You shouldn’t be a public diplomat!

In contrast with traditional diplomacy, the overtures of public diplomacy are aimed at the citizens of a country rather than it’s government.   This is a short and narrow definition in of public diplomacy, but in actuality, public diplomacy is practiced in ways one normally wouldn’t expect.  That’s why our wide-ranging discussion about public diplomacy was so interesting this week – I think we collectively had a challenge in deciding who and who wasn’t a public diplomat.

In the presentation my group gave last week, we posited that international exchange programs like the Peace Corp and Fullbright constitute public diplomacy.   Some might disagree.  On the on hand, participants in these programs are in contact with foreigners and their presence abroad is funded by the U.S. Government.  On the other hand, these participants are not government officials, so does that disqualify them from being public diplomats?  I kind of felt like a public diplomat when I studied abroad in London many years ago – it was not too long after President Bush started the Iraq War so we were advised to be sensitive and avoid getting caught displaying any “Ugly American”-type behaviors.

In the Joseph Nye piece on public diplomacy, “the development of lasting relationships with key individuals,” is the third dimension of public diplomacy.  It is also the part of public diplomacy I am most familiar with given my current job.  I work at Meridian International Center (www.meridian.org) in  the Professional Exchanges Division, and the professional exchanges in question are funded by the State Department.  In fact, most of what Meridian does is underwritten by the State Department, including my paycheck, so  it’s important that the US doesn’t give up on public diplomacy any time soon.  Here’s a litte video:

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, hahaha!  I just wanted to share an examples of some of the organzations in DC currently engaged in public diplomacy.  I also wanted to share a little info on Meridian because it’s a slight twist on how we normally think about public.  Meridian is an example of how a public-private partnership.

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