ECA Assistant Secretary Ryan highlights role of exchanges in renewed U.S-Cuba relations

Exchanges will play “a unique and critical role” in the normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations, Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan said in her opening remarks for a symposium at George Washington University on Wednesday.

The symposium, hosted by George Washington University in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and Sister Cities International, focused on how the new U.S. policy toward Cuba [the Alliance reported] can promote more people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

Noting that “this is a historic moment that comes along once in a lifetime,” Assistant Secretary Ryan underlined that to rebuild trust, Americans and Cubans need to engage with and learn about one another:

“We must find ways to build bridges where gaps exist.”

Continuing to build and strengthen people-to-people ties between the two nations, including through exchanges, will be critical, Ryan added:

“These are the relationships that will drive [the U.S. and Cuba] forward.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange Robin Lerner, a panelist at the symposium, remarked that 49 Cuban citizens came to the U.S. on J-1 visas last year to participate in a variety of J-1 exchange programs.

A video recording of Assistant Secretary Ryan's full remarks is available here. Recordings of the two panels and closing remarks can be accessed here.