Building relationships with the international community
International Visitors Leadership Program
The World Affairs Council of Maine serves as our state’s coordinator for the U.S. State Department’s premier professional exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), established in 1940 by former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help strengthen U.S. engagement with countries around the world.
Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States. Additionally, the visitors have the opportunity to experience American culture first-hand through home hospitality and outings to sporting events, museums, theater, festivals, and concerts.
Who administers the International Visitor Leadership Program?
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funds and administers IVLP. In doing so, the Bureau, through its Office of International Visitors, enters cooperative agreements with National Program Agencies (NPAs), not-for-profit organizations based in Washington, D.C. that design and implement the national IVLP programs. In addition to the NPAs, the IVLP relies on the commitment and skills of over 88 volunteer-based community organizations across the U.S., known as community-based members (CBMs), of which the World Affairs Council of Maine is one. Local CBMs develop the local professional programs, arrange cultural activities, and provide home hospitality for IVLP participants.
Who are the international participants?
Each year nearly 5,000 IVLP visitors come to the United States. These participants are highly qualified current and emerging foreign leaders in government, politics, the media, education, the arts, business, and other key fields. They are all hand-picked and nominated for this program by our U.S. embassies abroad in accordance with the U.S. Department of State’s foreign policy goals and funding allocations. Participants have included educators, cabinet members, judges, community organizers, journalists, health professionals, trade policy decision-makers and many more. Each project could include visitors from a multi-region, a specific region, or a single country.
Since its inception in 1940, more than 200,000 distinguished individuals have participated in the IVLP, including over 350 current and former Chiefs of State and Heads of Government (e.g., former British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair), thousands of cabinet-level ministers, and many other distinguished leaders from the public and private sectors, including Nobel Peace Prize recipients.
How long are the visitors in Maine and where do they go?
Participants are nominated to come to the United States for approximately three weeks of meetings with their professional counterparts around the country, although projects vary based on themes, Embassy requests and other factors. In addition to Washington, D.C., multiple cities across the U.S. (usually three or four) are selected for each project, during which time the visitors experience American culture first-hand. As a whole, the national program represents geographical balance and the diversity of the U.S. population. If Maine is selected as a stop on the national itinerary, a typical program will last approximately two programming days, not including arrival/departure days and weekends.
While in Maine, participants meet with their professional counterparts, visit Maine public and private sector organizations related to the project theme, and participate in cultural and social activities. A Maine program will often include an evening of home hospitality and a trip to the Portland Head Light in addition to the professional program.
How can I become engaged with this program?
There are many opportunities for Mainers to get involved. The goal of the International Visitor Leadership Program is to promote mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations around the world. Volunteers are needed to serve as home hospitality hosts, subject matter experts, escorts to cultural events, and volunteer programmers.
What if I don’t speak the native language of the visitors?
For each program, if needed, the Department of State’s Office of Language Services assigns an interpreter(s) to accompany individuals and groups throughout their American program.
Home Hospitality Hosts
Home hospitality hosts provide an evening of conversation and a home-cooked meal in their homes. These events are meant to be casual and the inclusion of family, neighbors, colleagues, or students is highly encouraged. Prior to the established date of home hospitality, specific dietary restrictions are forwarded to each host to use in preparation of their menus.
This is a great way to involve children in thinking about the world beyond U.S. borders. This also goes a long way towards building an impression of Americans as generous and friendly hosts, and can lead to establishing meaningful long-term relationships between volunteers and visitors.
Anyone wishing to get involved in the program or wanting more information should contact:
Maureen Hurley, Director of the International Visitors Program
World Affairs Council of Maine
P.O. Box 9300, Portland, Maine 04104