All posts by mp2014

A Culture of Understanding

For my final post for this class, I decided to write about an idea that I’ve always thought of as beneficial in improving public diplomacy. The idea is not new by any means, nor is it provocative. Bruce Gregory discussed the development of a culture of understanding in his article, “American Public Diplomacy: Enduring Characteristics, Elusive Transformation.” The simple concept that governmental departments should collaborate more among themselves internally and enlist the help of thinkers in the NGO and private sector is a great idea in theory, but we have yet to master it in practice.  I decided to write my final paper on public private partnership because there has been a recent shift towards these partnerships and I believe that they can mean only good things for U.S. public diplomacy goals.

Gregory mentions that the knowledge and expertise needed for effective diplomacy does not necessarily lie within the walls of the government. It is the voices outside of the government and some quietly within that hold the key to building a culture of understanding. Archaic government practices and engagement ideas are not strong enough to stand up against the rapid changes occurring on the international stage. While the State Department has made notable strides to keep up with the changing landscape, more work needs to be done to “leverage civil society’s knowledge, skills and creativity through a networked capacity intended to enable government instruments–not to duplicate or compete with them.”

Organizations such as Booz Allen Hamilton, the Aspen Institute and Coca-Cola are increasingly becoming involved in public diplomacy and partnerships with the State Department. Although some may question the motives of these organizations, it is my opinion that the partnerships provide a two way benefit. The companies or organizations get good PR and are able to secure big government contracts and the State Department is able to get funding for programs their shrinking budget is struggling to support.  The brain power and extra dollars that private partnerships bring to the public sector seem to help rather than harm public diplomacy efforts.

 

The J-Wave

 

This week I had the pleasure of leading a class discussion on Anne Allison’s piece, “Attractions of the J-Wave for American Youth.” I have to admit that this article did resonate with me personally because I myself am fascinated with Japanese pop culture. My brother has been a fan of anime since before I can remember. My interest stemmed from stories and pictures that family members living in Japan shared with me. I began collecting everything Hello Kitty, researched geisha history and even visited Japan myself where I was able to see Harajuku first hand where I came across young women dressed similar to the ones in the photo above.

I have to agree with Allison when she states that the attraction to Japanese pop culture products is stemmed from attractions to what is different. Harajuku fashion, anime and geisha are something of a fantasy and it’s something about the unknown that always seems to draw you in.

These new models of global imagination do carry a lot of attractive power. My interest in Japan lead me to visit the country myself. I loved my experience! I was able to visit and see firsthand all of the magical places I had read about or seen on T.V. I do not mean to romanticize an entire country–but I do think that Japan is very fascinating. However, the author of the article suggests that their cultural products aren’t necessarily translating into soft power. Allison proposed in her article that soft power should be re-imagined. She thinks that it should be assessed not just in terms of interests it has for the producing country, but on how their cultural products are imagined. What do you think?

Play nice, America and Japan

sandboxOne of my colleagues recently posted a blog about the danger in words and how they can amplify tensions between nations if used carelessly. This post loosely reminded me of an article published in the New York Times last week about the recent strain on Japan-U.S. relations. The Japanese have been discontent with their treatment by the Obama Administration since last year. They feel as though they’ve been kept at arms length and are that the U.S. riding the fence about their dispute with China over the control of islands in the East China Sea.

The article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/world/asia/nationalistic-remarks-from-japan-lead-to-warnings-of-chill-with-us.html?ref=japan&_r=0

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked in a Youtube video, “Why doesn’t America treat Japan better?,” before quickly taking it down.  The video was in response to the Obama Administration expressing disappointment with the Prime Minister’s visit to a shrine honoring war criminals. Instances like this and others are putting stress on relations between the two countries–who have been allies for many years now, despite their turbulent past. Japan feels isolated from the U.S. while the United States views recent actions by the Japanese as being too nationalistic.

Words have undeniable power. Prime Minister Abe made a strong statement about the United States in his Youtube video. While it may have been made more out of frustration than anything, it has caused a big debate and now people are questioning just how stable relations are between the two countries. I’m sure that more can be done on both sides to appease hurt feelings. The article is also a testament to the fact that even amicable nations suffer public diplomacy stumbling blocks. What do you think about the “sticks and stones” spat between Japan and the United States?

