Back Issues of PDAA Today

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

Summer BBQ at the DACOR Bacon House

PDAA members are invited to the DACOR Bacon House for a summer barbeque on Thursday, July 25, 6:30-8:30.

The cost of the BBQ is $40 per person. For those who are already members of DACOR, you can RSVP online; for those who are not members, you can RSVP by emailing or by calling 202-682-0500, extension 20.

DACOR, Inc., is a membership organization. While it started out in 1952 as an organization of retired Foreign Service Officers, it has broadened its membership pool in recent years so that its members now also include active duty officers as well as U.S. citizen foreign affairs professionals. DACOR, Inc., provides a number of benefits and services to its members, including formal programs on foreign affairs and development topics, informal discussion groups, social events, reciprocal clubs, guest rooms, and member lunches. Its sister organization, the DACOR Bacon House Foundation, is the steward of an elegant 1825 Federalist-style residence, operates a museum illustrating aspects of diplomacy open to the general public, and annually awards $250,000 in scholarships and fellowships to students studying aspects of international relations.

In the fall, DACOR will be inaugurating its efforts on social media, through which it intends to contribute to educating the American public about U.S. foreign affairs and the value and importance of diplomacy.

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Robert J. Korengold: An Appreciation

Robert J. Korengold

by Miller Crouch

When I met Bud Korengold at USIS Paris in the early 1990s, he was one of the most well-known senior Foreign Service officers in the U.S. Information Agency. He was known especially for his singular success directing large press operations at some of our most important European posts. Political appointees trusted him and sought his advice, and he always gave his best in return. They and colleagues found Bud was special because he was a diplomat not out of diplomatic central casting. He was, rather, always a journalist to his fingertips, a man who had been a first rate foreign correspondent for major outlets before he joined the government. In many ways Bud departed from standard practice. In the jobs he held overseas, however, this did not matter. What did matter was that he never had to think twice about how to interact with correspondents from anywhere around the world. Intellectually and emotionally, Bud remained one of them, a working journalist, only now his editor was the Ambassador, and his outlet, the Embassy, but more importantly, USIS.

Bud’s advice to his principals always aimed at capturing the lede. He taught that having a deep understanding of policy and having a fine set of talking points were not the same as knowing the lede. Clear as day to Bud, discerning the news lede was often what really mattered. To miss it was the greatest journalistic crime. This is the simple explanation why Agency leaders and ambassadors so trusted him, why Agency leaders assigned him to the critical posts of Belgrade, Brussels, London, and Paris – the feeding grounds then of the large international press corps that reported on the end- game of the Cold War and its immediate aftermath. It is why USIS in the posts that Bud led became part of the ambassadors’ own offices. He constantly overdid. He had to be ‘out and about.’ He was curious, funny, driven to succeed. He claimed a special relationship with ‘Lady Luck.’ He actually meant his beloved Mrs. Korengold, who with their wonderful children and now grandchildren meant everything to Bud.

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A Fulbrighter’s Return to Vietnam

by Stephen Cottrell

The English novelist George Orwell best captured my first experience in Vietnam with his penetrating words, “If the war didn’t kill you it was bound to start you thinking.” Having survived the former, I became a huge fan of the latter.

Prof. Cottrell in Vietnam

It can be safely assumed that many readers of this article have experienced defining moments in their lives and the choices made at those junctures have set them on paths far different from their earlier expectations: meeting their spouse, child birth, winning the lottery. The morning I received my Fulbright letter was such a moment; a simultaneous rush of both excitement and shock as my mind processed the words “congratulations” and “Vietnam” in the same sentence. Although time has been merciful to this Marine Corps infantry veteran, it did not dull certain “bad days” there. With some trepidation I agreed to teach at Nha Trang University for a year.


Dr. Stephen Cottrell interviewing a survivor while doing research on Cambodian internal migration patterns post Khmer Rouge

Although my Fulbright topic focused on geography’s physical and cultural influences on the societal ethos and, by extension, on its higher education leadership traits, it was not to be. I quickly learned that the Vietnamese psyche is far too opaque for such a transparent approach. As in other tradition-oriented cultures, indirect approaches are far more user friendly in getting the job done. That said, I opted for the back-door model and discovered a classic goodness-of-fit when interacting both with academia and navigating through my daily life. Apart from my academic goals, my deeply personal agenda was to live in and observe a culture that had set in motion profound changes in America’s consciousness. Early into my grant the academic and personal challenges seemed a bit daunting but now I am certain that I made the right decision.

