Ambassador Gardner’s Remarks on 75th anniversary of USG Exchange Programs Alumni Reception

Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us. Every year we try to bring together alumni of U.S. exchange programs working on EU issues in Brussels.

Tonight we are also celebrating the 75th anniversary of U.S. government exchange programs, a legacy to which each one of you has contributed in your own way. In 1940, in the aftermath of one World War and with another beginning, the United States recognized information and ideas can have far greater impact than weapons and sought to improve international relations by bringing people of different countries together. Looking across this room at the diversity of countries, backgrounds, and areas of expertise you represent, you are living proof of the power of people-to-people diplomacy.

Over the past seventy five years, international exchange programs have proved an invaluable way for building bridges between the United States and citizens of countries around the world, introducing rising stars from every sector to the people, cultures, and institutions of the United States. Exchange alumni are now counted among the ranks of acclaimed world leaders, activists and civil society representatives, artists, and academics. So our Embassies and Consulates around the world have a pretty good track record of identifying the leaders of the future and providing them with their first exposure to the United States.

We at the U.S. Mission to the EU are especially proud of you, our distinguished alumni, who constitute a very unique group within the State Department’s alumni network. As alumni of USEU’s IVLP, Voluntary Visitor, and Fulbright-Schuman exchange programs, as well as of those run by our colleagues in EU Member States, you truly represent Europe, not simply your country of origin. To many people you met in the United States, you are the face of the EU.

This reception is our way of honoring you and maintaining your connection to the United States in some small way. As alumni, you play an important role in bridging the culture and knowledge gaps that remain between policymakers, media, academics, scientists, and average citizens of the United States and the European Union. We hope tonight serves as a reminder of how you can continue to build ties between the United States and Europe, even long after your program has ended.

We at the U.S. Mission continue to value your expertise and perspectives and look for opportunities to share your views with visiting U.S. government officials and experts. This year we have launched a series of intimate transatlantic round tables, bringing together visiting U.S. experts and alumni to exchange views. So far we have held events on topics as diverse as T-TIP and climate change, and we hope to hold similar discussions in the coming weeks on Russia and other foreign policy topics. We hope these events will reinforce your connection to the United States and update you on U.S. views on issues key to the transatlantic relationship.

Over the course of my term as Ambassador of the U.S. Mission to the European Union, I have met with many alumni and heard how their experiences in the United States, whether for three weeks or three years, influences their outlook, their careers, or their lives. No doubt, each of you has experienced this in your own way, and we hope you will share these experiences among peers in Brussels throughout your careers, as well as, more specifically with us tonight as we join our colleagues around the world celebrating 75 years of exchanges. As you may already be aware, our social media team is collecting your stories tonight and sharing them through the hashtag “ExchangesAre”. Please be sure to share your experiences directly on Twitter with that hashtag or seek out our staff to participate in this global celebration.

I would like to conclude by reminding you that every day, international visitors like yourselves travel across the United States and exchange views with American interlocutors. Nearly a million exchange participants from around the world have taken home the perspectives and skills they gained, and shared them with their friends and family. Not a day goes by without bridges between our nations being built and reinforced through these programs, moving not only people but also ideas. You are a part of that network. You are a part of the future of exchanges, and you are an integral part of the transatlantic relationship.

Thank you again for being here tonight, and for your continued contribution to strengthening the relationship between the United States and the European Union.