NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright welcomed more than 300 international visitors, guests from the diplomatic corps, members of Congress and other friends of the International Leaders Forum at its opening reception last night. “One of my favorite events,” she said “is hosting our international friends for this great political activity: a convention.”
She was joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and other high profile leaders greeted the assembled guests.
The theme of the remarks was that the conventions, as the great showpieces of American democracy, can provide insight into the U.S. political process for international observers, and in turn, international visitors enrich the process for all. Steve Kerrigan, CEO to the Democratic National Convention, captured the sentiment: “You add a component to this convention that we really cherish. Sometimes we get so caught up in the politics of what we do here we forget that the eyes of the world are watching and what we do is important to so many... It is heartening to me as a Democrat and an American.”
Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) continued in a similar vein: "I look around this room and I see leaders of all ages, nations, races, faiths and walks of life and I am so excited that you will have a front seat for this extraordinary democratic process.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) pointed out that while Americans are proud of their democratic system, “we’re not perfect. We invite you to join us, so we can learn from each other.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) enthusiastically summarized the global desire for democracy and the goals of ILF: "Twenty-five or 30 years ago this room would never have looked like this; we are doing a better job of including people from so many countries. Democracy in one place is nothing without all of us coming together to benefit people in all of our various countries.”
The reception, hosted by Digicel, allowed veterans of ILF to reconnect with old friends while others struck up new international relationships.
As the curtain rises on the Democratic National Convention today, ILF will begin its exciting series of panels. Check the schedule for details, but the first, at 10:15 a.m. features Howard Dean, Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Paul Kirk, Elaine Kamarck and Eugene Robinson to discuss "The 2012 Campaign: The Role of Primaries, Nominating Conventions and Presidential Debates.” If you aren’t with us in person, be sure to watch the live stream, follow hashtag #ILFNDI on Twitter and keep watching this space for updates!