Back Issues of PDAA Today

Back issues of PDAA Today, PDAA’s quarterly print newsletter are now online and available for download.

April 8 Program Examines Challenges of International Exchanges

What challenges do the organizations that implement international exchanges face after overseas posts identify candidates for academic, cultural, and leadership exchanges? How do they identify hosts for the exchanges and how do they maneuver between State Department offices and the citizens and institutions that come face-to-face with grantees while they are in the U.S.?

That’s the focus of the April 8 PDAA program that will consider Challenges of International Exchanges: The Last Three Feet Revisited.

The panel will be moderated by PDAA member Dr. Sherry Lee Mueller, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at American University’s School of International Service and President Emeritus of Global Ties.

She will be joined by Dr. Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education; Mark Rebstock, VP for External Relations at the Professional Exchanges Division of the Meridian International Center; and Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange.

Dr. Goodman is IIE’s sixth president. He was previously Executive Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. IIE is the leading not-for-profit organization in the field of international educational exchange and development training. IIE conducts research on international academic mobility and administers the Fulbright program sponsored by the United States Department of State, as well as over 200 other corporate, government and privately-sponsored programs.

Mark Rebstock joined Meridian’s Professional Exchanges Division (PED) in 2014 serving as a Program Officer administering the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). As Vice President for External Relations within PED, he helps develop legislative strategy and oversees Meridian’s efforts to advocate for exchanges.

Prior to joining Meridian in 2014, Rebstock served the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV) (now Global Ties U.S.) in successive roles as Director of Membership and Training, Vice President, and Interim President and Chief Operating Officer. He previously served as Executive Director of the International Visitors Council of Greater Cincinnati.

Ilir Zherka is the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange. The Alliance serves as the collective public policy voice for the exchange community. In addition to congressional advocacy, the Alliance organizes program impact reports, conducts media outreach, develops best practice workshops, and hosts an annual public policy conference. Ilir has served as the head of three other organizations. He gained policy and political experience working on Capitol Hill, on presidential campaigns, and as a political appointee

The discussion will take place on Mon., Apr. 8, from 12:00 to 2:00, at DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F St. NW. To register, please complete the form on page 7 of the newsletter or register on-line using the drop-down menu below. Deadline is Feb. 25.

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Engaging North Korea & Other Hard-to-Reach Audiences

Amb. Robert King, former Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights (A. Kotok)

Close to 70 PDAA members and guests participated in a particularly timely program on “Engaging North Korea and Other Hard-to-Reach Audiences” on February 28, the day after the United States –North Korea Summit in Hanoi ended abruptly with no agreement. The discussion addressed not only diplomatic/political negotiations, but also public diplomacy, including broadcasting and civil society engagement.

Launching the discussion was Ambassador Robert R. King, who served as U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights from 2009 to 2017. In that role, Ambassador King led U.S. efforts to press North Korea for progress on human rights, U.S. humanitarian efforts in North Korea, and the treatment of U.S. citizens being held in North Korea.

In his remarks, Ambassador King noted that human rights issues were given little attention at both the earlier Singapore Summit and in Hanoi. He stressed that the United States should push North Korea to adhere to international standards, not only on nuclear issues, but also human rights. Acceptance of international obligations are just as important on human rights as on nuclear issues, and failure in one area undermines observance of obligations in another area, he argued. He noted that President Trump’s only very brief comment on human rights was the President’s comment that he took Kim Jong-un at his word when Kim said he did not know that young American Otto Warmbier was being mistreated in a North Korean prison—mistreatment that resulted in his death following his return to the United States.

This was not pressing Kim to observe human rights principles, but merely the answer to a question which Trump accepted from Kim without pushing back. King also emphasized the importance and value for United States policy to focus on enhancing the flow of information into North Korea. Amb. King is currently the Senior Advisor to the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Dr. Lynn Lee, Assoc. Director, National Endowment for Democracy (A. Kotok)

Speaking next, Dr. Lynn Lee, Associate Director for Asia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), stressed the importance of access to information from the outside for people in closed societies like North Korea. To this end, NED has helped establish and support three civil society-run radio stations based in South Korea and broadcasting to the North. NED has also worked with civil society organizations in providing radios to North Koreans. Although it is against the law—and punishable by death—to own and listen to a foreign radio, North Koreans have managed to do so. NED works with civil society organizations throughout Asia, including with the Uighurs in China and the Rohynga in Burma.

