Leahy Receives Award For Congressional Leadership In Public Diplomacy

Senator Honored by George Washington University Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tuesday night received the George Washington University Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication’s annual Walter Roberts Award for Congressional Leadership in Public Diplomacy at a ceremony on Capitol Hill.  IPDGC also announced a grant from the Walter Roberts Endowment to the Vermont Council on World Affairs to enhance international youth leadership exchanges.

Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce, United States Agency for Global Media CEO John Lansing, GW School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno, and Vermont Council on World Affairs Executive Director Patricia Preston also spoke at the event about the importance of American public diplomacy.

Leahy said:  “I appreciate this honor, but I’m especially thankful for the work being done by George Washington University and the Vermont Council on World Affairs.  The Vermont Council’s mission is to ‘promote awareness and understanding of the world and its people, places and cultures through education and engagement.’  We Vermonters understand that our future is inextricably linked to the wider world.  One of the most important lessons I have learned in the Senate is that when it comes to advancing U.S. interests abroad, there is no substitute for direct interaction between the American people and people in other countries.  Public diplomacy programs – whether through social media programs or through academic, professional and cultural exchanges – are among our best investments.  Our public diplomacy professionals at the Department of State and USAID deserve our gratitude for their often unsung efforts to connect with the world by sharing the American story, and promoting international understanding.”

“The Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication created this award for congressional leadership in public diplomacy because we wanted to highlight something that for many Americans is invisible,” said Janet Steele, director of GW's Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. “As Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy has been a consistent supporter of U.S. public diplomacy, through his active participation, advocacy, and legislative support for telling America's story to the world.”

Leahy was elected to the United States Senate in 1974 and remains the only Democrat elected to this office from Vermont. At 34, he was the youngest U.S. Senator ever to be elected from the Green Mountain State. The Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy is also the senior-most member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Leahy is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on The State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

Leahy has worked to infuse Vermont values into U.S. foreign policy and has been a staunch defender of international human rights.  He has long been a leader in the international campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines and, in 1992, he wrote the world's first law to ban the export of these indiscriminate weapons.  Offering help and hope to innocent victims of war, he created a program his colleagues later renamed the Leahy War Victims Fund, which provides $13.5 million a year for artificial limbs, wheelchairs, vocational training, and other assistance to war victims.  He created similar assistance programs for civilian victims in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He also has long advocated changes in 50 years of failed U.S. policy toward Cuba, including ending restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba.

The grant to the Vermont Council on Foreign Affairs will be used to sponsor a follow-up exchange between Vermont and Africa, working through the Pan-African Youth Leadership Program.

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