I am ahead of my time…by exactly one week. Last week I posted a comment on Public Diplomacy before reading any of the articles for this week ahead of time and this is what I said [cut down a little bit]:
I have done some traveling and you know what’s the best way to change someone’s image of the U.S.? For them to actually meet someone from the U.S., someone who isn’t in a television screen drinking coffee at their local cafe on a couch with five of their closest friends or a man behind a podium with a big white house on it making a public speech. 9 times out of 10 these are the images people had in their heads of Americans being just like stock sitcom people or completely agreeing with a man at a press conference espousing views of his America that don’t necessarily convey the views of the nation as a whole. …Once people got to know us as individual people, as sisters, nieces, cousins etc they knew that we were absolutely no different from them in the fundamentally human ways that matter…
This was the gist of what I said as well as the U.S. should have more individual level interaction with foreign publics and I personally volunteered to go around the world on the U.S.’s dime to do them this favor- you’re welcome. Then lo and behold this week the readings were about Public Diplomacy and the different ways most countries these days are performing Public Diplomacy especially using the internet and Web 2.0 diplomacy and interaction from the actual public in Public Diplomacy and not just top down diplomacy. I do believe that the Internet is the way that Public Diplomacy is headed: its widely accessible and its cheap, however, I don’t think we should ever forget the value of the micro level interactions in Public Diplomacy. In the article by Joseph Nye “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power,” Nye talks about the power in individual interaction through exchange programs, scholarships and conferences. While this takes more time, and is more expensive and may have what seems like a limited effect because of the seemingly minimal impact it has- I believe it has the most lasting and powerful impact. I will use my own life as an example. Before I lived in Switzerland I had a lot of presuppositions about certain European people- all from movies and television so completely wrong. For one thing I thought that all German people were scary evil people (thanks Schindler’s List), but now one of my best friends is a girl I met in Switzerland from Munich. I even came back to the states and studied German for a little while. From her perspective she had never had a black friend from any country. It was a new experience and an eye opener for both of us.
In class we also talked about Tony Blair’s support for the Bush administration and how people attributed this to his time spent abroad, I think this is an excellent example of how individual experiences last a lifetime and may even have a broader impact on the world someday. This is why I think an emphasis on human connections in Public Diplomacy cannot be swept aside even as we implement new web based programs and should always be a major part of the United States or any other country’s PD effort.