main day of the conference, the veterans attended a breakfast presentation on microfinance institutions and the crucial role they play in the movement and accessing of capital in developing regions. After breakfast, the group went to the State Department and listened to Tom Nides, Deputy Secretary of State speak on the importance of the foreign aid budget. Nides explained the importance of reaching out for positive change, saying, “This [foreign aid] is the best money that can spent for our national security.” Afterwards, they split up to attend different luncheons, on issues ranging from enhancing public-private partnerships to global commerce and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. When the luncheons were over, the vets took the floor of the exposition, where NGOs and government organizations displayed their newest diplomatic technology; from medical devices to microfinance projects, the exposition highlighted the ever-expanding toolbox of American diplomacy.
After the exposition, the veterans attended a series of talks by diplomatic leaders – speakers like NPR’s Cokie Roberts, Senator John Kerry, and Ed Gillespie and Terry McAuliffe, the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, respectively. These speakers, among others, emphasized the need for the expansion of the foreign affairs budget, and cited the huge misconceptions among the American public about how much we spend on development missions (the actual foreign affairs budget typically hovers around 1% of all federal spending). Diplomacy and development, they argued, leads to a defensible America, and an American that is fulfilling its role as a world leader.
Bucca, Rodriguez and Sedgley also had the opportunity to meet with Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, as well as Congressman Charlie Bass, who represents New Hampshire’s second district (which includes Hanover). The conversation focused on the importance of the foreign aid budget and the role of defense, development, and diplomacy in national security. All of the congressman and senators were receptive to the message, and appreciative of the service and achievement of Dartmouth’s Veterans.
On the day after the conference, two of the veterans traveled to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, to visit with injured soldiers and to spread the word about Dartmouth’s unique relationship with veterans. “It’s a good place to go to get some perspective on life,” said Bucca, who himself served for ten years with the Army. “It’s inspiring to see how positive they’re and forward looking. ”
The GVA attended the Impact 2012 Symposium on their own initiative – they are an apolitical group, but support activism and involvement in national affairs. The GVA aims to unite, mobilize, advocate, and help network for Veterans in the graduate studies programs at Dartmouth. This November, they will be hosting a dinner to raise awareness about veteran issues. For more information on the GVA and for more pictures from the conference, check out their website here.
by Zach Williams