Public Diplomacy: Renewing America's Engagement With the People of the World

Posted by Judith McHale
June 1, 2009
Harry S Truman Building With McHale Portrait

About the Author: Judith McHale serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

I am deeply honored to join President Obama and Secretary Clinton in spearheading America’s renewed engagement with the people of the world. As Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs I will work with a talented team of career diplomats all over the globe to build lasting relationships of mutual trust and respect between the American people and foreign publics.

As the daughter of a U.S.Foreign Service Officer, I was taught that there is no higher calling than public service. When my father was stationed in apartheid-era South Africa, our home was under police surveillance, friends were detained and mistreated, and I saw what it means to live in a society that is not free. That experience instilled in me the importance of fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens, of public service, and of standing up for what we know is right.

So even though I am new to the State Department, I am deeply aware of the importance of engaging people across the globe. At Discovery Communications, which I helped expand into 170 countries, we prided ourselves on building bridges of knowledge and information that connected people all over the world. We believed in engaging people internationally on their own terms, respecting their languages, customs, and interests.

I believe passionately that public diplomacy is both integral to our foreign policy and essential for our national security, and I plan to bring that same spirit of respectful engagement to my new role here at the State Department.

In today’s rapidly changing world, the United States must continue to move beyond traditional government-to-government diplomacy and seek innovative ways to communicate and engage directly with foreign publics.

The challenges we face require a complex, multi-dimensional approach to public diplomacy. We have to listen more and lecture less. And we have to learn how people in other countries and cultures listen to us. We need to understand their interests and aspirations, and use our leadership to provide them with information and services they value. If we do this right, we can forge relationships that become part of their daily lives. They may come to see their relationship with us, the United States of America, our government, and our greatest asset of all – the American people – as essential to their ability to achieve progress and prosperity, and fulfill their dreams of a brighter future.

This vision is more possible than ever because new communications advances provide unprecedented opportunities to engage people directly, to connect them to one another, and to dramatically scale up many traditional public diplomacy efforts. They provide us the opportunity to move from an old paradigm in which our government speaks as one to many, to a new model of engaging interactively and collaboratively across lines that might otherwise divide us from people around the world. Public diplomacy is not something the government can or should do alone. New technological tools will help us tap into the spirit, optimism, and diversity of the American people, including our many Diaspora communities with their deep ties and networks spanning the globe.

I look forward to working with the dedicated professionals here at the State Department and new partners from across our country to provide the open hand of friendship the President promised the world in his inaugural address.

Comments

Comments

Alana M.
|
Spain
June 1, 2009

Alana in Spain writes:

Congratulations Judith! Public diplomacy is so important yet underestimated. There are so many Americans like me living abroad who will be happy to support your efforts in any way we can. The American community, including Democrats Abroad is very vibrant here in Spain (and throughout the world) and proud to be "every day ambassadors" for the U.S.

Zharkov
|
United States
June 1, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Every nation's leaders taught their people, the French, the Russians, the English, the Spanish, the Italians and others -- for thousands of years -- that their country or political system that they lived in was superior to all others.

So to impose "a better way of life", we have slaughtered each other (in the hundreds of millions of people) in insenseless wars.

Earlier the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and others carried out genocide for the same reason. Mass slaughter of human beings has always been justified as "protecting the country", but it is carried out for the exultation of the government.

Belief in government has been the single biggest weapon against humanity. More people have been murdered, tortured and destroyed in the name of government than any other cause in all history. The more powerful the government propaganda, the greater the slaughter.

In the 30 Years War alone over one third of Western Europe was slaughtered by governments over whether Jesus was Protestant or Catholic.

It still goes on today. Of course, the propaganda of the Victors becomes the history of the Vanquished, so we never hear of all the millions the governments of the world had murdered and tortured.

How many know that Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor, called a treaty meeting of 5000 Wotanist Saxonleaders from central Europe in 787 AD? As was the custom among Wotanists, arms were not carried into treaty conferences. The treacherous Charlemagne then surrounded the Saxons with a Christian army and beheaded them in front of an audience of church dignitaries. By such methods a new belief was forced on Europe -- a belief that people need to be ruled by fear of their government.