Touching down at Tan Son Nhat airport after far too many hours in an economy seat next to my wife, a daughter, two grandchildren and a Raggedy Anne doll named LeRoy, we staggered into the hot Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) night to collect our survival gear for the coming year: ten large suitcases, three backpacks and a sea bag full of diapers and baby formula. It was SHOW TIME in my parallel universe! Time to set aside Kafkaesque realpolitik thinking and shift my attention to the crucial matters at hand, i.e., not losing the grandkids, passports, or luggage while processing through immigration. With the exception of a few bureaucratic episodes not worth mentioning beyond mentioning, we stepped out of the airport and into our Vietnam experience.

As earlier noted, although the U.S. embassy and Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training were in support of my academic proposal, it didn’t travel well from the capital Hanoi to my host city of Nha Trang. In short, much of what I wanted to accomplish didn’t find traction at my host university and much that I had never even considered doing became commonplace. At one of our early State Department “check your culture at the door” sessions, I mentioned that I was being underutilized at my host institution. The seven other Fulbrighters who were posted throughout Vietnam chimed in with the same concern. It seemed that our American “Can Do” attitude had begun to show. Upon reflection, we concluded that we were displaying the typical missionary zeal that seems to afflict many Americans living in foreign lands. I recall one embassy official hastily reminding us that the whole world recognizes Americans as workaholics…including the Vietnamese. My take-a-way was, “Don’t fall in love with your plan… adjust accordingly.”

Dr. Cottrell and his Khmer wife of 35 years (between the two Kayan Hill Tribe women) in Chiang Mai province, Thailand.

Admittedly, although I had a well-constructed albeit overly ambitious academic goal, my host university had other plans for me. With the Embassy’s blessing, I embraced the “Go with the Flow” mantra when asked to do this or that by my Vietnamese colleagues. I had decided that they knew more about their needs than I, so my clarion call became, “Great! I’ll start today.” Consequently, it didn’t take long before Vietnamese faculty members invited me to “di di café den – go for coffee” (a euphemism for a multitude of activities done off campus…a delightful French colonial holdover). As a consequence of long hours spent in the open-air coffee houses along Nha Trang’s beautiful beaches, more was accomplished than I could have ever imagined. Since every coffee house was Wi-Fied and the university electricity shut down on what seemed to be a conveniently regular basis, the campus regularly evacuated en masse for coffee. Group work on a wide variety of research papers, grants, and graduate coursework ruled the day. Most young faculty members were enrolled in graduate programs that had to be finished before they were a certain age. If not, the options at the university were severely curtailed…similar to tenure. Consequently, I drank far too much coffee at no charge.

Dr. Stephen Cottrell presents a lecture on critical thinking at Hong He (Red River) University in Yunnan Province, China

Living in a local neighborhood with neighbors such as the Seeing Hands massage parlor operated by the blind, a granny named Ba Bai hawking hot Ban Mi Thit (a delicious spicy sandwich wrapped in a hot French baguette), and the one-armed army veteran who gave sidewalk piano lessons on his well-worn keyboard all provided insight into an ancient culture that had the tenacity and determination to dispose of a litany of foreign powers over the centuries.

As consumerism makes inroads into the Vietnamese value system, the younger generation seems to be soul-searching to discover what cultural attributes they must abandon to participate in a modern Vietnam and at what cost. Senator J. William Fulbright captured this inner struggle in his book, Arrogance of Power, “What they fear, I think rightly, is that traditional Vietnamese society cannot survive the American economic and cultural impact.” I believe that the jury is still out on that particular fear.

Sixty percent of Vietnamese are under the age of 30. Consequently, they do not carry the same baggage as their (or our) older generation about the American War. One perky student asked my age in an American culture class that I taught, and when I informed her, she quite innocently used a new word that we had studied earlier that morning. “Dr. Stephen, you walking relic!” Vietnamese are moving forward with focused youthful exuberance and their government seems to be running to catch up.

