Ambassador Barzun Goes to College: Learning from Sixth Form

Today, Ambassador Barzun will embark on a sixth form visit to Bristol. This marks his third college briefing this week and his tenth in the past month. By speaking one-on-one with students, the Ambassador aims to engage young adults across London and its surrounding areas in discussing their own perspectives on U.S. /U.K. relations.

This special foreign relations briefing is composed of two sections. The first consists of multiple choice questions addressing preconceived notions of either country. Questions fall along the lines of “is America too involved in the world’s problems”, and “what foreign policy issue is most important to you”. Yesterday, the Ambassador attended King Solomon Academy and was presented with common responses to these questions. The Middle East Peace continued to top the charts as the most important foreign policy issue for students over ISIS, Ukraine, U.K. in the E.U., and climate change, issues the Ambassador takes into consideration when engaging in international politics.

Despite the sensitive topics, the Ambassador manages to bring about laughs from his student audience. They eventually come to feel relaxed and free to express their specific views on America for the next portion of the talk. This consists of a vivid discussion where students specify their frustrations and dislikes as well as the aspects they enjoy most about the United States. The Ambassador instructs the sixth formers to write down these “likes and dislikes” on cards which are collected and later turned into word clouds like those shown below. Time and time again, the issue of guns and gun laws have taken the lead as the biggest concern for sixth form students. In contrast, opportunity, NASA, and technology seem to dominate the “likes”.

In the last portion of the talk, Ambassador Barzun awards two special Embassy coins to outstanding sixth form students. This week, Head Boy and Head Girl, Suleyman Said and Noorulanne Saeed from Eastbury Comprehensive School were among the recipients of the tokens. Traditionally, a high ranking officer in the U.S. military awards similar “Challenge Coins” to servicemen who have shown outstanding achievements. Similarly, Embassy coin recipients exhibit significant leadership and academic excellence, attributes the Ambassador feels are worth recognizing.Since taking office, Ambassador Barzun has found speaking to teenagers and young adults to be one of the most important (and the most enjoyable) part of his job. It allows him to obtain genuine insight on the values of what he calls “the future leaders of Great Britain”. The Ambassador recently celebrated his 50th visit since taking office and looks forward to making another fifty.