It was rebellion against this fear that led to the foundation of America so that the people hold all of the power and government holds only that power granted to it by the states from the people -- but nothing more.

Today, we are back in the same old routine of killing each other supposedly "to protect our country" when reality tells us that our soldiers fight to extend government power and influence over other nations and other peoples, to impose "our way of life" whether they want any of it or not. More often than not, we say we kill each other for peace, and security, for homeland, or for patriotism, and then we do it again, and again, in every era.

We fought to free Iraqi people from their own government, so they can have one more like ours - because ours is "superior" to all others. We insist that they vote with ballots instead of bullets, no matter which they might prefer, yet some Iraqi people are not with the program.

We fought in Europe, and our military is still there. We fought in Asia and our military is still there. We fought in the Middle East, and our military is still there. We never fought in Africa, yet our military is now has an "African Command". Anyone with eyes can see we have become an empire that expands wherever it meets weak resistance.

It is a pathetic shame on us that we have failed to educate our own children about the nature of governments and why they were deemed so dangerous by our founders that only a small federal government should be tolerated by a free people.

It was not because governments are benevolent that the U.S. Constitution was written, but because they are so murderous to their own citizens and to others.

Donald
|
Virginia, USA
June 1, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

I'm speechless which doesn't happen to often. Interesting story and how fitting to have this talent with the State Department. "Bravo Zulu" Welcome Aboard!!! Look forward to seeing ya on the blog!

GS
|
District Of Columbia, USA
June 2, 2009

G.S. in Washington, DC writes:

Hey, don't forget your hard-working CIVIL service staff, too!

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 2, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Want World Peace?

Ask Stevie Wonder to do a Global Tour for the Dept. of State! People will be too busy singing and dancing to fight.

Edite
|
Canada
June 2, 2009

Edite in Canada writes:

Writer Zharkov introduces one to a number of historical scenarios in order to underscore his belief that ideaology plays a large part in the slaughter of hundreds of millions of souls throughout the ages. That is true, and in times and places governments have acted in callous and brutal ways to enslave people and occupy countries.The more powerful have always been able to exert influence and expansion but the problems have arisen when those so exploited rise up and fight against their fate. One need not go back to almost prehistoric times to make this point. The twentieth century has ample examples of brutality by powerful and ideologically driven governments. Nazis and Communists quickly come to mind.

Zharkov's attempt to smear America with a vast black brush simply does not hold true. Statements about the people wanting less government is true except for those who cannot or will not adhere to the core values of a free society where individuals make the decisions about their welfare, health and type of government they want. Decentralized, smaller governments, which do not impose their will on the people are the most seriously sought after. America was founded and the New World engaged and flocks of immigrants scrambled to her shores. Why? To seek freedom, opportunity and peace.

That is still true roday. America has never needed barbed wire or Iron Curtains or guards at watchposts to keep its citizenry in check and in place. Americans have not shot individuals who have wanted to leave its boundaries as the Soviets did in the occupied countries of Eastern Europe in the last century when they did it as a matter of course. You want to leave? OK! You get shot. Apart from war resisters who were outright deserters, who did not honor their promise to serve their country, they were easily taken in by Canada's government. Usually, by Liberal governments whose core values are more laisse faire and promote change just for change 's sake. America, for the last two hundred years has been" the land of the free and the home of the brave".Those are not just words in its anthem but describe the character of its people. America has done more good for countries around the world, all in the name of freedom and democracy, than any other country on earth.It has spent more money in aid, sacrificed more lives in the name of freedom, a word not to be used lightly.Those who have endured loss of freedom and democracy have been hell-bent to come to America and other free nations .If an individual does not stand for something, he/she will fall for anything, even loss of freedom.. That includes governments as well.

