Barack Obama

A group of Russian high school basketball players arrived in Washington for the “first exchange under the bilateral presidential commission, a mechanism established by U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, during their summit in Moscow in July 2009,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. The 13-15 year old students were treated to a shootaround with President Obama on the White House basketball court.

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On the heels of her commencement address at George Washington University, during which she urged the graduating class to “take it global,” First Lady Michelle Obama told students at Wayne State University in Detroit yesterday to “engage broadly” with the world and to participate in an exchange program if at all possible— “it’ll advance yo

“I’m…asking you to keep being you, to keep doing what you’re doing. Just take it global,” First Lady Michelle Obama advised George Washington University’s graduating class of 2010 during her commencement address this past Sunday:

After a final Senate vote yesterday, the Travel Promotion Act (HR 1299) moves to the White House for President Obama’s signature. The act would authorize $10 million in seed money in FY 2010 — and in the future match as much as $100 million a year in corporate contributions — for a nonprofit entity designed to promote the United States as a destination for foreign tourists.

At the annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum last Saturday, President Obama announced that Rashad Hussain, deputy associate White House counsel, “will serve as a special U.S. envoy to the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference.” An administration official remarked that “[a]ppointing a special envoy to the OIC is an important part of the president’s commitment to engaging Muslims around the world based on mutual respect and mutual interest,” Politico reported.

President Obama’s commitment in Shanghai to “dramatically expand” the number of American students studying in China to 100,000 will take place over a period of four years, according to a U.S.-China Joint Statement issued in Beijing on Tuesday:

“The two countries noted the importance of people-to-people and cultural exchanges in fostering closer U.S.-China bilateral relations and therefore agreed in principle to establish a new bilateral mechanism to facilitate these exchanges. The two sides are pleased to note the continued increase in the number of students studying in each other’s country in recent years.

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At a town hall meeting with future Chinese leaders in Shanghai today, President Obama announced his administration’s intention to “dramatically expand” the number of American students studying in China to 100,000:

“We know that more is to be gained when great powers cooperate than when they collide. That is a lesson that human beings have learned time and again, and that is the example of the history between our nations. And I believe strongly that cooperation must go beyond our government. It must be rooted in our people -- in the studies we share, the business that we do, the knowledge that we gain, and even in the sports that we play. And these bridges must be built by young men and women just like you and your counterparts in America.

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The Senate added provisions to the FY 2010 Homeland Security appropriations bill on Wednesday that would mandate federal contractor use of E-Verify, CQ.com reports:

The amendment requiring government contractors to use the E-Verify system was adopted by voice vote after a motion to table it failed, 44-53, despite a surprise announcement from the Department of Homeland Security announcing its commitment to take a similar action.

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At the same time the House goes to the floor today to pass its version of the State-Foreign Operations spending bill (in which educational and cultural exchanges are funded at $600 million, $33 million less than the Obama administration’s request but a $62 million increase over current levels), the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin work on its own State-Foreign Operations bill. Senators will seek to increase funding for diplomacy and the Foreign Service, “even as overall funding for foreign affairs takes a hit,” reports CQ.com:

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President Obama’s trip to Russia this week was an important public diplomacy opportunity, a chance to strengthen a bilateral relationship that has faltered in recent years, and is initially being judged a success, the Washington Post reported:

Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said Obama's visit was more successful than most in Russia had expected. Obama "made all the right sounds in a very respectful way" and did much to reduce mistrust in Moscow, he said.

"It's not only a change in tone. It was a change in substance," he added. "The new agenda is much broader than ever."

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