Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Saturday, February 7th 2015
Council Member Matt Armstrong challenges John Brown's article below about the "Creel Committee", established to promote U.S. goals during World War I. Drawing on different historical writings, Armstrong focuses on the Committee for Public Information's effort to balance the information available to audiences abroad, which was at the time scarce and filtered through only a few news distributors. He also paints a picture of a State Department that adhered strictly to private, mostly government-to-government, communications and resisted public outreach.
Read Matt's article -- drawn from a book in progress -- here and begin to draw your conclusions about public diplomacy's origins. My takeaway is that to make judgments about the period, we have to enter an era of very different values, beliefs and possibilities. A time when advertising and public relations were in their infancy, never mind broadcasting or the internet. A fascinating exploration, which the Council will no doubt continue to explore.
Wednesday, February 4th 2015
So you're interested in diplomacy and foreign affairs - perhaps as a career option. And you're looking over the course listings available at your college. Are you going to favor the instructors who are former diplomats or those who have built their career researching and teaching international affairs?
Sunday, February 1st 2015
Here is a guest post and a full interview by Dr. John Brown, former diplomat and lecturer affliliated with Georgetown University, about an important collection of papers released by the Department of State Historian.
The Public Diplomacy Council welcomes the publication, by the State Department Office of the Historian, of the first volume in the series “1917-1972, Public Diplomacy …”, as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS).
This carefully footnoted collection of documents, dealing with World War I, is a groundbreaking event: the first FRUS series devoted to public diplomacy.
The editor of this important work is Dr. Aaron Marrs. He selected key items that focus on the foreign activities of the Committee of Public Information (CPI, 1917-1919), by many considered America’s first “public diplomacy” federal agency. (Note that the term “public diplomacy” did not become part of the American international affairs vocabulary until the Cold War).
The CPI had two main aims: “to make the fight for loyalty and unity at home, and for friendship and understanding of the neutral nations of the world”. Of this dual mission, the CPI’s primary task was to persuade Americans -- who in 1916 had reelected a president who “kept us out of war” -- to support “the war to end all wars.”
CPI homeland programs ranged from producing/distributing news reports to brief speeches by the Four Minute Men, as well as facilitating the screening of Hollywood films such as The Kaiser: The Beast of Berlin.
At its height, 150,000 people served the CPI -- most of them unpaid American “volunteers.”
Friday, January 30th 2015
In a previous essay I looked at Carl Schurz’s 1859 speech, “True Americanism,” reviewing its structure and its techniques of persuasion. This piece looks at some of Schurz’s main ideas. The rhythms of his speech are out of fashion, some of his asides make us wince, historians can deconstruct it, but surely he touched on enduring subjects. Here are a few:
Tuesday, January 27th 2015
Giving or writing speeches is a skill that can be improved by absorbing great addresses of the past. Old speeches also open a window on how Americans contended over principle, and by revealing earlier self-understandings of our country, they help us better grasp the origins of our current debates.
Looking at speeches of the 19th century, few equal Carl Schurz’s great 7600-word stemwinder, “True Americanism,” of 1859.