Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Beginnings of State Department Exchanges: Were the Afghans first?

From a Facebook Comment
Note: In the fascinating below timeline on State Dept. Exchanges recently produced by the Department (file:///C:/Users/J.Brown/Downloads/17563-Engelstad-Timeline%20for%20IVLP%20(1).pdf), an equally fascinating fact is not mentioned:
The Afghans Were First
"By a quirk of fate, the concept that the [State Dept. cultural] program would eventually be worldwide was rewarded from the beginning by unexpected guests from Afghanistan. [Ben] Cherrington [first Director of the State Department's Division of Cultural Relations, established in 1938] writes in his… memoirs:
"Undoubtedly our most unexpected event occurred early in the Fall of 1938… . My secretary entered my office with an expression on her face indicating that something had happened that left her completely bewildered.
Outside, in the reception room, she reported, were six young men from Afghanistan waiting to see me. Their government had heard the United States was now entering the field of cultural relations and had sent them on government scholarships to study American police methods [Brown emphasis]. They had arrived with full confidence we would take over from that point forward. 'Afghanistan,' I thought, 'quite a distance from Latin America in which our activities were supposed to be confined, and where in America could one study police methods? Needing time to recover from the shock and pull my wits together I greeted the young men cordially and then arranged for a messenger to take them on a tour of Washington. Aside, I told him to make it a long one…. By the time our young men had returned from their inspection of Washington all six had been placed although I have forgotten where the last two were to be accepted. Thus the first actual involvement of our Government in cultural exchange was not with a Latin American nation but instead was a country thousands of miles from the New World.'"
[Cherrington, Memoirs, 52-54]
Source: J. Manuel Espinosa, "Inter-American Beginnings of U.S. Cultural Diplomacy, 1936-1948" (Washington, 1976), p. 115.

The Beginnings of State Department Exchanges
Throughout 2015, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of State Department exchanges. In the late 1930s, as the Great Depression lingered, fascism spread, and war loomed, the Department of State stood up its first Division of Cultural Relations, the forerunner of ECA. The Department focused initially on Latin America and invited the first exchange participants to the United States in 1940 on a program that is the predecessor of today’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Soon after, the Department sponsored teacher and student exchanges, funded American libraries and arranged touring American art exhibits. In researching the history of the IVLP, Program Officer Paul Engelstad has unearthed a trove of interesting time lines and information.

No comments: