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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Arkansas, an international destination

Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2012, at 1:53 PM

I continually ask Arkansans to recognize and take pride in our achievements, as Arkansas continues to become increasingly well regarded outside of our borders. Across America, more and more people now identify Arkansas with fiscal responsibility after our conservative budgeting was touted by national media outlets during The Great Recession. Many others already are well aware of the beauty of the Natural State and the renowned hospitality of our people. And across the globe, people recognize Arkansas as the home of the world's largest corporation, Walmart, and the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton.

Recently, Arkansas's positive reputation has grown with the help of President Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In October, foreign ambassadors from 43 countries visited Arkansas through the U.S. State Department's program, "Experience America." That program fosters international goodwill and provides greater insight and understanding of the people, customs and institutions of our Nation. In my time spent with the group, I touted the resiliency of Arkansas's economy through the global recession and the tools that helped keep us from suffering the same fate as most other states.

A similar event is taking place this month, and again, a high-profile international group has made Arkansas their destination. Little Rock is hosting the annual conference of the Club de Madrid, the world's largest forum of former democratic heads of State. More than 40 of these foreign leaders will gather in downtown Little Rock for the organization's 2012 conference. The collective experience of these world leaders provides insight on leadership and governance, as well as responding to any crisis a government may face. These leaders work to improve the lives of those who are most in need in countries around the world. This year's meeting is focused on finding solutions to gender inequity throughout the democratic world.

Club de Madrid members will be joined by other political leaders, scholars, civil society organizations and business leaders. Companies, including Acxiom, Walmart, Microsoft and the Ford Foundation will send executives to attend. Additionally, representatives from NATO, the International Labour Organization and the Interamerican Development Bank will address attendees.

Meetings like this usually happen in larger cities like New York or Chicago. The fact that Little Rock was able to attract back-to-back meetings of this caliber is no small feat. While the Clintons' influence certainly factored into locating the meetings here, Arkansas was selected in the end because it is increasingly viewed as a favorable destination.

We hope that these visitors from Club de Madrid will leave Little Rock as unofficial ambassadors of our State, telling others around the world about their experiences here. That helps our successes become more widely known through one of the most invaluable resources available: positive word of mouth. The pride that comes with that knowledge furnishes even more incentive for us to continue our progress as a people.

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