What Is the State Department?

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The U.S. Department of State is the government agency dedicated to protecting Americans and advancing U.S. interests abroad.

In 1789, the U.S. Department of State, or the State Department, was established with the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Over the past 200 years, this federal agency has evolved to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. Throughout its history, the State Department has led the U.S. government’s foreign policy decisions and assisted Americans all over the world. In this video, understand how the State Department functions.

Discussion Questions

Use the following discussion questions to guide your classroom conversations about this video. Refer to the timestamps to find the answers to these questions.

  1. What was happening in U.S. history when the State Department was created? (start – 1:00)
  2. Who works at the State Department? (1:00 – 2:00)
  3. Where do State Department employees work? (1:00 – 2:00)
  4. What does this statement about the State Department’s mission mean: “to protect Americans and advance the nation’s interests abroad”? (1:00 – end)
  5. What are the two types of bureaus at the State Department? (2:00 – 2:40)
  6. Why is it important to have a government agency devoted to foreign policy? (2:00 – 3:15)
  7. What are some international challenges that the State Department works on in our “complex world”? (3:30 – end)
  8. What are the different flags represented in the video? (0:05 – 0:20)
  9. Does working at the State Department sound interesting to you?
  10. What is one thing you learned from the video that you found interesting, surprising, or confusing?
  11. Summarize the State Department.

Video Vocabulary

The following terms are referenced in this video.

  • International – Relating to or affecting two or more nations.
  • Alliance – A union based on cooperation.
  • Federal agency – An administrative division, office, or group.
  • Foreign affairs – The relationships and actions between/among countries.
  • Advisor – Someone who gives guidance.
  • Diplomat – A person who is skilled at working with people from other countries while representing their own country.
  • Bureau – An office or department; The basic organizational unit of the Department of State headed by an assistant secretary.
  • Innovation – A new idea, method, or device. Innovations usually improve on an existing way of doing something or create a new way of doing something.
  • Humanity – The totality of human beings; the human race.
  • Complex – Not simple; complicated.