Exchange Matters / August 8, 2022

A Look Back: Diplomacy Begins Here in Illinois

By Rachel Mintz, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S. 

On July 21–22, the first Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit and Learning Lab of 2022 took place in Illinois. Hosted by WorldChicago and Freeport Area International Visitors Council in partnership with Global Ties U.S. and the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State, the event focused on the theme of Connecting Diverse Communities Through Diplomacy and brought together local, national, and international leaders from business, government, and nonprofit organizations.  

Diplomacy Begins Here works to build and foster connections in the international exchange community while also celebrating the role that public and citizen diplomacy programs play in advancing U.S. foreign policy goals. In Illinois, session topics included working with government leaders, storytelling for advocacy and community engagement, and diversity in diplomacy. 

Check out highlights from Chicago and Freeport below. You can view the entire photo album on Flickr. 

July 21 – Welcome to the Freeport Learning Lab 

The Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit and Learning Lab started in Freeport. Learning Lab programming kicked off with a visit from Benjamin Franklin, who discussed the history of the local area and its connections abroad and its history of diplomacy with visitors. 

We traveled back in time to learn about the history of the local area from none other than Benjamin Franklin. Said Ben: ‘Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn.’”  

Concurrent breakout sessions focused on incorporating diverse perspectives into International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) projects. Attendees explored how to connect with government leaders at different points in IVLP projects and gained a greater understanding of the U.S. government. Participants also worked on building and strengthening their CEO-Board relationships and focused on meeting the needs of visitors and communities in exchanges.  

Another breakout group focused on storytelling for advocacy and community engagement and included leaders in higher education who explained how they were able to leverage youth programs and exchanges to bring their communities together through storytelling. 

Illinois Senator Brian Stewart spoke at the Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit on what inspires him to meet with IVLP groups and best practices for building relationships with federal to local government leaders.

“We like to remind and show elected officials that it’s their constituents who are meeting with IVLP visitors. That really matters,” said Annette Alvarez of Global Ties Miami. “With international exchange, once you meet the international visitors, people get it. The value is clear. It sells itself,” added Peter Norman, from Highland Community College, on how the college gets local buy in when hosting international student athletes.

Founder and CEO of Bowtie Leadership & Development, Inc. Todd Jenkins, Ph.D., and members of the Global Ties DEIA Network Working Group share ways to design exchange programs that meet the needs of international visitors and your home community.


July 22 – Diplomacy Begins Here Chicago Summit 

At the Summit on July 22, participants gathered at the Palmer House Hilton. Attendees included IVLP participants from Japan, Chicago-area students, and international exchange partners and supporters from across the United States. The day began with welcome remarks from Stacy White, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: 

Keynote speaker Jhmira Alexander, President and Executive Director of Public Narrative, shared how Public Narrative works to diversify voices in the news and help journalists and nonprofits tell better stories.  

“Changing the public narrative is about media literacy, communications, storytelling,” says Jhmira Alexander. “It is in welcoming healthy debate that we’re able to solve the world’s issues.”

Jhmira Alexander meets with a student attendee at the Diplomacy Begins Here Summit.

In concurrent sessions, participants learned about the U.S. Department of State’s mission and international exchange programs. Other participants explored how to apply a public diplomacy framework to diverse careers and sectors during David Wellman’s panel on transprofessional diplomacy.  

U.S. Department of State representatives and exchange alumni discuss how exchanges aim to meet foreign policy objectives.

Career Coach Pamela Ex (at the podium) leads a panel on incorporating international work into your career path.

A student track featured a panel conversation led by Pamela Ex focused on including international work in your career path. Students also participated in an interactive simulation led by the National Museum of American Diplomacy and worked to solve a hypothetical public diplomacy crisis by taking on the role of key stakeholders. 

Summit attendees enjoy lunch and an art history lesson at the National Museum of Mexican Art.

While the students stayed downtown, the other Summit attendees travelled to the National Museum of Mexican Art for lunch and an afternoon panel on how to incorporate inclusivity into diplomacy, exploring topics including representation, workforce recruitment and retention, and youth engagement. Speakers included experts from academia, government, and the nonprofit sector.  

For the first time since 2019, the Global Ties Network and international exchange community partners were able to meet in-person for a Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit. The 2022 Diplomacy Begins Here Summits continue this fall with upcoming events in Pensacola, FL in September and in Portland, OR in October.