The National International Visitors Council opens diplomacy up to any citizen who wants to help international visitors feel at home and who dreams of spreading friendship around the globe.
There was a time and place when the whole village assembled to greet wayfarers with song and refreshments that lifted spirits, soothed parched throats, and satiated bellies grown lean during the journey. Once the welcoming ceremonies had put everyone at ease, thoughts could turn to discussing the catalyst sparking the trip. As night fell and discussions faded, villagers would open their homes for travelers to rest.
Diplomacy in past eras was not left just to chiefs and their councils. It was a village affair. The NIVC revived citizen diplomacy in the United States some 55 years ago. Unchanged are basic welcoming receptions, offering a home away from home, and ditto to the dialogue in between.
Much today also takes the form of international business and educational exchanges, which are good, but so is having friends abroad. IVC likes to say, “[It] is International relations as it should be – one person, one handshake – at a time. Making friends leads to peace – it really is that simple.”
IVC makes diplomacy easy through a network of 93 councils and more than 80,000 citizen diplomats nationwide. They host the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. For their role in sharing American culture and engaging in business matchmaking with specially invited international guests, IVC was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
Here in Philadelphia, IVC President and CEO Nancy Gilboy reminds people that Elvis was a citizen diplomat. “When he landed in Germany as an American soldier in 1958 he told reporters that ‘what we do here will reflect on America and our way of life.’” Gilboy adds, “He was right.”
Although Elvis engaged in international exchange as a soldier and celebrity entertainer, the IVC gives Philadelphians, in general, chances to join the citizen diplomacy movement.
International Visitors Council First Thursday reception on April 2, 2009. Photo: IVC
Opportunities for diplomacy abound, for instance, with First Thursdays and Fridays. IVC Philadelphia holds a reception on the first Thursday of each month except January and July. Visitors from several of the 120 countries in the program use these opportunities to build social and professional networks in the area. Featured countries vary monthly.
The next reception is February 4 in the Annex Grille & Lounge at the Marriott Courtyard of Philadelphia at 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. RSVP to Alan Hatfield at 215.683.0992 by 11 a.m. on the day of the event or visit http://ivc.org/first_thursday_receptions.
International visitors love the overview of the area provided on Discover Philadelphia Friday. These International First Fridays are a time for immersion in the arts and broad ranging culture, history, and topology of the region.
IVC also sponsors Sister and Partnership cities, an eye-opening exchange program with 10 cities around the world plus Mosul, Iraq, the one Partners for Peace city. Where these programs’ cultural, educational, and humanitarian ties take hold economic exchange soon follow with the full commitment of the mayors of each city.
Visitors from Cypress dancing at the IVC barbecue in July 2009. Photo: IVC
IVC is not just for seasoned guests. Given the region’s thriving contingent of universities, Philadelphia hosts hundred of exchange students each year. COMPASS, IVC’s young professionals ages 21-40 entertain exchange students and fellow professionals with their own special events such as free First Thursdays and outings “on the town.”
More than 3,000 opportunities are available to link rising and established business, civic, and cultural leaders together during the year. Featured among them is the annual IVC barbecue that combines a friendly networking atmosphere with IVC fundraising. Planning gets underway soon. Folks can reserve July 22 for this event and pitch in to help make it more fun and successful than ever.
It is great to not only build global networks without leaving Philadelphia but to additionally witness guests from countries that are enemies at the state level dine together, laugh together, and come to appreciate their similarities is a tremendous reward.
Such is diplomacy at its best. Nancy Gilboy and the entire Philadelphia organization envision creating the strongest international network in the U.S. right here. They are asking residents to share in that vision by volunteering and/or donating.
For more info: visit www.ivc.org or call 215.683.0990.
All rights to article reserved by Gloria Blakely. Copyright 2010.