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Web Chat With Karen P. Hughes On Public Diplomacy

Karen P. Hughes
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Transcript of a Live Discussion on Public Diplomacy
Washington, DC
October 24, 2007

Web Chat on Public Diplomacy

The live web chat with Karen P. Hughes was held on the State Alumni website on the topic of public diplomacy. Moderator: Lisa Kraus

Moderator: Welcome, State Alumni Members, to our Question and Answer live discussion with Under Secretary Karen Hughes. The Under Secretary has been reviewing your questions and we will begin momentarily.

Under Secretary Hughes: Good afternoon! I'm at my desk at the State Department -- it's a rainy day in Washington so I wasn't tempted to go out for lunch! I'm looking forward to your questions.

Question: Questions from RI-SOL ILC Dushanbe Deaf School #10 students: What does a public diplomat do? What benefit can public diplomacy bring to government and people? Could you please tell about briefly about public diplomacy? --Question from Tajikistan

Under Secretary Hughes: This is a great question to get us started! "Public diplomacy" is an umbrella term for the many ways that our government reaches out to engage and inform people around the world about our country, our values and our policies. I like to say that the initials - PD - remind us that public diplomacy is people-driven. In contrast to traditional diplomacy, which is government-to-government contact, public diplomacy directly engages citizens of other countries in a spirit of respect and partnership.

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Our robust outreach includes education and exchange programs, arts and cultural events, communications efforts (everything from speakers programs to blogging) and what I call the "diplomacy of deeds," concrete humanitarian efforts such as disaster relief and health care.

Our education programs are wide ranging, from our flagship Fulbright scholarship program, to a high school program which brings young people here to live with an American family and attend an American high school for a year. We also sponsor English language classes around the world. This year, we will teach English to more than 10,000 young people in more than 40 countries. We also launched a new outreach effort to young people ages 8 to 14 last summer, with a youth enrichment program that includes English language and computer classes, leadership and citizenship training and fun activities like sports and arts.

We send American athletes and coaches around the world to conduct sports clinics and outreach to young people - baseball Hall of Fame great Cal Ripken, Jr. is on his way to China on one of our programs next week!

And we believe music is a universal language, so we send everything from jazz to country western musicians to perform around the world - recently a group called Ozomatli, which describes its music as Latino-Asian fusion funk - performed in Cairo, Amman and Tunis, drew huge crowds, and delivered a message that our differences can enrich rather than divide us. I also work to expand and highlight the many programs America conducts around the world that improve people's lives - from scholarships to send girls to school to our AIDS and malaria initiatives in Africa to a new initiative focused on breast cancer awareness and women's health in the Middle East and Latin America.

I call this working "waging peace" because I believe public diplomacy builds the mutual respect and understanding that is so urgently needed in today's diverse and global world.

Question: Hi Karen. What foreign languages do you know? Have you ever been to Russia? What do you think of the future of Russia? -- Question from Russia

Under Secretary Hughes: Unfortunately, I only speak English and a little Spanish that I learned while living in Panama as a young girl. I love the Spanish language - ¡Qué bonita! - and one of my goals in the future is to take lessons to improve my speaking and understanding. When I travel to Latin America, I always try to use a little Spanish to show my respect for the beautiful language and wonderfully rich culture. I wish that at a younger age I had made an effort to learn more languages. Whenever I visit places like Russia and Europe, I am humbled to meet many people who speak four or five different languages, and in today's global world, that is such an asset. Whenever I speak with students and young people in America, I encourage them to learn different languages, and we have launched a new initiative that provides scholarships for American students to study abroad to learn languages such as Russian, Chinese and Arabic.

I was privileged to travel with President Bush to Russia several times. We visited Moscow and St. Petersburg - I had the opportunity to meet President Putin and visit the Kremlin. I especially remember an evening on a boat enjoying Russia's lovely "White Nights," a tour of the wonderful Hermitage Museum and a very somber and moving visit to Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, the resting place of hundreds of thousand of Russians who were killed during the siege of St. Petersburg in World War II.

