Back Issues of PDAA Today

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

Future of Public Diplomacy Organizations Focus of Special Meeting

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A special roundtable discussion among members of the Public Diplomacy Association of America, the Public Diplomacy Council, and other interested professionals has been set for Mon., Sep. 9, 2019. It will focus on the past, present, and future of organizations focused on Public Diplomacy.

The special meeting will  will take place at noon at George Washington University’s Elliott School Lindner Family Common, 1957 E Street St. NW, 6th Floor.

Lunch is included and admission is free; in order to plan for the catering, please RSVP if you plan to attend by e-mailing

In anticipation of the Sep. 9 discussion, PDAA is reprinting by permission of the Public Diplomacy Council the following overview prepared by Alan Heil, a member of PDAA and PDC.

A New Path Ahead for U.S. Public Diplomacy Advocates in a Digital Age?

by Alan Heil

What is public diplomacy?

Nicholas J. Cull at a recent First Monday luncheon sponsored by PDAA, PDC, and USC. (Photo: Bruce Guthrie)

It’s a term used more widely than ever in the 21st century, as a leading scholar of the concept, the University of Southern California’s Professor Nicholas J. Cull explains: “Public diplomacy deals with the influence of public attitudes on the formation and execution of a nation’s foreign policies.”

Dr. Cull adds that PD encompasses dimensions of international relations beyond traditional diplomacy, including:

  • The formation of public opinion in other countries
  • The interaction of private groups in one country with those of another
  • The reporting of foreign affairs and its impact on policy
  • Communication between those whose job it is in various countries, including diplomats and foreign correspondents.

These themes reflect a wide range of intercultural communications, public and private, via cultural and educational exchanges with international visitors and US-funded global broadcasting.

What Are the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) and the Public Diplomacy Association Of America (PDAA)?

These two non-profit citizen volunteer groups headquartered in DC are exploring ways of supporting effective public diplomacy in unprecedented ways. Together, they have nearly 600 members, many of them retired foreign service officers or alumni of international communications organizations. This month, former PDC President Adam Clayton Powell III, who is also the director of the University of Southern California’s Washington office, and former PDAA President Ambassador Cynthia Efird are moving on from their non-governmental public diplomacy leadership posts. How have they strengthened a long-sought cooperative effort of both organizations? A number of US government alumni, including this writer, are members of both the PDC and PDAA.

Inspiring First Monday Forums

Cynthia Efird (PDAA) and Adam Powell (PDC/USC) at a First Monday program. (Photo: Bruce Guthrie)

For the first time in 2017, the PDAA joined forces with the PDC and USC in co-sponsoring First Monday informal lunchtime roundtables at George Washington University’s School of International Affairs. These are led by expert public diplomacy advocates — private sector and government — at the beginning of each month. According to Adam Powell, there now have been nearly a hundred First Monday sessions since 2010. Attendance has now approached capacity crowds, including a growing number of GWU students.

Recent roundtable leaders have included:

  • U.S Peace Corps director Dr. Jody Olsen, who shared success stories from her organization’s volunteers in 64 countries as diverse as Albania, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Macedonia, and even the People’s Republic of China.
  • Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce on American educational and cultural exchanges, in all their variety and richness, as they build person-to-person friendships globally.
  • Sister Cities International President Roger-Mark De Souza, who noted that “by sharing ideas with other countries’ municipal leaders, here and abroad, we help shape America’s foreign relations unofficially, one handshake at a time.”
  • VOA anchor Greta van Susteren, who produced an on-scene documentary, Displaced, reflecting the horrific conditions in a refugee displacement camp for Burma’s Rohingya refugees in neighboring Bangladesh.

Monthly Seminars with Mid-Level Foreign Service Officers

Former US Ambassador to North Macedonia Jess L. Baily discusses the Role of Public Diplomacy in Resolving the Greece-Macedonia Name Dispute. Photo by Hunter B. Martin.

