Visitor Leadership Program Alumni Meeting
Herr Beck, thank you for your hospitality. The Protestant Academy of Bad Boll is a meeting place for people who want to know more about the issues that define our world. The aim of the Academy is to build bridges. There is no better place to hold this meeting with alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program.
For nearly sixty years, our International Visitor Leadership Program has brought up-and-coming leaders to the United States to experience our country firsthand, to learn about the diversity within our country, to better understand who we are and what we stand for, and to build mutual understanding.
Over 150,000 people have come to the United States as guests of the U.S. Government under the International Visitor Leadership Program worldwide. Heads of state, minister-presidents, cabinet ministers, teachers, librarians, social workers all belong to this illustrious group. More importantly, over the years, their visits have generated people-to-people and institutional linkages in areas ranging from politics and government, to education, commerce, science, health care, journalism, the environment, women's issues, to name just a few.
I would like to thank Minister-President Oettinger for his warm words about the program. As an International Visitors alumni himself, he can speak from experience about the personal value of the program. As Minister-President, he can assess the strong, multiplying and positive effects exchanges have had on the German-American partnership. The social and economic connections between the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and the United States are measurable indicators of the success of our partnership.
Allow me to reinforce the Minister-President’s words by emphasizing that the benefits go both ways. The International Visitor Leadership Program enriches the lives of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. The program gives Americans an opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas with visitors from another country.
People-to- people diplomacy, created through international exchanges, is critical to both our national interests. The task of diplomacy belongs not only to governments, but to individuals as well. Each of us is an ambassador when we interact with our neighbors. People who participate in exchanges expand their global perspectives and become more internationally engaged. I believe participants have an obligation to communicate what they have learned to the largest audiences possible.
Coming from the private sector, I have observed in the course of my career how multinational companies, with thousands of employees at locations around the world, are exchange programs in their own right. Intercultural communication and diversity are built-in.
They are givens. Branches became “centers of expertise” in certain skills and train teams from other plants. Team members often come from different professional areas in the same company, from subsidiary companies or associate partners. Look at the statistics on the German-American trade and business relationship. American companies in Germany employ over 700,000 German workers and German companies in the United States employ the same numbers of American workers. That is a very powerful network.
Companies are also working more closely with customers than ever before. Innovation means getting close to customers, understanding their needs, and finding ways to address them. Political involvement is also a form of networking. A few years ago, I chaired the board of the National Association of Manufacturers. One of my main goals was to encourage manufacturers and their employees to play a more active role in the development of public policy by becoming part of the political process. Nobody understands better than manufacturers, their employees and the private sector what policies are good for the economy.
Across the board, networking only brings advantages. It is therefore one of my priorities to increase the strategic impact of exchanges, to build and strengthen the networks that can enhance the impact of these programs. Sue and I have heard, time and time again, as we travel around your beautiful country, about the personal experiences that bind our two peoples together. That is why the President’s visit earlier this month to Mecklenberg-Vorpommern, a part of Germany that was cut off for so long from transatlantic exchange and dialogue, was so important.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s invitation itself was evidence of the enormous changes that have taken place in the last 15 years. We do not live in the same world that existed some 65 years ago when the IVL Program was launched. Global challenges are in many ways even more complex. The talks between President Bush and Chancellor Merkel in Stralsund and the discussions at the G8 in St. Petersburg showed just how much transatlantic and international policy agendas have changed.
For over 50 years, our agenda with Europe was mainly about Europe. Today our agenda with Europe is mainly about challenges beyond Europe; and how America and Europe can work together to face these challenges. The bottom line in America’s foreign policy, however, remains the same. It is a strategy rooted in partnership — in doing things with other people.
Tonight I'd like to salute the alumni of our exchange programs -- as well as the many people who support them. Here's to you and the positive contribution each of you has made to enhance international respect, understanding, and communication.
Each one of you can and does truly make a difference in helping us to fulfill our mission: to create a more secure, democratic and prosperous world for the benefit of the international community. I thank all of you for your contributions and dedication to this endeavor.
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Diplomatic Mission to Germany
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Updated: Juli 2006