In part due to my year in Vietnam, I believe that Mississippi State University now has the potential to build a strong academic relationship with my host university and with student candidates in no less than 11 cities that I visited throughout that nation. When my Fulbright work required travel, MSU recruiting materials went along. Parents and students from Ca Mau in the south to Sa Pa along the Chinese border and nine cities in between are now aware of MSU’s offerings. We have established the seeds of working relationships with the parents of several academically gifted Vietnamese students (six enrolled now at MSU and three in the pipeline), a doctoral student candidate who specializes in pig diseases and who speaks French, Chinese, Vietnamese, and English. In addition, the Nha Trang University administration seems happy with my contribution to three successful Royal Norwegian grants. I’m told that the grant successes aided in the vice director of their biodiversity and environment institute visiting the MSU campus to discuss partnerships. These are but a sampling of the academic take-a-ways that may be the consequence of my Fulbright experience. I would like to think that the give-a-ways are of similar quality, but I can only measure that by the warm e-mails regularly received from parents of current and future MSU students and the ongoing requests from Nha Trang University and Vietnam National University-Hanoi faculty to continue editing their graduate papers and research grants.

Shakespeare wrote a few words that capture my feelings about Vietnam today: “I like this place and willingly could waste my remaining days in it.”

Dr. Cottrell taught at Mississippi State University. He has been awarded Fulbright grants to Thailand (2007), Japan (2009), Vietnam (2013-2014), and China (2019).

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Remembrance of Eugene (Gene) Paul Kopp (November 20, 1934-May 13, 2019)

photo of Gene Kopp

Gene Kopp, who served twice as Deputy Director of USIA (1973-1977 and 1989-1992) and then Acting Director in 1976 -1977, died on Mon., May 13, 2019, of cardiac arrest. You’ll find below the moving and warm remembrance his friend and colleague, Ambassador Jock Shirley, gave at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, in Alexandria, on May 24.



by Ambassador Jock Shirley

Father Kelly,
Katherine, Paul, Laura,
Colleagues of old,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Katherine has done me the honor of asking me to add a few words to Dick Allen’s elegant and touching recollections of the life and times of his old friend.

She invited me to speak because she would like it remembered that Gene considered his years of service as Deputy Director and Acting Director of USIA — the United States Information Agency — as perhaps his best.

Particularly for the younger folk, I should say that USIA was a ten-thousand strong, worldwide foreign affairs agency charged with the mission of maintaining sustained ideological pressure on our adversaries.

I should also note that Gene Kopp’s association with USIA spanned the period ‘69-‘92 with a couple of interruptions. The interruptions were inflicted by two presidential elections, the results of which Gene strongly disapproved.

There was nothing wishy-washy about Gene’s politics.

Katherine said she hoped I would focus not so much on Gene’s very considerable professional achievements, but that I should concentrate rather on the pleasure he took from the company of the “bright and engaging” – Katherine’s words – men and women with whom he worked.

I think old colleagues – old only in the sense of years of experience, it goes without saying – would agree that the exceptionally good feeling that existed between management and staff during Gene Kopp’s years in the leadership was in many ways attributable the fact that from the first day of his tenure to his last, he made clear that we had his full and valued confidence.

He, and we, understood perfectly the difference in our roles, but he never let us feel that we were anything less than full members of the team.

But there was more to it than that.

To understand why Gene was comfortable with us, it may be best to turn the tables and ask why we were comfortable with him.

– We quickly recognized his high intelligence.
– We liked the way he led, the clarity and color of his speech and the speed of his thought.

We were thankful:
– for his sophisticated understanding of the issues;
– for his informality and geniality, which combined nicely with his underlying steeliness;
– for his lawyerly talent for asking the right questions;
– for his fairness and for his attentiveness to the sensibilities of those who worked for him.

And which of us will forget his humor?
– His impeccably told stories, many rooted in the valleys and hillsides of his beloved West Virginia, were repeated hundreds of times around the world.
– No one could match his timing. No one could reproduce the cadence of his delivery, so redolent with echoes of his native soil.
– I recall once going to the office of our colleague Bill Payeff to find Bill and Gene doubled over in explosive, exuberant laughter, tears pouring down their cheeks. I remember thinking that when senior political appointee and foreign service officer are so demonstrably attuned and at ease, we were in good hands.

I believe all of us who knew him are touched to hear Katherine say that Gene thought he found at USIA a group of “bright and engaging” people.” It may have helped that we were a variegated lot: Foreign Service types, writers, former newsmen, academics, men and women steeped in every aspect of American life, even a smattering of photographers, painters, and poets.

But if Gene liked us, why, we liked him. We admired him personally and professionally. We respected him deeply and we shall miss him sorely.

I hope you can find a measure of solace in the knowledge that your husband was a good friend to so many of us and that he lives on in our memories.

I know that you and Paul and Laura and Gene’s beloved grandchildren William, Walker and Sara, will take pride in the knowledge that Gene Kopp served his country in important positions with honor and distinction at a moment in our history when we were at the pinnacle of our power.

