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Ralph Waldo Emerson famously lamented "How much of human life is lost in waiting" and observers of U.S. public diplomacy these last few months could be forgiven for saying the same thing. While other areas of government have something to show for the first one-hundred days of the Obama administration, formal public diplomacy initiatives have been hard to find.
In the last couple of years the U.S. Department of State has stepped boldly into the world of new technology. In his brief tenure as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy James Glassman seemed eager to try all manner of Web 2.0 approaches to engage the global public. Some efforts have been praised, as with the contributions of State Department diplomats to blogs in the Middle East. Others have raised eye-brows, like Deputy Assistant Secretary Coleen Graffy's excursions into the realm of Twitter.
“Poor Mexico“ the nation’s nineteenth century dictator Porfirio Díaz supposedly remarked, “so far from God and so close to the United States!” His lament continues to strike a chord today. Mexico remains fundamentally connected to its neighbor to the North both by economic and cultural ties. A substantial number of Mexicans work in the United States and the remittances that they send home play a significant role in the Mexican economy. American brands and popular culture are everywhere in Mexico.
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.
When awake with jet lag in a hotel far from home, the traveler naturally turns to the TV remote. So it was for me in Moscow this week, when a few absent minded clicks brought me face to face with Russia Today (RT)– the English language news channel and flagship for contemporary Russian public diplomacy. The channel did not come highly recommended. It had raised eyebrows with recent magazine advertisements adorned with a portrait of Stalin holding a quill and that caption: “Stalin wrote romantic poetry” and the tag line “Proud to be different... >
A recap of the third Wilton Park conference on public diplomacy in the UK.
No matter how small their post, every embassy public affairs officer who ever arranged an exchange, distributed a pamphlet, or in the jargon of contemporary public diplomacy fretted over "moving the needle" of foreign public opinion knows that a U.S. presidential election is an opportunity. Traditionally they have been animated quadrennial civics classes, dramatizing America's democratic process and contrasting starkly with the brutality with which power changes hands or not in too much of the world.
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