Back Issues of PDAA Today

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

PDAA Announces 2021 Awards for Achievement in Public Diplomacy

by Domenick DiPasquale

Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding, public diplomacy practitioners across the globe continue to engage their local audiences creatively on key policy issues, as clearly evidenced by the winners of the 2021 PDAA awards for achievement in public diplomacy.

Whether showcasing U.S. support for democracy and human rights, combating trafficking in persons, encouraging entrepreneurship, or crafting calibrated messaging on immigration policy, this year’s award winners employed strategies ranging from old school printed flyers to cutting edge social media campaigns to effectively communicate with foreign publics.

The four winners of the 2021 PDAA awards are:

  • Public Affairs Section, U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau
  • Sohini Das, Public Engagement Specialist, U.S. Consulate General Kolkata
  • Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy Algiers
  • Allyson Hamilton-McIntire, Assistant Information Officer, U.S. Embassy Mexico City

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呢個星期,我哋亦會開始EducationUSA嘅網上升學展。詳情及報名請到 #IEW2020
To kick off International Education Week, check out the EdUSA Go! Buses that ran all over Hong Kong. People were urged to post a photo and tag the Consulate on Facebook. Posters received an EducationUSA souvenir for the best photo.

Public Affairs Section, U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau. Confronted with the Chinese Communist Party’s harsh crackdown on democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, as well as attempts to implicate the United States in the resulting political unrest, the Consulate’s public affairs section (PAS) launched a campaign on multiple media platforms to push back against Beijing’s repressive measures. It was accomplished by highlighting positive USG support for Hong Kong and its autonomy, spotlighting Chinese government efforts to restrict Hong Kong’s fundamental freedoms, and reinforcing shared U.S.-Hong Kong values through expanded people-to-people ties.

These efforts included op-ed placements in major local newspapers; producing or facilitating statements by U.S. and allied officials, including one issued by the G-7 group, decrying Beijing’s draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong citizens; and prominently tracking on the consulate website–right to the present day–Hong Kong citizens arrested under that law.

Beyond the steady drumbeat of this media blitz that kept attention on Beijing’s crackdown, the PAS successfully countered Chinese propaganda by highlighting America’s positive local and global roles, rallying public support from likeminded partners, and building networks to foster shared values between the United States and Hong Kong. After the Fulbright program was suspended in Hong Kong, for example, PAS launched an independent network of USG exchange program alumni. The PAS team accomplished all this despite limitations imposed by the covid-19 pandemic as well as ongoing PRC propaganda and harassment of consulate staff.

ConGen Kolkata’s Trafficking in Persons effort

Sohini Das, Public Engagement Specialist, U.S. Consulate General Kolkata. Combatting human trafficking is a priority for U.S. diplomatic missions in India. With eastern India a major trafficking hub, Public Engagement Specialist Sohini Das at the U.S. consulate in Kolkata has developed a multi-layered approach to the problem. The cornerstone of this initiative is the Anti-Trafficking-in-Persons Conclave that brings together key anti-trafficking players to address new and ongoing challenges. Targeted activities throughout the year culminate in the annual conclaves, which have produced significant collaborations leading directly to positive legislative and judicial results.

Das employed a range of public diplomacy resources in her efforts. Using the State Department’s Arts Envoy Program, for example, she brought U.S.-based digital storytellers to work with eight trafficking survivors to create short films advocating for the inclusion of survivor voices in policymaking. Likewise, capitalizing on the great popularity of field hockey, Das used the Sports Visitor Exchange to bring American collegiate field hockey players to participate in a hockey and leadership camp for 107 tribal girls from heavily-trafficked districts.

Noting that the West Bengal government had launched an effective school-based trafficking prevention program with local police, Das envisioned expanding it to three neighboring Indian states. All three subsequently launched pilot programs based on the West Bengal model, empowering youth to work with police to report on and prevent trafficking in their communities. As schools closed as a result of the pandemic, Das also worked with stakeholders to address emerging trends in human trafficking. Her efforts resulted in training programs bringing together more than 1,500 police officers, 4,000 educators, 12,000 community workers, and a half-million young people to counter traffickers’ recruitment efforts in India’s worst-affected states.

