IYLEP Participants Meet Vice President Biden
It was the culmination of a remarkable summer in which more than 140 youth and mentors from Iraq and the U.S. gathered as part of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). Joe Biden, vice president of the United States, asked to take a selfie with the group during their meeting with him at the White House.
At the White House meeting, the IYLEP group sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) heard remarks from Biden about the hope he has for Iraq. He reminded the group of the struggles and long history the United States has and continues to face in becoming a prosperous democracy. Biden also emphasized that both countries share an incredible ethnic and political diversity in their societies, a diversity that can be promoted and leveraged by youth.
At the White House, after the group shared their experiences and takeaways with ECA Secretary Evan Ryan and Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, the vice president joined the group for the remainder of the afternoon. The meeting in Washington, DC, took place August 19 during the group’s last week in the United States, after they had visited Brattleboro, Vermont; Portland, Oregon; Milwaukee, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. In DC the youth and mentors built their understanding of civil society and governance at the federal level and developed community projects to implement in their hometowns after the program.
In one of the most diverse programs since IYLEP’s inception in 2007, the group was able to connect with each other and share experiences from their daily lives in Iraq and the US, their passions, hobbies, and more. Each individual participant’s dreams and community visions were not always the same, yet the group continued to carve a space in which their relationships could thrive for a lifetime. One person-to-person interaction at a time, IYLEP builds communities that strive toward social change, hope, and empowerment. Now the groups have returned home and are staying connected via online networks and regional informal alumni events.