Democracy is greatly advanced when political leaders, representing nations throughout the world, meet to learn about one another and share ideas.
To this end, SLLF brings leaders in many countries together to discuss issues of mutual interest, and to forge new partnerships and friendships. We held our first such program in 1985, in West Berlin. It was an experiment for us. Would there be value in linking US state legislative leaders with political leaders in another democracy? What would the leaders talk about, and what would they take away?
The Wall defined West Berlin in 1985, and all who saw it felt it would likely be a permanent fixture of the Cold War. For the American delegation, visiting the wall was eye-opening, and moving. When we met with Berliners in the shadow of the Wall, bonds of friendship were created almost at once.
But this first international program did more than stir our patriotism and our sense of fraternity with a divided Germany. It showed us that political leaders, even from different countries, share many concerns regarding governing and about various social, political, and economic issues. This first program may not have taken down the Wall, but it did open gates between state legislative leaders and the rest of the world.
International programs have grown to be an annual staple of SLLF leadership offerings, and our programs now truly span the globe. In addition to broadening the perspectives of American state leaders, these programs give our colleagues abroad new and valuable insights into the workings of U.S. democracy, and particularly into state governments and state legislatures.
Today, SLLF is moving confidently to open new lines of communication and cooperation with political and business leaders in all corners of the globe. In addition to Europe, initiatives are underway in Asia, Africa, and South America.
In December of 2015, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a new and permanent partnership between our two organizations.
This partnership is the direct result of an agreement endorsed by Chinese President Xi and President Obama during President Xi’s visit to the United States this past October. During their meetings both presidents endorsed the following language within a series of cooperation agreements:
#39. to enhance sub-national exchanges and cooperation between China and the U.S., the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the U.S. State Legislative Leaders Foundation reached consensus on establishing the China-U.S. Sub-national Legislatures Exchange Mechanism, and plan to co-host the First China-U.S. Sub-national Legislatures Cooperation Forum in 2016.
We are honored to represent the United States in this important initiative.
Over the upcoming months and years, SLLF and CPAFFC will convene a series of educational programs in China and here in the United States. The programs will focus on critical public policy issues of importance to both nations, and to the world. As with all SLLF programs, our goal will be to inform the debate by providing objective, factual, and relevant information on the many issues that require our shared attention. We want to provide this information to leaders in both business and government.
As the world continues to get smaller, in effect, we value the chance to build understanding between its two largest powers. We are excited to create ongoing interactions between leaders of local governments in the two countries. Out of these interactions will come personal relationships, and greater trust. And on those things, great things can be built.