Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cultural Diplo Conference and Goras in the Outfield

I'll be honest, I hadn't planned on attending the Cultural Diplomacy conference at USC. The thought hadn't even crossed my mind, until Sabina the violinist came to our cultural diplo class on Tuesday. While I had plenty of other work I should have been doing, I justified taking the day off because it was program related. In reality, it was a cheap attempt to be smitten a tad longer with the Azeri virtuoso. While I was able to catch up for horchata and Mexican pastries with Caucus queen, timing proved fickle and robbed me of any real opportunity for amour. Ah, but I digress.

I spent the day at the Cultural Diplomacy: Clash or Conversation? symposium, put on by APDS. I arrived bright and early for some coffee and shmoozing, and quickly realized that I was dressed the same as all my male cohorts from the program; blue- stripped button down shirt and khakis, we could have all been twins. I took Prof. Cowan's advice and chatted it up with the oldest people I could find, he remarked that those are the people you should chat with as they are usually the power-brokers. Yet the conference was being held at the gerontology school, at the Ethel Percy Andrus center, which is possibly the oldest place on earth.

Anyway, I chatted for a bit with Dr. Richard Arndt, the Emperor of Cultural Diplomacy before the conference kicked off. He is the author of The First Resort of Kings, our handbook on US cultural diplomacy, and was there as a keynote speaker. His keynote address was much like his book- a little all over the place, but with purpose and both enjoyable and interesting. He gave a great quote of a French pearl of wisdom, "just because it's true doesn't mean you have to say it." He spoke about the recent passing of John Hope Franklin, and gave a nice note of Mr. Franklin's own take on Corinthians 13:13, the passage that emphasizes "faith, hope and love."

Franklin's take on the passage was (or maybe it was Arndt's): Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, therefore we are saved by hope; because it doesn't always make complete sense, we are saved by faith; nothing we can do can be accomplished alone, therefore we are saved by love. There was a fourth part he added, but I missed it- mea culpa, forgive me. I believe Dr. Arndt also said, "the enemy of public diplomacy is quick fix thinking, or thinking that a single person can somehow change the image." If I misattributed that, see the previous line.

Anyway, the conference continued with a panel on "Presenting America to the World: The Public-Private Partnership," featuring Tracey Alexander- the producer of The Grid , our Diplomat in Residence Mark Smith and Dr. Darius Udrys- the development manager of Center for Civic Education, with Chairman Cull as the moderator (Nick has a penchant for a Chairman Mao shirt, too cool). We followed with a working lunch, with my classmate Erin and I leading our table discussion on our own backgrounds in public diplomacy. It ended up being a tad farcical because Dr. Arndt and Dr. Udrys were at our table, so we were informing them of our PD history.

After lunch, we were treated to a concert by Sabina, of improv Bach and Azeri folk along with a frame drumer. Then we had a panel on "Global Approaches to Cultural Diplomacy" with the aforementioned violinist, plus Sharon Memis- the director of the British Council North America, and also the curator of the USC libraries, Andrew Wulf. During the Q&A session, I asked about a question based on something Prof. Cull had previously said about different European cultural institutions canibalizing PD from each other and detracting from an overall Euro PD. Not to worry, there is the EUNIC, which is pronounced just as you would imagine.

I had to duck out early to get a little work done before my cricket match this evening. I was also called up to be official cricket photographer for the league playoffs. I snapped some photos before my own team's match this evening.

My team, the Hurricanes, was entering the playoffs on a roll. We finished the season in first place, and I thought us to be a team of destiny- I was some good luck gora charm. We were up against a foe we had defeated the previous week, and we fully expected to roll our way into the finals. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, as we went down in a close match. I scored a run, but didn't get to bat. I did some "sexy fielding" (not my term). But in the end, we proved to be a few runs short. I had a great time in the cricket league. It really was fun, and I am interested to continue learning. I still feel that I have tremendous potential for the sport, as it isn't that much different than baseball. With more practice, I think I will really get it. As the Brooklyn Swamis like to say, wait till next year.


Darius said...

One of the many great things about the MPD program is the diversity of backgrounds of participants. It was great to hear about your work!

Paul Rockower said...

Thanks Darius, you are absolutely correct about the program's diversity. Pity that we don't have any Lithuanians...