Former U.S. Ambassador advocates for expansion of YES program

The U.S. government should double the number of participants in the Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, according to a The Hill blog post by former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Richard LeBaron.

Stressing its role for U.S. foreign policy, LeBaron and co-author Jordan Lesser-Roy describe the program as “very effective” and “one of the very few genuinely successful efforts since 9/11 to affect change." As such, they advocate for an expansion of the YES program:

“Rather than shy away from engagement with the Muslim world, now is the time to double down in our outreach.”

Noting that the YES program is “smart foreign policy,” LeBaron and Lesser-Roy comment on the program’s long-term impact and potential for bringing positive change:

“YES is the face of long-term, strategic engagement with the youth of the Muslim world. If we are serious about wanting positive change in the Islamic world, we need to get a lot more serious about personally engaging young Muslims from around the world.”

Citing the engagement of YES program alumni in their home communities, they add that the program continues to have a positive impact once the students return to their respective countries. Lisa Choate, executive vice president of the American Councils for International Education, echoes this assessment adding:

“Choate said [the program alumni’s] commitment to leadership and community engagement is evidence that the program is doing what it was designed to do. In addition, she noted that many host families visit their students in their home countries, a considerable side benefit that increases Americans’ understanding of this complex region.”