International Visitor Leadership Program

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.



2 thoughts on “International Visitor Leadership Program

  1. Reading your post made me make a connection between the IVLP and Japan’s KAKEHASHI Project. Although the KAKEHASHI Project was originally created to promote exchanges between the youth of both countries, and therefore predominantly sent high school and college students overseas, they have recently been testing out a new type of exchange.

    Over the summer, I was lucky to be selected for a “test” program for KAKEHASHI. They selected young American professionals with interest in and experience with Japan for a 10-day trip. We were able to request different meetings in advance of our trip. In our time there, we ended up meeting with various Ministries, universities, and non-profit groups, which gave us various views on US-Japan relations.

    The program definitely opened my eyes to some new aspects of Japan, Japanese policies and the Japanese culture. I know that the other eleven people in my group also returned with more knowledge than they guessed they would have about Japan. I hope that the government looks into making this extension of the program a permanent type of exchange program.



  2. I certainly agree with your opinions about the IVLP. This is one of many great public diplomacy initiatives put forth by the U.S. State Department.

    I’m not all too familiar with similar public diplomacy exchanges abroad but for me, the IVLP is a good model to follow. We should be looking to send our emergent leaders abroad so that they too can learn the ins and outs of foreign culture. In many ways, I think we’re on the right track. The State Department offers internships in select foreign embassies. Study-abroad programs and exchanges in universities are increasingly popular. My alma mater, Loyola, continues to lead the nation in study abroad opportunities. I had the privilege of studying in Spain and our program was primarily focused on immersing the students within the Spanish culture. This included home-stay residences, Spanish language requirements, and cultural trips to various heritage cities. In the end, we were required to write about our experiences in a comprehensive immersion project.

    If we believe the IVLP is beneficial for foreign visitors, we should create incentives for our incentives to participate in similar exchanges abroad.


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