Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya addresses Young Entrepreneurs from Sri Lanka

A group of 18 young entrepreneurs and professionals from Sri Lanka concluded a three-week working tour of the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. recently with a reception at the Sri Lankan embassy here.

The group, selected from among young leaders and business people throughout Sri Lanka, visited U.S. government departments and institutions and spent four days at the University of Virginia in nearby Charlottesville, Va. The program was sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Several of the young professionals said they found a two-day visit to the U.S. Institute for Peace particularly inspiring. The Institute, which is funded by the U.S. Congress, focuses on resolving international disputes.

“We got a broad perspective on the American system of government,” said Mohamed Hisham of Colombo. “We also learned how to work within the system, non-violently.”

The group visited with well-known U.S. statesmen, including former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Richard Armitage, who has served in a number of presidential administrations, most recently as former President George Bush’s deputy secretary of state.

They also met with Richard Boucher, the current assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, and Rep. John Salazar, a member of Congress from the state of Colorado.

Representatives of the Educate Lanka Foundation and Unity Sri Lanka, both of which help underprivileged youth in Sri Lanka, also attended the April 8 embassy reception. The groups, based in Washington, raise funds for academic and athletic programs.

Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the U.S., encouraged the young professionals to work with the youth groups to put ethnic and religious differences aside.

“You should communicate with these groups,” Wickramasuriya told the young business people. “Stay in touch with them. Because what you do, and what they do, will only help Sri Lanka.”

During their stay in Washington, the business group also examined a number of non-governmental organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Republican National Committee, the American Jewish Committee and Street Sense, a newspaper produced by homeless people.

While at the University of Virginia, the young Sri Lankans took part in the university’s new program, Global Perspectives on Democracy, which the university said, "is designed to foster citizen-to-citizen dialogue among the United States and other democratic societies around the world.”

The university was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and a past president.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

09 April 2009

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