December 1st, 2001
Dear Friends of the Open World Program:
Welcome to the Web site for the Open World Program. In May 1999, the United States Congress first authorized the Open World Russian Leadership Program as a pilot effort to bring the new generation of Russia's political and civic leadership to the United States. Between May 1999 and November 2000, Open World hosted the visits of 3,650 participants from 88 of Russia's 89 regions to nearly 700 communities across America. It has been my privilege - both as Librarian of Congress and as a lifelong student of Russian culture and history - to meet hundreds of our Open World colleagues both here at our nation's library in Washington, D.C., and in Russia.
Russia's commitment to building democracy and a market economy has achieved major results over the last two years. The Open World Program has helped to introduce Russia's future political leaders to America and has helped to forge enduring friendship between our two peoples. The Open World Program's success in building relations between our two nations has fulfilled and exceeded my expectations. We are particularly grateful to our American host partners and families for opening their homes and hearts to so many Russian guests on their first visit to our country. I hope this Web site enables each of you to stay involved in the Open World Program.
The United States Congress deserves immense credit for providing the personal and financial support that has made the Open World Program possible. Congress has now given the program a permanent home at the Library of Congress and has named four of its own outstanding members to serve on the Program's newly created Board of Trustees. The goal of the Open World Program remains the same: to build mutual understanding between the United States and Russia and their citizens. Relations between our two countries are developing positive new dimensions and are of great importance for the world. This program has been well received in communities all over America, and is much appreciated by those in Russia who are working to establish a civil society and the rule of law in that country.
The thousands of alumni of the Open World Program represent an important part of Russia's political future. The program's new permanent status will allow us to operate the exchange on a year-round basis and to make our program content even more responsive to Russia's priorities for democratic reforms.
I hope that each of you will take the time to explore the Web site and send us your comments and ideas.
James H. Billington
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Center for Russian Leadership Development