Exchange Matters / September 1, 2017

The President’s Corner: A Call to Action

By Jennifer Clinton, Ph.D., President, Global Ties U.S.

Jennifer Clinton, Ph.D., President of Global Ties U.S. offers insight on the 2017 fiscal budget passed by Congress and reflects on the importance of citizen diplomacy and the IVLP program.

Summer, my favorite season, is coming to a close. My son is back in school and the routine begins. I’m always a bit saddened to turn the page on summer and head into fall. The anticipation of a little time away, family gatherings, and longer summer days always adds a spring to our step and a twinkle in our eyes. But time moves on and we embrace another season.

Despite the fact that summer is ending, I also recognize the historical moment before us: our Network will be welcoming 1,000 more International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants this fall – the largest cohort our Network has seen in the same time period ever!
This opportunity could not come at a better time given the critical importance of building stronger ties with leaders and nations around the world.

Our U.S. Congress has put forth a call to action to our Network to carry forward, in significant ways, our nation’s public diplomacy work. In the 2017 final budget, Congress spoke loudly and clearly that the IVLP, and our Network’s role in facilitating it, are important assets to our diplomatic efforts.

As an important contextual reminder for this fiscal year, Congress voted in May 2017 on the omnibus bill, which resulted in a one percent (1%) overall increase for the entire U.S. Department of State budget. Of this increase, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs received a seven percent (7%) increase, taking the 2017 budget from $590M to $634M, and the IVLP budget increased from $89M to $97M or nine percent (9%), respectively.

I want to thank Members of Congress for trusting us to carry forward our work as citizen diplomats, and encourage you to do so as well. The additional $8M in total funding for the program, which has translated into a significant increase for our Community-Based Members for 2017, is an affirmation of the important work of our Network, and it has enabled us to expand our programming and global community of international visitors.

We are hearing from Network members on a regular basis letting us know how incredibly busy they are; many programming two to three groups per week! We can hear a bit of unease and anxiety about how this opportunity to expand our IVLP programming is stretching our Network.

But, I believe we have to keep the big picture in mind of what is at stake. Our full-time diplomatic corps has been severely hampered by hiring freezes, massive amounts of retirements, slow movement on leadership positions, and the uncertainty of a major reorganization. It is our time as citizen diplomats to step up and step forward to answer the call.

The Global Ties Network has been forging relationship with international visitors for more than 50 years, and as the 2017 final budget demonstrated, Congress has trusted in us to expand our work and deepen our connections with global visitors.
To all our Community-Based Members and National Program Agencies: this is your opportunity to engage your communities like never before. Lean on your volunteers more; open up more opportunities for student interns; ask your boards to step forward in even more significant ways. It is up to us call upon our communities to show the world that America is open, engaged, and interested in building global ties.