What has become very discomfitting and worrisome since the November election is the over-use of the words, citizen, world, global, international, global economies, global governments, internationalism, smart power,etc. It reminds one of Communist terms like "comrade" etc. Is that what the West will be asked to use by the most powerful nation on earth? Total engagement implies total access to everyone and everything but does not imply freedom, democracy, smaller governments, market based economies.The economic downturn can probably be traced back to the tenets of the Bilderberg Group that has existed since the early fifties. The fact that once powerful and fluid companies have folded and packed up with the intrinsic chaos that has followed is not at all surprising. Over the last fifty years the middle class has been slowly eroded and the powerful, monied entities who have succumbed and engaged with the Bilderbergs are in a position to call all of the shots, around the "world". Americans et al should be quite concerned about this effect on their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren. It is vital that all return to the core values that have made America and the free West great. Anything less than that is foreboding. Worrying only about a chicken in every pot and large screen TV's has to be abandoned and serious contemplation is required of all who cherish freedom and democracy. Materialism has to be abandoned as the sole guarantor of success.The fight for freedom has gone on since the birth of nations and it is a powerful aphrodisiac, intrinsic in every person's inner soul, regardless of where they live or how they live. Very watchful guarding of these freedoms must embrace every American and up 'til now, free people everywhere. We should not give up it without a concerted effort to keep it in place.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 2, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

I think every US administration tries to find their own words to define the policy process, whether that might be "transformational diplomacy" or "smart power" for instance, in order to create if you will, the character and tone of the approach the President wishes to set in foreign affairs, and thereby personalize his approach to the many issues confronting him.

Even if policy itself remains consistant through multiple administrations.

A good example is the BBC interview in which President Obama described his approach or America's approach under his watch, towards the development of democracy as a working system of government as one we cannot be "hoisting upon" nations as "western values" but that these vaues inherent in democracratic construct are "universal" and may be "embraced".

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/justinwebb/

No different in meaning than when Condi Rice stated, "Democracy cannot be imposed", as it is chosen by the people.

Some words like "universal" remain intact between U.S. administrations because they not only reflect the consistancy of policy, but the best definition of the truth of the matter, which are in process of becoming self evident globally.

A bipartisan "given understanding" in a word.

In "leading by example" one may offer a set of blueprints to what's democraticly possible. Societies get to pick what designs they want to build it upon, with the materials they have on hand, within their culture and common understanding and desires to live better lives.

In this I think Muslims have to take stock of whether political Islam has delivered the better life they seek, or does it require the separation of mosque and state to attain a free society that celebrates diversity and the talents of women in the public fora.

So it becomes an essential choice born of debate within societies as to what works for the good of all or not, on a practical day to day level of living with each other.

That the U.S. has imposed change there is no doubt, not from any hegemonic intent, but because we were attacked, and the status quo that allowed for that to happen was flat unacceptable to the American public as well as its government.

Including the Muslims of America to be sure.

Islam is already global, so the only reason extremists of this religion wish to create a "Califate" is for hegemonic purpose and political control over populations.

Gitmo is a long standing politicized issue that has on many levels defined a small facet of the results that have come about as a result of responding to violence directed upon the U.S. and other nations.

My thought is that Gitmo should not be closed, but donated lock, stock and barrel to the international criminal court or the Hauge along with the detainees to be put on trial in front of the whole world.

Any nation that wishes to bring charges upon an individual detained on the battlefield may do so in such a judicial fora, and Gitmo thus becomes a neutral internationaly run detention center for the convicted to serve out sentence in.

We may not be party to the ICC, but we have supported its founding as a nation as policy, and perhaps it serves our interests as a just nation of laws to ask whether there's a long term solution to be found in such an idea.

Kind of kills several birds with one stone in the sense that it internationalizes the judicial process to procecute terrorists on the basis that they are a threat to all nations, whether on a case by case basis, the accused has commited terrorist acts in only one, an attack on one is an attack on all.

Gets the politics between nations out of the process too to a certain extent because bilateral relations among nations interjects this into the mix at present on a case by case basis of repatriation.

In this country, we try to find a fair and collective methodology that passes the constitutional "lemon test" in our supreme court.

I can see no other rational way to conclude the debate.

Zharkov
|
United States
June 3, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Edite in Canada has posted a reply so I must say that in modern times, the direct murder of American citizens by our own government has yet to occur on a mass scale, but also the U.S. has more people in prison than any other country on earth.

Any Iron Curtain around our borders would be redundant when our Iron Curtains are decentralized across the country and the number of incarceration centers are rapidly increasing as more laws are enacted to remove more liberty from more people. Edite might be amazed to discover what is illegal today in America, that was never illegal before.