As part of the Public Diplomacy Council’s continuing commitment to foster the people and practice of public diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, we work with two FSO volunteer co-chairs to sponsor informal seminars around a variety of professional themes. The seminars provide an opportunity for mid-level public diplomacy officers, many of whom on their first Washington tours and widely dispersed around the Department, to meet each other, discuss professional and policy issues, learn about different types of public diplomacy assignments, and consult with senior or retired officers in an informal setting. Themes for discussion are chosen by the 30-50 FSOs who regularly participate and expert speakers are invited to address the contributions of public diplomacy to critical U.S. State Department’s foreign policy challenges. The PDC provides lunch; the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) kindly provides a conference room at its headquarters.

Annual PDAA Awards Recognize Public Diplomacy Successes

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)

PDAA works with the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to recognize annually outstanding public diplomacy efforts. The awards have gone to foreign service, civil service, and locally employed staff, both overseas and in the U.S. A worldwide cable solicits nominations for innovation in serving U.S. policy objectives through a range of public diplomacy tools. The winners each year receive a certificate, a cash prize, a year’s membership to PDAA, and are honored at an annual brunch.

To fund the award program, PDAA raises money throughout the year, as well as contributing some funding from membership dues. This year on May 5 at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, DC, four awards were given:

  • Niles Cole, CAO Kampala, received an award for reaching 32 schools in 15 districts with the bus “Explorer Lab,” equipped with computers and encouraging learning through problem solving. The students’ interest led to the government purchasing US air quality equipment and drafting new environment regulations.
  • Christopher Hodges, PAO in the Palestinian Affairs Unit, US Embassy Jerusalem, received his award for extraordinary leadership during a period of low public opinion of US policy. He maintained effective contacts and shaped messaging through media interviews in fluent Arabic.
  • Natella Svistunova, PAO, US Embassy Belmopan, was awarded for an innovative plan to combat gender violence. She designed a successful media campaign to create an anti-violence label for a cooking sauce. The product with the label was rolled out in an event attended by the Prime Minister’s spouse and family, engendering Belize-wide attention.
  • Debra Torbiong, Public Affairs Specialist at U.S. Embassy Koror in Palau, was cited by the Ambassador for a program that redesigned the Palau school lunch program and encouraged healthy eating and exercising. The Ambassador said she promoted health and food security through an “innovative, responsive, interactive, and effective” campaign.

Both Svistunova and Torbiong were present to receive their awards. The others were accepted by representatives from the respective geographic regional offices.

Coordination Initiatives Continue

PDC’s new President Sherry Mueller with former President Adam Powell (Photo: Bruce Guthrie)

I asked USC scholar Adam Clayton Powell how he first became interested in public diplomacy. He has headed USC’s Washington office for more than a decade. He wanted to move to DC from California in 2010 and asked the former USC president, Max Nikias, what the office assignment here entailed. President Nikias replied: “Connect the links.”

That meant, from USC’s perspective, enhancing the contacts between the separate PD-related organizations in the nation’s capital: the Public Diplomacy Council (primarily an advocacy group in U.S. media and on Capitol Hill) and PDAA (focused on perfecting public diplomacy practice in State and at missions overseas). Another key goal was to share knowledge about PD practices with newly-named FSOs and to encourage them to value 21st media vehicles (listening and viewing as well as counseling) as their careers are built.

Adam Powell offered one example in “connecting the links”: an introductory seminar for new FSOs entitled: “What do expect to happen in your first day at your first overseas post?”

The PDC and PDAA continue to increase their links.

All those interested in the activities I mentioned above can learn more on their new, shared website at There, you can learn about all the initiatives of both PDC and PDAA, which are expanding programs that are available to members of both organizations.

The PDAA’s former president Efird reports that its board last month voted to “request the PDC to form a joint exploratory group with it to look at how to move further on closer cooperation, keeping in mind the organizational legal and other issues both memberships might have. “Cooperation,” she added, “is a work in progress, but a work that could be important in securing the health of both organizations and increasing the understanding of public diplomacy among our memberships and in a wider audience, as well.”

