Monday, March 20, 2017

Questions from a Georgetown University Graduate Student on Public/Cultural Diplomacy

image from (not from interview)

Interview Questions/answers to your Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review compiler from Jessica von Tresckow, Georgetown University graduate student (posted here with her kind ok).
[see also.]

Background information: age, place of birth, residence, current occupation, etc.

Age: Still going through puberty (68). Place of birth (Boston, Mass.) Residence: The Imperial Capital (Washington, D.C.). Current occupation: Happily self-employed (BTW, my father's humorous tongue in cheek advice regarding employment: "Never work. No, never work. But, if you must, start at the top").

How long have you worked on the topic of public diplomacy?

Some forty years, in academe (as a researcher and teacher) and government (as a Foreign Service officer). See.

Why did you decide to start working on public diplomacy?

Early on in my younger days -- my father, a poet, was also a distinguished diplomat involved in “soft power” (years before the term was coined) and I greatly admired him -- especially his linguistic skills and ability to understand how persons other than himself thought and felt. My father’s papers can be found in the Manuscript Division at the Lauinger Library at Georgetown (see, among other links.)

Has your opinion on public diplomacy changed over the course of your career? If so, how?

The 20th century Cold War (when American academics/bureaucrats coined/used the term “public diplomacy”) is over. Time to rethink the meaning of this rather awkward verbal construction (since when has diplomacy been “public,” traditional diplomats would ask; see Harold Nicolson's remarks on propaganda in his classic book, Diplomacy).

What do you define as the difference between propaganda and public diplomacy? How can we separate the two now in the age of social media and digital transformation?

Please refer to my article: "Propaganda and Public Diplomacy: Their Differences," see.  As for the "digitalization" of diplomacy, it may expand communications, but sadly (in my view) in a non-face-to-face way (despite Facebook calling itself facebook).

Can public diplomacy be used to combat negative propaganda? If so, how? If not, why not?

Public diplomacy (PD) should make its own case rather than “combat” negative propaganda.

Outside of your professional pursuits, do you engage in public diplomacy efforts?

I keep up with the use of the term “public diplomacy,” mostly as a linguistic phenomenon in the mass media. See my article.

Do you see a lot of interest in public diplomacy and exchange in the United States?

U.S. universities are “into” introducing PD in their curricula in a “big way,” at a time when its impact/influence within USG circles is declining. See: "The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk."

BTW, I've often felt that PD is something you do, rather than take how-to courses about.

What is your opinion on exchange programs in particular?

Am all for them. Better than killing people who are different from you. The “acquisition of empathy,” as Senator Fulbright put it far more eloquently. See.

Have you yourself participated in an exchange program?

I was on an IREX/Fulbright program in the USSR in the early 70s. It was like landing on another planet. Learned a great deal from the experience.

What do you think are the positive aspects about exchange programs?

They make you think about how other persons think and feel.

What do you think are the negative aspects about or challenges faced during exchange programs?

The occasionally bulky, turf-conscious bureaucracy/interests that handle/organize these programs.

How do you explain the need for funding for exchange programs or public diplomacy efforts in general?

My answer, in the words of the scholar Frank Ninkovich: These programs “are based at bottom on an act of faith.” See.

Do you think exchange programs have long-term benefits?

Yes, but they’re hard if not impossible to measure scientifically, like most human experiences.

How do you think international exposure/exchanges/public diplomacy can help further one’s academic and professional career?

Not very much. But they might enrich your life as a human being.

Is there anything else you deem significant about your experience with public diplomacy that you would like to share?

Above all, keep your sense of irony/humor; and always remember the line from the film, Some Like it Hot, "Nobody's perfect."

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