Former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark (2009-2013) Laurie S. Fulton visited the Rumi Forum for a discussion on her observations about the challenges of diversity and inclusion in Scandinavia, particularly focusing on the country of Denmark.
Laurie Fulton was the US Ambassador to Denmark from 2009 to 2013. She is an advocate for cultural and ethnic inclusion, which is the focus of this interview. Ambassador Fulton makes the case that making people of all backgrounds feel included in society is important from both a security-based and from an economic perspective. With regard to security, she points to police reports from the Danish police showing that more than 40 Danish nationals, some of Somalian descent, some not, left Denmark to go to Somalia in order to train with Al-Shabaab. Ambassador Fulton states that this is one reason inclusion is important, saying “newcomers who feel that they are included in society are far less likely to become radicalized”. From an economic perspective, she states that “studies have shown that companies that are diverse are the most profitable”, and says that the same principle applies to a country’s financial system, with a larger, more diverse population leading to a stronger, bigger economy.
The Ambassador also examines the current cultural identity of the Kingdom of Denmark, explaining what has changed and what has stayed the same in recent years. First, she points out that Americans often do not understand what it is like to live in a historically homogeneous society because the US is unique in the fact that everyone is an immigrant. That is, whether or not you were born in the United States, you’re family probably comes from another part of the world. This is not the case in Denmark, and it is only in the last 50 years that Denmark really began to experience large numbers of immigrants, but they have been coming to Denmark at an astonishing rate. Fulton states that, at the time of this discussion, 10% of people in Denmark are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Of these immigrants, the largest group is from Turkey. Over 60,000 people of Turkish descent currently live in Denmark.
All these immigrants have led to an interesting dynamic with native Europeans. Fulton has found Danes to be very proud of their heritage in her experience, but that this has not prevented most of them from receiving immigrants with tolerance and open-mindedness. While racism is present, Fulton states that the amount of acceptance far outweighs it. Fulton says that while are very proud of their culture and will often continue Danish customs when living elsewhere, they have a history of accepting other cultures into their own homeland. In World War 2, the Danish government refused to cooperate with the Nazis, who asked for a list of all known Jews living in Denmark, an action which Danes pride themselves on even today. Although she feels it is not quite where it should be, Fulton seems to be quite impressed with the current level of religious, ethnic, and cultural inclusion in Danish society today, and is optimistic about Denmark’s future as an increasingly diverse society.
Laurie S. Fulton was former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark (2009-2013). She is a partner at Williams & Connolly LLP, re-joining the firm after serving as U.S. Ambassador to Denmark (2009-2013). Recognized as one of “Washington’s Top Lawyers” by Washingtonian Magazine in 2004, her areas of practice include cybersecurity, civil litigation, government and congressional investigations, and white-collar criminal defense.
As Ambassador, Ms. Fulton co-founded Green Partnerships for Growth, a network of Danish and U.S. companies developing public-private business opportunities in the green technology and sustainable growth sectors. In October 2010, she co-hosted the Conference on the Role of Women in Global Security for public officials and private businesses in the U.S. and Nordic Baltic countries to assist women living in countries emerging from conflict in becoming productive members of their communities and economies.
Queen Margrethe II awarded Ms. Fulton the Grand Cross of the Danish Royal Order of Dannebrog. Among many awards and honors, she received the 2013 Dialog Prize in Copenhagen in recognition of her advocacy for diversity and inclusion, and a 2013 Alumnae Award from Georgetown University Law Center.
Ms. Fulton was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve on the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace from January 2004 until October 2008. She has been active in various community and non-profit organizations.
Joining Ambassador Fulton and moderating the discussion is Lora Jane Berg, Senior Foreign Service Office of the U.S. Department of State who currently is serving as a Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States to build the “Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative”. Most recently, Ms. Berg served as senior advisor to Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities. At the State Department, Ms. Berg helped found the Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network for young diverse Europeans and Americans who hold elected office. The kick-off meeting was held in Copenhagen in 2011 hosted by the City of Copenhagen as well as U.S. Embassy Copenhagen. Ms. Berg has served at the U.S. Embassies in Tunis, Rabat, Jeddah, Riyadh, Bratislava, Paris, and Brussels. She holds Masters Degrees in International Relations and in Poetry from Johns Hopkins University, and speaks French, Arabic, Spanish and some Slovak.