March 03, 2022

Letter from the Director March 2022

"The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy-the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately. The simple purpose of the exchange program is to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another. The exchange program is not a panacea but an avenue of hope." J. William Fulbright

 

Dear Friends of UCCD,

Like many of you, my heart is heavy this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation, is unconscionable, a blatant disregard to human life, and an act of contempt for diplomacy, a necessary tool in pursuing peace. Our dear Ukrainian friends and the Russians who oppose this war are at the forefront of our minds.

And while the attack on Ukraine is currently the direst threat to global peace, it is just one of many. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and Myanmar, tensions with China, Iran, and North Korea, civil war in Ethiopia and South Sudan, instability in Venezuela, Egypt, and Lebanon. The list goes on and on. I'll admit that some days, I just get overwhelmed by the state of the world.

However, recently I had coffee with UCCD's former Executive Director Laura Dupuy, who gently reminded me that the world is cyclical. Civil unrest, wars, and the fall and rise of empires have always existed; however, the power of people connecting with one another, learning from each other, nurturing meaningful and long-lasting memories and friendships together have always given humanity, the face of the people, to these conflicts.

For this reason, the Department of State's international exchange programs like the International Leadership Visitor Programs exist, and organizations like Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy play a small but essential role in our community.

From elected officials and religious leaders to business owners, community activists, and everyday citizens, we at Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy connect people at every level in Utah, like you, to engage with our International Visitors. You open your businesses, classrooms, and homes and make connections that transcend political and cultural divides. As a result, you fill the critical role within citizen diplomacy, embracing the right and responsibility to shape foreign relations. Together, you and I build a world that promotes global respect and understanding, one handshake at a time.

It is these thoughts that put the work we do into perspective. I appreciate your support. I appreciate each of you, our citizen diplomats. I appreciate you for playing a role in connecting Utah to the world and the world to Utah.

Globally,
Felecia Maxfield-Barrett
Executive Director