Today we celebrate Pan American Day, and this week we marked Pan American Week, both established to recognize the unity and strong bonds across the Western Hemisphere. Since Pan American Day was first celebrated 86 years ago, the lives of the more than one billion people that make up the Americas have never been more closely intertwined. From educational exchanges and business ties to joint scientific research and law enforcement cooperation, these relationships support the security and economic prosperity of the American people.
Pan American Day was first celebrated in 1931 to commemorate the First International Conference of American States. The United States organized the conference to foster closer ties between all the nations of the hemisphere. This inter-American gathering planted the seed for the creation of the Organization of American States (OAS), an enduring organization for the promotion of democracy, security, human rights, and economic development throughout the Americas.
Fifteen years ago the OAS adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter, recognizing that education is central to the development of economies and the health of democracies. Regional education cooperation also strengthens economic prosperity and security throughout the hemisphere. In today’s interconnected world, cross-border learning, and the networks and linkages that are developed through these experiences, are essential for the 21st century workforce. Today, we want to encourage more young people to study abroad in the region to gain the language skills, cross-cultural understanding, and problem-solving ability to confront shared challenges in the region.
The State Department supports international exchanges such as the Fulbright, Global UGRAD, and Gilman programs to give American students the opportunity to study in the region and to bring students from Latin America and the Caribbean to our world-class U.S. colleges and universities. We help prepare students for U.S. study through our EducationUSA advising network and English language programs. One of the many ways we work with the U.S. higher education community to support study abroad opportunities is through cooperation with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Historically Black Colleges and Universities, community colleges, and other diverse institutions. I recently joined hundreds of representatives from governments, academic institutions, and the private sector at the HACU conference in Costa Rica. I saw firsthand how our partnerships are increasing opportunities and bringing our countries closer together. Hemispheric collaborations like this also bring us closer to reaching the goals of 100,000 Strong in the Americas for students and educators across the region.
As President Trump noted in his proclamation commemorating Pan American Day and Pan American Week:
“The governments and people of the Americas are united through longstanding institutional, economic, cultural, and social bonds.”
Our educational exchanges promote these bonds and further the spirit of Pan American Day all throughout the year.
If you are student, we hope you will learn more about study abroad opportunities for Americans at: https://studyabroad.state.gov/ and foreign students at https://educationusa.state.gov. Educators can explore how the State Department is working with the private sector to support academic linkages throughout the region at https://www.100kstrongamericas.org/. We hope you will join us in celebrating Pan-American Day and academic exchanges that are happening in our Hemisphere all-year round.
About the Author: David Hodge serves as the Director for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.