I know the place he will always occupy in the pantheon of my own friendships.

Church of the Blessed Sacrament
Alexandria, Va.
May 24, 2019

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PDAA Honors Outstanding Public Diplomacy Initiatives

By Domenick DiPasquale

Creative programming, strong leadership skills, and innovative solutions to pressing social needs characterize the work of the four recipients of this year’s PDAA Awards for Achievement in Public Diplomacy.

At the annual PDAA awards ceremony, held this year at the Army and Navy Club on May 5, outgoing PDAA President Cynthia Efird noted that a record 26 nominations had been submitted for the 2019 awards, an indication of the importance of public diplomacy to achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives.

The four winners were:

Natella Svistunova, Public Affairs Officer, Embassy Belmopan, Belize;
Debra Toribiong, Public Diplomacy Specialist, Embassy Koror, Palau;
Chris Hodges, Public Affairs Officer, Consulate Jerusalem (now the Palestinian Affairs Unit, Embassy Jerusalem, Israel);
Niles Cole, Cultural Affairs Officer, Embassy Kampala, Uganda

Natella Svistunova, Public Affairs Officer, Embassy Belmopan, accompanied by Jon Piechowski, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, receives award from PDAA President Cynthia Efird for combating gender-based violence in Belize. (Photo: Alan Kotok)

Combating gender-based violence is a major Embassy objective in Belize, a nation where an estimated one of every two women is a victim. Natella Svistunova took a unique approach to the issue by enlisting the help of a local entrepreneur, Marie Sharp, whose line of locally produced habañero hot sauces (with names such as “No Wimps Allowed Habañero”) have achieved iconic status in Belize. Their collaborative approach led to the company producing a new sauce – named “Pure Love” – specifically designed with messages to counter violence against women.

To raise awareness of the issue with youth, Svistunova organized a program in local schools to design the label for the new sauce. Further amplifying the impact of this initiative, Sharp committed to send proceeds from the sale of Pure Love to Haven House, Belize’s only shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence. She personally added an inscription to every bottle label that reads in part, “Inspired by the U.S. Embassy in Belize, I am proud to launch and support this special product to help combat gender-based violence in Belize.”

With the product ready to go, Svistunova organized a high-profile event on Valentine’s Day hosted by the Chargé d’Affaires at the Chief of Mission residence. The launch, held in cooperation with Kim Simplis Barrow, the wife of Belize’s Prime Minister and the country’s special envoy for women and children, raised awareness of gender-based violence. Thanks to Svistunova’s comprehensive network of contacts, every media outlet in Belize covered the event on TV and in print, and it was splashed across social media. On her Facebook page, Barrow publicly lauded Svistunova the next day, stating “Thank you to Natella Svistunova, Public [Affairs] Officer at the U.S. Embassy, whose vision and drive brought us to this point.”

Debra Toribiong, Public Diplomacy Specialist, Embassy Koror, receives PDAA award for addressing public health and nutrition issues on the island of Palau. (Alan Kotok)

As Embassy Koror’s sole public diplomacy specialist, Debra Toribiong is by necessity a jack-of-all trades and all issues, but her special focus on improving public health and nutrition has had far-reaching success on the small island of Palau. Ranked as the third most obese nation in the world, with 56 percent of its population falling into that category, Palau confronts a difficult future managing the cost of medical care for obesity-related diseases.

To support the Embassy’s key objective of improving food security and health, Toribiong initiated a multi-pronged campaign aimed at the island’s youth that encouraged them to embrace a healthier lifestyle and diet. She worked with the Ministry of Education to redesign the school lunch program (less imported Spam® and white rice, more locally sourced fish and produce), created an innovative training program to connect school cooks with medical professionals and top chefs to prepare healthier menus, and arranged for the donation of sports equipment to increase school children’s activity levels.

Among her many other accomplishments, Toribiong has developed catchy social media posts, in the process increasing the Embassy’s Facebook followers from 2,000 when she was hired three years ago to 47,000 today. As her nominating officer, Ambassador Amy Hyatt, said of Toribiong, “she is the most innovative, creative, and dedicated public diplomacy professional I have worked with in over 30 years in the Foreign Service.”

Chris Hodges was recognized for his work guiding media and public diplomacy engagement with Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza during a particularly challenging period of changes in U.S. policy and the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After the move, Consulate General Jerusalem merged with the Embassy, becoming the Embassy’s Palestinian Affairs Unit. As a result of these events, Consulate morale as well as Palestinian opinion of U.S. policy reached new lows.

