Darrick Wood School was fortunate to have the opportunity to host a visit from the US ambassador to the UK, Mr Matthew Barzun, on September 26th. The ambassador’s motorcade swept up the school drive and out stepped the United State’s top diplomat in the UK accompanied by a phalanx of burly security men that did look like they meant business.
Mr Barzun was speaking to a large audience of sixth formers and his engaging personality and relaxed style soon won over his listeners. As a former business executive in the IT world Mr Barzun made good use of technology as the students were equipped with clickers which allowed them to respond interactively to questions posed by the ambassador.
Mr Barzun invited the audience to write down on cards both positive impressions they had of the USA as well as their concerns and these formed the basis of the rest of his presentation. The Darrick Wood audience came up with positives such as freedom, opportunity and diversity as well as concerns which included racial tension and gun control. The ambassador was clearly at ease in the company of sixth formers. He has carried out similar sessions at other schools round the country and he recently fed back the collated results of student responses so far in person to President Obama on his latest visit to the UK.
The ambassador’s visit came about as result of a very successful skyping session last term between US High School students at Kenston High School in Ohio and Government and Politics students at Darrick Wood School, part of the school’s commitment to developing international links.
The ambassador’s days in the UK are numbered because a new one will be selected when a new president takes office next year. His appointment, first as an ambassador to Sweden and then to the UK, was in recognition of his important contribution to Obama’s election campaign. This is in contrast to the situation in the UK where ambassadors emerge from the ranks of career diplomats.