Jan Brambilla (Alan Kotok)

Two veteran public diplomacy advocates and nominees to succeed as presidents of the PDC and PDAA, Dr. Sherry Mueller of the Council and Jan Brambilla of the Association, appear to recognize the importance of sustaining the unprecedented contributions of their two predecessors. Dr. Mueller, former President of Global Ties U.S., is a professor teaching cultural diplomacy at American University and Jan Brambilla is a longtime member of PDAA and a former distinguished personnel director at VOA.

I submit that the late great journalist and head of the former U.S. Information Agency, Edward R. Murrow, once offered a perfect prescription for public diplomacy all might easily agree on: “To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.”

As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More

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Membership Dues Increase

The PDAA board of directors has voted to raise membership dues for those living in the greater Washington, DC, area to $50 annually. Dues for those living elsewhere will remain at $35 per year. (The Washington, DC, area includes the adjacent MD and VA counties, plus the ring of counties one layer out, e.g., Loudoun and Prince William in Virginia or Howard, Frederick, and Anne Arundel in Maryland. Those who live even further out but regularly attend PDAA and First Monday events are asked to pay at the $50 rate.

This increase goes into effect September 1, so those who have not yet paid 2019 dues may want to do so now.

PDAA faces cost increases that it must cover to keep its budget balanced. The Board also recognizes that members living in the DC area have more opportunities to benefit from PDAA programs than do those further away, particularly the First Monday events held jointly with PDC and the U. of Southern California (that are free to attendees but are subsidized by the sponsoring organizations).

The Board strives to minimize cost increases. For example, the organization opted for a less elaborate menu at the DACOR Speaker Luncheons, in lieu of raising participation fees. The Board is also discussing new fundraising ideas for the annual PDAA awards. (This year, generous member donations to the awards fund topped $2,300 – thanks to everyone who gave!)

To renew online, click here.

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Martin Manning, An Appreciation

Remarks by Departmentof State Judicial Liaison John Jasik at the Memorial Event for Martin J. Manning – April 17, 2019

Martin Manning with fellow IIP librarians. Martin Manning with fellow IIP librarians. Seated: Lynne Scheib;
Standing: Vivian Stahl, Anita Green, Joan Taylor;
Back: Martin Manning
(photo courtesy of Lynne Scheib)

It is my honor and privilege to welcome the Manning family to the United States Department of State Headquarters. Many of you have traveled a considerable distance to honor and remember your cherished family member today. A special welcome also to Marty’s many friends and colleagues from a period that spans well over forty years. We are very happy you are here to join us in remembering Marty’s life and many contributions to our nation. I met a number of you at Marty’s memorial Mass a few weeks ago and look forward to renewing our acquaintance after our formal remembrance this morning. Always remember that Marty was family to us, too. Many of the people in this room go back a long way with Marty. Personally, I knew him for about forty years. There is a special bond among us in the relatively small public diplomacy community that is really unique in the Department of State. Our clearly defined mission brings us together both personally and professionally. It is indeed a family environment. We do not forget our people after they have left us – or their families who survive them – ever. We are with you and remain a phone call or e-mail away. I could not be more serious about this. I knew Marty for over four decades. You have our numbers – use them whenever you see fit.

Marty was the quintessential public servant. Although he started out with short tenures in other federal agencies, he found his home – his true calling – his vocation, so to speak, in the United States Information Agency and the United States Department of State. Marty served his country as librarian, researcher, historian, public diplomacy practitioner – a true jack-of-all-trades. He possessed an almost pathological intellectual curiosity. Marty very rapidly became the “go-to” guy in the public diplomacy sphere. If you needed some obscure piece of paper from when Edward R. Murrow was the Director of the U.S. Information Agency during the Kennedy administration, Marty was your one – and only – resource person. His reputation grew over the decades – he was a published author and he was a contributor to many articles, publications, and books on ALL aspects of public diplomacy, the science of propaganda, and Soviet disinformation. You name it in our field of endeavor – he knew it and did it. Should anyone have had a query of any kind, Marty usually knew the answer or could find it quickly. He would then provide an excruciatingly detailed response – sometimes with footnotes. I remember once not too long ago casually asking Marty about getting the rights to a documentary film: almost immediately, he was on the horn to the directors, the publicists, the Sundance Film Festival people – you name it. I would not have been surprised if he tried to directly contact Robert Redford of Sundance fame. Anyway, I had a comprehensive response – with options – very, very quickly.

