SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois' Capital city hosted a very distinguished international guest Friday.
NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen visited Springfield Friday evening to speak at the 50th Anniversary event of the Springfield Commission on International visitors.
Nearly 30 years ago, Rasmussen first visited the U.S. through the National Council on International Visitors.
He says now, more than ever, people from different areas of the world need to understand each other in this global community.
"The defense of freedom can never come for free. And it is crucial that democracies in Europe and North America stand together in the defense of our common values, individual liberties, democracy, and the rule of the law," said Rasmussen.
In the last year, more than 3,500 visitors have come to the United States through the program.
This year Springfield has hosted visitors from Europe, Japan, and the emerging democracy of Egypt.