The buzz in the air, though unseen, was unmistakably felt upon entering the Global Ties U.S. National Meeting. There was a shared excitement among the hundreds of dedicated individuals who were coming together in the name of public diplomacy. It was an energy I first experienced just a few months earlier, when I met my first International Visitor group in Sacramento, California. The women leaders, who hailed from South and Central Asia, all shared the same passion for learning about the role women play in promoting stability in their communities. They engaged in hearty discussions and exchanged ideas, all the while exuding a dedication to creating positive change and advancing their just causes.
And so there I was at the Global Ties U.S. National Meeting, surrounded by individuals who embodied the same dedication and projected the same energy as the International Visitors I had the incredible opportunity of meeting. People came together with the desire to share experiences and to learn. There were panel discussions and presentations. There was the exchange of best practices with counterparts from other cities. And there was an eagerness to return home and implement these innovative and inspiring ideas. It was an exchange program of our own.
This energy of excitement and motivation was most prevalent during the speech of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, two-time president of Costa Rica, and IVLP alumnus Oscar Arias. Referring to the immense impact of the IVLP, President Arias said, “The waves rippling out from this room are impossible to quantify or measure. But we know they are there. We know they are changing the world.”
Highlighting the influence of the IVLP program and international exchange, President Arias developed the plan that brought peace to the region in the 1980s. President Arias is an inspiration for me; he is a living testament to the power of the International Visitor Leadership Program on creating a more peaceful world. And he is one of thousands of IVLP participants.
I want to participate, and to enable this change. I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s National Meeting as an Emerging Leader, Global Ties’ professional development program designed for young professionals in the field of public diplomacy. It presented the opportunity to network with leaders of all kinds: government, nonprofit, and young professionals, likeminded individuals from across the United States. I witnessed President Arias speak, as well as Dr. Jill Biden and Richard Morais. At the U.S. Department of State, I experienced a briefing and an activity that simulated the role of diplomats, along with the responsibility that accompanies representing a country. I discussed career paths with NPA representatives and participated in an event at the Organization of American States. Surrounded by so many ambitious individuals, I exchanged stories, formed new relationships, and learned about the broad range of available international exchange programs that I did not even know existed.
But it is not the experience itself, but rather the response to the experience, that matters most. Just like the IVLP program participants, I engaged in dialogue, made connections, and left the meeting with new insight and a clear focus. The impact of the IVLP has been proven. I have witnessed the power of exchange on individuals and in communities and was introduced to the progress and peace that international exchanges enable.
By Andie Horning, Northern California World Trade Center