Celebrating the power of cultural exchange

Crowd of people listening while wearing masks (State Dept./Ronny Przysucha)
The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange fosters cultural ties between the U.S. and Germany. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed home this year’s class June 21 at the State Department. (State Dept./Ronny Przysucha)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed home U.S. students from a yearlong exchange program that advances people-to-people ties between the United States and Germany.

Speaking to 350 graduates of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) June 21, Blinken celebrated the power of cultural exchange to help people broaden their perspective and better understand how others see the world.

“It really is how we get new points of view; how we learn to see the world through the eyes of people with different histories, different cultures, different perspectives,” Blinken said. “And it’s also how we find new partners to try to solve shared problems, and maybe gain some new skills that we bring back home to help as well.”

Since 1983, more than 27,000 students and young professionals between the ages of 15 and 24 have studied or worked in Germany or the United States through the CBYX program. Participants from both countries have forged lasting friendships and affirmed common values between the two close partner nations.

Numerous other U.S. exchange programs bring students and young professionals to the United States, including the Fulbright Program, the Future Leaders Exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program and the Young African Leaders Initiative’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Antony Blinken standing at lectern and clapping before seated crowd (State Dept./Ronny Przysucha)
Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange graduates listen as Blinken talks about the value of cultural exchange for Americans and others. (State Dept./Ronny Przysucha)

In his remarks, Blinken noted that this year, some of CBYX’s “citizen ambassadors” helped Ukrainian refugees, translating for new arrivals at train stations in Germany or working with local refugee assistance groups.

He said his own experiences abroad, including living in France as a teenager, inform the perspective he brings to his job as America’s top diplomat. In June, Blinken will travel to Germany for a meeting of the Group of Seven nations that will address global challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and countering Russia’s aggression.

“These ties of understanding between people actually turn into bonds of trust between countries,” Blinken said of CBYX and other cultural exchange programs. “I believe so profoundly in this mission of connecting people through education, through culture, through sports. It is in my judgment among the best things that we do.”