VOA Origins Examined in July Monday Forum

Walter Roberts

Walter Roberts in an early Voice of America broadcast (U.S. government, public domain)

(17 June 2017) The roots of Voice of America reach back to World War II, which will be the subject of the next First Monday Forum. The event takes place on Monday, 10 July at beginning at 12:00 noon, at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C.

The session features a conversation with historian Holly Cowan Shulman, a visiting research professor at University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Shulman is the author of The Voice of America: Propaganda and Democracy, 1941-1945, published by University of Wisconsin Press. She is also editor of the Dolley Madison Digital Edition, and founding director of Documents Compass at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Monday forums are a joint project of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and Public Diplomacy Council. The event takes place on Monday, 10 July 2017, and begins at 12:00 pm at AFSA headquarters, 2101 E Street NW, Washington DC (Foggy Bottom metro). Sandwiches and refreshments will be served.

The event is free, but advance registrations by e-mail are required:

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Culture-Education Diplomacy Awardees Named for 2017

Lois Roth drawing

(Lois Roth Endowment)

(10 June 2017). The Lois Roth Endowment named its winners of this year’s achievement awards for cultural and educational diplomacy at a ceremony on 31 May. The awards were announced by Skyler Arndt-Briggs, chair of the Lois Roth Endowment, and Rick Ruth, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State Department’ Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, or ECA, that takes part in the awards process.

Priscilla Hernandez, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela received the 2017 Lois Roth Award for excellence in cultural diplomacy, that goes to a current Foreign Service Officer. An e-mail from the organization notes …

Priscilla’s fourteen-year career has exemplified mentoring new colleagues; maximizing American Spaces, English-language programs and Alumni networks to reach new audiences; serving in challenging public diplomacy environments; and utilizing technology to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals.  These attributes, combined with her extreme dedication to cross-cultural understanding, her warmth towards people of all backgrounds, and her encouragement of women to overcome all obstacles that lie in their way, make Priscilla Hernandez the perfect recipient of the 2017 Lois Roth Award.

The honorable mention awardee for the Lois Roth Award is Damian Wampler, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.

A similar award, known as the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award for locally-engaged staff, people working at embassies and consulates from the host countries, goes this year to Basma Amawi, Senior Cultural Assistant of the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. The citation says …

She is recognized for, among many other notable achievements, her unsurpassed networks of exchange program grantees, from grassroots organizations to the Royal Court, and particularly her ability to rearrange programs on the fly to maximize impact when circumstances suddenly change.  2017 Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Award goes to Basma Amawi for the thousands of programs she has created and enriched.

Honorable mention recipients for the Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Award are Marcia Mizuno, Cultural Specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil, and Quynh Ngo, Cultural Specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam.

This year’s Ilchman-Richardson Award that honors an ECA staff member’s contributions goes to David Plack, Senior Advisor for Policy, Academic Programs. The award citation notes …

Over the past dozen years, no single individual has done more to create new international educational initiatives; to engage with Congress for funding of special academic exchanges; and to uphold the U.S. national interest in complex negotiations that ensure our higher education institutions’ ability to compete internationally.  David is renowned for his work ethic and intellect. He unfailingly shares his expertise and helps to educate colleagues about the values, premises and processes of ECA’s work.  He is richly deserving of recognition for his efforts through the Ilchman-Richardson award of the Lois Roth Endowment.

The Lois Roth Endowment is a foundation that honors the life and work of Lois Wersba Roth by promoting and encouraging dialogue across national, linguistic, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries, focusing on countries that were especially important to Lois in her life and career.

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Pete Cecere Documentary in Distribution

Pete Cecere

Pete Cecere with his collection (4th Coast Productions)

(28 May 2017) A documentary film about Pete Cecere — former FSO in USIA, a leading folk art collector, and PDAA member — is completed and being distributed for theater and home viewing. The film, House of Stronzo, follows Pete’s quest to find homes for his more than 5,000 pieces of original art stored in his home in rural Virginia.

