March 10, 1999
Release No. 011-99

CONTACT: Catherine Stearns
PHONE: (202) 401-1190

United States Information Agency - News Release



Washington, D.C. - The National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), in cooperation with the United States Information Agency's Office of International Visitors, will hold its national conference March 11 through 13 at the Marriott at Metro Center (775 12th Street, N.W.). Representatives from 110 Councils for International Visitors (CIVs), community organizations, university centers, and program agencies from 43 states nationwide will convene to showcase their work and the important connection between world events and American citizens. The NCIV network, working with USIA's International Visitor Program, makes building that connection its chief concern.

"Each year more than 80,000 volunteers involved with NCIV member activities welcome foreign leaders participating in USIA's International Visitor Program and other exchanges into their offices, homes, and schools. Participants in our national conference - who provide leadership to this remarkable network of citizen diplomats - meet in Washington to exchange 'best practices' and learn more about how their efforts contribute to better U.S. foreign relations," said NCIV Executive Director Dr. Sherry Mueller. "Their task is to change the perceived intangible impact of international exchange into the tangible. Not only does international visitor exchange have an immediate positive impact on the U.S. communities in which it occurs, it also has a long-term impact on U.S. foreign relations through the informed experiences of visitors who are or become leaders in their countries."

To emphasize the positive impact of international exchange on their communities, conference participants will converge on Capitol Hill to meet with their Congressional representatives and will be honored at a reception with Congressional leaders.

Conference participants will partake of a wide variety of workshops and panels featuring high-level professionals and scholars. Topics include, among others, Partnering with Elected Officials, Public Relations: Working with the Media, The Role of Interpreters and Escorts, Developing Local Resources, Attracting New Customers: The Federally Funded Visitors, and Electronic Information Management.

Conference keynote speaker Ralph Begleiter, CNN World Affairs Correpondent, will address "Crisis News Network": U.S. News Media Trends and Implications for International Exchange. Offering a taste of his topic, Begleiter explained, "Despite the proliferation of information 'channels' on television, the Internet, and in print, Americans today receive a thin diet of news and information about the world abroad. So diplomats and policy makers operate with little public support for their actions. People can be surprised by global events that have been brewing for weeks or even months. What makes this strange is that it's occurring against a backdrop of increasing global economic and financial interdependence, which makes world events play a bigger role in the well being of every American citizen."

Dr. Russell Cargo, Director, Nonprofit Management Program at George Mason University, in a luncheon plenary address titled Saving the World is No Easy Task, will relate current trends in the nonprofit field to the broader issues of stabilizing social, economic, and political conditions around the world.

Dr. Judith Siegel, USIA Deputy Associate Director for Educational and Cultural Affairs, in a luncheon plenary address on Consolidation, will share the latest news on the consolidation of U.S. foreign affairs agencies and how the transfer of the International Visitor Program from USIA to the Department of State will affect NCIV members.

Other conference highlights include a reception hosted by the NCIV Board of Directors and:

James P. Rubin, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and a Concluding Plenary, Abraham Lincoln: A Live Portrayal by James Getty, in which the award-winning actor and educator portrays President Lincoln and illustrates a model fundraising.

The International Visitor Program of USIA operates under authority of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (The Fulbright-Hays Act). The program aims to increase mutual understanding through communication at the personal and professional levels. Participants are established and potential foreign leaders in government, politics, media, education, science, labor relations, and other key fields. They are selected by American embassies overseas to visit the United States to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to gain firsthand experience of this country. Hundreds of former participants in the International Visitor Program have risen to important positions in their countries. Among the alumni are more than 160 current and former chiefs of state and heads of government, and more than 600 cabinet-level ministers.

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The United States Information Agency, headed by Acting Director Penn Kemble, is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities.

USIA's programs include the Voice of America, Radio and TV Mart­, the WORLDNET satellite television system, the daily Washington File newswire, the Fulbright scholarship program, the International Visitor Program, the Speakers and Specialists Program, three Foreign Press Centers in the United States, and a network of overseas resource and cultural centers. The Agency has 190 posts in 141 countries.

The USIA domestic server can be accessed through or through most search engines on the Internet.

United States Information Agency, 301 4th Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20547
Tel: (202) 619-4355, Fax: (202) 619-6988

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