young political leaders
The American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) focuses on international education exchange programs for young political leaders worldwide. Participants gain more than a standard experience abroad, however. The program provides in-depth exploration of the governance, politics, bilateral relations, geographic diversity, culture and policy-making of the host country. Since their founding in 1966, ACYPL has worked in 113 countries around the world.

ACYPL’s goal is to provide opportunities for the development of future political leaders, allowing them to gain insight into the realm of international relations. The program promotes more than just knowledge, focusing on individual growth and development as well.

One of ACYPL’s strategic goals is to strengthen participant’s leadership skills and promote an open-minded attitude. Mutual understanding, respect, and friendship are all positive outcomes of the experience. In addition, the program provides an opportunity for networking, allowing people to stay in touch across the globe.

Lasting around 14 days, the program is for mid-level professionals with leadership potential in government, the private sector or civil society. The program requires that participants be between the ages of 25-40 and have current employment related to the legislative and governing process.

As our world becomes increasingly globalized, cooperation is becoming as crucial as ever. The founders of ACYPL understood the importance of promoting understanding across cultures as an imperative ingredient for a progressive future. In 1966, in the midst of the Vietnam War, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the Chinese revolution, a group of young Democrat and Republican leaders decided to create an opportunity for the next generation of political leaders to know and understand each other.

With the support from the U.S. government, Spencer Oliver, Peter McPherson, Hodding Carter, Bill Hybl, Charles Manatt and Pat Buchanan created the ACYPL. Young American political leaders began to travel to the Soviet Union and throughout Western Europe. In return, the U.S. welcomed international delegates.

As the program grew in response to political developments, new exchanges were forming at a rapid speed. When President Carter normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China, his special White House advisor at the time was Sarah Weddington—the only person in the administration who had actually been to China. She was on the first ACYPL delegation in 1977 as a young Texas state representative.

The ACYPL conducts multinational programs on topics of global or regional importance including the North American Trade Agreement, clime change and energy security and political activism for minority populations.

According to the ACYPL, the U.S.’s national and international conversations have become increasingly polarized. Thus, the ACYPL works to open a door for respectful dialogue among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all over the U.S. In addition the conversation is shared with numerous political affiliations from countries all around the globe, who despite their differences, desire to solve problems through informed policy making. The ACYPL hopes to enhance delegate’s understanding of international structures, advocating for a well-informed and comprehensive perspectives on issues.

Most recently in 2004, Pakistan joined the partnership. The ACYPL works to continue to establish exchanges with countries on all ends of the spectrum—whether it is a country deemed strategically significant, a developing democracy, or a longtime ally, the ACYPL is constantly looking to extend its network.

While continuing to develop as many political leaders as possible, the ACYPL signifies a beacon of hope for peace. Aiding in a mutual understanding of a country’s culture and the political system in which governs its borders is a crucial first step in this process.

– Caroline Logan

Sources: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Program, American Council of Young Political Leaders
Photo: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Program