The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is one of many public diplomacy programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. This particular initiative is a professional exchange directed towards current and emerging international leaders to enrich their knowledge of American history, culture and society. To provide some background on the program’s implementation, in 1940, Nelson Rockefeller was designated Coordinator of Commercial and Cultural Affairs and invited 130 Latin American Journalists to the the United States. This exchanged continued through several administrations and was eventually realized as the IVLP. There are several aspects of this public diplomacy program that I admire.
For one, the IVLP has dedicated itself to the cultural exchange of foreign leaders into the American way of life. Visitors have the opportunity travel to different cities, experience the the classroom setting and converse with their counterpart leaders. They are also able to share their own cultural experiences and perspectives with us. The website provides plenty of anecdotal evidence that the program expands the horizon of both the visitor and the host. This is important, because as a communicative concept, culture can either represent a barrier or a pathway to a fruitful relationship. Public diplomacy is meant to arm the positive aspects of any country’s public image and the IVLP represents just that. It breaks down the cultural barriers between the host and visitor and provides an avenue to a mutual learning experience. Ashraf Gamal of Egypt had this to say:
“I came to the conclusion that I come from a different culture from yours, but through food and culinary arts we can cooperate and understand each other. I have a dream to fight hunger and poverty…..And we can work together to protect the planet and feed future generations.” – See more at: http://eca.state.gov/ivlp/story/food-diplomacy-brings-egyptian-culinary-professional-table-taste-america#sthash.6VIidUGZ.dpuf