White Oak Recommendations: Rethinking Public Diplomacy (Updated)

Over the weekend of January 30 through February 1, the Howard Gilman Foundation, Meridian International Center, and The Public Diplomacy Council brought together seventy people - public and private sector stakeholders frustrated with this demise and determined to restore public diplomacy as a viable tool of foreign policy - to discuss the structure of America’s global engagement at the White Oak Conference Center in Florida.

The product of the conference is a short, easily read document of common sense recommendations that would otherwise be in larger reports. All but three of the conference participants endorsed the report. Those who abstained did so because their employers do not permit even personal endorsements. The report is simple and straight forward, so much so that the endorsements run longer than the report.

Download the Recommendations here (26kb PDF).

Download the Endorsements here (84kb PDF).

On February 19, I moderated a sixty minute roundtable discussion between Doug Wilson of the Howard Gilman Foundation and Bob Coonrod of The Public Diplomacy Council. Tara Sonenshine was originally scheduled to attend but had a scheduling conflict at the last minute. The participants were Pat Kushlis of WhirledView, Shawn Powers of Intermap.org, John Brown of PDPBR (and now Notes and Essays), Kim Andrew Elliot of www.kimandrewelliott.com, Steve Corman of COMOPS, Jennifer Bryson of Public Discourse, Chris Tomlinson of the AP, and Danielle Kelton from PD 101.

White Oak-Related posts:

On the White Oak experience, while I enjoyed the horse riding quite a bit, it was meeting and exchanging ideas with luminaries that was really exciting. I enjoyed talking at length with the likes of Harriet Fulbright and Joe Nye. Latter conversations with Joe included pointing out that his five-point matrix for modern global engagement looks a lot like a pentagon (he laughed).

At the conference, I sat on the “scene setting” panel the first night, which was a bit intimidating. On my left was Harriet Fulbright, the wife of the late Senator Fulbright, and on my right was Barry Fulton, former Associate Director of USIA, with moderator Bob Coonrod, President of The Public Diplomacy Council, and Len Badlyga, former Director of the Office of European Affairs at the USIA,  were on the other side of Harriet and Barry, respectively. The gist of the panel, and my wrap-up comments, were the same as the report: there was a time that we understood the importance of public opinion and prioritized and resourced people and activities, including foreign (and even domestic) policies, appropriately. The way forward is surprisingly simple if we step back and look at the foundational issues, which Harriet, Barry, and Len all shared using their own decades of experience.

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