Meridian Exchange | May 2020

Meridian believes that the United States is stronger at home when globally engaged and international cooperation is vital to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Through more than 30 programs over the last nine weeks, Meridian has continued to connect government, business and diplomatic leaders to collaborate on these challenges and other global issues. Please contact community@meridian.org to join our efforts.


Reimagining diplomacy with U.S. and European leaders

The relationship between the United States and Europe is dynamic and multi-faceted. To gain insight into U.S.-France relations amid COVID-19, Meridian hosted His Excellency Philippe Étienne, Ambassador of France to the U.S., along with FedEx CEO Fred Smith and President Raj Subramaniam. FedEx operates more significantly in France than in any other country and company executives have seen first-hand how France has taken a major leadership role within the EU as it supports its European neighbors in combatting the spread of the virus. Through a grant with the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Meridian partnered with U.S. embassies throughout Europe to implement the U.S. Speaker Series: Transatlantic Voices program, which aims to strengthen U.S.-European cooperation and understanding on shared values and challenges through virtual discussions with global leaders. Watch the most recent webinar in the series here.

Connecting artists at home to spark creativity with the world

For the last six decades Meridian has viewed arts and culture as tools of diplomacy to connect people around the world — which we believe matters now more than ever. While COVID-19 has presented obstacles in every facet of life, it has also allowed the creative community to connect in ways not previously considered, effectively expanding their reach and impact. The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy hosted a high-level virtual program featuring Artistic Directors of major ballet companies from across the globe to discuss how to best lead dance and performing arts organizations through this crisis. Moderated by Septime Webre, Artistic Director of Hong Kong Ballet, the conversation featured panelists Julie Kent, Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet & Meridian Council Member; Ted Brandsen, Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of the Dutch National Ballet; and Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director of the American Ballet Theatre. The hip hop community has also found ways to connect from home, as Meridian and Next Level kicked off the four-part virtual program series Next Level Live! The first program featured a performance by Next Level alums Toni Blackman and DaVinCi, and was preceded by a discussion with the artists and founders of the organization. Watch the full ballet program here and the hip hop program here.

Senator Kaine on the Congressional response to COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to upend life around the world, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined a Meridian virtual convening to discuss steps that Congress has taken to respond to the economic and food crises caused by the pandemic. As a Member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Kaine examined how U.S. defense and foreign policy is being conducted during this time of heightened worldwide tensions. He called for increased transparency and noted that the administration should not suppress the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from issuing state reopening guidelines or announcing testing targets. Senator Kaine stressed the dangers of pursuing anti-immigration policies at a time when people and nations need to unite, urging for comprehensive immigration reform. “I am a huge believer in that things work better in the world if we’re engaged globally,” Kaine concluded. Watch the full conversation here.

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