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f_0017770_15221 - A Half Century of Citizen Diplomacy: A...

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The Ambassadors REVIEW 46 A Half Century of Citizen Diplomacy: A Unique Public-Private Sector Partnership Sherry Lee Mueller, Ph.D. President, National Council for International Visitors Introduction ne of the most dramatic and best publicized examples of citizen diplomacy in action was celebrated in August—the 50 th anniversary of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to the Garst family farm in Coon Rapids, Iowa. The meeting of these unlikely friends was the result of what Roswell Garst called “full belly diplomacy.” He believed that people with a standard of living they wanted to protect would be less likely to go to war. Therefore, the United States had a vested interest in the success of Soviet agriculture. When Garst met a delegation of Soviet officials in Iowa touring farms in 1955, he realized that techniques he had developed on his 2,600-acre farm could improve productivity on large Soviet collective farms. When he applied for an export license for seed corn and agricultural equipment, he was met with skepticism by government officials who warned him he would not receive a warm welcome behind the Iron Curtain. Garst promptly proved them wrong. Described as gregarious, expansive, and even “flamboyant,” he became something of an instant celebrity as he toured farms and gave lectures on increasing grain yields, so much so that he was unexpectedly invited to meet Premier Khrushchev himself; the two were said to have hit it off immediately. During the next four years Garst made two more trips to the USSR and hosted a number of Soviet agronomists in Iowa. Still, the announcement that Khrushchev would visit the Garst farm during his landmark trip to the United States in 1959—the first from a Soviet head of state—undoubtedly surprised many. But when one considers that Garst’s efforts helped to increase Soviet grain production substantially between 1956 and 1958, it is little wonder that Khrushchev was eager to see Garst’s operations for himself. Garst’s belief, particularly prevalent during the Cold War and still valid, was that private citizens can build constructive relationships across international boundaries when governments are often constrained by official policies and historic precedents. Secretary of State Dean Rush echoed this notion at the 1965 NCIV 1 National Conference when he addressed community leaders from across the country who organized programs for foreign leaders in the US Department of State’s International Visitor Program: “The government simply can’t do what you are doing. We cannot render that kind of individual, sensitive, and personalized service such as you can and do render in your own communities.” 1 The National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded in 1961 as the National Council for Community Services to International Visitors (COSERV). O
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f_0017770_15221 - A Half Century of Citizen Diplomacy: A...

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