Welcome, all. What a wonderful exhibit.
Every image tells a compelling story of the incredible impact of international exchange.
As the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department, it is my privilege to oversee many of the State Department’s exchange programs.
We send thousands of young Americans overseas every year and welcome thousands more people from around the world to the United States.
International exchanges have a deep and lasting impact on both the individuals who take part in them, and on the communities that welcome them.
That impact is personified by the American citizen we honor today. At 15 years old, Ian Knight traveled halfway around the world from his hometown of Missoula, Montana, to take part in a youth leadership program in Thailand.
Ian stepped boldly out of his comfort zone to explore different cultures, faiths, and ways of life.
Ian’s experience is the essence of what it means to be a citizen diplomat. To listen with an open mind. To share perspectives with a generous spirit. And to share some of America with people who may never have the chance to see Washington, DC – or Missoula, Montana – with their own eyes.
By sharing stories of his exchange - and through his prizewinning photo – Ian has prompted thousands of Montanans to learn more about the State Department and about international exchange. I hear that his advocacy even led the Mayor of Missoula to designate March 20 as International Exchanges Day.
Thank you, Ian, for making the trip from Montana to be with us today.
I understand many State Department colleagues here today are also international exchange program alumni.
You got your start as citizen diplomats, and then pursued careers in diplomacy.
Thank you for your continued commitment to engaging with the world and representing the best of America.
The vibrant photos on exhibit today show the power of the exchange experience—transcending language barriers, seeking out new perspectives, and working together to pursue shared interests and confront global challenges like the burden of addiction, the scourge of human trafficking, or the challenge of protecting our environment, a particular interest of Ian’s.
I hope that each of you here will take time to tour the exhibit here at the U.S. Diplomacy Center.
But first, we have important work to do. Ian, please join me. Ian’s grand prize winning photo, appropriately titled “Unity,” beautifully captures the essence of exchange programs: the chance to look at the world from a different perspective and understand yourself and others through an entirely new lens.
And so, on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, it is my pleasure to present you with this award, recognizing you as the Grand Prize winner of the 2017-2018 Citizen Diplomacy Challenge.
Thank you again, Ian, for all of your efforts to promote exchange programs and to be a model citizen diplomacy in your community.
And now I’d like to invite Shari to introduce the next part of our program: an interactive networking event for international exchange alumni.