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January 28, 2009
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You might think Barack Hussein Obama would choose a safer audience than the Arab world for his first TV interview as President. But he chose Dubai-based Al Arabiya, and he chose well.

With all the innumerable problems facing the United States, the most daunting long-term problem is America’s relationship to the world; within that context, our complicated and troubled relations with the Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations are the most urgent to address.

It should come as no surprise that President Obama granted his first formal TV interview to the Middle East Arabic channel Al Arabiya. In the Middle East, the moderate news channel Al Arabiya drubs other Arabic news channels in popularity, including the controversial Al Jazeera and the U.S. government's Al Hurra,- the latter of which is getting better numbers than before, but nothing to match Al Arabiya's.

Seldom have incoming presidents of the United States used the platform of the inaugural address to go beyond the necessary task of speaking to millions of Americans by including a message intended for the hundreds of millions watching worldwide. In a gesture comparable to that of John F. Kennedy in 1961, President Barack Obama imparted commitments to peace, security and prosperity and directed them to friends and foes alike.

Newly minted President Obama offered an address this morning that can be viewed on many layers. An inaugural address is primarily a message to Americans and secondarily a message to the governments and peoples of the world. But in 2009, more than in most years, this address is a message from Americans to a global village about what America is, what America seeks to be, and how America intends to work with that global village.

January 19, 2009

As Hillary Clinton said last week, "America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America. "We must use what has been called 'smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal," she said, embracing diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural strategies.

Quincy Jones's welcome appeal for the creation of an American cultural tsar has fascinating implications for the world of public diplomacy. Jones himself has been a figure in American cultural diplomacy from his early days as the manager for the Dizzy Gillespie band tours of the Middle East and Latin America in the late 1950s to his own work as a powerful international voice of American cultural creativity.

January 12, 2009
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Today’s press conference by President Bush was his last and — by all appearances — his most unscripted. Here was the 43rd President at turns dismissive, angry, jocular, self-deprecating and defensive in describing his eight years in office. What stood out, however, in relation to America’s image, was Bush’s rambling, disputatious monologue when asked about America’s "moral standing:"

I think my son was disappointed at what he got this year. After opening his gifts, he started throwing shoes at me.”
-David Letterman, December 29th

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