America does not shoot Americans who wish to leave our borders because our government continues to tax them after they are gone as a reminder of who is the master and who is the slave. Our government has difficulty letting go - no matter where one lives. We have military bases in almost every country on earth. When the entire planet becomes a prison, no nation needs an Iron Curtain.

However, we do shoot foreigners who actively resist their own government or our military presence in their nation; but, we only kill for benevolent purposes, or for peace, or for liberty, or for country, or for whatever else pops into the heads of the propagandists.

The fact remains that many governments are serial killers no matter what the reason, good or bad, moral or immoral. Human history is awash with mass slaughters by governments.

The U.S. has no exemption either, as we massacred tens of thousands of Native Americans in founding our nation - please don't even try to deny it, today's indian reservations speak volumes of history for themselves.

We massacred hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in our nuclear war with Japan, it may be justice for the Bataan Death March but unnecessarily it seems, now that it has been declassified that the Japanese were asking to surrender before we took out Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We have been accused of massacre of millions of Iraqi children by starvation in our war with Iraq, a situation that Secretary Albright found unremarkabe during a news interview.

Our U.S. government secretly experimented on our own citizens with bacteria releases over the past 50 years, admitted recently by the Department of Defense. They have, in collaboration with universities, experimented with eugenics since the early 1900's, and they continue with eugenics experiments today with DNA data banks derived from every newborn American in the country, and with research on DNA-specific weapons, genetically-modified food, and with the strangest ingredients one can imagine in U.S. vaccines, such as HIV virus, Simian virus, and recently, Avian Flu, a virus confined to level 3 labs only, yet managed to be inserted into human vaccine.

Without warning American citizens downwind, our government released radioactive nuclear fallout from 40 years of atomic test. This undeniable fact cannot be changed by explanation or equivocation. The dangers of nuclear radiation have been known since Madame Curie experimented with Radium.

Indeed, the list evil behavior is so long that there is a 3 hour documentary film of it, estimating that over 100 million people have been killed by governments in just the 20th century alone.

So this is what a global government, a "self-governing international community", can accomplish.

When the track record of governments is the loss of over 100 million lives, a global government is certain to be a total disaster for humanity.

Masood
|
California, USA
June 2, 2009

Masood in California writes:

You are right! "Public diplomacy is not something the government can or should do alone." And, certainly the diversity of the American people is -- American diplomatic strength -- the communities with deep ties and networks radiating all over the globe.

Edite
|
Canada
June 4, 2009

Edite in Canada writes:

What is most troubling in writer Zharkov's tome is that he has not ,even once, referred to the slaughter of one hundred millions souls in the 2oth century being carried out by Communists. Sounding like a sycophant or apologist for them is very unattractive and rather silly, considering that Putin's Russia continues to kill adversarial dissidents. Nothing much has changed since Stalin's time. Referring to the plural, governments, in response to the one hundred million lives taken, is not accurate. Soviets did that all by themselves. Taking undiluted pleasure in characterizing America as a nation of people who slaughter others, in making reference to Native American Indians (point well-taken) but in ressurrecting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one should not forget who attacked whom? Did anyone see a proverbial white flag raised by the Japanese so that the world could see that they wanted to surrender? Any comment on the Arizona in Hawaii and the scores of Americans who died there?

Taxing individuals after leaving America is not a foreign idea to most people around the world. If anyone is receiving taxable pensions from America or any other country, is not a cause to refer to a master/ slave relationship. Apples and oranges are very different fruits and it is not hard to distinguish between them.

What is considered legal and illegal in Canada is probably worse than in the United States. Writing or speaking the truth invites journalists and other writers and their publishers to be sued for their "freedom of speech" values, which incidentally are guaranteed in the constitutions of the major democracies and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead of "free speech", writers of truth face the unsavoury attack of their words being referred to as " an incitement to hatred" and then are subjected to criminal charges. How terribly sad. For this, brave men and women have died, to protect these very rights. Echoing the words of former Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall, he once wrote that "freedom does not mean the right to do as one pleases, but rather to please to do that which is right". Stifling free speech is not right but nor is libel and slander.

Stating that America has more incarcerated individuals than any other country is probably not quite true. However, one can always stand to be corrected, provided there is adequate proof and evidence of such.

As far as global governments go, this writer has never advocated those. One agrees it would be a travesty and a total disaster.

.

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