A message from Mary J. Eisenhower, Chief Executive Officer People to People International, and President Eisenhower’s granddaughter.
People to People sprang into existence through my grandfather, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The 34th President of the United States sought a new path to international understanding, and he developed People to People to be the vehicle on that path.
President Eisenhower believed that ordinary citizens of different nations, if able to communicate directly, would solve their differences and find a
way to live in peace. This simple thought?that people can make the difference where government cannot?is People to People’s foundation.
He believed that if people could visit each others’ homes, attend their schools, and see their places of worship, then the misunderstandings, misperceptions, and resulting suspicions?which were making war a viable option?would disappear. He wanted people to know and understand that while we are all very different, our values, goals, and day-to-day issues are very much the same.
Soon after the People to People program was established, my grandfather decided that the spirit of People to People would be best preserved in the hands of private citizens rather than faceless government entities.
My grandfather turned to his good friend Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards, to help him launch People to People in the private sector. Hall agreed and relocated PTP to his own hometown: Kansas City, Missouri.
Eisenhower believed strongly in the power of the delegate. According to him, “The people want peace; indeed, I believe they want peace so badly that the governments will just have to step aside and let them have it.”
As a result, People to People’s mission developed around personal exchanges and individual, firsthand experiences of other cultures.
The threat of armed global conflict is no longer so dominant, but the need for better international understanding remains. I hope that today’s People to People travels will result in continued exchanges on newer issues that require international cooperation, resources, and priorities, such as cures for cancer and HIV, the care of the environment, and the reduction of poverty.
The ideas and understanding created by face-to-face encounters with people of different backgrounds will be the foundation of a lasting world peace.
As they travel under the banner of People to People, delegates represent the best of our country: hope, courage, openness, and a love of peace.
My Granddad would be proud.