Marty was revered and respected in a number of different professional communities – especially those pertaining to public diplomacy, history, and research. I posted an obituary in memory of Marty on my Facebook page the day he passed away. The responses that I received from professionals in a number of disciplines were almost immediate, sincere, and highly respectful of Marty’s expertise in numerous areas of specialization. Marty was, in many ways, a complex guy, but he was beloved by his colleagues for his friendly and warm nature and his perpetual willingness to provide support and assistance. Marty was especially revered by our colleagues on the lower scale of the Civil Service rank structure – he treated everyone the same – from the big shots to the custodial staff – with kindness, decency, and respect – he was everyone’s pal, and everyone loved him. Marty never really changed throughout his professional career – he was the same regular guy – with that almost incomprehensible Boston dialect. He had a constant thirst for knowledge and always – always – sought to enhance his expertise in numerous fields of endeavor. He was the best buddy and colleague one could have asked for. Marty would often visit me in my office over the years – two public diplomacy dinosaurs chewing the fat and telling war stories. I relish those moments and they will always comprise my fondest memories of my friend.

Marty was also indeed renaissance man – really! I know he would hate to hear me say this out loud, but he was. In addition to his numerous professional interests, and areas of expertise, Marty loved Broadway musicals and most especially, opera – and he really knew his stuff about both of these genres. For many, many years, he was a judge in the Maryland History Day scholastic competition. Marty could also sing – very, very well. He was a tenor for a Virginia-based group known as the Bull Run Troubadours – they sang barbershop-quartet songs and they are great. They sang in beautiful multi-part harmony at Marty’s memorial Mass – Amazing Grace and an old Irish poem for the departed: everyone in attendance loved it. I spoke to a number of the group members after the Mass; they revered Marty and will miss him terribly. Marty really enjoyed his times with the group – rehearsals as well as performances: he spoke to me about it often. It gave him great joy and satisfaction. So yes, buddy, like it or not, you fit into the renaissance-man category.

Let’s talk briefly about Marty, the family man. Marty was absolutely and positively fully and unequivocally devoted and dedicated to his family – his daughters and the Manning clan of New England (Marty made frequent trips to New England to visit family and refresh that Boston dialect). Going way back, Marty was extremely close to his Mom, a WWII veteran, and also with his Dad, a Boston police officer. He was a loving and devoted father, brother, and uncle – an especially proud uncle who loved the younger Mannings so very much – I am so glad they are here with us today to see the high esteem in which their beloved uncle is held by so many. I assure you that everyone here today and many others will all sorely miss your uncle – he was one of the good guys. I know that all of the Mannings here today will have their own unique and special memories of Marty that will never fade.

Marty did not like being sick – at all. He told me once in confidence that his illness was a “big pain in the ass.” It interfered with his professional and personal agenda – this he did not like – at all. But he dealt with it as best he could – he would show off that medical apparatus that was attached to him from time to time as a badge of honor and also gave many of us an in-depth look at someone struggling with cancer with dignity and grace. Marty’s handling and acceptance of his illness was a lesson to us all. He worked and worked well – same old Marty – until he was physically incapable of doing so. His illness interfered with his retirement plans – he really did not want to pack it in just yet. He was happy in his work, as always, and continued to do his job well despite the limitations caused by his failing health. He finally realized that things were not going well for him at all health wise and he decided to retire after nearly 45 years of distinguished and dedicated service to the country.

