Public Diplomacy is too often misunderstood and more frequently ill-supported. Even within the State Department, stories abound of poor perceptions of the public diplomacy career track from other career tracks (unfortunately named “cones” in State). I particularly liked a recent anecdote where an Econ officer who took a public diplomacy job was disappointed to her he would have to actually work in his new assignment. His expectation of a free ride was the reason he chose a tour in the PD cone.
Stories like that make the recognition from the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association all the more important. Too often successful despite lack of resources and support, State Department public diplomacy officers do excel. Below is from the PDAA:
Our Public diplomacy (PD) officers worldwide continue to demonstrate impressive ingenuity and success despite acute shortages in personnel and resources as they promote foreign policy objectives. The Public Diplomacy Alumni Association selected three winners out of 22 outstanding nominations in 2009. (The PDAA has some 430 professional members, some retired and some working in various aspects of Public Diplomacy today. People with PD experience are welcome.)
Macedonia’s PAO Ryan Rowland and Assistant PAO Amy Storrow are reaching the youth and emerging leadership in a challenging multi-ethnic society. Rowland, a Macedonian speaker and Storrow who speaks Albanian, devised a systematic outreach to the younger generation of this emerging democracy where ethnicity shapes most aspects of life. Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Bulgars, Bosnians and others comprise this diverse society requiring ingenious PD outreach to be successful. Youth camps brought together over 1100 youth, an expanded Fulbright program merged ethnic students, and a popular creative writing program reached schools, the media, American Corners and the ELS workshops. Topping off the US election activities brought over 500 opinion leaders including students and professionals to a day-break fest hosted by Ambassador Philip Reeker.
Tristram Perry, Assistant Information Officer (Broadcast Media) in Indonesia gained top honors for his initiatives and professionalism in applying PD skills and personal contact credibility to advance understanding of US institutions and foreign policy. He masterminded the exceptional media exposure of Secretary Clinton during her February visit advancing her “smart power” thinking.
She appeared on the major TV youth show “Awesome” triggering a “wildly enthusiastic reaction.” And a first when he arranged for a popular Indonesian journalist to merge with Clinton’s traveling press resulting in many important “inside” stories.
Tristram organized a year-long theme involving Earth Day and the challenging environmental issues. National Geographic joined in this major campaign important to all the world.
Three PD officers in Washington’s International Information Programs Bureau scored at the highest level for producing the engaging worldwide video contest “Democracy’s Video Challenge.” Their goal is to stimulate foreign audiences, especially youth, in a global dialogue about democracy. Lori Brutten – Outreach Coordinator, George Clack – Director of Publications and David Shelby – Director of Current Issues planned and executed this original idea. Expecting a small participation, nearly 900 videos were received including 70 from Iran along with many from China, Russia, Cuba and even Burma. Participants begin their two minute videos with “Democracy is …” Ninety PD posts joined the “Challenge” and spread the word. Participants posted their expressions on YouTube. Jurors selected from NGO partners will name the finalists. Winning videos will be selected by public voting on YouTube.
Other noteworthy PD successful achievers include: Margaret Artz – Tunis; Tom Cooney – PAO Shanghai; Public Affairs Section (PAS) – Leipzig; PAS – Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Caitlin Bergin –IIP; David Firestein – US Advisory Commission on PD; Christina Tribble – Deputy Coordinator Cultural Tradecraft – Foreign Service Institute; Press Section – Embassy New Delhi; Araceli Partearroyo – Cultural Affairs Specialist Mexico City; Benjamin Medina – Ben Franklin Library Director Mexico City; Van Dac Khoi - Director URC Consul General Hanoi; Government Printing Office Team – Manila; Virtual Presence Post Teams – China; Todd Haskell – PAO Johannesburg; PAS Team – Montevideo; Dr. JoEllen Simpson – Director Centro Cultural Colombo, Cali; Richard Michaels – APAO Embassy Lebanon; Aaron Snipe – PD PRT Muthanna Iraq; Matthew Boyse – Consul General Dusseldorf.