My name is Neil Eschenfelder. My wife, Shielia Nash, and I happened across Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy quite by accident. A friend invited me to a meeting where, as a photography enthusiast, a National Geographic photographer addressed our members. Stunned at his photo assignment descriptions, I felt this is an interesting organization to know. Ever since then UCCD’s John & Marcia Price World Affairs Lecture Series brings us back for each season’s thoroughly spellbinding conversations. UCCD’s reach and scope provide real inspiration.
While lectures create UCCD’s face in our community, its soul lays in their International Visitor Leadership Program. Here is where “diplomacy, one handshake at a time” actually takes place. UCCD presents home-hosting opportunities bringing together visiting subject-matter experts from around the world for meals in UCCD member homes. Our last visit brought squeals of delight from our China, Bolivia, Palestine and Jordan visitors when we told them we were having barbecue for dinner. They were not quite sure how to dress their burgers! We all laughed at something so ingrained in us but foreign to them.
Friendships cannot help forming. We even made plans to make contact with several visitors in their home countries. I feel the International Visitor Leadership Program brings the world’s best people to our doorsteps making diplomacy easy. Imagine dressing up your Facebook pages with posts featuring languages from around the world! Our September visit ended way too soon. We desperately wanted them to come back again on Sunday! “Can’t we come get you really early?” “Let's go to the canyons!” Alas, no. Anxiously awaiting our next dinner with some International Visitors; I thank UCCD for providing these opportunities. We need to be the America our visitors take home in their hearts.
Neil Eschenfelder and Shielia Nash
In 2016, Neil and Sheila hosted a dinner for some of our Visitors from Jordan and Palestine. They had such a great time and created such great friendships with these Visitors that Neil and Sheila are planning to visit them in their countries this fall. Neil will be teaching a free photo class to Jordanian and Palestinian residents during this trip, and he shares, “I hope I can create photography-centric links between my friends in Nepal and my new friends in Jordan & Palestine.”