On February 28, the effective date of Marty’s retirement, Chandley McDonald and I, two of Marty’s oldest friends and colleagues, visited Marty at his home in Northern Virginia. We were graciously welcomed to the home by Marty’s daughter Anna. We were there to personally thank Marty, first of all, for being such a good friend to us for so many years, but also to officially recognize his many years of public service on behalf of the leadership of the Department of State. Although Marty could not speak, he was alert, recognized us, and heard us. We brought with us a framed Career Achievement Award signed by the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, which commended Marty for his decades of pubic service that had a significant impact on peoples the world over. It was really apparent to us that Marty was in the final hours of his life. I held the award so Marty could see it and Chandley read the citation from the Secretary of State. We spent a few more minutes with Marty to say a final goodbye to our longtime buddy and professional colleague. Marty’s suffering ended and he passed away shortly after we left his home. It was the saddest moment of my nearly half-century of public service and will stick with me until the end of my days.

In closing, what can one say bout a friend that has left us all too soon? I can think of three short words: “a good man.” Marty Manning was a good may and lived his life of service of and support for his family, friends, colleagues, and country. He was indeed a patriot. He was also a devout Catholic who did his best to live his faith every day. This was indeed a good man who lived a good life. We loved him, and will miss him, and will always, always, remember him.

Thank you all for honoring us with your presence today.

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First Monday Programs Look at Digital Attacks on Elections, Work of Radio Free Asia

Upcoming First Monday luncheon discussions will focus on Digital Attacks on Elections, the Work of Radio Free Asia, and the future of public diplomacy organizations. The luncheons are free, but registration is required.

“How the U.S. Helps Allies Defend Against Digital Attacks on Elections” will be Ambassador J. Kenneth Blackwell’s topic on Monday, July 15 (special date). Ambassador Blackwell is Board Chair of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Other panelists include Vasu Mohan, Dr. Beata Martin-Rozumilowicz, and Erica Shein.

Libby Liu, President of Radio Free Asia, will be the featured speaker on Monday, August 5. The topic is “Transmitting a Free Press to Asia.”

Monday, September 9, will focus on the Past, Present, and Future of Public Diplomacy Organizations. All members of PDAA are encouraged to attend this special forum, which will look at the organization’s path ahead. Background information is available here.

First Monday Forums are a joint project of the Public Diplomacy Association of America, the USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and the Pubic Diplomacy Council. The Forums are held at George Washington University’s Elliott School Lindner Family Common, 1957 E Street, NW, 6th floor, starting at 12 noon. Sandwiches and refreshments are served. Attendance is free with an RSVP.

To request attendance at a Forum, send a message to


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Richard Birn: A Few Recollections of Career Service and Friendship

by Michael Schneider

Richard Birn passed away this past spring, after a rich career in public diplomacy and 61 years of marriage.

Richard and I served in the same Junior Officer Class, sworn in October 20, 1962, the day President Kennedy announced the blockade on Cuba and nuclear confrontation with the USSR. Needless to say, tensions were high.
At first that day we were quite upset that Edward R. Murrow would not swear us in. Most of our group joined USIA in large part attracted to the Agency by Murrow – more than Kennedy.

Over the years Richard and I discovered a number of family connections and parallel experiences while growing up in the New York City area, which we always enjoyed sharing.

Richard was one of three or four “senior” officers in the class who were married and somewhat older than the rest of us. More settled, in some ways a little less rambunctious. Richard and Jacqueline were a handsome couple – he, dapper; she, vivacious and quite an accomplished cellist.

In class, he could be counted upon for perceptive and carefully considered comments – the hallmarks of his contribution to our profession, along with his geniality and care for his colleagues.

From the outset of our careers, I was impressed by how conversant Richard was in international affairs, already schooled through graduate studies at Columbia. A conversation with him almost 57 years ago – and as recently as a few months ago – would be engaging and lucid. He brought out the best in us, and I’m sure in his work abroad.

Richard’s career took him to Helsinki, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Toronto, and Valetta, and with extended service in Washington with ICS and as senior policy officer in the Voice of America. At the Voice, Richard’s expertise and depth of knowledge significantly helped the VOA policy office deal with contentious Middle East issues and U.S. policy.

In retirement, Richard became a mainstay for DACOR and continued to be an avid reader of three major papers daily.

I will miss him.

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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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