The International Advisory Council (IAC) is co-chaired by Ambassador William Courtney and Ambassador Aurelia Brazeal. Amb. Courtney is an advisor at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Amb. Brazeal advises the Charles B. Rangel Fellowship Program and the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship programs that bring diversity into the foreign service. As experts in diplomacy, this pair brings unique insights gained over decades of experience in the field of international affairs.
In the following Q&A discussion, these thought leaders reveal their ambitions for the council charged with engaging American allies and partners across the globe in the America250 commemoration. For two-and-one-half centuries, international cooperation has been vital to America’s success. These co-chairs center their discussion on the role of the United States in world affairs as it relates to the next 250 years of American democracy and diplomacy.
A250: What inspired you both to be co-chairs for this advisory council?
Courtney: During my career as a diplomat, I saw so many instances in which America’s success depended on the contributions of allies and partners. Allied efforts during the Cold War were a dramatic example. I wanted to help America250 highlight how allies and partners have helped our country win independence and succeed ever since.
Brazeal: I was excited by the idea that the International Advisory Council will develop an action agenda recognizing that people-to-people relationships globally underpin country-to-country relationships. Working with the diverse members of the council, I believe as co-chairs, we can contextualize the moment we are in in a way that includes the reality of our past, the reality of the time now, and points to the bright post-2026 future.
What do you hope to accomplish as a co-chair pair?
Courtney: I hope my work on the Council will help it develop ideas for programs which increase Americans’ awareness of the value of international engagement.
Brazeal: As part of a team, I hope any agenda developed includes recognition that the United States, from its very beginning, reached out to foreign governments and people to support our new country. International relationships have been a bedrock of America’s founding.
What is your vision for the advisory council?
Courtney: Americans have forged a vibrant democracy and economy and developed an enviable capacity to identify and overcome some of our shortcomings. The Council will suggest ideas for commemorative programs which highlight the enormous value of international partnerships.
Brazeal: I hope we can include an educational component that allows Americans to comprehend international relationships that were—and are—essential to the U.S.’ very existence. We can have a forward-looking multidisciplinary approach to international affairs, including the role immigrants have played in the development of the country.
How will you know you’ve accomplished your goals?
Courtney: To the extent that America250 programs encourage discussion abroad—especially among students and civic and political leaders—about ways to advance democratic practices, the Council will have made a modest contribution.
Brazeal: When more Americans define our next 250 years as including an international component where the U.S. works with other countries on shared goals. The United States cannot go it alone, in my humble view.
What does America need to know about your advisory council?
Courtney: As Americans participate in commemorative activities, they should gain a deeper appreciation of how international engagement—from people-to-people contacts, to trade and investment, to defense and security cooperation— make our country stronger and more prosperous, and inspire us to look honestly at our own problems and address them.
Brazeal: The enormous talent of its members will be dedicated to creating proposals that allow Americans to expand their understanding of international connectivity and might underpin future activities from the community level to the national level. I am excited by the possibilities.