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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush adviser Hughes promotes foreign languages, travel at Dallas summit - Dallas: At summit, Hughes pushes for youths to study abroad

By JAMES HOHMANN - The Dallas Morning News - Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Karen Hughes, longtime confidant of President Bush and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, encouraged about three dozen local teenagers to learn foreign languages and study abroad during a youth summit Monday in Dallas.

"Your generation is going to be the first truly global generation," she said.

"Today's world calls for us to have open doors, open hearts and open minds. It's up to us to break down barriers."

The daylong "diversity dialogue" at Southern Methodist University was promoted as an opportunity for area students to meet government dignitaries and talk about foreign cultures. It was sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas.

Mr. Bush charged Ms. Hughes with promoting America's image overseas in July 2005. She has kept a low profile domestically since getting off to a rocky start, which included an icy reception during a "listening tour" around the Middle East.

"One of the things people say to me about my job is that it is mission impossible," she said.

In fact, she said in an interview after the morning session, the day after Mr. Bush announced she would take the job, "The vice president looked at me and said, 'Karen, my condolences.' ... I've always liked a challenge."

Ms. Johnson, chairwoman of the Texas Democratic congressional delegation, lauded Ms. Hughes for her efforts and said that peace will take bipartisan cooperation.

During Monday's program, Ms. Hughes fired off a laundry list of initiatives she has spearheaded at the State Department. She said her office laid the groundwork for improving global attitudes about the U.S. by taking better advantage of new forms of media such as the Internet and reaching out to younger children who have not made up their minds about America.

The majority of the population in many countries is under 25 years old, she said, so youth outreach is as important as ever.

"I believe it is possible to imagine a better future," she said.

To apply for the summit, participants sent in an application form and wrote an essay.

Information was sent to all the public middle and high schools in Dallas and to youth organizations such as the YMCA.

The group was divided between 13- to 15-year-olds and 16- to 18-year-olds, each of whom was given a white T-shirt with a drawing of a dove on the front. They went to classrooms for discussions and watched a student theater production after the morning speeches.

Ms. Hughes described the U.S. as a "melting pot." But a second speaker, Mahmoud Eboo, a Shiite Muslim leader based in Atlanta, said that "mosaic" and "tapestry" were better characterizations.

"That creates fusion of color," he said.

Read more in the Dallas Morning News

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