Young world leaders convene on Tampa to watch political process

11:28 PM, Aug 30, 2012   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- They come from 28 different countries, and on Thursday they gathered to watch the Republican National Convention unfold before their eyes.

Thanks to the U.S. State Department, in partnership with the International Council of the Tampa Bay Region, the young leaders are touring the United States and have been in Tampa to witness the RNC firsthand.

Countries represented ranged from Madagascar to Egypt to Kenya to the United Kingdom.

"We did not have the idea how bottom-up it is. How much powerful the states and the cities and the counties are," said Ovick Alam, from Bangladesh.

The participants gathered at USF-St. Petersburg Thursday night for a discussion and convention-watching event.

"We are much interested in American foreign policy. How they are going to handle issues of foreign policy," said Christopher Mwambingu, from Kenya.

Sara Ibrahim, an attorney in London, says she is struck by the political tone in the United States.

"I think American politics is very negative. Even with the UK, where it's an adversarial system, you don't get this unrelenting wave of negativity that you get in the US," she said.

And the opinions of these observers matter. After all, alumni of this program include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, as well as the current president of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto.

Roughly 335 alumni from this program have become heads of state in the 70 plus years of this exchange program.

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