About the Author: Amy Kroll serves as an intern in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy.
It may seem unusual to travel from Kyrgyzstan to Cleveland, Ohio; or from Brazil to Wichita, Kansas. However, 100 young legislative fellows made these and similar journeys to explore American government, exchange ideas, and improve governance in their home country.
These leaders, age 25-35, traveled from 17 countries -- including Bhutan, Brazil, Colombia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, and Ukraine -- to participate in one-month internships at the municipal, state, and federal levels across the United States. These Fellows come from a range of professions including sitting members of national and provincial legislatures overseas, legislative staffers, municipal representatives, and ministry officials. Their exchange experience culminated in a two-day legislative Congress in Washington, DC, which addressed themes important to both the United States and their home countries.
Fellows like Anna Kombikova a 25-year-old lawyer from Kyiv, Ukraine will take what they have learned in the United States and apply it to their leadership roles at home. Ms. Kombikova noted that Americans believe they can make changes with their own hands, and this is the message she will bring home with her to Ukraine. Newly encouraged by her experience in the United States, she hopes to implement a program in Ukrainian high schools that will teach students about the importance of democracy and the governmental process.
In addition to learning about American government and culture, the fellows gained new understanding about countries and cultures around the world. Fellows from Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia set aside the differences of their governments to develop friendships with each other. Elena Garib, from the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, noted that although there is no direct flight across the border from Russia to Georgia, now there are friendships across this border.
The success of the Legislative Fellows Program comes from bringing together leaders from many diverse backgrounds, who share a common vision of improving the governance in their respective country. As Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ann Stock, said to the Fellows in welcoming remarks, they will return to their countries as "ambassadors of the global effort to create connections between people." She reminded them that, through their leadership and the leadership they inspire in others, they have a "unique opportunity to help improve opportunities for those interested in public service, provide guidance to those who already serve, and leave a lasting legacy of good governance, accountability, and service to others."
Individuals interested in participating in the 2011 Legislative Fellows Program must meet eligibility requirements and submit their applications by November 16, 2010. You can learn more about the program here.