Discussion Questions, Activities and Further Resources

Discussion Questions

Discussion questions are provided as guidelines to help introduce the issues related to diplomacy. Discussion questions are divided into eight general categories that align with the U.S. National Social Studies Standards. The Diplomacy 101 section of the website will guide you in exploring these questions.

Introductory Questions

Basic questions related to the Department of State and diplomatic relations.

  1. What do you know about the U.S. Department of State, also known as the State Department?
  2. Who is the Secretary of State?  Who appoints the Secretary and who approves the appointment?
  3. What are the duties of the Secretary of Sate?
  4. Why do you think that the United States maintains diplomatic relations with foreign countries?
  5. Why does the United States offer foreign assistance to countries overseas?
  6. Why would the State Department sponsor international exchange programs for students, artists and professionals?

Leadership Traits

Skills, traits and characteristics which contribute to making an individual a great world leader.

  1. What are some positive qualities of a world leader?
  2. Who are our current world leaders?
  3. What are some ways to find out who our current world leaders are?
  4. What role does diplomacy play in the making of a successful world leader?
  5. What characteristics and/or behaviors contribute to being a successful diplomat?
  6. What is the difference between being a leader and being famous?
  7. What motivates a person to want to become a world leader?
  8. Are there any risks associated with being a world leader?
  9. Should world leaders be held to higher ethical standards than ordinary citizens? Why or why not?
  10. Who are some important world leaders from the past? Why were these past world leaders important?
  11. What decisions did they make about their lives in order to become world leaders?
  12. What are some careers in Foreign Service?

Peace, Democracy, and Social Issues

Issues involving international human rights, fair elections and judicial reform.

  1. How does diplomacy help promote human rights in other countries?
  2. What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
  3. Do all countries have the same basic human rights?
  4. What are considered basic human rights in the United States and/or other countries?
  5. What are some significant human rights issues in your country?
  6. Why are issues such as religious freedom and fair elections important to you, your community, and your country?
  7. How can human rights positively affect the whole world?
  8. Give some examples of significant human rights achievements in history.
  9. Are there individuals or groups of people who have struggled or are currently struggling for their rights?
  10. How did these events or achievements affect the rest of the world?
  11. Where in the world are people today striving for human rights?  Who are they and what are they doing?
  12. What historical documents lay out human rights for citizens?
  13. Do immigrants have different rights?
  14. Who are some famous people who championed human rights?  What did they propose and/or do?  What effects of their work can be seen today
  15. What local, national, and international organizations promote human rights?
  16. Is getting an education a human right?
  17. What is judicial reform?
  18. What are some of the issues that are posed by people working for judicial reform?
  19. What are some examples of ideas for implementing judicial reform?
  20. Is judicial reform needed? Explain why or why not.
  21. What is a fair election?
  22. Where in the world has there been what the press has called an unfair election?  Why was it called that?  What was done about it?
  23. What should happen if an election in a country is declared unfair?
  24. How does the Department of State work on human rights issues?

Business, Trade, and Economics

Issues involving multi-national investment and trade agreements, which promote better relations and improve the overall welfare of the global population.

  1. How does diplomacy help promote trade and investment?
  2. What percent of the United States government’s operating costs is spent on all forms of diplomacy?
  3. What goods and products do you use that come from another country?
  4. What products does your country or your home town trade to other countries?
  5. Why do countries import and export goods?
  6. What industries in your country are “disappearing?” Why?
  7. How do international banks (e.g. World Bank, International Monetary Fund) help countries?
  8. Why is it important to help countries that are less developed?
  9. Should world leaders focus on their own countries economic problems instead of those in other, needier countries?
  10. Explain why “creativity” and “intellectual capital” can be considered national products.
  11. Discuss the difference between the things students feel they need and things they want. Have the students distinguish the difference.
  12. How does the Department of State work on business, trade and economic issues?

Science and Technology

Issues related to science and technologies, which can have varied national perspectives (e.g. ethics of cloning, genetically modified crops, international space collaboration).

