Friday, May 26, 2017

My First Celebrity Selfie

This is Joanna Lohman! She's a professional soccer player (for the Washington Spirit) and sports diplomat. She shares her love of soccer with people around the world by running programs to support girls' empowerment, cultural understanding, development, and more.

How can sports do that? Here are a few (non-exhaustive) ways:

  • Sports can break down barriers. Race, gender, social status, and other factors that might separate participants off the field don't matter while they play. That means people who otherwise would never talk or even interact can come together for something like soccer.
  • Sports can give you skills to succeed in life. To excel in soccer you need to know how to be a leader and part of a team. You need confidence and an ability to get back up when you fall down or make mistakes. You need to be creative, especially when you lack the resources that a typical U.S. soccer league might have.
  • Sports can challenge assumptions. In many places, meeting an accomplished female athlete like Joanna Lohman is a game-changer. She provides a role model that certain groups - especially young girls in certain areas - might not otherwise encounter over the course of their entire lives.
  • Sports can be a source of safety. As in the U.S., sports can help keep at-risk youth off the streets. Sports can provide people with deeper, more meaningful connections with peers and mentors. It can provide them with goals to work towards in an environment where they can trust that others will play by the rules. It can help make them more resistant to the temptation of resorting to crime or violence or extremist ideologies.

Joanna is one of the most inspiring speakers I have heard during PD (Public Diplomacy) training or at FSI (the Foreign Service Institute) in general. When she talks, you can feel her passion not only for soccer but also for all those she has served. By the end of her presentation, all the cultural affairs officers in the room were basically fighting to convince her to come do a program with their post! I'm proud to have her with us representing the U.S. abroad.

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