We want a positive future for Russia and its people. There are many ways that our two countries can work together. As Secretary Rice reminded just this Monday, though we may have differences, the United States and Russia today share many common interests and we are cooperating to address a wide range of common challenges, both regional and global. For example, our two nations are working together for peace in the Middle East through the Quartet process. Both of our countries have suffered terrorist attacks, and the United States and Russia are working together to defeat terrorism and prevent nuclear proliferation. We are working together in the Six Party Talks to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula and to support a future of peace on the Peninsula. My country believes strongly in freedom, including freedom of the press, so we are concerned when we see things like the increasing restrictions on press freedom in Russia, and we speak out when we have differences. But we want a positive, constructive relationship with Russia and we believe by working together on common challenges we can achieve a better future for both of our countries.

Question: Sorry should my question be out of context, but here it is: The U.S. government recently honored the Dalai Lama in an official and diplomatic way. Knowing this would seriously anger the Chinese government, why did the U.S. government choose to do that, considering its particularly privileged relationship with China?--Question from Mali

Under Secretary Hughes: One of the founding values of our country is freedom of religion. We believe people should be free to worship as they choose. The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, is a spiritual leader for the world and was honored for that spiritual leadership. As President Bush said, the Dalai Lama is a "universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people."

President Bush said at his news conference that he did not believe his attendance at the ceremony honoring the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal would damage U.S. relations with China. As he told reporters at the White House, "I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom... I want to honor this man. I consistently have told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation's interest."

Question: My second question is: We know that the U.S. government spends billions of dollar each and every year to bring world representatives onto American soil in the name of cultural exchange, further education, etc. (I think namely of Fulbright, the Hubert H. Humphrey program, and hundreds of similar programs). How do you monitor the impact of these programs and the quality of your relations with other countries in the world?

Thank you so much for taking time to reflect on those issues and discuss them with us. By the way, let me tell you that I am personally grateful to the U.S. government forever, for taking me to experience the HHH program. --Question from Mali

Under Secretary Hughes: Thank you for your kind words. I meet with participants in our exchange programs frequently, and almost all of them tell me the same thing; they even use the same words: "It changed my life." It sounds like your experience was similar, and it's wonderful to know that our programs have such a life-long impact.

We are very serious about the evaluation of our programs. We want to make sure that they are effective, and provide participants like you with an experience that is personally and professionally rewarding. And it's important for the American people and Congress to see that their tax dollars are well spent.

We use a variety of techniques, from focus groups to in-depth interviews to on-line surveys, to measure participant satisfaction, increases in knowledge and understanding of the United States and the American people, professional development, and the extent to which the exchange experience continues once a participant returns home.

We have recently developed new programs to improve our "culture of measurement" because it is vitally important to evaluate our public diplomacy programs and make sure they are truly helping to improve understanding of America around the world. This year we inaugurated the Public Diplomacy Measurement Data Collection Project (PDMCP) to collect specific quantifiable information on the impact of public diplomacy programs.

The preliminary data is very encouraging. It shows that 87 percent of those who participate in public diplomacy programs have a deeper understanding of the U.S. and 73 percent have favorable attitudes. And 76 percent of our program participants have used the knowledge and information they gained to share knowledge about the U.S. within their communities.

This is heartening to know - and we hope additional feedback will help us continue to improve our programs.

Question: Dear Karen, recently, the U.S. Government's attempt to put a UN Security Council Resolution on Burma was unsuccessful because of consistent objection by China. Burmese activists are planning to organize international boycott campaigns for the Beijing Olympics.

(1) These days, the American Center in Rangoon is accused of subversive activities, such as giving trainings to the opposition, selecting dissidents for scholarship programs (some accusations were true!), etc. The U.S. Embassy officials are criticized for visiting the NLD (opposition party) office, that the U.S. Government is inciting unrest in the country, and giving orders to the opposition. How are you going to address this issue in Burma?

(2) In recent uprisings, many citizen (freelance) journalists sent news to VOA, RFA and even to CNN, (through digital technology) so that the world could see the real happenings. When the crackdown began, some were arrested and some are still at risk. Do you see any plan for a sustainable and safe connection with these volunteers to VOA/RFA, etc.?

(3) Do you support the Burmese plan to boycott the Beijing Olympics?

