By Carol Loftur-Thun
I’ve always wondered why Falls Church is known as “The Little City.” It reminds of the “Little Engine That Could,” and Falls Church City is so much more than a place that “could”—it’s a place that “does.” And does it big.
A case in point is the new “Diplomacy At Risk!” TV series with the first six episodes produced here in Falls Church City. Led by our visionary Senior Executive Producers Diana and Stephen Watkins, an experienced public television producer and diplomat duo, our team of Executive Producers Janice Bay, Bob Loftur-Thun and myself, produced these episodes to help educate Americans about the value of U.S. diplomacy.
Bob and I got involved because living here in the City, we not only had the chance to give our daughters a world class education, we also could give them a world view and experiences that are global and generous, instead of narrow and nationalist. Founders of Falls Church City’s International Baccalaureate program may not have realized it would make the City so attractive to U.S. State Department families, and that could make our small town such a global village, but it did. Because of this, our daughters had good friends growing up who had lived in Egypt, Japan, Thailand, Kenya, Haiti and Belgium, to name just a few places. As sad as it was to see friends often come and go, it made their world here in Falls Church City so much bigger.
Our youngest, Hayley, had a friend whose father was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, so she had the chance to live in Haiti for a summer and work with Father Rick Frechette, the 2012 Opus Prize laureate, an international humanitarian award of $1 million, which recognizes unsung heroes conquering the world’s most persistent social problems. In his hospital, she worked with seriously ill children who had been abandoned by their parents. The next summer she traveled to Kenya with a friend whose mother works for the World Bank, and got to volunteer in Kibera Slum in Nairobi, the largest urban slum in Africa. Just a few weeks ago, as she returned from her second trip to Ecuador, she got a call from a George Mason High School alumnus and friend asking if she wanted to go to Shanghai, and of course she said “yes!”
But when Hayley went to back to Virginia Commonwealth University and mentioned she had friends whose families were in the State Department, some VCU friends didn’t know what the State Department was. These bright, talented millennials had never heard of the U.S. State Department. That was when I decided to sign on to help this “Diplomacy At Risk!” effort.
As news headlines focus on conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, the possibility of talks with N. Korea, and Russian interference in elections, the U.S. State Department faces proposed substantial budget cuts for FY19 and vacancies that threaten the strength of U.S. diplomacy. Over 60 percent of top-ranking diplomats have left the State Department in the past year. Diplomacy saves lives and jobs every day. Yet many Americans do not know what diplomacy is or why it is important. This team led by the Watkins launched the “Diplomacy at Risk!” TV series to sound the alarm and encourage Americans to get engaged and voice their support for U.S. diplomacy.
This series highlights top diplomats’ personal stories and decades of experience to showcase the role diplomacy plays in preventing wars, keeping the peace, fostering trade, preventing pandemics, and protecting Americans at home and abroad.
Even though it often receives much less attention and funding than defense, intelligence, immigration, and national security efforts, diplomacy saves lives and jobs for Americans.
Episodes focus on national security, jobs and business, global health, and human rights. They feature panels and one-on-one interviews, and highlight key roles diplomats play in negotiating and resolving our nation’s core international challenges. Each episode drills down in-depth to address urgent U.S. economic and national security issues.
Given the City’s unique identity, it is fitting these first episodes were produced at Falls Church Community Television through the Falls Church City Cable Access Corporation. The first episode premiered on April 26, and other episodes will air on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. on FCCTV, RCN 2, COX 11, Verizon 35. Episodes will be available on public access TV channels viewable around the world, as well as on other local public access TV stations in the Metro D.C. area, and on the YouTube channel Diplomacy At Risk. Check it out at www.DiplomacyAtRisk.org.
It turns out “The Little City” has been the perfect place to launch another big idea, and leverage the brainpower and international reach of this big hearted place. As it grows beyond this initial effort to a broader scope and wider audiences, let’s hope the “Diplomacy At Risk!” TV series can create a big impact!