  1. What are some international science and technology issues that have varied perspectives?
  2. What are the benefits of international cooperation in scientific research?
  3. What are the obstacles to international cooperation in scientific research?
  4. What relationships between your community and neighboring communities or countries concern science and technology?
  5. What international efforts are underway in the area of space exploration? What did scientists learn from these efforts?
  6. Why is it important to sign agreements with other countries about science and space issues?
  7. What scientific discoveries from the past do you know about? How are they important now?
  8. How do research institutions communicate their findings to influence public policy?
  9. What ethical issues come up concerning advances in medicine (e.g., stem cell growth, cloning) and public health?
  10. What is the world population and how will its growth affect your country?
  11. In a time of increased international travel, in what ways can health issues in other countries affect you?
  12. In what ways has the Internet and social-media changed people’s lives?
  13. How does communications technology affect international efforts at solving worldwide problems?
  14. What by-products of computer technology development affect health and welfare in the United States and abroad?
  15. What success have efforts had to encourage women to enter science and technology fields in your country and internationally?
  16. What advances in solar power and other alternative energy sources exist today?


Issues related to peacekeeping efforts, combating terrorism, and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

  1. What is the definition of peace?
  2. What is the importance of peace? Are there other things more important?
  3. Who are some of the world’s most famous peacemakers?
  4. What characteristics and qualities do peacemakers share?
  5. What have these peacemakers done for humanity?
  6. What is the definition of terrorism?
  7. What are some of the causes and effects of terrorism? Why do terrorists do what they do?
  8. How does terrorism affect world peace?
  9. What is being done to combat terrorism?
  10. How does diplomacy work to prevent terrorism?
  11. What are weapons of mass destruction?
  12. Which countries possess weapons of mass destruction?
  13. What events in history involved WMD? What were long-term affects of these events?
  14. What did the international community learn about previous terrorism incidents and WMD uses?
  15. How is the production of weapons of mass destruction being controlled?
  16. What steps are taken in case of an emergency related to weapons of mass destruction?
  17. How does the Department of State work on issues of peace and security?

History of Foreign Relations

Past foreign policy initiatives and significant historical events in diplomacy provide a perspective to current diplomacy issues.

  1. What does the term “foreign relations” mean?
  2. Do the terms “foreign policy” and “diplomacy” mean the same thing?
  3. What do you know about your country’s role in foreign policy initiatives?
  4. How can you find out more about your county’s role in foreign policy initiatives?
  5. What milestones in diplomatic history are most significant in your country?
  6. How do these events affect or relate to current international relations?
  7. Do diplomats and world leaders learn from past events and situations?
  8. What crises could have been prevented by learning from past events?
  9. What role does the media play in influencing foreign policy?
  10. What is the best way to stay informed about foreign affairs?
  11. What does the term “propaganda” mean?
  12. Does a country’s position on foreign policy represent the opinion of all of its citizens?
  13. Why was the United Nations established?
  14. What is the current role of United Nations?
  15. What were the major wars? Why were they fought? How did the wars come to an end?
  16. How are civil wars the same or different from world wars?
  17. How do children and other citizens in war torn countries cope?
  18. Who are the world leaders today and what are their opinions on foreign policy issues such as terrorism?
  19. What politician can you think of today who will be remembered in the future? What will they be remembered for?
  20. Is there more peace and human rights throughout the world today than in the past? Why or why not?
  21. What can citizens do to make an impact on how their country handles foreign policy issues?

Health and Environmental Awareness

Issues related to health and environmental issues (e.g. protection of natural resources, safe drinking water, elimination of world hunger, better healthcare access).

  1. What worldwide environmental issues are most compelling today?
  2. Why does the environmental policy of one country affect others?
  3. What can individual citizens do to help protect the environment?
  4. What does the phase “Think globally, act locally” mean?
  5. What is being done about air and water quality where you live?
  6. What natural resources exist where you live and in your country?
  7. What resources must your country import from elsewhere?
  8. What are some of the medical and health concerns in your country?  Are these issues of concern in other countries?
  9. How do health issues in other countries affect citizens in your country?
  10. How is the topic of hunger addressed in your country and in other countries around the world?
  11. How are people with disabilities helped in your community?
  12. How does the Department of State work on environmental issues?

Arts, Culture and Sports

Examples of how international relationships and understanding can be increased through the sharing and promoting of arts, culture and sports.