(4) How should the U.S. Gpvernment persuade China to change their stance of consistent support to Burma, or what kind of public diplomacy is needed to make China accept the Burmese issue as an international threat? --Question from Burma

Under Secretary Hughes: I'm glad you asked about Burma, because Americans are very concerned by the recent scenes of violent repression there. I am proud that our country stands with and speaks up for the long-suffering Burmese people. The recent pictures of thousands of monks bravely marching, surrounded by citizens protecting them by holding hands, to protest the harsh conditions in Burma, were awe-inspiring. These brave Burmese monks, activists, and ordinary citizens took to the streets to peacefully protest the regime's repression and to express their desire for freedom and democracy.

As President Bush said in his Oct. 19 speech increasing sanctions on Burma, "In the last few weeks, the world has been inspired by the courage of the Burmese people. Ordinary men and women have taken to the streets in peaceful marches to demand their freedom and call for democratic change. The world has also been horrified by the response of Burma's military junta. Monks have been beaten and killed. Thousands of pro-democracy protestors have been arrested. And Burma's dictator, Than Shwe, continues to hold captive the leader of Burma's largest democratic party - Aung San Suu Kyi." Burma's leaders must end their vicious persecution and begin genuine movement toward national reconciliation.

1) I am very proud of the work done by VOA and RFA volunteers and stringers to convey to the world the truth about what is happening in Burma. Because of their work, the military regime has not been able to hide from the world its suppression of peaceful protests, its abuses and its denial of Burma's citizens' basic rights. We discussed this last week at our monthly meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and we are certainly aware of the risks these individuals are taking on behalf of freedom in their country. VOA and RFA encourage them not to take unnecessary risks, but in that horribly repressive environment almost any journalistic action involves risk. We are prepared to do whatever we can to help them should they find themselves in trouble with the regime, but we also recognize that our ability to help may be constrained.

2) China did join with other members of the Security Council in supporting the October 11 UNSC Presidential Statement on Burma. We regularly talk with our counterparts in China about our desire to see a transition to a representative and responsible government in Burma. Given the enormous outflows of narcotics, refugees, and communicable diseases from Burma as a result of the current regime's repression and misrule, we believe that such a transition is in the interests of all of Burma's neighbors, including China.

3) The United States does not support calls for an Olympic boycott. We believe the Olympics provide an opportunity for China to show progress on a range of issues, from human rights to greater freedom. We hope the presence of international journalists, athletes and officials, will encourage China to allow greater freedom of the press, of speech and of religion.

4) Our government has been leading the way in speaking up for freedom and transition to Democracy in Burma. President Bush has addressed the situation in Burma on many occasions, including his recent speech to the United Nations. Our First Lady Laura Bush has taken a special interest in this issue and has eloquently supported Democracy in Burma, as has Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. As President Bush most recently pointed out, Burmese authorities claim they want reconciliation, but they need to match their words with actions. A good way to start would be to provide the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations access to political prisoners; to allow Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained leaders to communicate with one another. Ultimately, reconciliation requires that the Burmese authorities release ALL political prisoners and begin negotiations with the democratic opposition under the auspices of the UN

Question: Hi Karen. You can't deny that a hostile attitude toward the United States is in large part due to the policies of the Bush administration, which is viewed negatively in many countries, especially in the Arab world. We know that you oversee three bureaus at the Department of State, Educational and Cultural Affairs is among them. What do you do to reach out to young people in the Arab countries through culture and education? --Question from Russia

Under Secretary Hughes: The job of public diplomacy is to reach out to people across the world, to listen to their views and concerns, and to engage in dialogue - including dialogue about differences. When you mention policy differences, most people bring up the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. We recognize that many people around the world - and in our own country - disagreed with that decision; even though President Bush made it in what he thought were not only America's national security interests but also the broader interests of the region and the world. When I'm traveling in the Arab world, the issue people bring up most often is the Israeli-Palestinian issue. President Bush made it the official policy of the U.S. that we support the creation of a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace with Israel. Most people in the Arab world support the creation of a Palestinian state, so I hope they and their governments will support our efforts to bring about a two-state solution. I've traveled to the region several times with Secretary Rice, who is working very hard to try to get the two parties to make progress in advance of the international meeting we are hosting later this fall. I am also working with the private sector on several projects to try to improve economic and educational opportunities for the Palestinian people.

