Global Ties U.S. is the private sector partner of the U.S. Department of State that oversees the nation’s premier citizen diplomacy program -- the International Visitor Leadership Program -- which brings current and emerging leaders from around the world to the U.S. for professional exchanges with their American counterparts.
The International Center, as a preferred community partner of the U.S. Department of State, serves as the local program agency for the state of Indiana and provides all planning, programming and onsite management of itineraries associated with visits by these emerging international leaders to Indiana. Such visits generally include 2-3 days of professional appointments with business, government, educational and community leaders who are subject matter experts in the visitors’ fields of interest (which vary by group and by region of the world).
A mainstay of these visits to Indiana is having dinner in the home of a community volunteer so a slice of American family life can be experienced. Ms. Bledsoe is one such volunteer who has distinguished herself and her family up to a dozen times every year by opening up her home to these visitors so that her children, who will likely never have the opportunity for international travel, can experience the world from their dining room. Betty, along with her children, does extensive online research on the visitors’ country of origin prior to hosting the delegation and shows the visitors a truly unique form of “Hoosier Hospitality”
Betty has welcomed more than 40 groups of international visitors into her home during her multi-year relationship with The International Center. The international visitors, in supplying feedback on their visit to Indianapolis, have used only superlatives when describing their view of American life as experienced in the home of Betty Bledsoe and her children.
“It is not an understatement to say that the three visitors lucky enough to be invited to Ms. Bledsoe’s home may have been changed forever . . . and the humble, but impossibly gracious reception she reserved for the delegation were a true inspiration,”
“Meeting with Betty Bledsoe and her 10 special needs children was the most powerful, life changing experience I’ve had since I came to the U.S.” said another.
And yet another, a visitor from Pakistan, summed up the significance of the experience (to himself, to Indianapolis and to the image of America) as follows: “ . . . this kind of commitment and generosity is what makes America a great country.”
“Betty and her family embody, in the purest sense, the spirit of ‘citizen diplomacy’, as reflected upon by many of the estimated 200 visitors who have had the unforgettable experience of spending an evening in the home of Betty Bledsoe. Who can say how many people, like our visitor from Pakistan, have been forever changed as a result?” said Diane Thomas, president and CEO of The International Center.
“We are blessed with many outstanding volunteers, but there is only one Betty Bledsoe, and Indiana (and our visitors) are so incredibly fortunate that she chooses to share her home, her family and her spirit with us.”
Billie J. Fouts
Billie J. Fouts