Sixteen students have been racing through the halls of the US Congress over the past two weeks lobbying politicians to improve Taiwan-US relations.
They were members of the “Ambassador Program” organized by the Formosa Foundation to encourage Capitol Hill to improve trade relations, arms sales, military cooperation and Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations.
This was the program’s 13th annual “Congressional boot camp,” which was designed to help the students develop grassroots advocacy and campaign skills.
During the whirlwind sessions, the students met with a total of 119 members of Congress.
While almost all of the students were from Taiwan or the US, this year’s class included one student from China currently studying in the US.
“With on-the-ground activist work and training with think tanks and experts, the ambassadors garner a strong knowledge base on Taiwan-US relations and gain an insider’s perspective on how Congress works,” program director Yeh Chieh-ting (葉介庭) said.
US House Foreign Affairs Committee Asia Subcommittee chairman Representative Matt Salmon talked with the students about the US’ “one China” policy and about his current efforts to win Interpol membership for the nation.
Others who talked with the students included US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers, Washington-based Liberty Times correspondent Nadia Tsao (曹郁芬), American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) managing director Joseph Donovan and Project 2049 executive director Mark Stokes.
Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson, the National Interest executive editor Harry Kazianis and Freedom House vice president of analysis Vanessa Tucker also addressed the ambassadors.
Others who spoke to the group included RAND Corp policy analyst Joanna Yu Taylor, University of Miami professor June Dreyer, author Gordon Chang (章家敦), Brookings Institution scholar Richard Bush, Foreign Policy Initiative executive director Christopher Griffin and Formosan Association for Public Affairs president Mark Kao (高龍榮).
Since its launch in 2003, more than 300 students have graduated the Ambassador Program, collectively holding more than 1,700 meetings with members of Congress.
The program is financed entirely from individual and private contributions.