Cultural Diplomacy

February 21, 2009

“Poor Mexico“ the nation’s nineteenth century dictator Porfirio Díaz supposedly remarked, “so far from God and so close to the United States!” His lament continues to strike a chord today. Mexico remains fundamentally connected to its neighbor to the North both by economic and cultural ties. A substantial number of Mexicans work in the United States and the remittances that they send home play a significant role in the Mexican economy. American brands and popular culture are everywhere in Mexico.

January 19, 2009

As Hillary Clinton said last week, "America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America. "We must use what has been called 'smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal," she said, embracing diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural strategies.

Quincy Jones's welcome appeal for the creation of an American cultural tsar has fascinating implications for the world of public diplomacy. Jones himself has been a figure in American cultural diplomacy from his early days as the manager for the Dizzy Gillespie band tours of the Middle East and Latin America in the late 1950s to his own work as a powerful international voice of American cultural creativity.

The Brookings Institution's report on its proposed USA-World Trust has unleashed a predictable torrent of criticism from the public diplomacy community. To be sure, not all of the commentary has been negative, but much of it has been. The critics are rehashing many of the same tired arguments that have been used to kill any ideas to deal with today's public diplomacy realities.

When it comes to entertainment, leisure and play, people generally exercise more freedom of choice than in any other realm of modern life. They choose to watch a movie, play chess, go to a concert, or go shopping because they find it amusing. In short, look at the way people entertain themselves and you’ll discover what people wish to do for one's own sake. If you’re looking for a window into the global village, to assess its condition and its attitudes toward every imaginable aspect of contemporary life, there can be no better portal than global entertainment.

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