Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reaching People

I think you know I love being a Public Diplomacy officer.

And while a few years back, I'd never have thought I would be saying this, but I really like public speaking. And in this job, I get to do it a good bit.

I often end up talking about study opportunities in the United States, and Tuesday's talk at the Estonian School of Business was one of those a catch. They also wanted me to talk about the elections. do you give one speech about the elections AND study in America? So as I talked about the elections, I said, "So like I was telling you, because we elect the entire house and 1/3 of the Senate every two years and the President every four years, the chances are good that if you go study in America, you will get to witness the craziness that is our electoral process!"

Nice transition, right?

Anyway, the talk went well, and after I was done, a guy walked in late. At the coffee break, he said he wanted to talk to me about the elections.

He told me he was not happy that President Obama was re-elected, and wanted to know what I thought. I told him that I would have served whoever was elected.

And then I asked why he was unhappy about it.

We chatted for a good ten minutes. We talked about differences in the parties, the Affordable Health Care Act, the system of checks and balances, and even Ron Paul. He said he wanted to talk more so I gave him my email address.

Because this is Public Diplomacy.

This is reaching an individual and explaining America, one on one. And he told a member of my staff that he had been surprised I had been so approachable.

This is Public Diplomacy.

I got to do two things by having that conversation with him. I got to reach an individual, explain our country and our values, and make Americans seem less remote to him.

But you know what else? I also sent a message to the other students in that room who watched me talk to him that America is approachable. The Embassy is approachable. That an American diplomat will sit down and talk turkey with a 20-something year old student. Because that is how we reach people.

Because THAT is Public Diplomacy.


John Brown said...

I hope this blog entry gets wide readership, as it captures the essence of public diplomacy at its best.

jgoshert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jgoshert said...

I had something similar happen at an election presentation where one guy came up after to ask if the American Dream was dead. It led to a ten minute discussion on the various ways to define the American Dream and how it changes from generation to generation while holding certain key themes constant. Unfortunately, I forgot my cards but gave him our social media cards so he could carry on the conversation on our Facebook or Twitter pages. It sure is fun and it is always a surprise how excited people are to talk to real live US diplomats.

John Brown said...


Nothing against the social media: but, as you suggest, they should, at most, be used to "facilitate," not create, meaningful human communication. Best, john