Congressional Record (Washington, DC)
Posted on July 21, 2011
By Rep. David Price (NC)
Congressional Record, July 21, 2011, p. H5355
Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I commend both the chairman and the ranking member for their hard work on this bill, although, with an inadequate allocation, there are decisions that have been made that I believe will adversely affect our work, and that I hope can be revisited down the line.
That's not what I want to talk at this moment, though. I want to talk about an unusual feature of the Legislative Branch bill that I hope also can be revisited down the line. I want to call the attention of my colleagues to the elimination of a program that has served this body and our Nation's interests well, the Open World Leadership Center, a unique enterprise, sponsored by the legislative branch of our government, something that I think should make us very proud of this institution and its international outreach. The bill before us today provides only shut down expenses for this program.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I am not going to offer an amendment to restore the program's funding because of the extremely low subcommittee allocation and the absence of acceptable offsets. There simply isn't money lying around to apply to this purpose. But I cannot let this body's commitment to the Open World Program end without voicing my disappointment and my hope that this matter will be reconsidered and can be reconsidered in the context of the Senate bill.
The Open World Leadership Program is a unique program administered by the Library of Congress that, over the years, has earned bipartisan and bicameral support. Since 1999, the program has brought emerging leaders from former Soviet States to all 50 States of our country, providing them a firsthand look at the U.S. democratic process, enabling them to exchange ideas with their American counterparts, and encouraging them to relate what they learn to their home environments.
The participants in Open World are not the people that typically participate in international exchange programs. They're not just the political or business leaders in the capital who venture to other nations frequently. No, they're teachers, they're judges, they're health workers, they're young activists. They're all sorts of people who live often in rural areas and smaller cities.
The program penetrates deeply. In my experience, uniquely so. It penetrates quite deeply, rather than just being another run-of-the-mill exchange program. I know about this, and many other Members in this body do as well. I've participated personally with these leaders as they've come to my district.
This is a well-designed program. It's a program that has made and can make a difference. It doesn't just merely scratch the surface. It involves Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Serbia. These countries remain strategically linked to U.S. interests because of their history and also because of their location in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The Open World Program is an effective diplomatic tool.
The CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. HONDA. I yield the gentleman 2 additional minutes.
Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. The Open World Program is an effective diplomatic tool, and one of the legislative branch's few direct democracy promotion programs.
My colleagues, Open World is not about us. It's not about us. It's not about our institution. It's an instrument of outreach, a unique one. We should be proud of this, a unique instrument of outreach to a critical part of the world . And its loss would be deeply felt.
Now, in previous Congresses there has been some question of whether the Open World Program should be placed where it is administratively, or in the Legislative Branch appropriations bill. I've looked at this. I've concluded that the program's very placement in the legislative branch is, in fact, an asset, making clear the program is not tied to a specific administration with its foreign policy goals and priorities and politics. This, in fact, we're told has sometimes reduced obstacles to participation and has made the program more accessible.
Mr. Chairman, Congress' sponsorship of Open World has made me proud of this institution. We've assumed responsibility, very directly, for projecting our democratic principles and values to countries with histories of oppressive rule. We need to reflect further. We need to think long and hard on what it would mean to drop this program. What does that say about us? What kind of opportunities would we forego? If we do think long and hard, I have some confidence that we would reconsider what the subcommittee has recommended, and I very much hope we will have that opportunity.
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[Reprinted with Permission]