Scenes from the red carpet premiere of AmEmbassy Algiers’s Andi Hulm

Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy Algiers. Algeria faces a significant youth bulge in its population, high unemployment, and a stagnant economy dominated by inefficient state-run companies. In response to this challenging environment, the Embassy public affairs section produced and broadcast a “Shark Tank”-style reality television show, Andi Hulm (“I Have a Dream”), to promote the importance of entrepreneurship and to support U.S. businesses in Algeria.

The 60 original contestants competed in challenges related to sales and marketing, business operations, product design, management, and teamwork. The ten-episode show, which took place at American businesses operating in Algiers, resulted in the crowning of a champion who received a cash prize and went on a State Department-funded incubation exchange in the United States.

The series aired on Algeria’s most-watched television channel during primetime, reaching millions of Algerians weekly and garnering social media buzz and positive press reviews. Some participants in the show went on to start successful business ventures of their own. In addition, the show gave a much-needed jolt to the image of U.S. brands in Algeria; multiple companies featured in the show saw their revenues spike.

Ambassador Roberta Jacobson on migration

Allyson Hamilton-McIntire, Assistant Information Officer, U.S. Embassy Mexico City. The Central American migrant surge at the U.S. southern border posed major challenges for Embassy Mexico, in particular the need to communicate different messages to those who had pending U.S. asylum cases and to the much larger number who did not. Assistant Information Officer Allyson Hamilton-McIntire took on the daunting high priority task to develop a finely nuanced communication strategy on migration policy aimed at these two very different audiences.

For the thousands of migrants with pending asylum cases, Hamilton-McIntire filled the existing information vacuum with detailed guidelines, timelines, and procedures on the asylum process. The real challenge she faced, however, was publicly distinguishing between these relatively few migrants the United States would admit and the legions drawn north by dire domestic conditions in Central America.

To reach this latter group, Hamilton-McIntyre employed an entire litany of communication tools from traditional to contemporary – TV monitors at migrant shelters, roadside billboards, printed flyers, and, where possible, the WhatsApp groups that migrant caravans employ – to deliver clear information on U.S. immigration policy. Numerous interviews she arranged for Embassy representatives and other authoritative U.S. officials reiterated and reinforced in key border regions and migration source countries the deterrence message aimed at potential migrants.

Public Diplomacy Association of America awards for achievement in public diplomacy. Retired Foreign Service Officer Judith Baroody, chair of the PDAA awards committee, noted the large number of worthy, well-documented nominations. “We were so concerned that the pandemic and draw-downs (reductions in personnel) would have made it impossible to do innovative and effective public diplomacy projects that we came close to skipping the awards this year,” she said. “The courage and creativity of our PD colleagues working overseas turned out to be inspiring. It was a bit heartbreaking not to recognize all the exceptional PD initiatives taking place around the world, but we are pleased that four different geographic regions are represented among the winners.”

Due to continuing covid-19 restrictions, PDAA will not hold the annual in-person awards luncheon to honor the winners. Instead, as it did last year, PDAA will hold a videoconference later in the spring for its members, during which the four winners will be invited to make short remote live or pre-recorded presentations about their work.

Public Diplomacy Association of America, formerly the USIA Alumni Association, is a not-for-profit, voluntary, 501(c)(6) organization, with some 400 members. PDAA members have worked in or with the information, education, and cultural programs which the U.S. Government incorporates into the conduct of its diplomacy abroad. Its sister-organization, the Public Diplomacy Council, is a U.S. -based nonprofit organization committed to the academic study, professional practice, and responsible advocacy of public diplomacy.

Previous recipients of the award can be seen here. To support financially the awards, please go here.

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Supporting VIP Visits: The Drama Behind the Curtain

By Judith Baroody
Among the highlights of Public Diplomacy Officers’ careers are the times they are called on to provide support to a visit abroad by a USG VIP, such as the President, the Secretary of State or Defense, and Congressional representatives and their delegations.

These meteor-fast encounters with powerful officials can range from exhilarating to humiliating, with the entire embassy devoted to this one event from the day the pre-advance team touches down until the celebrations following “Wheels Up.” Careers can tank or soar as a result of these encounters with the mighty and famous, and the key to success can be as simple as maintaining a sense of courtesy and humor.

