Exchange Matters / December 28, 2015

The President’s Corner: The Year in Review

Do you remember the one to two- page “year in review” letters that accompanied holiday cards in days gone by? Sadly, they are no more. In their place are instant gratification e-cards featuring dancing elves and the Facebook platform that encapsulates your year on its own, so that you don’t have to!

I miss the “snail mail card” tradition and see a compelling reason to bring it back. Given all that we accomplished in 2015, well, why not now?

The year began with a bang as we kicked-off the 75th anniversary of the IVLP in January. The event marked the largest National Meeting Global Ties U.S. has ever held, thanks to the participation of some of the most prominent leaders in the field of diplomacy.

We celebrated throughout the year, inviting friends and nontraditional audiences to take part in the eight Diplomacy Begins Here summits we and our partners organized in Phoenix, Huntsville, Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Louisville, and Manchester. These summits were an amazing demonstration of the power of teamwork. Fifteen CBMs served as hosts, welcoming close to 1,500 people, 19 members of Congress and engaging hundreds of people who made pledges to carrying out the work of citizen diplomacy.

Not to be left-out: the strong support we received from our members in Pittsburgh, Huntsville, New Orleans, Albany, Raleigh, Atlanta, San Diego, Tucson, Des Moines, and Cincinnati. Their hard work and dedication made a significant number of exchange programs a huge success, among them, Meet America. These last initiatives brought close to 150 participants to communities across the U.S., enabling all involved to expand their and their hosts’ worlds on a range of topics including gender-based violence; entrepreneurship and innovation; leadership and global business practices; international trade; and STEM.

2015 was also a year of significant transition for our community. A number of long-serving leaders retired and pass the baton. Among them were Laura Dupuy of the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, Nancy Gilboy of CDI International of Philadelphia, Gail Stevenson of the World Affairs Council in Vermont, Becky Collins of Tulsa Global Alliance and Royce Anderson of the International Center of Worcester. Their years of contributions will never be forgotten – and I among others will miss them dearly.

We also experienced a change at the helm of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Visitors with Alma Candelaria’s move after a successful five-year tenure and welcomed Susan Shultz as the new director.

The network received quite a bit of attention over the past year from news outlets as diverse as NewsweekNational Public RadioForeign Policy Magazine, and the Foreign Service Journal. Our work was of interest to local outlets, including WDET in DetroitFox6 in Milwaukeethe Minneapolis Star Tribune, and KJZZ in Phoenix, among others. In a very complex environment with so much negativity – exchanges are finally being recognized as an important tool to counter violence, negativity and address some of the biggest geopolitical problems we have faced in decades.

In the last three months I have reached out to many of our members to hear what is on their minds and what their year in review looks like. There is so much positive energy out there. So many organizations not unlike Global Ties, are going through a bit of a revival, renewal and recommitment period that brings enthusiasm and hope, not to mention a little uneasiness that is only natural during times of growth.

My end of year ruminations both personal and professional often lead me back to the one final thought. At the end of the day all of our accomplishments and mistakes represent the steps of a bigger journey we are all on. Our journey is one that strives to enable understanding, hope, and stability throughout the world through the power of individual connections.

Current events call us forward and demand that we embark on this journey with full gusto, which makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from the great 13th century poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Rumi, who wrote “you broke the cage and flew.”

I am very proud of my team and so many of you out there breaking the cages that can hold us back – whether our own skepticism or others’, limitations, fear, history, lack of resources – whatever it is – they exist. As I look up and out, I see a landscape full of individuals and entities that are stepping out in amazing ways to make sure our future is one where there is greater peace and understanding.

Congratulations on a great year!

I wish you all the best for the New Year and I look forward to seeing many of you in Washington, DC in January!

By Jennifer Clinton, PhD, President, Global Ties U.S. Follow her on Twitter: @CDJclinton