Dr. Shawn Powers, Acting Chief Strategy Officer, U.S. Agency for Global Media (A. Kotok)

Dr. Shawn Powers, Acting Chief Strategy Officer for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), began his presentation with an overview of USAGM broadcasting. USAGM networks (including VOA, RFE-RL, and Radio Free Asia) broadcast 13 hours of radio programming reaching 345 million people on a weekly basis. USAGM also produces 42 minutes of new video content daily. These broadcasts—particularly radio—remain the principal way of reaching North Koreans. According to a 2018 USAGM survey of North Korean refugees/defectors, the most listened to radio stations were Radio Free Asia (10 percent), VOA (8 percent), and a South Korean state broadcaster (7.2 percent). 33 percent of North Koreans watch video broadcasting from South Korea or China, primarily for entertainment. Nevertheless, North Korea is becoming increasingly isolated from outside information as the North Korean government has tightened its control on information and increased punishments for accessing foreign content. Except for foreign TV, access to foreign media has decreased.

Driving interest in international news is a desire for information about defection, business and economic news, information about the outside world, and information useful in daily life. The survey also revealed that food is increasingly difficult to access and Kim Jong-un is not seen as governing with the interests of average North Korean citizens in mind. North Koreans do believe, however, that their country is safer with nuclear weapons.

Fulbright scholar Sungiu Lee. Former PDAA President Greta Morris, left, chaired the program. (A. Kotok)

During the discussion period, one of the guests, a young North Korean refugee who is currently a Fulbright scholar working on his Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University, re-enforced some of the results of the survey. The most effective way of reaching North Koreans, he said, is not by criticizing the North Korean government but through “soft-power” stories, like South Korean soap operas, which portray daily life in a free and economically viable society.

The program demonstrated clearly the importance of engaging with countries like North Korea on different levels, from diplomatic engagement, to broadcasting/digital engagement, to people-to-people exchanges.

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Annual Award Brunch Set for May 5: Excellence in Public Diplomacy Focus of Event

PDAA’s premier event of the year, the annual awards brunch, is set for May 5. It will again take place at the Army and Navy Club.

PDAA celebrates its tradition of honoring excellence in public diplomacy. In all but five years since 1993, PDAA has honored professionals in government agencies and non-government organizations working in more than 50 countries and in the United States whose work makes a difference in projecting American policies, ideas, and culture to the rest of the world.

The 22nd annual PDAA Awards for Achievement in Public Diplomacy recognizes the outstanding work conducted over the past year by members of the Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff (LES) members, employees of binational centers and American Corners, and EducationUSA advisers. For a complete list of past recipients, please go to

Tickets for the event this year remain $45.00 per person.

The Army and Navy Club is located at 901 17th St NW, between I and K Streets in Washington, DC. The club is easily accessible by Metro, just one block from either the Farragut North or Farragut West stations. On Sunday, there is street parking available in the area. However, for those who would like valet parking, it is available at a cost of $13.00.

To purchase tickets, you can reserve below with a credit card, or complete the form on page 7 of PDAA Today and send with your check, payable to PDAA, to Treasurer Mary Jeffers. The deadline for purchasing tickets is Fri., Apr. 26.

Optional: The PDAA Awards Program is one of our most important activities. To make a voluntary contribution:

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PDAA Members Recall George H.W. Bush

U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush with Ambassador Harry G. Barnes. 1984 (Department of State)
U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush with Ambassador Harry G. Barnes. 1984 (Department of State)

President Bush’s recent death and memorial service sparked memories by PDAA members about their interactions with the former diplomat, intelligence chief, vice president, and president. To see some of those recollections, click here.

