by Lynne Brandon
Washington, DC - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke last week at the 2011 National Council for International Visitors (NCIV) national conference at the U.S. Department of State reception. Secretary Clinton was the key note speaker, following brief remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ann Stock.
The annual conference began on February 16, which was designated “Citizen Diplomacy Day” in recognition of the NCIV milestone. More than 600 people attended the opening black tie gala which was emceed by CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger. The conference concluded on February 19 with a luncheon hosted in the National Press Building, headlined by John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International.
Secretary Clinton congratulated the delegation on two major milestones – the 50th anniversary of the National Council, which now has more than 90 chapters connecting leaders from around the world with their American counterparts, and the 70th year of the International Visitor Leadership Program, the State Department’s premier professional exchange program, through which 80,000 American hosts – or citizen diplomats – have cultivated relationships, and 200,000 leaders have participated.
Secretary Clinton remarks included stressing the importance of citizen diplomacy in the 21st century. "As you know so well that our visitors are able to learn about American government at the national, state, and local levels; they visit very representative American institutions from the Library of Congress to Wal-Mart," said Secretary Clinton. “And, while our visitors are experiencing America firsthand, Americans learn about their countries.”
Secretary Clinton acknowledged the broader reach of diplomacy and that is should be government-to-people conversation, and most importantly, people-to-people. “So we are always looking for opportunities to engage civil society, women, youth, and everyone else,” remarked Secretary Clinton. “And that’s why the work of the International Leadership Program and the National Council are so vital.”
Every year, 200 international visitors, either individually or in a group, come to the United States in conjunction with NCIV IVLP programs designed to reflect their professional interests, from business entrepreneurs, aspiring politicians, civil servants, human rights activists, teachers, and so much more.
Alumni of the ILVP program have gone on to help women get breast cancer treatment in Kosovo, started a news radio program in Afghanistan, they’ve stood up for LGBT youth in China, worked in civic education and environmental justice, and much more. One graduate of the program is the foreign affairs advisor to the president of the Czech Republic.