The San Antonio Council for International Visitors was honored to host the Director of the Office of International Visitors with the State Department, Stacy White, at our membership luncheon. She was introduced by Ambassador James Creagan who advocated vociferously for the continued presence and work of public diplomacy groups. After a warm introduction by Ambassador Creagan at the San Antonio Country Club, Ms. White enraptured the audience with her perspective on US foreign policy from a storied career in the State Department.
“Every foreign service officer,” Stacy White said, speaking from experience, “will have some story to tell about the effect of exchanges.” Over the course of her presentation, she was able to share some of those stories with attendees to our luncheon and let them know the impact of IVLP, whether it was an irrigation technique that was premised on the study of waterways in Florida or women’s rights legislation that was inspired by a program on US activism and civil rights.
However, the benefits were manifold not just for the delegates taking part in IVLP, but for the country and community who sponsored them. Nationally, “every ambassador consistently names this as their most important public diplomacy tool,” Ms. White said, “No one leaves the United States without a better opinion of us.” The importance of person-to-person and community-to-community diplomacy cannot be overstated, she reckons. It provides an unfiltered, positive view of American life in a memorable way that visitors feel immediately compelled to share with friends, family, and colleagues in their home countries. Given that over 560 heads of state have taken part in IVLP, it is all the better for US international relations that they have the chance to develop a nuanced and friendly view of our country.
Individual communities in the United States have also seen the beneficial impact of IVLP. Ms. White was able to share a story of a businessman in Arizona who has able to resolve a distribution problem he had in exports through a contact he had made through a recent IVLP delegation. Additionally, 97% of all funds that go to the International Visitor Leadership Program are redirected right back to the communities and taxpayers that contributed the funds in the first place through the sponsorship of community-based groups, events, and initiatives.
Ms. White also recognized the importance of local organizations like SACIV. “Everyone is especially impressed by this grassroots citizen network.” “You are not an important partner,” she explained, “you are the essential partner . . . Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
At the lunch, we were also glad to be able to recognize Board Member José Luis García as he retires from the Board of SACIV. His work for our organization has not gone unnoticed, and we all wanted on this occasion to recognize his tireless efforts with a plaque. Let us also say it here: thank you José Luis for your years of work on behalf of SACIV.
In addressing the crowd at the luncheon, Mr. García was able to recall a delegation from Russia he had hosted for dinner hospitality many years ago. An avid cook book collector and gourmet, he recounted his preparation of traditional Tex Mex for them. “To this day, that Russian delegation still emails me about my papadzules.”
Overall, the luncheon was an incredible success. We were so glad to have Stacy White provide her engaging insights, and we were also thankful to be able to thank José Luis García for his tireless work on behalf of SACIV.