August 03, 2023

Letter from the CEO August 2023

Dear Friends of Utah Global Diplomacy, 

In the wake of 9/11, America was paralyzed by fear, and across the country, the TV's and radios incessantly hummed with the news of the tragedy. In Utah, Lynn and DeAnna DeBry were about to welcome international visitors into their home as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program. However, the shock of the attacks had left them unsure if they still wanted to proceed. Little did they know that what happened next would change their lives forever.

The International Visitor Leadership Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State, aims to build diplomatic ties by sponsoring professionals, business leaders, and government workers from other countries to connect with their American counterparts. The Home Hosting component allows these visitors to join U.S. individuals and families for an evening of food and fostering meaningful connections.

The DeBrys had been hosting international visitors for over 40 years. A mere days after the 9/11 attacks, they were set to host six guests from Indonesia and East Asian countries. Yet, with all their visitors being Muslims and the country still reeling from the terrorist attacks, fear and hesitation crept in. After much soul-searching and prayer, they realized the essence of their role as citizen diplomats: to establish friendships and build bridges in an effort to help shape foreign relations one handshake at a time.  

On September 13, 2001, the visitors arrived with trepidation, while the DeBrys were anxious about how to navigate the sensitive atmosphere. However, as the evening progressed, barriers dissolved. Despite cultural differences, they discovered a shared love for family and country. Music united them further, leading to tearful but heartwarming moments.

While fear and misunderstanding prevailed across America, the DeBrys knew they needed to share their understanding. They invited a Muslim friend to speak to various church groups, dispelling stereotypes and promoting empathy.

Over the years, their home-hosting dinners have broken down cultural barriers and fostered acceptance and appreciation for diversity. The DeBrys' commitment to being citizen diplomats has left a lasting impact.

Lynn and DeAnna DeBry's story showcases that even during the most challenging times, we can continue to promote respect and understanding between the people of Utah and other nations. Their journey of compassion and openness serves as a reminder that by embracing diversity, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate world.

If you're interested in participating in the IVLP's Home Hosting program or learning more about Utah Global Diplomacy's events, please make sure to check out the rest of our website and sign up for our newsletter.  Together, we can build a better tomorrow.

Felecia Maxfield-Barrett
President & CEO