November 23, 2022 : By Logan Smith - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
On Friday, Nov. 18, Liberty University’s Helms School of Government shuttled an International Relations class to the nation’s capital for a unique opportunity to tour the Chinese and Swedish Embassies and engage with the countries’ top diplomats on pressing issues.
Liberty has sent government students to Washington, D.C. on several occasions this year, where they were afforded the opportunity to visit multiple governmental agencies as well as foreign embassies.
After a brief tour of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, which showcased a vast array of Chinese history and art, students spent over an hour with the Embassy’s third-in-command, Minister Jing Quan. The senior Chinese official briefed students on the current relationship between China and the United States, stressed the importance of dialogue between nations, and opened the floor for questions, which ranged from COVID-19 policy, the Russia and Ukraine conflict, and the Taiwan issue.
“Our Chinese interlocutors reinforced one of the main reasons we thought it was important to go on this trip,” said Associate Professor of Government Scott Roenicke, who worked as a policymaker for 30 years before teaching at Liberty.
Roenicke worked as Senior Political-military Advisor for Russia to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he also served as the Director for Russia Affairs in the National Security Council at the White House. Many of these embassy trips are because of his interaction with senior U.S. Government and foreign officials.
“We can have fundamental policy differences with key strategic competitors around the world. However, we share a moral imperative to continue dialogue and to employ effective diplomacy to minimize the threat of unintended conflict and escalation,” Roenicke said. “This is a critical component of competent statecraft that our students here at Liberty need to inculcate into their psyche for when they become future U.S. diplomats.”
Immediately following the visit to the Chinese Embassy, students visited the “House of Sweden” (Swedish Embassy), where they met Deputy Chief of Mission Ingrid Ask and Head of Trade and Economic Affairs Björn Arvidsson. Students then questioned both representatives on Sweden’s economy, the Ukraine conflict, the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline, and Stockholm’s approach to immigration, refugees, gang and drug violence, and European security given their status as a NATO aspirant.
Roenicke presented gifts to both embassies on behalf of Liberty University: a replica tea set fashioned after a set owned by Thomas Jefferson for the Chinese Minister of Culture and a photograph depicting Swedish and American Marines for the House of Sweden.
“After visiting the Chinese and Swedish Embassies, I have observed the importance of diplomacy and discussion with international leaders,” said junior Politics & Policy student Layne Kelly. “One thing that stuck out to me was the focus on cooperation and mutual respect that we desire. Having the opportunity to engage two vastly different governments allowed me to consider their perspectives on relevant issues.”
“Being a part of the Helms School of Government is shaping my career path and has further developed my interest in policy through the emphasis it places on real-world experience,” Kelly added.
In addition to sponsoring trips, the School of Government hosts special guests every week to guest lecture in classes and meet directly with students. Guests have included Robert Greenway, a chief architect of the groundbreaking Abraham Accords peace agreement; former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell; U.S. Air Force Second Lieutenant Grace Tinkey; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; former Vice President Mike Pence; Captain of the USS Cole Kirk Lippold; and several other senior Government officials.
“Both Professor Roenicke and Dean (Robert) Hurt have told us multiple times how Liberty University’s government programs are unique,” said Hayes, who has visited D.C. six times in the last year through LU. “Liberty’s Christian curriculum has made these experiences even more valuable for me, mostly because it allows us as Christian students to see how the world functions outside of campus. I think it presents a perfect picture of how the world isn’t perfect, but that we can be the salt and light to that brokenness.”