We do a great deal of work to reach out to young people in the Arab world, and view this as very important, especially because more than half the population in the Middle East is under the age of 25. We have found that English teaching programs are very effective, because they give young people a marketable skill that they desire, and because they open a window to a wider world of knowledge. Since 2004, we have provided English Access Microsholarships to study English to more than 20,000 high-school aged students in 44 countries with significant Muslim populations.

This summer, we started a new series of innovative youth enrichment programs in 13 countries, the West Bank and Gaza. These programs for young people, from 8 to 14 years old, emphasize English and computer instruction and leadership training as well as fun sports and arts activities. I would like to expand these programs as well as after-school English programs like the English Access Microscholarships. I believe that by providing a language skill that can translate into a job and a wider exposure to the world, these programs offer hope as well as the opportunity for a better life for young people.

Sports are another effective way to engage young people, and it teaches life lessons of teamwork, respect, discipline and persistence. We have increased our budget for sports programs from $600,000 to roughly $5 million in the last five years. This year, our programs have included basketball clinics in Jordan, swimming and basketball camps in Turkey, as well as baseball and basketball clinics for Iraqi young people.

Last year, for the first time since 1979, we re-started people-to-people exchanges with Iran. An American wrestling team traveled to Iran and women soccer coaches from Afghanistan have received training in the U.S. And just this summer, 12 sports representatives from China trained at the Cal Ripken Baseball Academy to learn coaching skills so they can introduce the great American sport of baseball to young people in China! Cal Ripken, who joins Olympic ice skater Michelle Kwan as an American public diplomacy envoy, will travel to China next week to reach out to young people there.

We are trying different ways to reach out to young people, through comic books, pop music, exchange programs with youth leaders from Near East and North Africa, podcasts and chatrooms -- even YouTube videos. We now have a group of young Arab Americans who get on the blogs and visit chat rooms to engage in Arabic conversations.

You asked about cultural outreach, and we are expanding our efforts in this area. Earlier this year, I was privileged to travel to Petra, one of the wonders of the world, in Jordan. I announced an American contribution to help preserve some of the lovely and fragile paintings found on cave walls there. We have a program called the "Ambassadors' Fund for Cultural Preservation" that allows our ambassadors to contribute American funds to support important cultural preservation projects in countries around the world. For example, since 2001, this project has helped restore 33 historic mosques around the world. It's vitally important to recognize the rich contributions of so many faiths and cultures - and it helps us understand that the world's diversity should be a source of enrichment rather than division.

As I have traveled to more than 40 countries now, I have found that most people across the world want essentially the same things. We want to live in safe communities, we want education, health care and economic opportunity - we want freedom to speak our minds and worship as we wish, we want our lives to make a difference. These are not goals owned by any country, but shared human goals, and despite differences of language or culture or skin color, I believe much more unites us as human beings than divides us. Yet misunderstanding is being fanned by extremists with their acts of violence and rhetoric of hate. One of our great shared challenges is to isolate, marginalize and discredit these violent extremists. They do not represent any faith, but instead pervert all faith with their acts of murder and mayhem. Islam, as a major world religion, is part of the West and an important part of America. As a government official, I represent several million America Muslims who live and work and worship freely in this great country. One of the things I've worked to do is to empower their voices and demonstrate respect for Muslim culture and contributions both here and abroad.

Question: Greetings. Many Fulbrighters and other scholars in Gaza were forced to delay their admission to U.S. institutions from August 2007 until spring of 2008 due to inability to obtain Israeli travel permit to travel to Jerusalem to get visas or to cross Allenby Bridge in order to travel via Jordan. There is a high risk that these restrictions will continue. Why can't the U.S. State Department take more measures to secure the travel of those scholars? -- Palestinian Fulbright Alumni Association Question from Gaza

