Global Video Contest Winners Inspire Cross-Cultural Understanding

Posted by Michele Peters
March 20, 2009

About the Author: Michele L. Peters serves as the Special Assistant in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Video Text

What do a 14-year-old freshman in Columbus, Nebraska; a 23-year-old software engineer in Bangalore, India; a 16-year-old senior in Recife, Brazil; and a 22-year-old Fulbright scholarship recipient from Wheaton, Illinois have in common? They share a strong desire to create bridges across cultures and their unique action and vision has earned each a video contest Grand Prize: -a two-week international exchange program and a featured role as a citizen diplomat.

On March 16, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) announced the four winners of its online video contest, “My Culture + Your Culture=?” ECA launched the initiative on December 1, 2008, to encourage cross-cultural community building and mutual understanding, which is our core mission, via the Web and to attract new members to our social networking site, ExchangesConnect, launched in October 2008. ExchangesConnect has drawn more than 8,600 members from 170 countries and the community continues to grow.

The 8-week contest invited members of the general public worldwide to join the ExchangesConnect online community and to submit a 3-minute video addressing the contest theme. We received more than 170 video entries. The community’s top 40-rated videos, representing 15 countries, proceeded to a panel of expert judges — all distinguished alumni of ECA exchange programs — who ranked the videos. Based on the judges’ ratings, ECA selected two foreign and two American Grand Prize winners in two age categories: (1) 14-17 years, and (2) 18 years and over.

The judges panel included musician, performer, and author Toni Blackman; actress and Founder of the Cancer Schmancer Movement Fran Drescher; graphic artist Milton Glaser; President of the Egyptian Cultural Civic Education Organization Raafat Khalid; and Founder and former Co-Chairman of New Line Cinema and Principal Unique Features Bob Shaye.

The contest winners are: Jose Vinícius Reis Gouveia of Recife, Brazil, age 16, for “Human Colours”; Bijoy Thangaraj of Bangalore, India, age 23, for “My Culture + Your Culture = World of Wonder”; Grant Jirka of Columbus, Nebraska, age 14, for “Winning Team”; and Tim Peters of Wheaton, Illinois, age 22, for “A Friend in Nanjing”. The winners reflect the diversity and talent of those who participated, representing three continents and very different backgrounds. Their personal stories and motivations for submitting their videos are inspiring.

The winners will receive a two-week all-expenses-paid international exchange program, in addition to multi-media software provided by the Adobe Foundation, cosponsor of the contest.

With the contest, ECA set out to attract new members to our global online community, and to exemplify the focus of the ExchangesConnect community site -- to encourage the emergence of a social networking environment dedicated to building international understanding. The entrants’ motivations -- a desire to describe a month-long trip abroad, a passion to share musical talents, a fascination with different cultures, or a chance to be a star -- varied as much as their forms of artistic expression. One common motivation remained constant, that is, a desire to further appreciation and respect for differences and to build bridges among cultures.

One of the highlights of my job is to witness often how we can make a difference in individual lives, and open up opportunities for young people. For example, the two youth winners, Grant and Vinícius, may be from very different cultures, yet they have basic motivations in common, including active participation in their schools and communities, and a desire to travel to foreign countries and learn about different cultures. Tim begins his Fulbright program this week, and his openness to new experiences is a great model for young people around the globe. His story of an unexpected friendship around a Frisbee game was inspired. Bijoy’s creative lyrics and tune-stuck-in-my-head music are impressive, as is the way he captured the wonder and beauty of our complex world. Through storytelling, music, sports, and art each of the winners shared some of his culture, and in so doing, invited viewers to consider what it means to be a part of this global community.

By combining our tradition of educational and cultural exchanges with new technologies to gain support from diverse communities, areca is extending our mission to new audiences through viral campaigns across multiple social media platforms. Check out our site,, where you can view and comment on the videos, learn more about the winners and the whole ExchangesConnect online community from 170 countries around the world. Also, watch for blogs from our contest winners!



March 20, 2009

Peter in Canada writes:

I'm so disappointed by the lack of true creativity in the arts and culture. One way, we as americans could remedy this, is to patent a simple pen, an instrument of writing, to include a WiFi transmitter to a central beacon in the lobbies of our favorite hotels to analyze our historical signatures as it relates to protecting and promoting the individual writing styles of every American. Coul a new Declaration of Independence be written with such a device? Wouldn't that enable every citizen a signature on any new draft Bill or legislation?

District Of Columbia, USA
March 21, 2009

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

Congratulations to all of the winners! Bijoy Thangaraj deserves a recording contract -- what a great song and video.

Florida, USA
March 21, 2009

Kristi in Florida writes:

Congratulations to all the winners. This is a strong promoter of cross cultural understanding.

California, USA
March 22, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

Wonderful & inspiring pieces.

I guess I just still have to hold my breath that a girl could be one of the winners of these kinds of contests and with the cultural exchange and being a featured citizen diplomat be such an inspiration to so many other girls who seldom have the technology encouragement and opportunities that boys do in most cultures. (I taught Community TV for 5 years in Mountain View CA in the middle of Silicon Valley in the U.S.A. so I know the silent discrimination first hand.)

Perhaps next contest you could have two U.S.A. winners/two non-U.S.A. winners among which will be two boys and two girls?

Said H.
March 25, 2009

Said H. in Oman writes:

Its Really a beutiful Vedio and it made me feel so nice and secure becouse i'm Balochi from Baloch Nation and am very sad that our culture is in Dangrer by irani and pokistani occupation over our motherland sicnec more than a hafe an century and we are looking forward to get our national and cultural freedom from them becouse we dont belong to them we are Balochs and we love to be known globally as Balochs the only hope is for our freedom is America ya becouse i believe in america since i was born till now i'm in love with american cartoons movies hero's but i hope in real world the american wont despoint us we are oready upset becouse of waht Great Brtin done with us during their super power times they divided our mother land into three peices and hand overed our lands to the islamic evil republic of iran and pokistan i dont hate them but i love my nation which are suffring all kind of human suffers war crimes, extreem poverty, Drugs and no health care so please save us save our identity our culture, language save us god will save you.

Alan S.
California, USA
March 28, 2009

Alan S. in California writes:

I was happy to become a part of the Exchanges Connect Community and be chosen as a top forty finalist, top ten in my age and region bracket.

I was inspired by stories from around the world in search of true dialogue and understanding.

I hope the connections the State Department has fostered will continue to grow and benefit us all.

Kind Regards,


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