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New Speaker Added to Feb. 28 Program on Engaging North Korea, Other Hard-to-Reach Audiences

(Updated Feb. 18, 2019) After decades of hostile or no communication, difficult, often halting efforts to negotiate, “soft power” diplomacy (including visits to North Korea by the New York Philharmonic and basketball player Dennis Rodman), and a dangerous ratcheting-up of nuclear brinksmanship in 2017, in March 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to meet. That first-ever US-DPRK summit took place on June 12, 2018, in Singapore. Hailed as a success by both leaders and by South Korea, which played a key role in brokering it, the summit’s results have been mixed or limited, although both leaders have pledged to hold another summit this year. 

President Donald J. Trump with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un | June 12, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Looking beyond the prognosis for success of this latest effort, how can and should the United States engage a hard-to-reach country like North Korea, both diplomatically and using the tools of public diplomacy? PDAA’s Feb. 28 luncheon program will feature three distinguished experts who will discuss these issues with us. 

Ambassador Robert R. King, who served as U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues from 2009 to 2017, will begin the discussion by reviewing diplomatic engagement efforts with North Korea, particular those related to human rights issues, and offering his thoughts on how future negotiations could be successful.  As Special Envoy, Ambassador King coordinated and promoted U.S. efforts to improve human rights in North Korea, negotiated with senior North Korean officials, secured the release of an American citizen being held in North Korea, and represented the U.S. in Geneva and New York on North Korean human rights issues. Ambassador King is currently Senior Advisor to the Korea Chair at CSIS, a Senior Fellow at the Korea  Economic Institute, and a Board Member of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. He earned his Ph.D. at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and is the author of five books, as well as many journal articles and book chapters.    

Ambassador Joseph Yun, who was originally scheduled to speak on diplomatic engagement with North Korea, will be part of the CNN team covering the U.S.-North Korean summit in Vietnam, February 27-28.  We are very fortunate that Ambassador Robert King has agreed to discuss diplomatic engagement, particularly as it relates to human rights issues, at our February 28 program.

To discuss engagement with North Korean and other hard-to-reach audiences through civil society, we will be joined by Dr. Lynn Lee, Associate Director for Asia at the National Endowment for Democracy. Dr. Lee is responsible for NED’s democracy and human rights programs for the East Asian region, including North Korea, China, and Vietnam. Prior to joining NED, Dr. Lee was a senior project manager at InterMedia. She holds a doctorate in development studies from Sussex University and an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. 

Our third speaker, Dr. Shawn Powers, will discuss U.S. Government–supported broadcasting as a means of engagement with North Korean and other challenging audiences. Dr. Powers is currently the Acting Chief Strategy Officer at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees VOA, Radio Free Asia, and other U.S. Government broadcasting services. He will discuss U.S. broadcasting’s initiatives to reach North Koreans as well as Chinese, Iranian, and other hard-to-reach audiences. Prior to joining USAGM, Dr. Powers was Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. He is currently on leave from his position as Associate Professor at Georgia State University, where he leads the Center for Global Information Studies. He earned his Ph.D. from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and has held fellowships at the London School of Economics, Oxford University, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

The discussion will take place on Thurs., Feb. 28, from 12:00 to 2:00, at DACOR Bacon House, 1801 F St. NW. To register, please complete the form on page 7 of the newsletter or register on-line using the drop-down menu below. Deadline is Feb. 25.







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New Programs Announced With Marie Royce, NED Officials

The Public Diplomacy Association of America (PDAA), the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC), and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy have announced two upcoming “First Monday” programs.

Assistant Secretary of State Marie Royce will be the guest at the March 4 program. Secretary Royce heads the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Shanthi Kalathil and Dean Jackson of the National Endowment for Democracy will be the guests at the April 1 program, where the focus will be on “Authoritarian Digital Influence Operations: Understanding Supply and Demand.”

Both programs start at 12 noon and take place at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street NW, room 602. These programs are free and lunch is included, but we ask that in order to have an accurate count for catering, please RSVP to

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