Think about how many Presidents and Secretaries of State you served during your career; in my case, seven presidents and eleven Secretaries. Depending on where you were posted, you may have worked on few VIP visits or several. Martin Quinn, for example, handled SecState visits from Baker to Pompeo. These visits were filled with surprises, such as the night Secretary Clinton’s plane broke down in Jeddah. He invited her to join the consulate staff to dine on huge platters of Middle Eastern cuisine and she happily accepted:

“The memorable aspect of the meal, aside from her obvious relish for Middle Eastern cuisine, was that — unlike many senior officials — she made absolutely no effort to hold forth during dinner while chatting informally with everyone around the table just making small talk. One soon forgot that our dinner-partner that February evening in Jeddah was the most famous woman in the world.” (Click here for Martin’s story)

Earlier, when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she traveled with President Clinton, including on his first overseas trip as President to France in 1994 for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings. DCM Avis Bohlen was her control officer. She found the FLOTUS to be accommodating and gracious, advance team members less so. (Click here for Avis’s story; thanks to for this and other excerpts.)

First Lady Hillary Clinton later accompanied the President to the APEC Summit in the Philippines in 1996. U.S. Embassy Manila IO Bruce Byers had the chance to meet with her and President Clinton, and to act as control officer for another VIP, USIA Director Joseph Duffy. (Click here for Bruce’s story.)

Another First Lady, Nancy Reagan, was blissfully unaware of the behind-the-scenes struggles Michael Boostein was going through in providing TDY assistance with the 1985 POTUS visit to the Embassy of the Holy See. She wanted to go to a distant castle. His arrangements to fulfill her wish almost led to career catastrophe when the helicopter which was to take her back to Rome took off without her. (Click here for Mike’s story)

That same year, Thomas Johnson, then Branch PAO in Frankfurt, had his own near-disaster with President Reagan. The President’s decision to lay a wreath at the cemetery in Bitburg became a Public Relations firestorm when the media learned that among those buried there were SS soldiers. The “Great Communicator” dealt with the challenge like a cool professional: “Reagan walked to the front of the cemetery, turned left toward the journalists with the monument to his right. His head slightly bowed. His hand toward the public was relaxed, while his hand toward the monument was white knuckled.” (Click here for Tom’s story)

Lloyd Neighbors faced another unexpected challenge as PAO in Shanghai when the White House decided to hold President George W. Bush’s news conference in the atrium of the Portman Hotel where he was lodging. The problem was that the hotel “didn’t look Chinese.” The solution?

“We called the Shanghai Film Studio and asked them to build a movie set at the Portman that would without a doubt say ‘China.’ So the studio builds this set that looks like a Chinese imperial palace. And they bring it in to the Portman at 4:00 in the morning, driving this huge truck with all the set materials into a highly secure area, through a cordon of guards and fences around the president’s hotel.

“Trying to get this shipment at 4:00 in the morning through security was just a filthy task. But we did it, and it looked like an imperial palace in the Land of Oz. It was an imposing structure, vermillion walls with gold trim. It did look like we were in China, a China of the Boxer Rebellion days, perhaps.” (Click here for Lloyd’s story)

These visits often pop up at the worst times for the officers who have to drop everything to work on them, as Philip Brown attests from a sojourn on his way to Moscow. Later, for the first Secretary of State visit to Africa, in Cameroon in 1970, Brown was assigned as control officer for the wife of Secretary William Rogers. It turned out to be a unexpectedly pleasant job. (Click here for Philip’s story about his way to Moscow; click here for his story about Cameroon.)

Also in Africa, Angier Peavy had very different challenges supporting the visit of Secretary Rice to an IDP camp in Darfur, Sudan. One was to keep people at a distance from the woman they affectionately called “Condoleeza”: “I had particular problems with some old ladies who were determined to get up close and personal to ululate and thus show their respect and gratitude.” (Click here for Angier’s story.)

Michael Korff worked on another harrowing visit of Secretary of Defense (and former FSO) Frank Carlucci to Bern. That visit included a pleasant carriage ride through the small village from which Carlucci’s ancestors had emigrated. The Soviet Embassy proved uncooperative. (Click here for Mike’s story.)

