Democracy is immeasurably advanced when political leaders representing nations throughout the world meet to learn about one another and share ideas. To this end, SLLF has established a global network bringing leaders together to study and discuss issues of mutual interest and to forge new partnerships and friendships.
In 1985, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation held its first international program in West Berlin, Germany. At the time it was a new experiment for us. Would there be value in linking US state legislative leaders with political leaders in another democracy? What would they talk about and what would they take away from these meetings?
The Wall defined West Berlin in 1985 and all who saw it felt it would very likely be a permanent fixture of the Cold War. It was a unique moment in history and for the American delegation, an eye-opening experience. Not surprisingly, when we met with the 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 unity with a divided Germany; it showed us that political leaders, even from different countries, share a concern for governing and various social, political and economic issues. That first program may not have taken down the Wall, but it did open the gates between state legislative leaders and the rest of the world.
Since 1985, 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 US democracy and particularly 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.
On December 5, 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 as part of 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 USA in this important new initiative.
Over the upcoming months and years, SLLF and CPAFFC will be convening a series of educational programs in China and here in the USA focusing on a variety of critical public policy issues of mutual importance to both nations and in a larger sense, to the world. As with all SLLF programs, our goal will be to inform the debate by providing key political and business leaders in both nations with objective, factual and relevant information on the many issues and concerns that require our shared commitment. Equally important, this new partnership heralds the establishment of a new framework for advancing communication, cooperation and friendship between our nations.
We look forward with great anticipation to the many opportunities this partnership affords all parties to advance the cause of peaceful coexistence and lay the foundation for lasting friendships built on trust and mutual respect.