The International Visitor Leadership Program first started in 1940 when Nelson Rockefeller, the Coordinator of Commercial and Cultural Affairs, invited Latin American journalists the US. This cultural exchange would later become the IVLP and since it’s inception it has hosted around 5,000 visitors annually. A wide variety of former and current leaders have gone through the program, which is typically three weeks, and involves meetings, dinners, and cultural events that pair the foreign officer’s interests with similar ones held by Americans. For example, people interested in free speech have been partnered with NPR and other news outlets, while those interested in journalism would be placed with a news agency. The program, from all the information I could find, seems to be a way to bring rising leaders to the United States who otherwise might lack a solid comprehension of our culture. How this plays into how favorably these people view the United States is up for debate; however, the end goal of the program is to raise awareness of our culture, politics, and people. The part I liked about the program was the ability of citizens to become “citizen diplomats” through hosting the visiting leaders either socially or professionally. If properly implemented, this part of the program could provide visiting leaders with exposure to “normal” Americans who may have a different agenda than higher ranked leaders who are wholly committed to maintaining a perfect image of the US (which arguably we lack anyway).
By all accounts, the program seems to work well for providing an initial exposure for foreign leaders to the US “way”. I like that the foreign leaders are nominated by worldwide US embassies to come the United States, and I REALLY like that for certain countries this could be the first exposure to conversations with normal Americans who work in jobs the visitors would like the in the future. The projects that the foreign visitors are engaged with vary from women’s rights, to education, to energy security. I think that the program on it’s face looks very beneficial for both the US and the foreign visitor as a method for exposure and in many cases, the US professional becomes acquainted with a person who, in many cases, becomes their counterpart. Measurement of success of the program isn’t really tangible from the sources I could find; rather, the program provides a small foundation to United States society.