I hope you’ve read the details of IVLP in this blog post. IVLP or the International Visitor Leadership Program starts in Washington DC before the participants move to other cities depending on the program they are in. Currently, I’m in Indianapolis, Indiana but this blog post is about the meetings in Washington DC.
Be informed that intricate details of the meetings are expected to be confidential and I would only outline the meeting topics, people we’ve met and my takeaway from the meetings. The overall discussions followed a pattern – what the individual/organisation does, the kind of problems they faced, the solutions they provided and the impact if that’s a relevant problem still.
On day one, we met Mr. Akram Elias, who explained to us the Federal structure of the US Government. You can find the details here.
It was followed by a visit to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Information Programs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Ms. Lauren Gibon tried to outline the ways they are trying to connect people to policies and how they are trying to quantify the impact. They’ve formed outlets similar to Buzzfeed to reach out to the millennials. That’s cool!
The next few days we met Ms. Elizabeth Hume who is the senior director of programs and strategy of “Alliance for PeaceBuilding”; she spoke about the various initiatives the company she represents, took, conflict and the way they operate.
We all loved Ambar Khan’s speech. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan and raised in USA and had spent a good amount of time making people aware of her culture. She discussed the interconnection of religion and peacebuilding. She is a 20-year veteran of social justice advocacy and a strategic communications advisor to public interest groups, private foundations and political campaigns. She managed campaigns and organised progressive coalitions to support civic engagement, religious freedom and gender equality at the local, state and national level. She asked for the questions we had in mind before she could address the group. I asked about the rise of religious fanatics, planted news articles and minority appeasement in politics.
After everyone had placed their questions, she spoke about shared activity and how that should be the goal, if you want to share your culture with the people around you. She insisted, we cannot wear our identities on our sleeves and that people should slowly know about it from our actions and shared experiences. That would also give them time to appreciate you and the culture you belong to.
When people think of a culture, they form stereotypes and rules which are often hard to break. When one does, s/he needs to explain that he or she is not an exception to the rule, thus expanding the horizon of the other person’s mind. Over a period of time, we need to identify who are the influencers of the society we want to influence and who influences them. If we influence the ones who influence the influencers, it’s easy.
Everyone today deep down is stressed, afraid and confused. We try to form rules at the subconscious level and do it to protect our own selves from being even slightly hurt. We all are. It takes slight effort in being ourselves, being true to our thoughts, our work, to our ideas and to our commitment.
There would always be a mass who are informed by misinformation and there would always be exceptions to this rule.
The other meetings were with Ms. Melissa Nozell (Senior Program Specialist, Religion and Inclusive Societies, US Institute of Peace), Ms. Aubrey Cox (Senior Program Specialist, Generation Change, US Institute of Peace). They spoke about how the U.S. Institute of Peace operates in different regions across the world, India not being a part of it.
While in DC, I loved going to the Newseum – the museum of free speech. The World War II memorial, the Korean war memorial, the Vietnam War memorial, Lincoln memorial and every structure there is full of symbolism and grandeur. This city is worth a visit even just for tourism.
My next post should be about the Indianapolis chapter. Do leave your comments! Thank you.