  1. What do you consider to be unique or traditional forms of art, music, dance or sports existing today in your community?
  2. From which countries or regions did these art forms and culture originate?
  3. What are some interesting forms of art, music, dance or sports from countries around the world?
  4. What are some unique holidays and celebrations in your community and in other places around the world?
  5. How are these celebrations and arts similar and how are they different?
  6. What do you think can be discovered about a particular culture from their traditional artwork, music and dance?
  7. How important are international events like the Olympics or film festivals to promoting diplomacy?
  8. How does sharing local culture and art contribute to a larger community experience: festivals, history, holidays, religion, family, education, story-telling and politics?
  9. How have global communication methods such as the Internet and satellite television influenced our understanding of the visual arts, celebrations and sports of other cultures?
  10. What are local communities and other peoples of the world doing to preserve their unique cultural heritage?
  11. What local art or culture has garnered attention beyond your community?
  12. How is your community actively sharing their own arts, culture and sports?
  13. How important do you think celebrating arts, culture and sports are to cultural identity?
  14. How can an artist or a sports figure act as a diplomat?

Getting Started Activities

Suggestions on how to use Discover Diplomacy with students.

Explore: People

Hear diplomats who represent the United States discuss what they do and how they do it.

  1. Make a chart that spans the last 100 years. In the first column mark who was the Secretary of State. In the second column list what their diplomatic challenges were during that time period.
  2. Make a list of the roles, responsibilities and challenges of being a diplomat.
  3. Make a list of current United States diplomats and the countries where they serve.
  4. Make a list of notable past United States diplomats and list their accomplishments.
  5. Write a letter to a United States diplomat; tell them why you think they are doing a good job and ask questions about their work.
  6. Discuss the term “diplomacy.” Have students, working individually or in cooperative groups, select one of the diplomats on this website to learn more about. Make a list of their life events and significant accomplishments.
  7. List any current or past diplomats who came from your local city or state. List or describe the contributions they made.
  8. Do research to find out how to prepare for a career in international affairs and diplomacy.

Explorer: Places

Learn about places around the world where the United Sates engages in diplomacy.

  1. Make a list of current United States diplomats and the countries they represent.
  2. Make a list of locations around the world today where issues exist that would most benefit from diplomatic resolutions.
  3. Make a list of nations that receive foreign aid from the United Sates. Discuss the reasons for providing foreign aid to those countries.
  4. Create a chart showing how much of the U.S. government’s budget is spent on all forms of diplomacy.
  5. Select some students to represent the United States and other students to represent a different country. Have them debate or role play contrasting perspectives related to democracy, economics, peace keeping, environment, human rights, or other specific issues.
  6. Describe the process of applying for an United States passport.
  7. Explain the difference between a passport and a travel visa. Explain why passports and travel visas are necessary. Make a list of countries that require travel visas. Pick a country and explain how to apply for a travel visa.

Explore: Practice

Explore how the United States furthers a secure, democratic and prosperous world.

  1. Use online news services, listen to the TV news and/or read printed publications to identify stories that deal with world issues and America’s foreign policy. Develop methods for judging the validity and reliability of the news sites you use for research. How will you know if you can trust what they say?  Discuss how these issues and policies affect citizens in your local community.
  2. Develop a survey to determine which global issues students in your local school – or in your online communities – are most concerned about.
  3. Identify and analyze a series of political cartoons to understand different viewpoints and issues involving America’s foreign policy.  Cite the source for each cartoon and tell where they were published. Explain what you think the message is that the cartoon is sending. Describe the techniques the cartoonist uses to convey his or her views.
  4. Monitor your own local newspaper for at least one week, keeping tally of any articles or political cartoons that address issues dealing with America’s foreign policy. Create and share your own original political cartoons about a foreign policy issue.
  5. Find examples of positive and/or negative ways that social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, WikiLeaks) is influencing America’s foreign policy.
  6. Interview your local business, government and law enforcement officials to identify any policies or procedures that have changed or impacted your community, as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  7. Invite elders from your community to visit your classroom and discuss their experiences from past wars and armed conflicts. Identify different ways that wars have been depicted during wartime and after wartime.
  8. Give examples of how international cooperation in science, technology, and space can benefit people worldwide.
  9. Collect and illustrate famous peace-promoting quotations.  (e.g. “I destroy my enemy by making him my friend.” – Abraham Lincoln)
  10. Develop a questionnaire/survey to determine the world’s most and least environmentally conscientious companies.  Discuss the results. Write those companies a letter to let them know how you feel.
  11. Make a list of songs from different decades that express a social or political message related to world affairs. Discuss the significance of the song lyrics.
  12. Research a specific foreign policy issue that interests you. Then working individually or as a team, produce a blog, web site, podcast or video that informs others about that issue.
  13. Join a local community group or an online project that is dedicated to a specific foreign policy issue that interests you.

Additional Resources

Diplomacy 101

Diplomacy Explorer