IVLP Celebrates 75th Anniversary at OAS

On February 4, 2015, the U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS co-hosted a forum with Global Ties – U.S. marking the 75th Anniversary of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in the historic Hall of the Americas.

Remarks by Michael J. Fitzpatrick
Interim U.S. Permanent Representative

Thank you very much Mr. Vanella for your kind introduction.

Ambassador Jones, Congressman Castro, Global Ties – U.S. Chairman Moyer and President Clinton, fellow members of the diplomatic community, distinguished guests —

On behalf of the State Department and the Permanent Mission of the United States to the Organization of American States, I want to extend to you a very warm welcome, and thank you for joining us as we gather to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

I am truly delighted to be with you on this occasion as we come together to mark this truly historic milestone for the IVLP and for our nation’s longstanding commitment to expanding the strong bonds of friendship and unity that bind the American people with the peoples across our hemisphere.

It gives me great pleasure, and I am deeply honored, for the U.S. Mission to serve as co-host of this momentous event, and I would like to express our utmost gratitude to Global Ties – U.S. for bringing this celebration to the Organization of American States — to this great house, oftentimes referred to as “the House of the Americas.”

These halls are steeped in history.  The Hall of Heroes, lined with the busts of some of the most prominent patriots from the countries of the Americas, the Peace Tree planted by President William Howard Taft over a century ago as a symbol of our commitment to this union, and the grand rooms where the diplomats of our nations meet, all stand as vivid reminders of a long shared history and heritage, a common humanity, and the fact that we are indeed a community of the Americas.

It is a vision we honor here today of a community that recognizes that building bridges of common purpose and understanding can translate into a force for human progress — a promise that we can make real for all the peoples of our region the cherished values at the core of this institution, where we are united in common purpose to advance a shared regional commitment to democracy, human rights, and development and security cooperation.

But for all of our diplomatic efforts in this organization, we must recognize there is nothing greater, more valuable, and enduring than the many lives we touch, and even change profoundly, through the people-to-people engagement that is at the heart of the International Visitor Leadership Program. The work you are carrying out represents the crown jewel of U.S. diplomacy.

I would like to commend Global Ties – U.S. for this excellent dialogue you’ve carried out here today which served to underscore the many opportunities we have to expand upon the immeasurable success and profound legacy of the International Visitor Leadership Program as we continue to forge ahead.

As President Obama has stated — we recognize that “our future is inextricably bound to the future of the people of the entire hemisphere.”  And that is why the United States is committed to shaping a future through engagement that is strong and sustained, meaningful, successful, and that is based on mutual respect and common purpose.

Today, we are the proud beneficiaries of your work and commitment in helping us extend the United States’ hand of friendship to the peoples of the Americas. Your dedication still inspires us today, and for that our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.  Thank you so very much for opening your communities, your heart and indeed often your homes, to IVLP participants – and for showcasing America as it really is (warts and all).

For that allows our friends from abroad to see how we struggle daily, and forever, in the words of the Preamble to the US Constitition “in order to form a more perfect union.”  For I am convinced that witnessing that struggle is really seeing the United States at its most honest, and at its best that the United States has to offer.

And for those among us tonight who have had the pleasure of benefiting directly from participation in the IVLP program:  Let me just confess to you how jealous I am.  I remember all too well the first time I heard of the IVLP, nearly three decades ago, and helped welcome IVLP travelers from Latin America and the Caribbean to Washington – some of them in sandals, in a snow storm that literally shut down Washington.  As there were no taxis at all, we walked several miles through the cold winter wonderland to their hotel.  But even more vividly I remember asking State Department organizers later, “wow – how do I get to sign up for such a program, visiting DC and other American cities, with so many doors opened to policy makers, communities and families across the USA?”  And the answer I got: “Forget about it.  You don’t qualify.  You’re an American.”

Well, nearly three decades later, just know that my jealousy – and respect for you all and for the program – has only grown and deepened since.

So tonight my hat is off to all of you – to IVLP alumnae from around the world and to those Americans here at home who make it all happen.

Thank you all, and enjoy the celebration!