To re-energize both the American and local staff in Jerusalem, Hodges worked with an Embassy counterpart to lead a workshop for Palestinian and Israeli staff members at which they could listen to and learn from each other, thereby enabling them to coordinate while working independently. Such efforts were critical to re-energizing and reorienting local staff members so as to maintain their usual high standard of performance during a difficult transition.

To counter Palestinian anger over the Embassy’s move to Jerusalem, Hodges enhanced outreach to Palestinians by framing the bilateral relationship as one between two peoples, not just two governments. He likewise used professional and academic exchange programs, English courses, and American Spaces to continue engaging key Palestinian audiences and to forge partnerships essential to U.S. credibility and effectiveness. Through press guidance, media outreach, and interviews conducted in fluent Arabic, Hodges highlighted the message of the enduring U.S. commitment to Palestinians.

In Uganda, Niles Cole designed an extremely cost-effective program to inspire young students, in particular young women, to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related careers. The concept, while directly supporting Embassy Kampala’s mission goals, also expanded U.S. influence in remote, often vulnerable, and hard-to-reach communities; in addition, it countered the narrative that only China is investing in Africa.

Cole helped launch a mobile STEM lab, the “Nile Explorer.” The bus, named to honor the fact that Uganda is the source of the river Nile, travels to remote areas and stops every week to deliver a five-day program that demonstrates to Ugandan students and their teachers the benefits of an interactive educational approach. Since its inception, the Nile Explorer has visited 32 schools across 15 districts, reaching nearly 5,000 students (more than half female) aged 10 to 12.

The program has shown impressive results in the short span of six months that it has been running, with five schools buying computers to continue building computer literacy skills; more interactive versus passive learning at participating schools; and increased interest from girls in excelling in the hard science courses they had normally been steered away from, as the sciences traditionally had been seen as suitable only for boys. Such efforts have allowed the Embassy to demonstrate that while China may be investing in building Uganda’s infrastructure, the United States is building the country’s future by investing in its human development.

The PDAA Awards Committee also gave honorable mention to three other individuals who were nominated: Eveline Tseng, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer in Kabul, Afghanistan; Violeta Talandis, Political/Economic/Public Diplomacy Officer in Asmara, Eritrea; and Yolonda Kerney, Public Affairs Officer in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The award winners were given one-year memberships in PDAA in addition to a cash award.

The Public Diplomacy Association of America (PDAA) is a non-profit organization that brings together professionals experienced in public diplomacy and foreign affairs to examine and support the nexus between the two. In addition to its awards program, PDAA also sponsors quarterly luncheons featuring distinguished speakers, publishes a quarterly newsletter, and maintains an active website. More information about PDAA is available at A list of past award recipients is available here.

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New PDAA Officers and Directors Announced

Janice Brambilla (in white jacket) will become PDAA President on June 1, 2019. She has a long career throughout the Public Diplomacy community, including positions with the Voice of America, International Broadcasting Bureau, Broadcasting Board of Governors, United States Information Agency, and Department of State. (Photo: Alan Kotok)

Janice Brambilla will be PDAA’s new President effective June 1. She succeeds Ambassador Cynthia Efird, who has held the office for the past three years.

Joel Fischman will be the new Vice President, succeeding Tania Chomiak-Salvi.

Other new members of the Board of Directors include Judy Baroody, who will chair the Awards Committee; Joan Mower, who will chair the Program Committee; Domenick DiPasquale, who will serve on the Awards Committee; and Jarek Anders, who will serve on the Program Committee. Pat Kushlis will join the Board and serve as head of National Outreach; she is based in New Mexico.

Continuing directors include Cynthia Efird (President Emerita), Bill Wanlund (Board Secretary), Mary Jeffers (Board Treasurer), Michael Korff (Communications Committee coordinator and PDAA Editor), Claude Porsella (Member News Editor), Tom Miller (Deputy Chair of the Awards Committee), and Greta Morris (President Emerita and Deputy Chair of the Program Committee).

Jan Brambilla (Alan Kotok)

Jan Brambilla served for over 25 years in senior executive positions in Foreign Service and Civil Service Human Resources Management, Organizational Analysis/Strategic Planning, Executive Performance and Compensation, Policy/Program Development and Implementation, and Budget/Financial Management. Her work took her to assignments throughout the Public Diplomacy community, including positions with the Voice of America, International Broadcasting Bureau, Broadcasting Board of Governors, United States Information Agency, and Department of State.

To contact officers and Board members, write to

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