American Councils’ president testifies on impact of exchanges in front of House committee

Dr. Dan Davidson, president of the American Councils for International Education, testified last week in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, discussing the merits of people-to-people exchanges and their ability to foster “positive social and economic changes.” He urged the subcommittee to increase support for exchanges in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, recent areas of conflict. And to illustrate the specific impact of exchanges, he highlighted two successful youth exchange programs: the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs.

In his testimony, Dr. Davidson discussed Congress’ critical role in support of exchange initiatives that promote the ideals of “transparency, inclusion, and ethnic diversity.” As a physical testament of these principals, he mentioned both the FLEX and the YES programs, including their large alumni bases and their potential for promoting change around the world:

“[The FLEX and YES programs] represent American values and ideals in action, rather than as words on a page. Moreover, exchange alumni take on increasingly important roles in their home countries in government, business, and the NGO community.” 

In addition to inbound exchanges, Dr. Davidson also affirmed the competitive merits of Americans venturing abroad through programs such as the National Security Language Initiative:

“…U.S. students, teachers, and scholars have, in turn, ensured that America’s own capacity to engage with a rapidly changing world is preserved. Our own national security and global competitiveness depend on our ability to understand and engage peoples with diverse histories, cultures, politics, economies, and languages.”

For funding in fiscal year 2016, Dr. Davidson requested $630 million for programs under the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

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