Prime Minister John Major and President George H.W. Bush in Bermuda

I think back gratefully on the many VIP visits I supported throughout my career. Few were as soggy as the March 1991 trip by President George H.W. Bush to Bermuda for a summit with UK Prime Minister John Major. There were numerous countdown meetings at the Hamilton Princess Hotel. The weather was windy, warm, and humid. The President arrived in the late afternoon on Thursday, March 14, and the traveling press arrived after midnight.
The weather turned dark and stormy, with high tides and driving rain, but that didn’t stop the President from fishing in the choppy waters and playing golf at the Mid-Ocean Golf Club in the rain, lashed sideways by the wind. My job was to escort the press around the course and on to the bus, all the while thinking, “Why can’t he just pop in a video and relax like a normal person?”

The President met with Prime Minister Major at Government House, planted a tree, and had a press conference. After all that downpour and gale-force squalls, his comment was, “It’s just as pleasant as I remembered it.”¤

Judith Baroody is a member of the PDAA Board of Director’s and serves as chair of the Awards Committee.

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Location, Location, Location: Diplomacy Is with People

by Mike Anderson

Everyone knows the old real estate agent’s phrase “Location, location, location,” which Lord Harold Samuel reportedly coined when he founded a big U.K. property company in 1948.

But the phrase could just as well have come out of the mouth of any public diplomacy officer who has ever worked abroad. We all know and truly appreciate the importance of the location of our official residences while serving in a U.S. embassy or consulate. Where you live does really matter to your ability to do your job and stay healthy and secure.

During my USIA and State Department PD career, I was fortunate to work in seven countries, including two where I enjoyed two, separate four-year postings. Perhaps I was fortunate, but I was generally happy with all of my accommodations and never had to fight with the Mission Housing Board or GSO — and none of us ever had to worry about rent, furniture, household repairs, taxes, or property resale values.

Whether a stand-alone house or an apartment, each of my South and Southeast Asian residences pretty much met three criteria: each was relatively close to my work place and to venues — like government offices, universities, media, cultural venues, or major hotels — that I needed to frequent in my official capacity; each was healthy and safe; and each had at least adequate representational, or entertaining, space.

During my very first overseas tour, I was assigned to an aging, Manila high-rise apartment just down Roxas Blvd. from the U.S. Embassy and from Seafront Compound, the Embassy’s popular commissary and employee’s club. Also, it was relatively close to the Manila International Airport and to a cross-town road over to the Makati District, where the USIS Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center, the Fulbright commission, and the Ambassador’s residence were located. Best of all, the place had a smashing view of Manila Bay’s famous sunsets. On the other hand, there were massive traffic jams all around the place, urban grit and grim, poverty, and noise the minute one stepped out of the building. The old structure would sway and shake during our periodic typhoons or earthquakes. My great fear was being trapped in the tiny elevator during one of the frequent power failures.

The apartment and the Embassy were located near the historic Baclaran Church and market. Every Wednesday, the church held special masses, bringing a massive congregation of devotees to pray the Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, so making our way past the church on Wednesday — “Bacalaran Day” — was always a formidable challenge.

My second assignment was to the one-PD-Officer Melanesian post of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The Embassy provided the PAO and other officers with small, but comfortable, townhouse accommodations atop an isolated hill with a spectacular view of the Coral Sea of the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Crime, however, was a problem, and the housing compound was heavily guarded. Both the Ambassador and DCM had bigger, more accessible housing and were always generous about letting our public affairs team entertain guests there. The old, original embassy — built literally up the side of a hill — had an outdoor, mini-amphitheater, but it was rarely used for events because of the tropical climate and the steep, uncomfortable outdoor seating.

“Moresby” was a unique city to live in because it was land-locked, with only a couple of roads leading out of town for a few miles. To visit other parts of the mountainous island-country, we had to fly. A favorite activity for embassy staffers and official visitors was a short out-of-town drive to a national park where one could see the famous bird of paradise in the wild and lunch nearby on crocodile meat.

My next posting was as Information Officer in bustling New Delhi. I was assigned a non-descript house in a suburb not far from Chanakyapuri, the diplomatic enclave, where our Embassy was located. I rarely entertained at home because I was kept extremely busy attending American Center events and or events hosted by the Ambassador in Roosevelt House, his official residence on the embassy grounds. I think I spent more time in the Embassy than I did at home, but it was a pleasure to work there because of the iconic nature of the structure, which famous American architect Edward Durrell Stone designed and then later adapted for the Kennedy Center.

