July 01, 2024

Letter from the CEO July 2024

Dear Friends of Utah Global Diplomacy,

Last Wednesday morning, I woke up to an email from our D.C. partners with an urgent plea to contact our Representatives and ask them to vote "no" on H.R. 8771 Amendment 38. This amendment would have defunded the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which administers the international professional and cultural exchange programs we have hosted for the past sixty years.I am delighted to share that all the amendments impacting exchange programs were defeated!

We are part of a more extensive network of eighty-six nonprofits across the United States whose primary purpose is to welcome international delegations to our state and communities as citizen diplomats. We strongly believe that everyone has the right, even responsibility, to shape foreign relations, and it's done one handshake at a time. While we recognize that our purpose is not to advocate for policy, sometimes it's critical to call on you, the people of our community, to educate our elected officials about the importance of global connections as Americans.

Last Wednesday, as a collective group of citizen diplomats, we sent 2,456 letters to 391 Representatives and made countless phone calls and additional touchpoints. Pulling this off within two days was only possible with the support from people in communities across the nation, including Utah, who put the democratic process to work! Additionally, as the House debated the amendments on the floor, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) spoke on the importance of exchange programs.

“The Department of State educational and cultural exchanges account funds people-to-people engagement, which supports our country’s foreign policy objectives. These programs foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries and promote peace and understanding.

Lord knows we need this.

They allow us to promote our values of democracy, freedom of the press, and civic participation, as well as promote dialogue, collaboration, and the sharing of diverse perspectives, especially for the cultivation of the next generation of global leaders. These programs also help us understand those who may or may not share our values, but we at least have an opportunity to engage," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) shared, “Amendments proposed today zero out funding for Ukraine, for USAID, humanitarian and natural disaster relief, and educational exchange programs. That’s critical to promoting America’s standing around the world. This is irresponsible policymaking.”

I am grateful to you, the exchange champions in our community, who believe in people-to-people connections that foster:Respect for all people and diverse perspectives;Personal and social responsibility;A belief that the people of the world are interconnected;Open and respectful dialogue.

Your support for our work at Utah Global Diplomacy truly humbles me.

I also want to express my appreciation to Reps. Maloy, Curtis, Moore, and Owens for their support of exchange programs.

Felecia Maxfield-Barrett
President & CEO
Utah Global Diplomacy

More in this category: « Letter from the CEO June 2024