1 November 2011: U.S.-Canada Alumni Symposium
On Friday, October 21st, the U.S. Embassy held a one day alumni symposium for alumni from U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange programs at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. The symposium brought together alumni from programs such as Fulbright, the International Visitor Leadership Program, and the Parliamentary Internship Programme to share their experience and expertise on a broad array of themes. Canada has nearly 2,000 State Department exchange alumni, leaders in a variety of fields including government, business, academic, media and the arts. The State Department counts nearly one million alumni of its exchange programs which date back to the 1940s.
Deputy Chief of Mission, James Nealon, welcomed the participants, noting that: "Across Canada, the U.S. and around the globe, alumni are fostering mutual understanding by sharing their diverse knowledge and talents with their communities. Through developing and nurturing personal connections, the bonds between our two great nations grow even stronger. Over the past couple of years, we've been doing a lot of creative thinking about alumni engagement and I hope that today's event will move us further along that path."
Honored at the event was the longest-serving Canadian Member of Parliament, the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, who was presented with the inaugural U.S. Mission Canada's Distinguished Alumni Award. Gray, an 1967 exchange alumnus himself, has worked on facilitating the United States-Canada bilateral relationship throughout his career including serving as the Canadian Chair of the International Joint Commission. The award, signed by Ambassador David Jacobson, reads, "In recognition of dedication to public service and to strengthening the United States-Canada bilateral relationship."
Mr. Gray explained that the U.S.-Canada relationship figured prominently in both his professional and personal life, having grown up near the border in Windsor, Ontario, and serving that district as Member of Parliament. "We share a geography, and we share a common involvement in international organizations. We serve together in the fight for peace against dictatorships," said Gray. He noted how important the State Department exchange programs are to strengthening the U.S.-Canada relationship due to the values that Canada and the U.S. share. Ambassador Adam Ereli, the acting Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, sent a message via video link, commenting, "Participating in an exchange is not a one-time experience. It marks the beginning of ongoing relationships with the people you met on your program, both Americans and colleagues from other countries, the U.S. Mission in Canada, and your fellow exchange alumni.... Good ideas matter. People matter. Put them together. You may agree or disagree with each other, but you have to work together to effect social change. Together, as citizens of our cities, our countries, our continent and our world, we all can accomplish even more."
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates throughout Canada will have activities throughout 2012 focusing on alumni to build on the experience and expertise sharing initiated at the symposium.
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