Under Secretary Hughes: I share your concern, and want to assure you that we are committed to the continued participation of Palestinians from Gaza in our exchange programs. Our consulate in Jerusalem is working hard to select qualified Palestinian participants from Gaza and to secure exit permits so they can travel to the U.S. and begin their studies on time. In cases when permits are not issued on time, the consulate works with Fulbright administrators to adjust the start date of programs and with our embassy in Tel Aviv to ask the Government of Israel to expedite these permits. We very much appreciate the support of the Palestinian Fulbright Association for these vital programs. Our colleagues in Jerusalem will continue to work closely with you to respond to these challenges - we definitely want to ensure full participation of Palestinians from Gaza in our exchanges. We recognize the importance of providing young Palestinian men and women the opportunity to travel and engage in academic study in American schools and universities. Our academic and professional exchange programs, including the Fulbright, International Visitor and Youth Programs, are of long standing in Gaza. These programs have made an important contribution to the development of the next generation of Palestinian scholars and professionals. We want to keep that potential to change lives and contribute to mutual understanding.

We've received a number of specific questions from program participants in Gaza - if you need specific information, you can contact our Consulate General Jerusalem,

Question: Ms. Hughes, I am an alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program. I am a Japanese reporter and closely pursuing the security issue. I am interested in the U.S. efforts to fight against the global war on terrorism. I believe that in order to prevail with the extremism in the world it would be vital not only to take military action to deter extremism, but also to strengthen the diplomatic power for grass-roots efforts. Could you let me know your view as to how the U.S. should publicize its diplomacy for that? --Question from Japan

Under Secretary Hughes: I agree that defeating terrorism will require more than military and intelligence efforts, as important as those are - it requires winning over local populations and convincing them that terrorists are "criminals who want to sabotage the country," as one woman in Algeria recently said. Earlier this year, I visited the Philippines, where America is working with that country's government to fight terrorism with an extensive effort to reach out to the local population. The effort includes everything from supporting economic development by building roads so citizens can bring their goods to market, to a communications effort called "there is honor in peace" that encourages citizens to report suspicious activity.

Your question about publicizing these efforts is a good one - and highlights one of the frustrations of my job. Often, when I speak to civic groups and tell them about our outreach to foreign publics, our sports and literacy programs and our humanitarian efforts, one of the first questions is: "Why haven't I ever heard about this?" As a former journalist myself, I know that bad news tends to crowd out good deeds, but I would like to see more attention focused on our constructive outreach efforts.

I hope you can set an example for your colleagues by spotlighting some of the great human interest stories at the heart of our public diplomacy programs - the children helped in Peru by life-changing medical care providing on our hospital ship the USNS COMFORT, the young people in a Malaysian orphanage who are learning to read English thanks to our programs, the girls in Africa who are going to school thanks to our scholarships, the women in Afghanistan with micro-grants that helped them start businesses. You can find hundreds of stories like that inside every one of our programs. I know our public diplomacy officers at our embassy in Japan would love to talk with you about our programs there, and I hope you can help in some way to cover the good news of our outreach to people across the world.

Question: Can you describe the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' (ECA) programs and initiatives in the arts, especially in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)? Recognizing the importance of understanding and appreciating this aspect of U.S. culture, will there be an increase in the variety and numbers of programs and/or participants in the IVLP in this area, or is this being adequately addressed in other ECA programs?

Can you highlight other initiatives that ECA and IVLP are undertaking in the coming year(s)?--Question from the United States of America

Under Secretary Hughes: Many Americans do not realize that funding for cultural programs was cut severely in the 1990s, as libraries were closed and the former U.S. Information Agency was dismantled and merged into the State Department. After the end of the Cold War, people assumed that our cultural and other outreach programs were not as essential. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, a number of studies of America's public diplomacy recommended expanding many programs, including our cultural programming. With the support and participation of First Lady Laura Bush, we launched the Global Cultural Initiative in 2006, creating a partnership with cultural groups like the Kennedy Center and the American Film Institute to strengthen our cultural programs.

Our vibrant cultural diplomacy program is complemented by the work done in our International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP.) We send talented American artists and performers overseas to showcase our rich contributions to world culture and to reach out to diverse audiences. At the same time, we also invite foreign artists to the United States so we can learn and benefit from their artistic work, and they can interact directly with professional colleagues and the people of our country and experience America's warmth and hospitality.

