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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Public Diplomacy in Academe Explored in Monday Forum

Georgetown University campus

Georgetown University campus (

(25 March 2017) A panel of university deans leading academic programs in diplomacy will investigate the state of public diplomacy in the academic world in the next installment of the First Monday series. That discussion takes place on Monday, 3 April 2017 at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C.

Taking part in the panel are:

Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at University of Southern California

Amb. Reuben E Brigety II, dean of the Elliot School of Public Affairs at George Washington University

James Goldgeier, dean of the School of International Service at American University

Joel S Hellman, dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University

The panel will examine implications for public diplomacy in recent trends in international relations curricula. Participants are expected to discuss student demand and number of courses in diplomatic studies, the role of public diplomacy in their curricula, and availability of practitioners to teach as adjunct professors. The panel will also review recent innovations in their departments as well as changes they would like to make if resources were available.

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, 3 April 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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April 10 PDAA Program Examines Diplomatic Engagement with Religious Groups

Douglas Johnston

Douglas Johnston at PDAA lunch program, 10 April 2017 (A. Kotok)

(Update: 12 April 2017) Over 80 percent of the world’s people identify with a religious group, and religious groups and leaders are playing increasingly important roles in both their own societies and in international relations.   Yet, the U.S. Government and American diplomats have long been wary of engagement with religious groups for fear of violating the separation of Church and State.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent acts of terrorism by individuals and groups claiming a religious affiliation, as well as a rise in religious conflict and religious discrimination, diplomatic engagement with religious groups has become a national security imperative.  That engagement has focused not only on countering violent extremism or resolving conflict, but also on promoting sustainable development, providing humanitarian assistance, and advancing pluralism and human rights.  Public diplomacy has played a key role in this engagement, using everything from exchange programs, seminars, and cultural preservation efforts to social media and partnerships with the private sector.

Why is diplomatic engagement with religious groups so essential, and how can we do it more effectively?   Our program on April 10, Religion and Diplomacy: Broadening the Agenda, explored these issues with two of the leading scholars and practitioners on the subject.  Dr. Douglas Johnston is the founder and President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, which for the past 18 years has been working to prevent or resolve religious or identity-linked conflict in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and Colombia, among other countries.    A distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Dr. Johnston holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University.

Among his government positions, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Director of Policy Planning and Management at the Department of Defense.  He was the founding director of Harvard University’s Executive Program in National and International Security, and served as Executive Vice President and COO of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  His numerous publications include Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft, and Religion, Terror, and Error:  U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenge of Spiritual Engagement, which won the Book of the Year award in 2011 from Foreword Reviews, the rating agency for universities and independent publishers.

Peter Mandaville

Peter Mandaville at PDAA lunch program, 10 April 2017 (A. Kotok)

Our second speaker was Dr. Peter Mandaville, Professor of International Affairs at George Mason University. He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and an Adjunct Scholar with the RAND Corporation.  From 2015-16, he served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the State Department, where he led the office’s work on ISIS, sectarianism, and conflict in the Middle East.  From 2011-12, he was a member of State’s Policy Planning staff.  He is the author of the book Islam and Politics  and Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma.  He has testified multiple times before the U.S. Congress on topics including political Islam and human rights in the Middle East.

Dr. Johnston and Dr. Mandaville discussed diplomatic engagement with religious groups to prevent and resolve conflict; promote religious tolerance, pluralism, and human rights, and foster sustainable development, drawing from their own experience and research on how this engagement can be carried out most effectively. The program took place on Monday, April 10, at DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F. St., NW, Washington, DC.

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New Cold War Examined in Walter Roberts Lecture

Amb. Michael McFaul

Amb. Michael McFaul (Stanford University)

(25 February 2017). Ambassador Michael McFaul is the featured speaker in this year’s Walter Roberts Lecture, where the former U.S. envoy to Moscow will discuss, “Explaining Our New Cold War with Russia: Can Trump End It?” The event takes place on Friday, 3 March at 10:00 am, on the George Washington University campus.

U.S.-Russia relations have reached one of their lowest points since the end of the Cold War. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Syria, public distrust, evidence of Russian interference in the U.S. election, and sanctions imposed by both sides all signal a growing rift in bilateral relations. This talk examines potential explanations for recent tensions, considers the implications of deteriorating relations, and analyzes potential changes in U.S. policy towards Russia under the Trump administration.

Amb. McFaul is professor of political science, and director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at the Hoover Institution, affiliated with Stanford University. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014). Dr. McFaul authored several books, including Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should, How We Can and, with Kathryn Stoner, Transitions To Democracy: A Comparative Perspective.

Since 2011, the Walter Roberts Endowment has hosted an annual lecture with a prominent and distinguished foreign policy figure at GWU. Free and open to the public, the lecture provides a platform for students, faculty, and public diplomacy practitioners to hear different perspectives on issues related to public diplomacy and foreign policy.

The lecture is held on Friday, 3 March 2017, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, at the Jack Morton Auditorium in GWU’s School of Media and Public Affairs, 805 21st Street. in Washington, D.C. (Metro: Foggy Bottom or Farragut West). The event is free but advance registration is required. The event is presented sponsored by the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication at GWU and the Atlantic Council.

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Canadian Public Diplomacy Examined at Monday Forum

Canadian flag

(Shawn Harquail, Flickr)

(19 February 2017). Canada’s approach to public diplomacy as the country celebrates its 150th anniversary is the topic of the next First Monday Forum. The event takes place on Monday, 6 March 2017 at American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) in Washington, D.C.

Laurie Peters, Executive Director, Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa, will lead the discussion. Ms. Peters served previously as head of public affairs, culture, and education in Canada’s embassy in Tokyo, and director of the Aga Khan Foundation in Canada.

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, 6 March 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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