The Global Ties U.S. National Meeting was a unique event, which gave me first-hand (and a first-time) experience with international diplomacy. I was particularly impressed by the substantial number of attendees who have devoted their lives to making the world a better place through people-to-people exchanges.
The National Meeting began on a positive note, thanks to the thought-provoking Latin America Dialogue at the Organization of American States headquarters. As the daughter of Latin American parents, I care deeply about the condition of Latin America and its people. Learning about how the United States works to strengthen relationships in Latin America opened my mind to the world of negotiation for the sake of mutual understanding and international collaboration. This experience gave me insights into the necessity of closer ties between the United States and its Latin American neighbors. Negotiation, development, and human rights were just a few of the key topics we discussed during this deeply informative seminar.
A series of sessions focusing on other parts of the world was next on the agenda. While some of the topics discussed contained elements of commonality with the situation in Latin America, I found the nuances of the American relationships with these disparate parts of the globe to be eye-opening. I learned about the different issues at the forefront of our foreign policy in each specific region and how the United States is working to see development and advancement with these issues.
The value of the IVLP was the thread that ran through every workshop and session I attended. The program’s impact is substantial and ongoing. The experience I had at the evening reception at the Czech Republic Embassy in Washington, D.C. was particularly illustrative. Our host, Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovic, is an IVLP alumnus (ed. note: see the interview with him in this issue of ExchangeMatters for more). He said his experience in the IVLP program definitely influenced his view of diplomacy and international relations.
Aside from learning more about diplomacy, the meeting offered a great opportunity to network with different people working on people-to-people exchange in the U.S. and from around the world. Some individuals stood out. I particularly enjoyed talking to a Venezuelan national who immigrated to that country with her parents from Italy at the close of the Second World War. Hearing her story and others drove home for me how our different experiences shape who we are and our perceptions on the pressing global issues that we face.
The highlight of the meeting was meeting Oscar Arias, IVLP Alumnus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and two-time President of Costa Rica. Listening to his speech was inspiring. He demonstrated how much we influence each other in the Western Hemisphere, how much the policies and practices in each country impact the standing of the entire hemisphere, and pointed to the United States’ responsibility in promoting democratic policies that value the safety and rights of the people first.
I left the meeting feeling energized by the number of people who dedicate their lives to mutual understanding and collaboration across cultures. If we are to create a more harmonious world, it must begin from a space of understanding and cooperation. After attending the National Meeting, I am more optimistic than ever that it can be achieved, thanks to the understanding which the IVLP embodies, and the members of the Global Ties network who work every day to get us closer to that vision.
By Gisel Romero, International Institute of Wisconsin