After India, I transferred to the Consulate in the bustling port city of Karachi, Pakistan. My large, but quirky house was in a pleasant, secure section of the city close to the American School. It was located not far from the American Library in downtown Karachi, situated in a huge, old Consulate building, which had been the American Embassy before the capital was moved to Islamabad. Across the street from the office was the wonderful, spacious, old mansion which served as the residence of the Consul General. It was the perfect venue for official entertaining, and, again, our generous CGs welcomed its use for special PD events.

After two years with USIA back in Washington and living in a small Arlington, VA, condo, I moved to the island-city-state of Singapore. As PAO with representation duties, I was about the only officer other than the Ambassador and DCM who qualified for a real house. Due to land shortages and extremely high property values, most of our colleagues lived in housing flats or expat executive apartments. The PAO residence was located in a quiet and clean neighborhood that was perfect for entertaining. It had an open-air patio that opened out onto a small grass lawn which was absolutely ideal for receptions.

My next posting took me back to Manila, where I was in a fancy apartment building overlooking the famous Makati commercial shopping area and, again, had great sunset views. The apartment was walkable to the Ambassador’s residence and to the Fulbright Commission office and to several of Manila’s leading hotels, museums, and shops. A terrific feature of the roomy apartment was its flooring, made from the famous Philippine narra wood. A unique feature of my unit was the neighbor right above me — Imelda Marcos, widow of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. I never did invite her down for cocktails, but we would always exchange smiles in the elevator as she and her security detail were going to or from their limo in the basement garage.

The one problem with the apartment was its distance across town from the embassy. Traffic was often a nightmare, and I would go into the embassy very early each morning just to beat the traffic. Much of Manila is at sea-level, and when there is heavy rain, many of the roads flood and are not passable for hours. On any rainy evening, we could just forget about any travel schedule. Returning home from the Embassy one evening, I was literally stuck in a jam amidst rising water for, I recall, nearly seven hours.

My next assignment — back in New Delhi — brought me back not only to my old office in the iconic Embassy, but also gave me access to the best diplomatic housing I ever had. The gem of a “PAO house” in New Delhi is on one of the city’s fanciest streets and just across the street from the famous Lodi Gardens, New Delhi’s Central Park, and near the historic “Luytens Bungalow Zone” named for the architect who designed Delhi during the British Raj. The house was convenient — just down a few doors from the DCM’s residence and from several other Embassy-owned houses, the embassy wasn’t far away, and both the stand-alone American Center in central Connaught Place and the Fulbright commission compound were quite close.

The one-floor gated residence was designed in the style of British colonial era-structures with a sizeable garden (visited by the occasional cobra, monkey, and peacock). Best of all, it had super entertaining space, including an enclosed, multi-purpose room where the PA Section regularly organized cultural events, dinners, and large receptions. I recall hosting a large event one evening which included not only maybe 100 guests but also a live elephant and a camel. All fit easily into the big yard and party room.

The large PAO residence in New Delhi required a sizeable staff just to keep things working. Although guests somehow assumed the USG was paying for my driver, cook, bearer, dhobi-washer, gardener, and sweeper, in fact that came out of the PAO’s pocket! But the staff became part of an extended family and made living and working in India relatively much easier.

Mike Anderson with statue of Barry Obama at the future president’s grade school near the PAO residence in Jakarta. The marker on the statue explains in Indonesian and English who “Barry” was and is -former student in the school and POTUS.

My final posting was to another sprawling, Asian capital, Jakarta, Indonesia, where my residence was on the top floor of a modern, secure executive apartment building in the historic Menteng section of central Jakarta. Not only was it relatively close to the Embassy, but it also was within walking distance of both the Ambassador and DCM residences.

The neighborhood had some distinctive Indonesian charm and housed a famous basket market at Cikini station and Jakarta’s famous antique or flea market. The public primary school that President Barack Obama attended for a couple of years when he and his mother resided in Jakarta was nearby. The PAO apartment was great for entertaining because it had large picture windows and two balconies which overlooked the city’s skyline. Off in the distance, on a clear day, one could even catch a glimpse of a volcano.