This year, 160 people have participated in 45 IVLP projects on themes as diverse as: Contemporary Art in the U.S., Art Gallery Management and Cultural Preservation, U.S. Music Education, Filmmaking for Coexistence, and Promoting Tolerance through the Arts. Other IVLP initiatives in 2008 will include the third year of the Edward R. Murrow exchange program for international journalists, a major focus on U.S. elections and incorporating some aspect of the election process into every IVLP, and continuing our recently reinstituted people-to-people exchange program with Iran.

We also are expanding programs to bring "key influencers," people who have a wide circle of influence with others - like teachers, clerics, and business leaders - here to experience America for themselves. We've found there's no substitute for bringing opinion leaders here so they can see how democracy works and experience the warmth of the American people for themselves. All our research shows that the vast majority of visitors to America return home with a much more positive view of America.

Question: Hi Karen. I'm about your age and have a family too. From the net, I learned that you've made a brilliant career for a woman. How did you manage to find the proper balance between your private family life and public activities? Have you ever sacrificed your personal life to your political career? Teachers to Teachers (LTMS) alumna, 2007--Question from Russia

Under Secretary Hughes: Thanks for your question - it's a reminder that women (and men!) all over the world still face a tug of war to be faithful in our different roles - as employees, spouses and parents.

I like to tell young people that I hope my own experience is an example that you can have both a career and a family and meet your responsibilities to both - you'll have to make choices along the way, but you don't have to choose one or the other. For several years, while my son was a toddler, I worked part-time and often from home. In fact, I once helped plan a state convention for the Texas Republican Party and spent most of the time standing in my driveway talking on my cell phone while my son played with his trucks in the dirt!

When people ask for my career advice, I say, follow your passions, in keeping with your priorities. Men and women all over the world have to decide what is most important to us and use that to ground our decisions. St. Augustine used a beautiful phrase, "ordo amorum," the order of the loves - and I believe the most important thing we all do in life is choose our loves and order them very, very carefully.

Most of us would say what matters most are faith and family, the people that we love.

That's what led me to leave the White House in 2002 and move home to Texas - as you might imagine it was a difficult, agonizing decision. I had seen first-hand the difficulty of the President's job, I didn't want to do anything to make it even one iota harder - yet I was finding working in the White House conflicted in some basic ways with having time to be a good wife and mother, with having my son spend his high school years in the place where I thought he would best succeed and thrive.

I ultimately concluded I could do a better job advising the President from Texas than I could serving my family in Washington. I am glad to report going home was the absolutely right decision - I remember spending long hours with my son, teaching him how to drive, and realizing I would have never had the opportunity to do that had I stayed in Washington.

I did travel with the President during the final months of his re-election campaign in 2004, as I had promised him I would do - and after he was re-elected, he and Secretary Rice noticed that my son was going off to college - some arm-twisting led me back to Washington - again, accepting this job was an intersection of passion and priorities.

I remember a conversation when my son said, "You have to do it, Mom." I was a little surprised and asked him why. First, he said, "you really care about it - you talk about it all the time," and then, he said: "It's really important for my generation."

I believe it is vitally important for the next generation of children across the world that our country reach out to people in other countries in a spirit of respect and friendship, and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to help lead this important outreach.

Question: I was a Fulbright scholar in Cairo, Egypt 2002-2003. I entered the program with a passion for learning the Arab culture and language and left the experience with a real sense of citizen duty. After having the opportunity to interact with everyday Egyptians, I found the power of dialogue and believe that it IS the best way to foster greater understanding between our cultures. It was interesting enough as every person I met thought I was Egyptian from my darker complexion. Thus, I returned and began working at the Academy for Educational Development where I administered international education and training programs for Palestinians and Egyptians. As we continue to move into the direction of creating more effective exchange through your department's efforts, in what ways are you continuing to connect everyday Americans like myself to everyday Arabs beyond programs in international exchange? --Question from the United States of America

Under Secretary Hughes: Thanks much - you are doing exactly what we hope our alumni will do - help spread the word and use their own experience in public diplomacy to encourage others to get involved in outreach efforts. You can help in many ways - by keeping in touch with friends you met in the Arab world, by reaching out to international students who are studying in our country, by encouraging friends and families in your hometown to serve as host families. As we are working to dramatically expand our exchange programs, we have a critical need for more families who are willing to share their homes with foreign guests, for a dinner, for several weeks or for up to a year. Our office has put together a list of "10 Things Americans Can Do To Support Public Diplomacy" and I hope this will stimulate some ideas for you.


