Person-to-Person Diplomacy: Tea, Soccer, and Finding Common Ground

By Kimberly Collins, Global Competency Intern
In an age where I can read live tweets from Gaza and watch YouTube videos fresh from Syria, I have the ability to filter my news with scrutiny. With constant increases in technology, I have the luxury of video chatting for free directly with a friend in France. My company could send me on a three year assignment to the UAE and, while doubtlessly challenging in ways, I would be overall fine, even elated. All this to say, the world is getting flatter, and we are getting more connected in it.

Recently we welcomed an international visitor who came to Indianapolis as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). He met with accomplished and visionary leaders in our community, spent time with a host family, explored the city, and even attended a Pacers game. He was an engaged and receptive visitor, and our hosts welcomed him with gifts, conversation, and interest.
As we wandered through the war memorial museum during his free time, he and I discussed US involvement in various parts of the world. Our visitor told me, “Your policies disservice your country.” He went on to express how, in spite of the sometimes frustrating actions of our government, he still feels amiable toward Americans and seeks more engagement. We can know more about countries than the fact that our leaders are negotiating or that we’re invading them; we can learn about people and places apart from the policies that may disservice them. IVLP is a hugely beneficial way to capitalize on these opportunities.
As the day was ending, I walked our visitor and his interpreter back to drop them off at their hotel. They insisted I let them buy me tea at a local coffeeshop, and we lingered for another hour and a half talking about family, soccer, and travels. They had such high praise for their time here, saying that it had been our visitor’s favorite day yet in the US and that he couldn’t wait to tell the IVLP team in DC what a positive experience it was. They graciously extended invitations to show me around their respective cities, encouraged me to become a diplomat in his home country, and expressed hopes of returning to Indianapolis again.
This is why I believe that programs such as IVLP, rooted in person-to-person diplomacy, offer so much potential for growth and goodwill between nations. In one day, we were able to span conversation from the touchy subjects of wars and over-extension to our favorite soccer teams, all the while maintaining a relationship of mutual respect and interest. Programs like these come at a pivotal time in our globalizing world, and will continue to be instrumental in how we navigate our future.
To learn more about or become involved with the International Visitors Leadership Program, click here or contact Beth Barich.