A long-time, highly visible local advocate of citizen diplomacy, Holly Pratt reflects on its role in the past, present, and future.
“He who receives ideas from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me.”Thomas Jefferson
When we reflect on the penning of the Declaration of Independence by our founding fathers, we know they were articulating their clear belief that cooperation, diplomacy, and shared experiences matter. Whether we think of those original 13 colonies who were united with fragile bonds in 1776, or the 21st century when people around the world learn of global events in real time, these principles remain.
As we pause to reflect on the patriotic spirit that motivated our founding fathers, let us also take a moment to contemplate our country’s image abroad. Is the U.S. a benevolent, appealing figure that represents the ideals embraced by our Republic’s founders? Or is our nation perceived as an imposing bully who coerces desired behavior, rather than diplomatically eliciting cooperation? There is no single answer, but the people of the United States of America should be interested in how we are perceived around the world. These foreign perceptions affect jobs and local economies, and ultimately influence our national security.
In Jackson, we have modern day patriots who work to build respect for our country. These people are our citizen diplomats who, by participating in international exchange programs, volunteer their time and expertise to strengthen relationships between citizens of the United States and those of other countries – one handshake at a time.
For more than 75 years, the U.S. Department of State has advocated and supported citizen diplomacy efforts in communities around the country. As a member organization, Global Ties Wyoming, formerly The Wyoming Council for International Visitors, has brought hundreds of emerging and established foreign leaders to Jackson as invited guests of the International Visitor Leadership Program. We have had the privilege to engage citizen diplomats right here in Wyoming in these visits. The Teton County residents who engage with us embody a strong and effective form of patriotism that is essential for a peaceful and globalized 21st century.
Our work will continue to build authentic connections between local citizens and emerging leaders from around the globe. By opening our homes, offices, and schools to these visitors, our volunteers nurture international cooperation and helps shape a more culturally literate population. Our thanks go out to the more than 400 local volunteers annually who dedicate time and effort to help create peaceful relations from right here at home.
As I exit this organization, I will carry forward many powerful and fond memories. Together we have created change both at home and around the world. I wish for the best of times to come for Global Ties WY.
Holly Pratt is the past Executive Director of The Wyoming Council for International Visitors, now Global Ties Wyoming, and a long-time advocate of citizen diplomacy.