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Swedish ambassador speaks on global, social issues

IRC, Office of the President host Björn Lyrvall in part of speaker series

<p>Lyrvall is one of many foreign ambassadors to visit Grounds as a part of the Center for Politic's speaker series.</p>

Lyrvall is one of many foreign ambassadors to visit Grounds as a part of the Center for Politic's speaker series.

The University’s Center for Politics hosted Björn Lyrvall, the ambassador for Sweden to the United States, Tuesday night in partnership with the International Residential College and the Office of the President.

Lyrvall spoke to the audience members, some of whom were students who will be visiting Sweden with the Darden School’s Global Business Experiences program next month, about global issues such as climate change, international trade, the Swedish welfare state, gender equality, the immigration crisis in Europe and even social media and music.

“We live in a globalized world,” Lyrvall said. “We are all very much affected by what is going on in other countries, and I think it’s key to any one of us — students at U.Va. or Swedes in Stockholm — to try to be informed about what’s happening elsewhere and listen to other voices from other countries and other cultures.”

For this reason, Lyrvall said he was glad the University hosted this event to discuss these international issues.

“I can’t think of a better setting for a discussion of [the] Swedish-American relationship and some of the challenges my country faces today,” Lyrvall said. “In many situations, these solutions are about collaboration with others, and that’s why I will focus my presentation on the strong and vibrant Swedish-U.S. relationship.”

Learning from and collaborating with other countries was an important theme of Lyrvall’s speech. Lyrvall said one example of this is Sweden’s strategy for responding to xenophobia and intolerance towards immigrants and minority religious groups.

“Integration is a key issue here, and, in this respect, we can learn from the United States,” Lyrvall said. “We need to learn how we can tap into the potential of immigrants, and that can be a way of embracing them.”

In addition to sharing cross-culturally, Lyrvall also said his job allowed him to experience different areas and cultures within the United States.

“I have had the pleasure of being the Swedish ambassador to the United States since September 2013,” Lyrvall said. “As far as Washington, D.C. [as] the home base, I have still had the opportunity to travel beyond the Beltway to the many different Americas that make up this great country, and a great part of this assignment is indeed to promote Sweden, Swedish ideals, solutions and values, to present a comprehensive and modern picture of my country.”

The event was held as part of a larger ambassador series that began in August 2014. Thus far, the Center for Politics has hosted the Russian, Austrian, Argentine, English, German and Vietnamese ambassadors to the United States.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for members of the University community to learn about other countries and their leadership,” Kyle Kondik, director of communications for the Center of Politics, said. “It’s very into our mission, which is essentially a mission of education and engagement.”

Thus far, the ambassador series has been largely successful, attracting interest from the local community and the press. As a result, Kondik said the Center of Politics hopes to continue to host ambassadors at the University in the future.

“I certainly think that as part of this series we’ve brought in a lot of interesting people from different countries from different regions,” Kondik said. “In the future, we’re always working on bringing additional ambassadors to Grounds.”


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