Good afternoon, everybody.
Let me begin with a special welcome to all representatives of Global Ties member organizations, to implementing partners like the National Program Agencies, as well as State Department colleagues who run the International Visitor Leadership Program, our premier professional exchange program.
More than 225,000 people from around the world have traveled to the United States as part of the IVLP, including leaders like New Zealand’s former Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern,and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres… and public health experts like Dr. Mamoodoo Boogray, whose 2010 IVLP inspired him to set up organizations in Malta that are providing shelter and health services to immigrants and refugees.
Sixty-two years after its founding, Global Ties continues to build bonds between Americans and people around the world.
Since we last spoke, more than 3,900 new IVLP participants have come to the United States to trade best practices on tackling the global climate crisis… countering mis- and dis-information… and combatting the illicit spread of fentanyl, among many other great challenges of our time.
IVLP participants leave behind an indelible mark here in the United States. And they do the same when they return home – drawing on all they’ve seen, heard, and learned travelling across our country. For Anass Hanafi, his meetings with social justice organizations through Global Ties Kalamazoo inspired him to create his own organization focused on youth empowerment in Turin, Italy, which had welcomed large numbers of refugee youth in recent years. Anass is the winner of this year’s IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change, for connecting dozens of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees with mentorship opportunities in his community.
Ultimately, it’s through efforts like these that we can make progress on the defining challenges of our time – one individual, project, and community at a time.
As all of you know very well, our work at home and our work abroad are inextricably linked. Addressing today’s challenges, therefore, requires drawing on the perspectives and expertise of our local leaders, as well as their counterparts abroad. That’s why we recently launched a Subnational Diplomacy office at the State Department, an office that I hope will serve as a resource and partner for your crucial work.
When Angela Benedicto, a civil society activist, first travelled to Michigan for her 2013 IVLP, it was in part to learn techniques to defend the rights of children who had been forced into domestic labor in Tanzania. She didn’t expect to develop a lifelong friendship with her hosts, the Potratz family, or to build enduring professional partnerships with community organizations in southern Michigan.
But connections she developed in her three weeks in the United States were so strong that in 2020, Angela returned to her host community – this time passing her own lessons to staff at a U.S. based organization, Merze Tate Explorers, dedicated to supporting greater educational and career opportunities for girls in Michigan. And of course, Angela stayed with the Potratz family again.
These are the kind of lasting connections that Global Ties has made possible for decades.
We look forward to finding new ways to build our partnership – both at this year’s National Meeting, and in the years to come. Thank you for this essential work.