Ambassadors’ Interest in Utah
The Utah Ambassador Visits Program, which still operates today, was established by Governor Michael Leavitt as part of Utah’s 1996 Statehood Centennial Celebration. Stephen “Steve” M. Studdert was the chairman of the Utah Statehood Centennial Comission. Having served as an advisor to three U.S. presidents, Steve felt the statehood centennial celebration was a golden opportunity to showcase Utah to foreign ambassadors posted in the United States. Steve selected Sterling Provost to serve as the chair of the Ambassador Visits Program, and he also included Dr. Erlend D. Peterson to serve on the committee. Later Dr. Peterson took over chairmanship of the program, and he has continued the chairmanship of the program over the years—even though the Utah Statehood Centennial Commission concluded its service at the end of the centennial year.
Steve Studdert and Erlend Peterson became acquainted in 1990, soon after Dr. Peterson was appointed Dean of Admissions and Records at Brigham Young University (BYU). That acquaintance was a forerunner to the centennial Ambassador Visits Program. Dr. Peterson invited the Norwegian ambassador to visit Utah and to lecture at BYU. Three weeks after the invitation to the Norwegian ambassador was extended, Studdert was in Utah and he visited Peterson at his office. During their visit Peterson mentioned he had just been in Washington, D.C. and extended an invitation to the Norwegian ambassador to visit Utah. Studdert told Peterson about a dinner he had attended three nights earlier with 18 foreign ambassadors in Washington, D.C. Studdert said that as the ambassadors were arriving, the Austrian ambassador initiated a conversation and told the group of ambassadors that he had had the nicest experience visiting Utah. He discussed some of the highlights of his visit. When the Austrian ambassador finished, another ambassador said he had visited Utah, and he had experienced the same thing and told how impressed he was with the people, their industry, their honesty and their kindness. When he concluded, the Norwegian ambassador said he had accepted an invitation to speak at BYU. Then a fourth ambassador asked, “How do you get invited? I would like to go.”
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