In Communicating with the World: US. Public Diplomacy Overseas1 I included four case studies on the practice of public diplomacy—in the Soviet Union, Germany and Brazil. In this essay I explain how public diplomacy was actually planned and carried out in three cities in Germany—in Frankfurt in the early fifties, in Berlin in the late sixties and in Bonn in the early eighties.
I came into the Foreign Service—and to public diplomacy—in an odd way. In 1949, the State Department was replacing the U.S. Military Government in Germany and was hiring people locally. I took the oath in October 1949 in Frankfurt and was assigned initially to run the America House (U.S. Information Center) in Wiesbaden and then, after five months, in Frankfurt where I remained until 1955.
What was our mission? I was never told explicitly, but we understood that we were to function as an information and cultural center in our efforts to re-orient and re-educate the German public—and especially young people—into the Western democratic community of nations.2
The central element of the America House was its library with a collection of about 4500 American books (some in translation) and some 300 periodicals. The staff, among which I was the only American, consisted of some forty-five librarians, programmers, artists, English teachers and administrative personnel. In Frankfurt, where the entire cultural infrastructure had been devastated as a result of World War II, the America House served literally as a community center until the indigenous cultural and artistic entities was rebuilt. It was a busy and popular place. We were open seven days a week from 10 am until 10 pm.
Moreover, the America House library was “open-shelf” where people could select and check out books of their choice. We did not immediately realize the democratizing impact of our open-shelf library until a frequent visitor, the city librarian who was also the director of the University library, told us that in rebuilding both libraries, he would convert them to open-shelf institutions, the first in the Federal Republic. A German researcher later wrote that one could not underestimate the success of the America Houses in introducing Germans to a new open-shelf library system, which made libraries attractive institutions. The principal impact of the America Houses, she wrote, was in influencing and changing the view of America among the German people. Through the medium of the library it was possible, she concluded, to persuade many Germans to regard America positively and often admiringly.3
Frankfurt – 1950
In effect, the America House was a physical symbol of public diplomacy, a term that at that time was still unknown. Of possible relevance today, the prestige of the America House as an American cultural institution reflected on its director in the Frankfurt community. Next to the American Consul General, the director of the America House was the best-known and most recognized American official in Frankfurt (despite the huge U.S. military presence in the city). Representing the America House enabled its director to communicate easily and directly with the political, cultural and media leadership in the community.
Over time, as the city regained its cultural and social infrastructure, the America House, still a highly respected institution, converted itself into a center of information and cultural expression about the United States. Library collections were reduced and specialized, lectures and conferences focused on America, exhibits and concerts concerned themselves with American artistic expression (very similar to what the Alliance Francaise is today). The America House director retained the prestige and influence represented by the institution that he headed.
Berlin – 1967
Many in the previous generation of Germans had, rightly or wrongly, considered the United States their Camelot; now, a significant number in the so-called “successor generation” opposed America for a variety of reasons. Certainly, U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the upheavals of the civil rights revolution in America, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King contributed to a conviction that America was no longer a model society but the enemy of society.
Beyond that, our analysis concluded that German youth were suffering from a growing anxiety about the world in which they lived. Among the components of this angst were:
This radicalization of young Germans often turned violent in Berlin, with frequent destructive demonstrations against the America House, Berlin’s most visible manifestation of the United States. Lectures and discussions on American policies and social issues at other institutions were often broken up violently. We had to find other ways to maintain our presence in support of the Berlin population and to represent our views on important international, political, economic and social issues. While we found that radio and television were equally radicalized in Berlin, the print media were generally open to accept American views and policies and to support the United States. And, of course, we had our own effective and respected outlets in the American radio station RIAS (literally Radio In the American Sector), and the U.S.-published newspaper Die Neue Zeitung.
We also managed to maintain our presence by offering major American art exhibitions in cooperation with Berlin museums and galleries, supported as we were by the U. S. Information Agency (USIA) in Washington and American museums, like the Museum of Modern Art.
It was a difficult period, but it demonstrated that a synergy between cultural and information activities could be very effective in the service of public diplomacy.
Bonn – 1982
Much had been written and discussed about the generation gap and the “successor generation problem” in both countries, and a number of projects had been launched by USIS Bonn and supported by USIA Washington to bridge this gap. Among these successful projects was the publication of the “American Studies Newsletter”, directed at secondary school teachers throughout the FRG responsible for teaching about America in the context of their courses.
We also organized regional conferences for teachers of American studies and cooperated with the German Association of American Studies in their training programs by providing American experts on the training of teachers. We also cooperated with the German government in sponsoring a joint textbook revision project, intended to bring high school textbooks in both countries up to date and to correct errors, outdated provocations, or misleading statements. History and political science textbooks were examined, re-edited and re-published.
The Fulbright Commission concentrated on providing academic exchanges for students, teachers and university faculty in American and German studies. The German government, believing in the importance of the Fulbright program, supported it financially to a substantially greater extent than the U.S. Government at that time, and we worked hard to persuade Washington to restore parity to this vital program.
