CIEE Alumni at Obama Town Hall in Berlin

Authored by:
James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

Earlier this month, 300 emerging leaders from across Europe, including seven CIEE alumni, convened in Berlin for a town hall conversation with President Obama. Hosted by the Obama Foundation, the event was an opportunity for President Obama to learn about the young people’s aspirations, challenges, issues of concern, and the support they need to advance and scale their work to advance positive change.  

CIEE nominated ten outstanding European alumni from our Work & Travel USA, Professional Exchanges, and Enterprise Foundations programs. We were honored that eight received invitaitons to the event and seven were able to attend. The recording of the Town Hall can be found here.

CIEE alums did not just attend the event, but several were able to interact personally with President Obama. Two CIEE alumni, Gresë Koca from Kosovo and Paul Runcan from Romania, were selected to participate in a small roundtable (only 20 people!) before the event to discuss the direction of the Obama Foundation work in Europe. Plus, the first question to Obama in the Q&A after the presentation came from CIEE alum Anna Ūdre from Latvia. You can see her asking her question in the video below.

Coverage of President Obama's answer to the question is here on CNN and here on Vox.

The Obama Foundation Town Hall in Berlin was a very meaningful experience for our alums and they told us they were returning home with renewed inspiration. Connor Dunne, from Ireland shared that he was “humbled and encouraged by the realization that there are so many brilliant young minds and exemplary young leaders within our Union, all with such passion and humanity and creativity, engaged in such difficult and noble pursuits to better the society in which we all live.”

We at CIEE were especially heartened to see that it was not just the conference that provided an uplifting experience but that the CIEE alumni from different programs and different years really enjoyed connecting with one another. Paul Runcan said “So happy to have met this wonderful group of people! Each and every one of them is an amazing human being, and even though we only spent a little time together, I'm proud to call them friends.”

Most of all we were truly touched to hear our alumni discuss how the CIEE experience helped develop their personal and professional trajectories. On Facebook, Ann Mirjam Vaikla  said “I would like to emphasize that I was specifically invited because of my work at NART - Narva Art Residency…. My gratitude goes to CIEE for acknowledging my efforts and suggesting me as a candidate to participate, also to BAFF Foundation offering me an internship possibility in New York in 2016/17. Where it all started.”

CIEE is part of "where it all started" for so many young people around the world and we are honored to help shape stories.



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