Name: Andrew Rabens

Position: Special adviser for youth engagement, State Department, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (Middle East and North Africa), Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Best known for: At 30, Rabens is building bridges between the United States and youth leaders in the Middle East and North Africa. At the State Department, Rabens works with 18 embassies and one consulate to strengthen youth networks. This involves identifying important issues facing youths, finding common interests and helping them tackle challenges.

He has worked with embassies on the creation of Youth Councils, which advise the ambassadors and other embassy officials on youth issues in their respective countries. He also initiated the Active Citizen Summit, held this past fall in California and Washington. The summit brought together 60 young leaders from the Middle East and North Africa to strengthen relationships among one another and provide a window into the U.S. political process and society.

Rabens’s work is part of a larger commitment by the U.S. government to support active citizenship and greater political and economic opportunities for young leaders.

Andy Rabens. (Courtesy of Jason Beren)

Government service: Rabens began his career at the State Department more than four years ago as a Presidential Management Fellow. Before his current role, he worked on youth engagement efforts in the Bureau of African Affairs and in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Before joining State, he spent a year working for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and while attending graduate school in London, he worked for the Rt. Honorable Ed Miliband in the U.K. Parliament. He also interned for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Motivation for service: The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks ignited a desire to better understand the similarities, differences, ambitions, aspirations and dreams of people around the globe.

“September 11 happened three days into my first week of freshman year at Harvard, and ultimately helped change my trajectory from someone intent on becoming a professional tennis player to someone intent on entering into the global political environment,” Rabens said.

Biggest challenge: Navigating a large bureaucracy that can be slow-moving and slightly risk-averse. But Rabens said he has discovered ways to build coalitions to advance initiatives and policies.

Quote: “Young people today refuse to sit by passively or be sidelined by self-interested actors who favor inaction or gradualism. Our generation of young leaders, increasingly empowered by new technologies, has embraced the concept of active citizenship and the urgency of now. And the fascinating thing is that this is not unique to one regional or geographic demographic of young leaders, but rather a tornado-like global phenomenon that will spur change, progress and action for years to come.”

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