Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cultural Diplomacy -- A panel discussion of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy

image from

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the impressive October 14 scholar-practitioner discussion/celebration, at the US Center for Peace, of the 10+ years of existence of the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD).

Full disclosure: My blog, "Public Diplomacy and Blog Review," was posted during the initial period of the Center's existence on its homepage. I hope I contributed positively to the CPD's work throughout its early years.

While I could not stay for the entire CPD festivity (8:30 am -1:05 pm), I was able to attend the interesting third session (10:35-11:15pm), which dealt with a topic I'm particularly interested in, "Cultural Diplomacy: What Next?" (See my 2013 piece, "Is American Cultural Diplomacy a Hot Potato?")

The articulate participants in the panel were:

Jennifer Clinton
President and CEO, Global Ties U.S.
Sarah J. Hillyer
Director, Center for Sport, Peace and Society, University of Tennessee
Viet Thang Nguyen
Professor, Scholar and Writer, University of Southern California
Martin Perschler [see below]
Program Director, U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, U.S. Department of State
Katherine Brown (moderator)
Executive Director, U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

Given time limitations, the participants had to be brief -- and they were succinct indeed. Perhaps they not unintentionally avoided in their presentation the fact that cultural diplomacy can, in certain situations, be a "hot potato," and not only for those implementing it in the field.

Interestingy, all of the questions (I counted four) directed to the panel were from self-professed non-Americans (but, I must confess, the acoustics in the venue left much to be desired) -- although the audience was overwhelmingly (again, so far as I could tell) citizens of the USA.

And when the last question directed to the panel -- it was a Canadian diplomat asking, if my memory/ears serve me right -- about what a Cultural attaché is/should do, only one of the panel participants volunteered an answer (the other panelists seemed totally puzzled by the question).

Martin Peshcler did say that a CAO (the American designation for Cultural attaché -- Cultural Affairs Officer) should share and respect the values of his country with those other countries. Fair enough.

For a perhaps dated, but still humorous account, of what a "CAO" actually did in the pre-digital world (and should still do today; face-to-face remains more important that facebook-to-facebook), see.  And, of course, consult Richard Arndt's book.  

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