Exchanging People & Ideas Bridges the World’s Divides
6/4/10 Huffington Post
By John Kerry – U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
One year ago in Cairo, President Obama promised America and the world’s Muslims a new beginning “based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Translating this message into better relationships will take action from all of us.
In the coming weeks, I will introduce a bill in Congress to create a new professional exchange program between the United States and Muslim-majority countries. This pilot program would allow young American professionals to spend six months overseas experiencing a new culture in Muslim countries while gaining new work experiences. And it would allow citizens of those countries to spend six months in the United States, where they will gain valuable work skills and see what life in America is all about. In a small but significant way, both journeys will help to lay the groundwork for improved relations going forward.
We’ve done this before. After World War II, our leaders — and particularly a young senator from Arkansas named J. William Fulbright — recognized the value of building bridges through exchanges. While the Fulbright program began modestly in 1946, today, 300,000 men and women have been proudly called “Fulbrighters.” The alumni list includes 40 Nobel Prize winners from 11 countries, and 7,500 new scholars every year. If you doubt that people-to-people exchanges are a good diplomatic investment, consider this: 20 of those young international Fulbright scholars who came to study in America went on to become heads of state.
Exchange programs like the Fulbright and others already build bridges among academics. This program will emphasize the next step: career development for young professionals.
Today, we stand at the crest of a demographic wave that will transform the early 21st century, particularly in the Arab world with the so-called “youth bulge.” Societies will feel enormous strain as they struggle to keep up with a growing population’s demands for more economic opportunities. We will need to meet these challenges head-on. By targeting professionals like teachers, city planners, public health workers and other professions, this program can be a valuable step in building professional capacity for societies to keep up. And by encouraging public-private partnerships, this program can help link our institutions, governments, charities, and businesses in common cause.
Of course, exchange programs alone cannot address the political issues that divide us. A year after Cairo, there is widespread frustration throughout many Muslim communities that not enough has been done to change the status quo — to address poverty, to champion democratic values and human rights, and to bring peace to Afghanistan and especially the Middle East.
For the entire article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-kerry/exchanging-people-and-ide_b_601128.html