Shirley Temple Black: Child Star, Singer, Public Servant

FILE: Shirley Temple Dies At The Age Of 85

 

Shirley Temple Black, the child star whom we know and love has died at the age of 85. Shirley Temple, as she is widely known, was a former child star who danced and sang her way across the silver screen during the Great Depression, bringing smiles and laughter to audiences across the country during a time when smiles and laughter didn’t come so easily.

What few people know, however, is that Black went on to become a public servant. She spent time with the United Nations and two ambassadorial stints in Ghana and Czechoslovakia. According to an article in the NY post (http://nypost.com/2014/02/11/shirley-temple-earned-respect-as-us-diplomat-after-film-stardom/) she was also a charter member and active participant of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Her passion for public service started at an early age. Although she was a former child star and has a hairstyle named after her, she gained the respect of her colleagues and later was appointed ambassador to two countries–both experiencing turbulent times during her appointments. She served both countries well during her tenure.

The purpose of this post is not to recount the laurels of a famous little girl who grew up to become an ambassador. Political appointed ambassadors face a lot more criticism than their career Foreign Service Officer counterparts. The argument is that political appointees are selected because of the amount of money they contributed to the President’s campaign or because of old favors owed, stealing the coveted ambassadorships from career Foreign Service Officers with years of experience. While I do believe that career foreign service officers sometimes get the short end of the stick, I am not against politically appointed ambassadors like Former Ambassador Temple-Black.  American icons like Shirley Temple are perfect public diplomacy tools. Because she lit up the screen during a less than prosperous time in American history, people associate her with a kind of nostalgia and happiness. I am a proud member of Generation Y and I grew up on her movies and still appreciate Shirley Temple curls every once in a while. Likewise, other countries knew and recognized her and associated her with American ideals and values. That, coupled with the fact that she was genuinely interested in public service and took her job incredibly seriously made her the effective ambassador that she was.

Thank you, passenger of the Good Ship Lollipop, for your years of dedicated public service.

 

–Miranda Patterson

Parlez-vous Français?

FrenchSchoolSystem

According to a recent article in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/nyregion/a-push-for-french-in-new-york-schools-from-france.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0), Spanish and Chinese are the most popular second languages to take up in the United States. Bilingual French programs have taken off in New York City schools. The French government actually spearheaded these programs, which are located in several schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan. However, recent strains on the French governments’ budget has caused them to find other ways to fund these programs. Now, New Yorkers are providing private donations and starting fund-raising campaigns to keep these programs alive. Many people can argue that learning French as a second language is losing its allure and usefulness. If that is so, why has it taken off in this small group of NYC schools.

This form of public diplomacy directed by the French government is actually quite good. Somehow, they have increased the popularity of French  in the biggest city in the United States. By introducing children to French at a young age, they are sharing French culture and reinforcing it’s economic and political ties with people of the United States at a time when Americans have pivoted to Asia. Furthermore, they have gotten the parents and students in the area so excited about it, that the government no longer has to foot a big part of the bill. Parents are fighting to get their children enrolled and raising millions of dollars in an effort to bring more of the French immersion programs to schools in their neighborhood. Although the quest for donations are targeted at more affluent families, the program wants to expand into less affluent neighborhoods  and schools as well.

I’m not sure if there is a desire for similar programs such as this all over the country, but I can’t help but think that location is what is making these French bilingual programs popular. New York City is a hub for immigrants and many non-native English speakers reside there. The families and children of these families who are enrolled in this program are exposed to multiculturalism every day. If you aren’t a French speaker, and you live in a neighborhood with an authentic French restaurant, owned and operated by native French speakers, on every street corner; or come into contact with people from Haiti or parts of West Africa, your interest in French would likely be higher than someone in say South Carolina. In my opinion, in order for cultural public diplomacy initiatives to work, their has to be some sort of interest or advantage to the person in which the program is targeted. Kids who learn French in New York City will not only have more jobs opportunities one day, but they will be able to communicate with the native French speakers they come into contact with everyday. I think France has done well in boosting the popularity of a dying second language in the United States, however, I’m unsure of it’s potential success in other regions of the country.