Ambassadors to the United Nations guest lecture at Utah Valley University every few weeks as part of a series to bring them to the university.
Utah Valley University is the only university in Utah that has such a program, though Brigham Young University has a similar program through the Kennedy Center for International Studies, which brings ambassadors to the United States to BYU campus.
Rusty Butler, the associate vice president for the office of international affairs and diplomacy at UVU, has been doing this program for many years. UVU has hosted seven UN ambassadors from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, India, Macedonia, Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus this year.
Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunas spoke on poetry and European politics. There is no ambassador from Belarus to the U.S.
“Any chance you get to listen to an ambassador from another country is a good opportunity,” said Chelsea Childs, a junior at Utah Valley University studying secondary education. Childs said she attended the lecture because she wanted to learn about people from Belarus.
Hleb Dapkiunas, the 12-year-old son of the Belarusian ambassador, said he was enjoying his visit to Utah. He was excited to visit the mountains and visit Salt Lake City.
“It was so good to see one of the twelve apostles” Hleb Dapkiunas said. He speaks English, Russian and Belarusian. He met Elder Russell M. Nelson earlier this week and will also visit Park City and Moab.
Butler spends a week with each ambassador, taking them all around Utah. Ambassadors get to visit the Olympic Park, meet with the governor or lieutenant governor, visit Church headquarters, the Utah World Trade Center and notable business people and scholars.
Hleb Dapkiunas thought Utah was more beautiful than New York. Butler is taking the boy and his father to Moab tomorrow.
“I’ve never been in the mountains. It will be so exciting!” Hleb Dapkiunas said.
The program also helps credentialize UVU model UN students.
Butler said it is becoming easier to attract UN ambassadors to Utah because the word gets out. In fact, this was ambassador Dapkiunas’ second visit to Utah. Ambassador Dapkiunas said Utah was the only state in the country he has visited twice while serving as ambassador.
The ambassador spoke about the similarities he sees between Utah and his native Belarus and then read a poem written by his great great-grand uncle.
Following his lecture, ambassador Dapkiunas was presented with a glass memento and made an honorary professor at UVU. Dapkiunas told the group he was “really humbled” by the “great honor” and thanked the university and his hosts.
“Every time I come (to Utah) I sense a very deep and profound spiritual foundation,” he said.