March 6, 2000
Because of the success of the Library of Congress "OPEN WORLD" Russian Leadership Program (RLP) last year, I am pleased to join Ambassador James Collins in announcing in Washington, D. C. and Moscow OPEN WORLD 2000.
Building on the experience of the 1999 pilot program, which was conceived and completed in 17 weeks last summer, Russian political and civic leaders will visit the United States this spring and summer as part of the largest and most inclusive foreign visitation program to bring current and future Russian leaders to the United States.
The positive impact of the 1999 program has been made evident in interviews with participants, letters, e-mail, print and broadcast media coverage throughout the Russian Federation and provides the basis for an even broader and more vigorous nomination process for the 2000 program.
All of us at the Library are grateful to the U. S. Congress for entrusting us with this important exchange effort at such a critical juncture in U. S. - Russian relations. I am particularly appreciative of the continuing interest and strong support of the Russian Leadership Program by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library.
We are particularly pleased that former Representative James W. Symington, who was such an effective and dynamic Executive Director of the 1999 RLP, has agreed to serve as Chairman of a distinguished advisory committee for the program this year, which will benefit from longer lead time in which to implement this important and ground-breaking exchange effort.
Some changes will be made for OPEN WORLD 2000 as a result of our rigorous and thorough evaluation of the 1999 pilot. Professional development will be strengthened; participants will be offered programs focused on specific areas of interest, such as: the rule of law; federalism; land reform; defense; security; banking; community organization; public works; agriculture; environment, energy, and natural resources; inter-parliamentary and international relations; education; public health; women's issues; economic development and commerce; executive management.
Nearly two-thirds of the members of the Russian Duma chosen in last December's elections are new to that body. Russian Presidential elections will be held later this month. Accordingly, OPEN WORLD 2000 will make a major effort to bring to America a large number of legislators and executive branch officials. Members of the Duma and Federation Council and their staffs and interpreters are scheduled to come to the U. S. beginning in May to be hosted by interested members of Congress and the nation's governors.
We are equally grateful to Representative Charles Taylor (R-NC), chairman of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, for his support of the Russian Leadership Program, and to Representatives Roger Wicker and Bud Cramer for their leadership in organizing the 1999 Congressional host component.
We will build on and reform the 1999 program by including the widest possible cross-section of the Russian Federation. The 1999 OPEN WORLD participants represented the cutting edge of the emerging political leadership in the Russian Federation's on-going efforts to build an open, democratic system. Participants who came to the U.S. represented 83 of Russia's 89 regions, 41 ethnic groups, at an average age of 37, with women comprising 32 percent.
Our priority will again be for those who have never before been to America. Knowledge of the English language will not be needed. Recognizing the crowded schedule of active political leaders, the length of stay will again be about 10 days, including this year an expanded orientation in the U. S. and additional opportunities to experience American cultural life.
RLP participants are trying to solve real world problems in a real world time frame. They are already, by and large, in positions of political and policy influence and cannot afford to spend longer periods in a study and research environment, as attractive as that might be. Bringing them to the U. S., most of them for the first time, and immersing them in the political life of members of Congress, a governor, or a mayor provides an invaluable, hands-on look at what makes the American democratic system work.
The generosity and commitment of American host families -- more than 800 participated in 1999 --provided our RLP guests with opportunities to examine all facets of American democracy in 550 communities in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The Library will again seek the broadest possible geographic representation for our American hosts whose hospitality has already engendered such a strong and positive response from our Russian visitors.
We are deeply grateful to the outstanding and hard-working U. S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Jim Collins, for his strong personal support of the RLP. The invaluable assistance of the Embassy staff in Moscow under his leadership made the 1999 program a success and has helped the Library plan an even stronger, more effective OPEN WORLD 2000.
The only note of regret is the loss on September 30, 1999 -- the last day of the 1999 RLP -- of Academician Dmitri Sergeevich Likhachev, the esteemed honorary co-chairman of the program. I know firsthand that so many of the 1999 participants, unfamiliar with a brand-new, untested program, came to the U. S. to accept our invitation solely on the strength of Academician Likhachev's unique and revered status. He personally vetted all nominees to the program despite his already seriously declining health.
Likhachev liked the words "open world" to describe the program. In his view, Russia was destined to find its true identity by recovering not only its own best traditions, but also all that was healthy and liberating in order to shape a peaceful, democratic society. His spirit and ideals continue to guide us as we launch OPEN WORLD 2000.