Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interesting people, great ideas...

Had an eventful day yesterday: gatecrashed a class at Georgetown (was very warmly received, nevertheless), met an inspiring young PD enthusiast and global practitioner, got a special crash course on the history of American diplomacy, and gained multiple insights into the challenges of spokesmanship. All in one day. Love D.C.!

Some quick observations and thoughts:

- John Brown: the consummate public diplomat (reference: Paul!) greeted me in Russian, kindly tolerated my lack of manners, and recommended Global Chaos to his students (by the way, please do subscribe!). Thank you, Dr. Brown!

- Paul Rockower: the self-described "wandering Jew" with a passion for public diplomacy, and apparently for extreme backpacking and photography. Do check out his blog - Levantine - and see the virtual gallery of his own version of the famous "Family of Man" exhibit. Inspiring and contagious, indeed. Oh, and if you haven't signed up yet, do join the Public Diplomacy Corps: the social networking site for all PD enthusiasts. That's where I read about his presentation.

- Richard Arndt: the renowned author of The First Resort of Kings, gave an interesting overview of the history of diplomacy. Found out that he had served in Beirut and Tehran (among others): hope to hear more about these particular experiences some time, perhaps? Although obviously nostalgic about PD's "good old" 1950s, there were two things in his account that stood out (for me, at least):
  --> He didn't deny that "Public Diplomacy" was a term initially made up as a cover for propaganda. However, it later evolved, of course...
  --> His definition of "Imperialism": what naturally happens when a high-tech society gets in contact with a low-tech society (verbatim). Fairly broad, inclusive and, surprisingly, missing all the negative connotations that come with the general understanding of the term.

- John Trattner: a retired diplomat, and a former journalist and spokesperson for the State Department, as well as for the Senate. Since I am still caught in between my two passions - international affairs and journalism - it was very interesting to listen to his take on the job of a spokesperson in our Monday PD class. Well familiar with both sides of the matter, he kept stressing the importance of maintaining credibility and trust, as well as the need to have the spokespeople involved in the policy-making process. What is more, he was the DoS spokesman when the Iran Hostage Crisis happened: not the best time to be holding the job, but he seemed to have managed it well. If only there were more people with a similar approach out there...

All I can add here: love PD, really enjoying D.C., and excited to be learning more each day!

(Photo courtesy of Olga Drochkova :))



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