Citizen Diplomacy in Full Action!

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By: Jennifer Watson Roberts
Board President, International House

Jennifer Watson and Johnelle Causwell in Washington, DC.

Jennifer Watson and Johnelle Causwell in Washington, DC.

Last month, I joined Johnelle Causwell and Carole Ward, International House’s staff for Citizen Diplomacy Programs, at a conference in Washington, DC for the annual meeting of Global Ties US. This organization, formerly known as the National Council for International Visitors, is a group that works closely with the US State Department and its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to host foreign leaders in cities around our country, including Charlotte. These visitors travel here to learn about everything from US law to court operations, banking regulations, social capital, and small business networks.

Many speakers underscored the importance of citizen diplomacy as a tool for furthering US interests on a personal, grassroots level that can have far-reaching impact.  Johnelle, Carole and I met with Embassy representatives, business leaders, non-profit executives from around the country, and former Citizen Exchange participants, gaining insight into program opportunities and emerging issues. There were over 700 in attendance at the conference, including representatives from states all over the US as well as several foreign countries.

Connecting our communities with leaders from other countries supports economic opportunity and citizen diplomacy, important and powerful tools for advancing US interests throughout the world in a peaceful, economical way. Did you know that 54 current heads of state have traveled to the US on these exchanges? These visits have impacted the development of constitutions, legal systems, non-profit outreach, small business, and social justice programs in countries around the world. They have also supported peaceful resolution of conflict. If you would like to be involved in future programs here in Charlotte, please contact Johnelle and let her know you are interested in meeting some of these international leaders as they travel to the Queen City to learn from our best practices.

International House was featured at the conference. One of the sessions, led by Johnelle Causwell, showed the documentary made by Charlotte’s Tom Morgan about Pushpa Basnet and her orphanage in Nepal.  Tom first met Pushpa, who was later named a CNN Hero of the Year, through an International House exchange program. Johnelle led a discussion after the movie about the lasting impact of citizen diplomacy and International visitor programs, clearly evident in this award winning film and the heroic tale it tells.”