Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Facebook comment on the American Center in Moscow (slightly edited)

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John Brown I'll never forget many moments at the American Center run by one of the best U.S. cultural ambassadors that I ever had the privilege to work with while in Moscow as Cultural Affairs Officer (89-92) at the American Embassy, Ms. Marisa Fushille, a remarkably fluent speaker of the wonderfully complex Russian language. So many interesting (and always thought-provoking) events at the Center were organized for the Russian public under her leadership as Center Director: a stimulating "mock" Bush II-Gore debate taking place in Moscow (yes, Idaho -- the savvy young Russians in the audience got it), in which two US Embassy officers took part, one "playing" "Bush," the other "Gore" (Bush, btw, won most of the audience's vote); an exhibit on Andy Warhol (as a supplement to a State Department exhibit on that pop-art artist) documenting his contact with Russians; lectures on an infinite variety of topics pertaining to U.S. and U.S.-Russian relations (I particularly remember a lively discussion on the Lend-Lease Act's impact in Russia, nearly forgotten in the U.S.); and, of course, perhaps most important, the splendidly managed/maintained book/magazine collections/internet connections, in a public space meticulously maintained (as an unintended example of American "efficiency"[?]), available free of charge to Russian citizens, without "questions asked." Marisa's Center was an example of American intellectual generosity (of course, needed in the USA as well) at its best -- call it "propaganda" if you are a total cynic -- but if American "public diplomacy" does anything right, it's what Marisa achieved, along with the cooperation, competence, and enthusiasm of her bilingual Russian colleagues -- distinguished, cultivated persons who were a key part of her American-Russian team at the sadly to-be-defunct American Center in Moscow -- and who worked so hard to improve/expand American-Russian understanding.

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