All of these “locations, locations, locations” bring back warm memories of always interesting and challenging times doing PD work abroad. While always comfortable and appropriate to my needs, they also were distinctive and useful for representational events, when my Embassy position required it. My only regret is that I didn’t have a little more free time to just enjoy living in some of those special properties.

Mike Anderson retired as a senior PD FSO officer in 2010.



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Merger of PDAA and Public Diplomacy Council Approved by Boards of Directors

Report of the Public Diplomacy Coalition Working Group

Merger Targeted for 2022

In 2019, the PDC and PDAA boards each approved the creation of a joint working group (WG) to examine all aspects of the two organizations and to make recommendations for the future relationship of the two organizations.  The six members of the WG are all members of both organizations and include the two respective presidents.  The WG looked at all possibilities, from the status quo to full integration.

Throughout the process, we were guided by the principle that this be a win-win situation for all.  We see this as a merger of two equal organizations with similar governance and strong programs that are complementary or collaborative, all of which would thrive in a stronger, combined entity.


  1. Mission and Vision Statement.
  2. All current programs of both organizations should continue to be fully supported.
  3. The PDAA Program Committee is a model for the new organization and should merge with the current joint program committee.
  4. PDC’s E-Book process could be a template for record-keeping in a combined organization.
  5. A new combined organization could probe the possibility of partnering with U.S. Embassies and Consulates on programs.
  6. The new organization should adopt a campaign to make it more attractive to would-be members, including active duty FS and GS. This should include a hard look at member benefits.
  7. All current and former State Department and USAGM personnel should be welcome as new members. Anyone else is welcome to apply for membership and will require a current member to recommend him or her.
  8. A web-based platform should be chosen for membership issues, to include an easily accessible member directory.
  9. PDAA Life (currently suspended) and PDC Life and Emeritus (currently suspended) membership categories should be discontinued, grandparenting in current members.
  10. The new organization should have 501(c)3 tax status. It is possible the current PDC 501(c)3 status could apply.
  11. Calendar Year 2021 should be a period of transition. Recommendations for the transition/implementation phase are below and include working groups on finances, governance, legal Issues, and media presence/branding.  Recommendations for those working groups are also in the discussion that follows. We are willing to continue in an oversight function to coordinate the work of those groups.

Click here to read full report.

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Recent Public Diplomacy Programs

PDAA, the Public Diplomacy Council, and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy have recently hosted the following programs that are available for watching; all programs were provided via Zoom.

Michael McCarry, Kate Eltrich, and Michele Wymer

March 1, 2021 – Public Diplomacy in the New Congress

Kate Eltrich and Michele Wymer, with Michael McCarry

To watch a replay of this program, click here.





Joel Fischman, President of PDAA; Ambassador Stuart Holiday, CEO of Meridian International Center; and Mark Rebstock, Vice President of Meridian.

Feb. 1, 2021 – Global Leadership and the Future of Diplomacy

Ambassador Stuart Holliday, CEO, Meridian International Center

To watch a replay of this program, click here.




Jan. 19, 2021 – How President-Elect Biden Is Viewed from Abroad

Richard Wilke, Pew Research Center

To watch a replay of this program, click here.



Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Ambassador of Singapore

Dec. 15, 2020 – How the US Election Is Explained to the World

Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Ambassador of Singapore

To watch a replay of this program, click here.



PDAA sponsored its traditional post-election program on November 16, 2020. This year’s program was held via Zoom and cosponsored by PDC and USC. The event was moderated by former PDAA President Michael Schneider and featured comments by Michael Gerson and Michael McCurry.

Nov. 16, 2020 – Understanding the 2020 Presidential Election: Implications for U.S. Public Diplomacy

Michael McCurry, “Of Counsel” at Public Strategies Washington, Inc., Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Public Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary
Michael Gerson, columnist for The Washington Post, Visiting Fellow, Center for Public Justice, and Policy Fellow, One Campaign

To watch a replay of the program, go to the PDAA Vimeo channel by clicking here.



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Memorandum for President-Elect Biden – Public Diplomacy: Re-engaging the World

November 29, 2020

PDAA logo

While international faith in America’s global leadership is much diminished, there is residual affinity around the world for our values, goals, and democratic heritage.  On that foundation, we must rebuild our credibility as a world leader and as a society worthy of emulation.

