Three Priorities for Cultural Exchange Advocacy in 2019


As we round out the first month of the New Year, it seems an opportune time to share Greenheart’s vision and priorities for cultural exchange advocacy in 2019. But as George Santayana – a writer, scholar, and Spanish exchange visitor* to the United States – once said: “To know your future you must know your past.”

So, let’s review: 2018 was an important year for advocacy on behalf of cultural exchange, and especially the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program, which houses the Summer Work and Travel, Intern/Trainee, Secondary Student, and Teacher exchange programs that are so dear to our hearts.

After a long vacancy, the Honorable Marie Royce took the helm as Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), the bureau that oversees the Exchange Visitor Program. We were thrilled to find a strong supporter of international education and cultural exchange in Ms. Royce, who is herself an exchange alumna. At the 2018 Greenheart Global Leadership Conference (GGLC), we were grateful for the opportunity our current participants and alumni had to speak with Ms. Royce and other government representatives about the positive impact of cultural exchange.

Meeting with congressional staff at the 2018 GGLC.

We saw sustained support from the U.S. House of Representatives, which proposed maintaining funding for the ECA at existing levels. In the U.S. Senate, we saw increased support for the Exchange Visitor Program through their proposal to fund ECA at higher levels than in years past. That all of this occurred despite efforts to cut the Exchange Visitor Program and spread misinformation about its purpose and impact is a testament to the broader community of Americans who know the value of cultural exchange and the day-to-day benefits of welcoming international students, teachers, and young professionals into our communities, businesses, and schools.

We are proud of the role that the Greenheart community played in informing our representatives and the broader public about the benefits of cultural exchange. From meetings on Capitol Hill, to volunteering alongside U.S. Congress-members and their staff, to social media campaigns, the Greenheart community spread awareness, challenged misinformation, and helped more Americans see how they benefit by hosting international exchange participants, and how they can benefit from purposeful international travel, too.

In 2019, we’re excited to announce 3 new advocacy priorities:

  1. Getting local to explain the benefits of global awareness and exchange. Because the Exchange Visitor Program is federal program, it is easy – and it makes sense – to focus on Capitol Hill, the seat of the U.S. federal government. We will maintain this focus in 2019. However, we will also direct renewed attention to the local communities throughout America where cultural exchange really happens – and really matters. We’ll do more to advocate for culture exchange in Greenheart’s home state of Illinois, but we’ll also do more to empower others to connect with their representatives locally, which bring me to…
  2. Supporting hosts in advocating for the exchange programs they value. Among other things, we’re launching an advocacy toolkit, which will empower all Greenheart hosts and other community members to transform their personal experiences with cultural exchange into effective advocacy on behalf of cultural exchange. All Greenheart community members will be able to access this toolkit via the Greenheart Club. Look for it in February 2019!
  3. Finally, we will put a spin on existing celebrations – like Earth Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, and National Intern Day – to illustrate how cultural exchange matters for effective action on the environment, for 21st century learning, and for professional development.

As always, we hope you will join us. Together, we will increase understanding and opportunities to participate in cultural exchange. Together, we will demonstrate how cultural exchange builds a strong foundation for peace and fosters the global community we need to rise to the challenges of our times.

* The Exchange Visitor Program didn’t exist at the time of Santayana’s residence in America, but we have good reason to believe he wouldn’t mind our taking liberties: his autobiography demonstrates a keen understanding of cultural exchange as he moved from Spain to Boston, Massachusetts, and finally settled in Rome, Italy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *