Ambassador John O'Keefe, Executive Director, Open World Leadership Center, Washington, D.C.
The Open World Leadership Center, an agency of the United States Congress, brings rising leaders from the former Soviet republics and Central Asia to communities all around America for a professional exchange program. Seeking to expand our geographic range this year, we reached out to the Minot Area Council for International Visitors and asked them to host five Russian social services professionals for an eight-day program. The results of the Council's volunteer efforts were nothing short of spectacular.
Despite the ongoing flood recovery efforts, the people of Minot graciously opened their homes and hearts to our visitors, and for that I am eternally grateful. The goal of our program is to create a true cultural and professional exchange a sharing of ideas and an understanding of that which we all have in common.
By staying with North Dakotan families, our delegates got an inside view of what it means to live in America. Stereotypes and assumptions fall away when friendships form and we take the time to get to know one another. By meeting with local social service agencies, the delegates explored different ways of providing social services within their own communities.
So thank you to the terrific volunteers at MAC IV and the people of Minot and New Town who took time out of their schedules to meet our Russian guests. You are forging connections between two countries you are true citizen diplomats.