The Biden-Harris Administration faces many global challenges and will need to reinvent and revitalize the instruments of American statecraft.  Increasingly in this connected age, the public dimension of U.S. global leadership will be decisive, because publics abroad are indispensable players in policy.  Leaders ignore public opinion at their peril.

As it restores America’s global relationships, the Biden-Harris Administration should emphatically embrace U.S. public diplomacy.  Through purposeful interactions with foreign publics, public diplomacy conveys American values and helps our leaders understand the range and roots of global opinions.  Public diplomacy provides tools and platforms to rebuild critical relationships through effective programs and dialogues that build trust.

As associations of accomplished public diplomacy practitioners, we believe that the United States needs to engage international publics and project more effectively its policies and values.

We respectfully recommend that the Biden-Harris administration invest considerable thought, resources, and effort to reinvigorate U.S. public diplomacy.


There is a vital need to strengthen public diplomacy within the Department of State, led by a dynamic Under Secretary with enhanced authority to work not only within the Department but with other agencies to support a “whole of government” approach. We recommend that this effort include the following elements:

  • Build consistent leadership – Appoint a respected Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs who (1) understands both foreign policy and communication, (2) can navigate the Department and the interagency environment, (3) enjoys the evident confidence of the President and the Secretary of State, and (4) intends to stay in the job. After the Secretary, this is the second most important appointment in the State Department.
  • Open doors – Eliminate recently erected barriers to international education and exchange, notably the proposed federal rulemaking on “duration of status” that would have an enormous negative impact on U.S. higher education, and the June 22 White House proclamation halting issuance of several categories of nonimmigrant visas. America’s academic and business communities will be vocal allies for the Administration on these issues.
  • Coordinate International Communication– Strengthen Department of State strategic public diplomacy planning and support for major Administration global policy initiatives (e.g., managing the pandemic, climate change).  The Bureau of Global Public Affairs (GPA) is best positioned to manage substantive development of international public communication of global issues in liaison with regional and functional bureaus within the State Department and relevant interagency representatives.
  • Engage the American public – The American people, and especially our youth, are the President’s finest diplomats – capable of making friends and allies in every corner of the globe. Devise programs on compelling topics (e.g., climate, race, public health, the arts) that involve both travel and an ongoing virtual component. Long-term U.S. interests will be served by encouraging more young Americans to engage with the world.
  • Restore broadcasting – Restore protections for U.S.-funded international broadcasting against politicization, enabling it to perform its true function: to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. 
  • Expand counter-disinformation efforts – Take hold and focus the USG effort to counter the growing wave of disinformation. Attacked by propaganda on steroids, America has fought back with aspirin.  There is a pressing need to:  coordinate the Global Engagement Center and PD’s social media work with the intelligence community and DOD’s information operations; fully document hostile disinformation efforts mounted by foreign governments; assist NGOs and the private sector to conduct prevention efforts to inoculate susceptible groups and individuals against the appeals of national adversaries and violent extremists.
  • Enhance professional culture – Reinvigorate and update public diplomacy staff training, including opportunities to pursue advanced degrees and “excursion tours” in the private sector. More public diplomacy training should be provided to all Department officers. These expanded opportunities will attract talented officers and, over time, build a cohort of accomplished public diplomats who will compete for ambassadorships and senior domestic assignments.
  • Augment resources – To fuel this process of more effectively engaging with the world, reenergizing the PD function, and attracting top talent, substantially increase resources for all elements of public diplomacy, and reinforce the “firewall” that protects exchange funding. Part of this effort should be a review of PD staffing abroad that assesses the potential need for expanded presence.



Sherry Lee Mueller, Ph.D., President, Public Diplomacy Council



Joel Anthony Fischman, President, Public Diplomacy Association of America


Media Contacts:

Ambassador Brian E. Carlson (ret.), Vice President, PDC, PDAA member

Michael McCarry, PDC Board member, PDAA member

The Public Diplomacy Association of America is a nonprofit, voluntary association for public diplomacy professionals, with some 400 members. PDAA members have worked in or with the information, education, and cultural programs, which the U.S. Government incorporates into the conduct of its diplomacy abroad.

The Public Diplomacy Council is a U.S.-based, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1988. Its members are committed to promoting excellence in professional practice, academic study and advocacy for public diplomacy.


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