“We Stand With You” — President Obama Recognizes IVLP Participants at CGI

Visitors stand together in front of the New York City skyline.


Over 1,000 advocates, political leaders, and non-profit executives gathered in New York City on September 23rd for the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative, where they witnessed President Obama illustrate America’s commitment to empowering and supporting civil society. In the President’s speech, he highlighted the extraordinary work of three International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants, Sopheap Chak of Cambodia, John Gad of Egypt, and Miriam Canales Flores of Honduras, for pushing forward their missions during perilous times. They are champions for human rights, fighters for at-risk youth, and artists using their talents to strengthen civil society.

Visitors are welcomed at the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC
Meridian International Center welcomes visitors in Washington, DC.

These three individuals were amongst a group of 29 global leaders participating in the IVLP project titled “Standing with Civil Society.” Administered by Meridian International Center, this two-week program was designed for participants to network with American civil society leaders, and each other, to exchange best practices and creative ideas in advancing citizens’ rights and responsibilities. The program initiatives support ongoing efforts by the Department of State and the White House to empower civil society as underscored by the September 2013, Stand with Civil Society agenda announced at the United Nations General Assembly.

While their New York City stop was an exciting destination, filled with shout outs from President Obama and snapping selfies with former President Bill Clinton, there was a whirlwind of programming preceding these moments. The launch of the trip in Washington, DC, included civic mobilization workshops with the United States Institute of Peace, a tutorial on social media hosted by the Beekeeper Group, and some exploration of the nation’s capital. IVLP participants then traveled in small groups to Minneapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans, or Philadelphia, based on their professional subject focus. Each of the trips shared over-arching themes on advocacy and community mobilization, NGO management and sustainability, and the importance of volunteerism.

Volunteering for a local community project
Volunteering for a local community project

Advancing shared goals of peace, prosperity, and the well-being of all people requires a robust engagement between governments and civil society. President Obama said:

“Through our programs to engage young leaders around the world, we’re helping to build the next generation of civil society leaders.  And our message to those young people is simple:  America stands with you.”

Empowering today’s civil society leaders and providing them with the tools to succeed, through programs such as the “Standing with Civil Society” project, will pave the path for the leaders of tomorrow.