The company, 4th Coast Productions in Pittsford, N.Y. that produced House of Stronzo, describes it as …

Throughout his 40 years of collecting original folk art and outsider art, Cecere has purchased items that were sometimes strange (such as dancing snake figurines), sometimes silly (like a peep show reenactment hammered out of tin) and sometimes sacrilegious (like a bottle of “wash away your sins bubble bath”). But to Cecere, the art and objects are always beautiful. Parts of his collection have been donated to and exhibited at such renowned institutions as the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, Tucson Museum of Art in Arizona, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Now at age 76, Cecere has whittled down his collection from an all-time high of 30,000 objects.

A letter from director and producer Matthew White, provided by Guy Farmer, says that distribution company Shoreline Entertainment started distributing House of Stronzo to film festivals, television networks, streaming services like Amazon and Netflix, and DVD. Marketing of the film kicked off this month.

A trailer below suggests the film is pure Pete.

House of Stronzo – Documentary Preview from 4th Coast Productions on Vimeo.

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Monday Forum to Hear About “Fire Hose of Russian Falsehood”



(13 May 2017) The next First Monday Forum program will hear about disinformation from Russia, dating back to the Soviet Union. The event takes place on Monday, 5 June, beginning at 12:00 noon, at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C.

Scott Rauland, a senior advisor at State Department serving with the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe will lead the discussion. Rauland began his work with CSCE, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, in August 2016. Before that, he was Chargé d’affaires at U.S. Embassy Minsk in Belarus starting in 2014, and director of the Foreign Policy Advisor program in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs from 2012 to 2014.

Monday forums are a joint project of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and Public Diplomacy Council. The event takes place on Monday, 5 June 2017, and begins at 12:00 pm at AFSA headquarters, 2101 E Street NW, Washington DC (Foggy Bottom metro). Sandwiches and refreshments will be served.

The event is free, but advance registrations by e-mail are required:

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Winners of 20th Annual PDAA Awards Hailed for Creativity and Innovation

Dolores Prin at school

Dolores Prin, second from right, at a school in Okinawa (U.S. Consulate General Naha)

(11 May 2017) The 2017 winners of the 20th annual PDAA awards for excellence in public diplomacy demonstrated exceptional innovation, ability to connect with foreign audiences, and affect real change in challenging environments.

PDAA, a volunteer, nonprofit organization of current and former State Department, broadcast, academic and private sector public diplomacy professionals, honored the five awardees at their annual award event on May 7 in Washington, D.C. Nominations were received from U.S. embassies in every region of the world and from Washington, demonstrating the excellent work by dedicated public diplomacy practitioners, Cynthia Efird, PDAA president said in opening remarks.

The awardees this year included Public Affairs Officer Dolores Prin at the American Consulate General in Okinawa, Deputy Public Affairs Officer Justen Thomas in Embassy Havana, Miami Media Hub Director Lydia Barraza, Public Affairs Officer Jay Raman in U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, and Educational Adviser Alia Alkhraisha in Dubai.

In their nomination of Prin, Consul General Joel Ehrendreich and Country Public Affairs Officer Margot Carrington commended her for helping “foster an image of America as a positive force in the Okinawa community.”

Local media and government have long been hostile to American military presence in Okinawa, which provides unique challenges to regional interests and the U.S.-Japan alliance, Ehrendreich and Carrington said. Dolores Prin redefined how the U.S. Consulate would reach out to the public, particularly young Okinawans.  “At the center of her strategy was the creation of ‘Washintan’, the Consulate’s own cartoon character and unofficial spokesperson,” they said, explaining that nearly every Japanese city has its own character. Since arriving in Okinawa, Prin’s use of  Washintan – a play on Japanese words loosely meaning “cute little eagle” — has helped increase Japanese Facebook “likes” by over 600%, triple English Facebook views, increase Twitter followers from 1,700 to over 16,000, expand the numbers of people using American Corners, and attract new students to the EducationUSA advising center.

The collaboration of officers Lydia Barraza and Justen Thomas, also working in another extremely challenging media environment, significantly influenced the public narrative in support of normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations, wrote Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis in nominating the two. “Their ability to ‘fill the media space’ allowed us to build a consistent narrative on our terms, not those of our policy’s opponents,” he said.

