Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cultural Diplomacy in the Age of...

The title of my lecture today at the Foreign Service Institute as seen above.  I was kindly invited by FSI to lecture about public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and gastrodiplomacy.  They had invited me under the auspices of speaking about  "Cultural Diplomacy in the Age of Social Media" but I put the kabosh on such notions, and spun off to discuss the need for PD 1.0 and 19th Century Statecraft.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

I left New York yesterday morning yesterday on the Bolt Bus to DC.  I sat next to a fascinating fellow named Steve Greenberg, who hosts a number of tv programs on innovation and gadgets.  We got to chatting on his upcoming trip to Argentina, and I was offering up recs for my former Southerly home.  The fellow was quite interesting, he has his own show on The Food Network called "Invention Hunters" and had written a book called Gadget Nation.  The innovation angle got me amped about my work with India and Israel, so now I am trying to figure out ways to get him to both locales to connect on innovation in both countries.  Meanwhile, he had some tips and assistance to offer for my own media biz.  There is no such thing as coincidence.

I got in to Union Station and hopped the metro over to DuPont to have happy hour with JB and Lena, but alas poor Yelena was struck down by KGB poison ala Yukeschenko.  Il Signorre Marrone and I had a great time chatting about my travels and travails in Iraq and picking out East Euro girls by their accents (Ukraine?  How did you know? ;).

Today, I had the lecture at FSI.  I was speaking to a class of Foreign Service Officers who had been posted to other assignments but were now transitioning to the PD cone.  I won't lie, I was a bit nervous to lecture to people with such experience, but I swallowed my nerves.

I began my lecture with a picture of a nexus of communications with the title "Cultural Diplomacy in the Age of..."  and continued to the next slide "...in the Age of..." with a picture of Gutenberg and King William Ludd.  I then explained the mistake that they had made in inviting me to talk about new methods of engagement, because I cared for only the old ones.

"...as old as the hills." I continued with Gandhi's famous statement, "I have nothing new to offer you, truth and nonviolence are as old as the hills."  I said I had nothing new to offer them, that connecting through culture, music and food is as old as the hills, but i could offer some new ways of doing this for statecraft.

I put up the great quote of Castells about public diplomacy being about building a sphere in which all could be heard.  I then went into the Bernays-Barnum School of Public Diplomacy, and offered 1,000 Iraqi dinar for whoever had conducted the most irreverent PD campaign at post ("I know what you are thinking...Paul, that is like 4 cups of chai").  While supporting the Hemingway Festival in Georgia was a worthy candidate (less so because no scotch and cigars were supplied), the winner was a girl who helped conduct a "Big Lebowski" Fest at her post, including with a Lebowski look-alike.  The PDude Abides....

I continued my lecture on American Voices Guerrilla Cultural Diplomacy work.  I spoke about our work creating the next generation of cultural leaders, and all the fun places we do it.  I also showed them the VOA spot on our work, and warned them that if they were worried about the Smith-Mundt Police, perhaps they should leave now.  After, we had some Q&A, then a break.

After the break, I got to lecture about gastrodiplomacy.  I offered the bounty of 10 rupees for whoever had eaten the strangest thing.  Cricket larvae; bulls balls; live squid.  The winner was a fellow who had tried ballot (Philippines baby duck on the way to being hatched), which I could agree was awful.  I spoke about the history of the role of food in shaping our world.  I went into a number of gastrodiplomacy campaigns, and ended with a look at the new State Dept culinary diplomacy initiative.

In short, culinary diplomacy is to gastrodiplomacy what diplomacy is to public diplomacy.  Different scope, different audience and different focus.  I passed out the one-pager, and we discussed how they could shift this new culinary diplomacy program into a gastrodiplomacy program at their new posts.  We had a great discussion about how to communicate a broader range of state and regional cuisines, and what more robust American gastrodiplomacy would entail.

On the whole, i think the lecture went well.  The class seemed pretty engaged and active.  They were even more appreciative when they realized I had traveled from NYC for the lecture.  Such is my commitment to socializing public diplomats to the Bernays-Barnum School.

Now off for a drink at the PDDC Augusto Happy Hour at Bedrock Billiards.  My friend Ben Fiske, who runs the bar, is making a special soft power cocktail: The Murrow.

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