Ms. Juan Wang of China, a staff member of Ningxia’s Foreign Affairs Office in China, was able to travel to San Antonio this week as part of a program on U.S. Government and Society. Although the program had originally been designed to include six other participants, Ms. Wang was able to make it a very successful program with her enthusiasm and keen questions.
After arriving in San Antonio, she began with her liaison, Ms. Jude Kieda, at the Bexar County Elections Department. Here, she was able to delve into a rich conversation with Ms. Jacquelyn Callanen who administers the office. They discussed the differences in political systems, the issues and traits that attract voters, and how mobilization for Election Day works in the United States. Ms. Wang was also able to test out the voting machines that the Department houses and experience what an American election would look like to any voter.
Next, she made a stop at the San Antonio Police Department. Sergeant Lutton and Robert Looney at SAPD welcomed her into the Public Safety Headquarters to learn more about their community policing programs and modern issues in law enforcement in the United States. Ms. Wang was fascinated by the insight they provided into a variety of issues that are shaping the work of police officers and U.S. society generally.
Ms. Wang and Ms. Kieda enjoyed lunch at the famous Mi Tierra restaurant and then continued to their afternoon appointment. Saghar Roshan of Catholic Charities welcomed the two into their offices for a discussion about their refugee resettlement efforts which were of great interest to our international visitor. She was able to ask them all about how they work to acculturate diverse populations peaceably into the local community.
That concluded the days professional appointments, but Ms. Wang was able to have dinner with SACIV member Mary Lou Wilson. Ms. Wang found her to be not only warm and inviting, but she also appreciated the candor with which they could discuss a variety of topics.
The next day, Wednesday, began with a meeting at the SACIV offices with the League of Women Voters. They discussed their myriad programs and fora to encourage members of the community to register to vote and then subsequently participate in the electoral process. The three representatives who met with Ms. Wang, Phyllis Ingram, Martha Lankford, and Linda Arronge, each provided a unique perspective on the League’s efforts and the best ways to promote democratic involvement by the public.
This conversation segued perfectly into the next appointment with MOVE Texas. MOVE works to encourage young people to become more involved in their democracy at every level of governance. The conversation between the Executive Director of MOVE, Drew Galloway, and Ms. Wang allowed her to explore the reasons people do and do not vote. They also discussed MOVE’s innovate strategies to engage young people through parties, person-to-person networks, and social media.
Before the day was out, Ms. Wang was also able to talk to Fatima Menendez at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. MALDEF was an invaluable appointment for shedding light on current immigration debates as well as the benefits and challenges of a multi-ethnic society like the United States. Exploring these issues created a great conversation between the two women.
Ms. Wang was also the guest of honor at the SACIV Annual Dinner that Wednesday night where she eloquently shared her IVLP experiences with our members, distinguished guests, and other global citizens. Being able to break bread with a diverse array of people from the United States definitely enhanced the trip and contributed to a broad, holistic understanding not just of the formal mechanisms of governance here but of the people that government serves.