Last Wednesday, September 29th, 2011 over 50 community leaders from as many different countries around the world came to the White House to begin their three-week experience in the United States. These organizers, teachers, and public servants are participating in a special session of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP is a professional exchange program that connects current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through programs to build mutual understanding on foreign policy issues. The leaders currently on exchange all have experience working with Peace Corps volunteers; they are here to honor the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps by exploring the methods, meaning and importance of local, national and international service, especially for young people.
I am a returned Honduras Peace Corps volunteer, and had the privilege of meeting with this group to share my story. My two years in Honduras spent building and designing water systems in rural areas showed me how important full participation is to bettering a community. By engaging in service this way, I am part of a family of Peace Corps volunteers who are setting the example of service. My Peace Corps experience helped me understand how service abroad is an important element in fostering effective and friendly relations between nations around the world.
Jon Carson is Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement