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In April, ACYPL was delighted to welcome seven delegates from the Russian Federation. The delegation reflected the diversity of thought and aspirations among young political professionals in Russia today. The program was made possible through our partnership with the Youth Public Chamber of Russia, with whom ACYPL has partnered since 2013.
Throughout this program, US—Russian relations were the key topic of discussion. Beginning in Washington, DC, the delegates met with Russia Desk Director Nicholas Berliner at the US State Department and had an impactful discussion. The delegates were happy to express their own concerns, hear frank explanations of the stances which guide US policy toward Russia, and acknowledge the challenges which exist in the relationship between the two nations. Yet meetings with individuals such as Randy Teague and Bob Schmidt, both of whom are ACYPL alumni to the USSR and who worked on people-to-people diplomacy during the Cold War, served as inspiration for the potential to overcome those challenges. Additionally, the delegation was hosted for dinner in the Pennsylvania home of Frank Orban III, a Senior Negotiator during the US-Soviet Nuclear Arms and Space Talks in Geneva. Commenting on the fondness with which these Americans reflected on their successes in US- USSR relations, one delegate, a Regional Deputy from Kaliningrad said, “it is up to our generation now to do this work.”
In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the delegation was hosted by Mayor of Mount Joy Tim Bradley, ACYPL alumnus to Japan 2016. The delegation was honored to be officially received at the Pennsylvania State House by Speaker Michael Turzai and other State Representatives and Senators, but the most memorable meetings were ones which highlighted the differences between Russian and American society, and differences within the delegation itself. Touring Donegal High School, where Mayor Bradley is a teacher, was identified by the delegates as a meeting where they learned the most about American society. At the end of the program, meetings in Philadelphia at the Comcast Corporation and the Committee of Seventy exposed the fact that the definitions of ‘free media’ as well as ‘free and fair elections’ varied among our Russian delegates.
At the beginning of the program, the delegates were eager to grow in understanding and friendship and they enthusiastically worked toward those goals in each meeting. At the end, our delegate from the Moscow Municipal Council expressed, “it is necessary for young people to participate in these programs. The people of the United States and Russia are friends, it is only the leadership and propaganda who say we are enemies.”