On September 4, I attended a talk at UNM by Michael Hammer, Ambassador-Designate to Chile and former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy and Why it Matters to You”. Hammer gave an overview of the main duties of the State Department and discussed its ‘strategic priorities’ in advancing U.S. interests abroad. He highlighted several U.S. programs, including economic partnerships such as free trade agreements, jobs diplomacy to advance the interests of American companies abroad, empowerment of women and girls, and digital diplomacy. He finished by telling the audience members why they might want to work for the State Department, citing the foreign language skills that its employees develop, the experience of living in new cultures, and the variety and change of moving to new posts every 2-3 years.
Throughout his talk, Hammer emphasized the State Department’s commitment to promoting U.S. interests abroad. All of the priorities that he mentioned were expressed in terms of protecting U.S. national security, creating jobs in the U.S., and forging ties with other nations in order to enhance shared interests.The rhetoric of self-interest was juxtaposed with the stated priorities of promoting ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ in Latin America and around the world.
There is something interesting cooking in Brazil right now. Traditions are starting to change. The old guard, so keen on replicating the techniques and ingredients of Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States, are being edged out by those more keen to produce something authentically and honestly brasileiro. To add even more importance to this shift, the eyes of the outside world are starting to take notice, as they should be. But some of these eyes are not watching the ‘vem pa rua’ protests, nor are they watching Brazil’s uphill struggle to accommodate the world and its own citizens as it prepares for the Olympics and World Cup. These eyes are watching a man named Alex Atala.
Alex Atala is a celebrity chef. While the label ‘celebrity chef’ more often than not brings to mind images of acerbic and ego-maniacal TV personalities, Atala seems to be a force for good. Through his restaurantD.O.M in Sao Paulo - ranked as the sixth best restaurant in the world by some - Atala has used his new-found fame to push forward an ideology that is centered around the concept of alimento, which can be summed up as a manifesto that ties together environmental and social awareness, things that taste good, and a general sense of well-being.