USIS Bonn had one other public diplomacy asset in the presence of Ambassador Arthur Burns. The distinguished economist and central banker was particularly interested in communicating with young people. I discovered that by working with him in suggesting and writing his public speeches, they would be published not only in every major German newspaper, but also in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and, on one occasion, in the Reader’s Digest. Even though preparing these speeches took a considerable amount of my time, I found that it was time and effort well spent, far outdistancing my written or spoken capability to engage audiences.4
Finally, our German counterparts and we proposed to launch a massive youth exchange program as a principal legacy of the 300th anniversary commemoration of German immigration to America. Initially, USIA balked at the expense— about 2 million dollars per year—that the program would cost since it would skew the worldwide budget for exchanges. We were able, however, to gain Congressional support from, among others, Senators Lugar, Heinz, Percy and Dixon and representatives Hamilton, Foley and Winn for the program, and they, in turn, worked together with their German Bundestag counterparts so that the program was funded directly by the two legislatures. The program allowed for approximately 250 youngsters from each country to spend an academic year living with families, going to high school and being integrated in the corresponding community. The U.S. Congress-German Bundestag Youth Exchange program is now in its 25th year and has exchanged more than 6,000 young people from each country.
While it is probably impossible to measure the impact of this program in the two countries, it is reasonable to assume that both societies have benefited from the knowledge and understanding that the students and their host families have gained from each other.
What Did I Learn?
Public diplomacy is primarily a field enterprise where audiences are selected, programs are proposed and carried out by the public diplomacy post abroad, after approval and with the support of Washington headquarters.
The public diplomacy field post conducts an institutional analysis (to determine primary and secondary audiences), proposes a country plan in coordination with the embassy and submits it to Washington for approval and support.
For public diplomacy to be effective, there must be synergy between long-range cultural and exchange activities and short-range information programs.
While the public diplomacy section is fully integrated in the embassy country team under the American ambassador, there must be a close, direct and functioning relationship between the embassy’s public diplomacy section and the Washington office that supervises and supports it with regard to programming, budget and personnel.
2 Many years later I came across a more formal statement of mission for public diplomacy in Germany by the then-acting Secretary of State: “There is fundamental agreement within the Department…that the United States cannot afford to spend billions on economic reconstruction without a valiant effort in the field of educational and cultural relations. It has been the basic principle underlying the Government’s policy for Germany that the reeducation of the German people is an integral part of policies intended to help develop a democratic form of government and to restore a stable and peaceful economy…. The Department has recognized…that the task of educating the German people away from authoritarianism and aggression and toward democracy and peace remains the hardest and longest of all our responsibilities in Germany and, in the long run, the most decisive.”
4 Several of Arthur Burns’ speeches in Germany are contained in Hans N. Tuch, Arthur Burns and the Successor Generation: Selected Writings of and about Arthur Burns, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988
Then there’s this, of course, which shows a willingness to assign blame because it was convenient and easy. This was also the week when #miltaryintervention was briefly trending on Twitter. It looks like that’s about to get loud again.
✔@malachybrowne · Mar 10, 2019
Replying to @malachybrowneThis reconstruction merges exclusive video with Colombian security footage. A molotov rag veers toward the aid truck and most likely started the fire. By @ckoettl @deborahacosta @drewjordanphoto & @singhvianjali. Story with @caseysjournal: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/10/world/americas/venezuela-aid-fire-video.html …
✔@malachybrowneWithin minutes of the blaze, @marcorubio retweeted an unverified claim and wrote that Maduro's police set fire to the aid. @AmbJohnBolton – in his “new experiment in public diplomacy” [JB emphasis] – followed suit, as did @USAIDMarkGreen and @SecPompeo. Claims that went all the way to the UNSC pic.twitter…
Engaging North Korea with Science Diplomacy By Linda Staheli When one thinks of diplomatic engagement with North Korea – officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – what comes to mind are countless official and unofficial dialogues and negotiations regarding its nuclear capabilities peppered with various incentives, typically in the form of food, fertilizer,Read more
Internal Security Advisory Board image fromExcerpt:
The Secretary of State's International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) provides the Department of State with independent insight and advice on all aspects of arms control, disarmament, nonproliferation, international security, and related aspects of public diplomacy [JB emphasis]. The ISAB is sponsored and overseen by the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control And International Security. The ISAB is chartered to have up to 30 members. The Board members reflect a balance of backgrounds, points of view, and demographic diversity and include a wide variety of scientific, military, diplomatic, and political backgrounds.
Designated Federal Officer
Christopher M. Herrick Executive Director, ISAB …
Wendy Wu, South China Morning Post, 30 November 2018
China wants academics and think tank members to help defuse tensions with US
Researchers can stay in the United States for some government-backed think tanks and specialists familiar with US-China relations, said one of the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.They added that one of the challenges for Beijing was the difficulty of conveying its message to the conservative think tanks that have influence over the administration of US President Donald Trump.The South China Morning Post reported earlier that Beijing had limited to one week trips to the US by Chinese researchers, who complained the restriction would only add to China’s lack of understanding about the situation there. Researchers and observers also said the restriction was one of the reasons Beijing was not aware that Washington aimed to go through with its tariff threats until the first round of duties was imposed in July.The lifting of the travel restriction for ..
Discussion published by Lauriane Simony on Friday, May 3, 2019 0 Replies
The international conference “Cultural diplomacy in the world since 1945: prestige, influence, cooperation” will take place on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th of May 2019 at the Maison de la Recherche de Paris 3 (Room Claude Simon), 4 rue des Irlandais (Paris 5). The conference is organized by Lara Cuny and Lauriane Simony (University Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle) with the support of ED 514, CREW, PRISMES (Paris 3) and LARCA (Paris 7). The programme of the conference is below. In order to attend the conference, please register by sending an e-mail to the organizers: [email protected] et [email protected] is free. We look forward to welcoming you to the conference!Lara Cuny and Lauriane Simony
***Friday 17th May09:00: Registration and coffee09:15: Opening words by Florence Baillet, director of the doctoral school EDEAGE09:30: Guest speaker — Nora Hickey M’Si..