Thomas conducted more than 100 interviews with Spanish-language outlets from Miami and fielded more interviews in that period than any other U.S. government spokesperson in a foreign language, DeLaurentis said. Barraza daily inputs were instrumental in helping the ambassador prepare for media engagements with outlets from NBC and CNN to BBC and EFE, which reached tens of millions of viewers around the world. Barraza also relaunched the International Visitors and Leadership Program.

Public diplomacy doesn’t always have to highlight the latest policy issues to be effective and strategic, as PDAA’s award recipient Jay Raman demonstrated in improving U.S.-Cambodian relations through his work on cultural preservation.

“Under Jay’s leadership, U.S. support for Cambodia’s cultural patrimony has been a notable bright spot, providing a much needed boost during a period of increasing strain in the bilateral relationship,” Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung wrote in nominating Raman for the award. Chung said that Raman is overseeing the largest project in the history of the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) – the ongoing restoration of the Phnom Bakheng temple. The work has far reaching consequences because of the great importance the Cambodian government places on its cultural heritage as a source of both pride and as an engine for economic growth, Chung wrote.

Importantly, Raman worked to have looted Cambodian cultural property held in private U.S. collections returned, including a piece recently repatriated by the Denver Art Museum, and has worked in international forums in ensure the sustainable development of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. Raman also had dubbed into Khmer and sponsored a tour in seven rural provinces of the U.S. film Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, about the indigenous rock-and-roll culture that was nearly wiped out by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.  This film is generating important discussions of historical issues in areas that were most affected by the war.

Education Adviser Alia Alkhraisha in Dubai, United Arab Emirates has organized and participated in over 60 major outreach events on behalf of EducationUSA, reaching an audience of more than 38,000 students, educators and university representatives, wrote Alfred Boll, Branch Chief for EducationUSA in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in nominating Alkhraisha.  As a result of Alkhraisha’s initiatives, Boll said, for the first time the UAE Ministry of Education has allowed her to do outreach in the public schools. The number of visitors to the educational advising center has doubled over the last year and the number of Emirati high school graduates pursuing higher studies in the United States has grown for the sixth consecutive year.

Alkhraisha’s methods, PowerPoints, briefing materials, and handouts are so effective that they are now being used by other EducationUSA centers across the 19 countries in the region, Boll wrote.

PDAA’s mission is to foster understanding, recognition of and support for public diplomacy through educational and social activities.

For more information about PDAA’s activities, please visit  You’ll also find there a complete list of PDAA’s award winners since 1993. Photos from the awards ceremony on 7 May 2017 are in the slideshow below.

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May Monday Forum Welcomes National Geographic CEO

Gary Knell

Gary Knell (National Geographic Society)

(Update, 28 April 2017) Gary Knell, president and CEO of National Geographic Society will be the featured guest at the next First Monday Forum on Monday, May 1, 2017. Knell brings first-hand experience in international multimedia publishing to his background in print, broadcast, and digital media.

Gary Knell oversees the Society’s vast nonprofit activities globally. He also serves as chair of the board of National Geographic Partners, the Society’s for-profit arm that oversees all of National Geographic’s storytelling assets, including television, print, and digital, and ancillary operations, which include travel expeditions.

His career in media spans more than three decades, including 22 years at Sesame Workshop, where he served as president and CEO for 12 years. Prior to Sesame Workshop, Knell was managing director of Manager Media International, a multimedia publishing company based in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He also served as senior vice president at WNET/Channel 13 in New York, was counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Governmental Affairs Committees in Washington, D.C., and worked in the California State Legislature and Governor’s Office.

Monday forums are a joint project of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and Public Diplomacy Council. The event takes place on Monday, May 1, 2017, and begins at a special time — 11:30 am — at AFSA headquarters, 2101 E Street NW, Washington DC (Foggy Bottom metro). Sandwiches and refreshments will be served. The discussion begins at noon.

The event is free, but advance registrations by e-mail are required:

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