“It is one of the biggest political changes in US history,” said one of the speakers during the IVLP program, regarding the switch to the Trump administration. I participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) with 17 other professionals and experts from around the world. We had the chance to witness a historical moment in U.S. politics and to learn more about the customs and traditions entrenched in the American political system.
The concepts of a peaceful transition of power and the separation of powers are uniquely American. As a political scientist and political development practitioner, I have analyzed many political systems and constitutional engineering models, and I have always considered the U.S. model to be the most advanced and successful among them. This program gave us the opportunity to talk with prominent figures from politics, academia, journalism, civil society, etc. We were eager to find out more about the U.S. political system in general, as well as to hear their perspectives on some of the burning issues in American politics today.
The inauguration may seem like a matter of protocol and ceremony, an ordinary political tradition that occurs every four years. Seen through the lens of a nation which struggles with transitions of power, it is much more than that. It symbolizes three things that make the U.S. a great nation – stabile political institutions, balance of power, and the rule of law. Even within the U.S.’s current volatile, divided political dynamics, all three branches of government came to Capitol Hill to legitimize the newly elected President of the United States. As international visitors, we heard a lot of opposing opinions on the new administration, but having attended the inauguration we also saw the uniting approval of the new administration by the U.S. political elite. That was truly, uniquely American. No matter how large the divide, Americans preserve political stability and continuity. I was also fascinated by the influence of religious symbolism in political legitimization during the inauguration.
This program was a great experience for us, not only for the formal programming, but also to experience the U.S. on a cultural level. We visited three different cities in three different states, and I can now compare the level of diversity in the United States with the level of diversity in Europe. My fellow participants were another valuable cultural component of the visit. Spending 15 days with 17 people from different continents, countries, and ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds was the richest multicultural experience of my life.
Finally, I would like to point out the magnificent experience we had with our host family in Phoenix. Mr. and Mrs. Stavros welcomed our group to their home, and besides a lovely dinner, they shared their political views, which helped us gain insight as to how ordinary citizens think about current political developments in the United States.
I would to thank U.S. Department of State and Meridian International Center for organizing our visit.
Written by: Dušan Lj Milenković
IVLP Alum, “Democratic Trannsitions in the U.S. Political System”, January 15-28, 2017