Editorial: Improving our reputation abroad


When President Donald Trump addressed the United Nations on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and bragged about U.S. successes on a global scale, he received widespread laughter from the audience. His own tweet from August 2014 highlights an ultimate irony:

‘‘We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World.’’

The United States and its citizens do not have the most favorable reputation. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that less than half of the 38 countries surveyed had a favorable view of the U.S.

Some of this might stem from specific foreign policy decisions set in motion by the Trump administration which angered and frustrated members of the international community. These decisions include withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and Iran Nuclear Deal, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and starting a tariff war with China.

While these events have stirred the community abroad, they have caused unrest on a domestic level and created a deep partisan divide. This divide makes us seem vulnerable to people in other countries and have led to a new idea of what it means to be an American. 

Changing sentiments toward Americans should matter to us, especially as Lehigh students.

We are the future of domestic and international politics and our generation will be the next to inherit both the good and bad of what all administrations do with their time in Washington.

Lehigh is a hotbed of international connections, and given the resources we have, it’s important we are hyperaware of our changing reputation, as Americans and future leaders.   

In 2004, Lehigh became just the sixth university in the world to gain non-governmental organization recognition by the United Nations. As an NGO, Lehigh has the responsibility of spreading information to its constituency about its beliefs, activities and practices.

The partnership has provided opportunities for Lehigh students to attend speeches by world leaders, travel to the United Nations and take part in other events that promote our status as an NGO. Occasions such as these offer us the chance to hear and experience how members of international politics interact both with each other and eager youth.

This connection is extremely rare for a university, and it should be taken advantage of now more than ever as our country holds such a rocky relationship with many members of the United Nations.

Gaining knowledge on how our country fits within the scope of international politics is an important step for us to take if we are to enter adulthood with the open-mindedness to observe our damaged reputation and work to fix it.

Other globally focused entities at Lehigh such as the Office of International Affairs, the Global Union and an abundance of study abroad programs provide students with the opportunity to gain experience beyond the boundaries of our campus on South Mountain.

Studying abroad, interacting with international students or gaining experience working in a foreign country is bound to increase awareness of our reputation overseas. Without this perspective, we close ourselves off to criticisms of our country, and we think our entire reputation is dictated domestically.

Once we have that awareness, we can carry ourselves purposefully to reflect how we would like Americans to be viewed, regardless of how our leadership is seen.

Trump’s speech at the United Nations was an embarrassing moment for our country, and our reputation as a whole may see worse times before it starts to get better.

But it is up to us to improve how the world sees us, and with the opportunities and resources that we are provided at Lehigh, surely we are able to gain more of an international perspective before it’s our turn to take our place in the game of global politics.

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  1. Our relations abroad have never been better! This article is such a sham! The brown and white is becoming the fake news!

  2. If you think Trump is a laughing stock internationally you don’t understand geo-economic/strategic/political events well.

    Welcome to a new NAFTA. Welcome to an America with corporate tax rates that are again competitive with the rest of the developed world. Welcome to an America which is using bilateral trade agreements to make sure trade is fair for American workers.

    Trump is remaking the world order very quickly, on trade, tax, and geo strategic fronts. In fact he is remaking outer space as well. Some old-timey institutions like the UN don’t like being prodded into the modern age.

    UN delegates do not want change – they would like a world body that seeks to limit and embarrass the US while the US carries most of the cost. Of course this group will ant to mock him – the same group embraces dictators.

    I would recommend judging American international leadership by how much other countries comply with what we ask of them. Look at what country’s leadership is looking at new challenges like the rise of China and India and space warfare. Do not be so concerned about overfed bureaucrats trying to stuff their pockets with US $…these people are not decision makers int heir own countries…just errand boys.

    If you want to learn about international relations go to G-town, GW, or American for a semester or summer. Really dig into the subject with an open mind instead of regurgitating talking point from Trevor or other later night entertainment.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      I’m reading this, then reading it again, and, one, thinking, I thought we were past having to have a woody about power; did you really need that handle? And two, reminding myself that most of my Lehigh friends were unusually bright for Lehigh people, and that your comment doesn’t actually represent a decline in standards. It does remind me to feel a little bad for the IR faculty, though only a little bad, because god knows they’re compensated well enough. It is a bit of a waste, though.

    • Current Student on

      Unfortunately. Apparently being a welcome mat for people to rub their feet on is what is considered good policy, at least in the faculty’s view.

  3. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    “Trump’s speech at the United Nations was an embarrassing moment for our country, and our reputation as a whole may see worse times before it starts to get better.”

    The international community undoubtedly takes some of its clues from the treatment of Mr. Trump in America. It seems as though many if not most liberal Americans treat our president with contempt and as a very bad joke. As President Mr. Trump has had some accomplishments; he has attempted to carry through on many of his campaign promises; his base loves him. If, after four years, God willing, Mr. Trump becomes an ex-president, there will be plenty of time to vent about his stellar image as a human being.

    I think, President Putin (or whatever title he officially holds as dictator of Russia) is an embarrassment. If anything suits his purpose, he does it. If what he does is illegal or immoral he disclaims any connection with it. Poisonings in Great Britain and the little green men in Ukraine have been vigorously denied by Mr. Putin, along with many other actions which are meant to help achieve Mr. Putin’s goals. Who is responsible for Russian interference in our elections? Do you believe Mr. Putin’s denials. Embarrassment on the part of Russian citizens does not happen because those thoughts can be dangerous to one’s health.

    The reputation of of country is not enhanced by President Trump but I think it is damaged more by the tit for tat responses by his opponents and their followers. The political polarization of the country that gave us Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump as nominees has done the United States no favors. I’m embarrassed to say I look longingly on the 50’s and earlier where smoke filled rooms often produced nominees.

    After elections we should act like adults not kids.

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