1) Host a youth exchange student in your home


2) Urge your local school board to include foreign languages from grade school through high school -- and encourage your children to study a foreign language, world history and international news (

3) Encourage your children to correspond with an electronic pen pal overseas (such as and to participate in study abroad programs (

4) Get actively involved with organizations that have international programs, such as a local World Affairs Council (, or non-profit service organizations with global outreach.

5) Welcome foreign visitors by supporting international visitor programs (

6) Support international disaster relief programs and organizations that provide international medical assistance (helpful sites include

7) Encourage people-to-people dialogue with other faiths through personal outreach or through your own church, synagogue, mosque or other faith-based institution.

8) Volunteer to serve on short-term assignments overseas with the USA Freedom Corps' Volunteers for Prosperity program ( or with the U.S. Peace Corps. (

9) Support cultural exchanges for artists, musicians and writers through your local arts institutions and international cultural programs (; or others such as

10) Encourage your business or corporation to reach out in the countries where it has a presence, providing internships or supporting local schools and charities.

(To learn more about private sector outreach around the world or discuss potential partnerships, email

For information on U.S. international affairs and the work of the U.S. Department of State, visit

Question: Hello! Could you please tell me what the new plans for exchange programs with Algeria are? --Question from Algeria

Under Secretary Hughes: Thanks for your question. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit Algeria and I loved your beautiful country. I had the opportunity to visit some of our education programs and meet with some of the alumni. Over the years, more than 900 Algerians have participated in our various exchange programs, including our flagship International Visitor Leadership Program and the Fulbright program.

I'm pleased to be able to say that next year, we plan to invest more funding worldwide in undergraduate education for student leaders, including intensive institutes for leadership development at U.S. colleges and universities - and Algerian students will be able to participate in those institutes. Algeria is also part of our world-wide effort to provide after-school English language programs for disadvantaged youth aged 14-18. In November of this year, the newest group of Algerian English Access Micro-scholarship students will begin their two-year English language program. Through a new youth leadership program, we plan to bring Algerian secondary school students to the United States to work with American students in an intensive six-week program with educational and recreational activities on leadership, respect for diversity, and civil society. Algerians will also participate in the Faith and Community program, which supports exchanges of clerics, scholars of religion, educators, and community leaders/activists.

While I was in Algeria, I had an opportunity to visit a classroom where U.S. funding is helping provide a computer training program that helps teach math skills in a fun way. I met with several groups of Algerian students and was impressed by the great questions they asked me!

Question: Hello, Ms. Hughes. First of all, as a finalist of the American-Russian program Teachers to Teachers, I want to thank you, American Councils for International Education (ACTR @ ACCELS), and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for such great chance to visit your beautiful country in April 2007. Education opens our doors to one another, gives us a chance to learn more about another country and its people and to work for the cause of international peace and understanding.

Will American teachers and students visit Russia more often? We were 16 Russian teachers in April in Indiana and it was a great time. In March 2008 only 4 American teachers will be able to visit Russia. We would like to have more guests from the USA. We would like Americans to know more about Russia. Why is this group so small? Is it related to economic problems in our country? --Question from Russia

Under Secretary Hughes: I'm so glad to know you had a great experience in the U.S. as part of the Department of State-sponsored Language, Technology, Math and Science Program (LTMS) for teachers. I certainly agree with you about the importance of encouraging many more Americans to visit and learn more about Russia. We want more Americans to visit Russia, and we want to welcome more Russians to come visit us! In addition to the teachers that are visiting in March, we are sponsoring other American students and scholars to visit Russia through other academic and professional exchanges. For example, the U.S. student Fulbright program to Russia is among the largest in the world. We have dramatically increased all our exchange programs while I have been Under Secretary and I would like to increase them even more. The number of education and exchange participants in our programs was 27,000 in 2004 - this year we will exceed 40,000, and I'm working on a budget to try to expand it to more than 50,000! I am grateful for the strong bi-partisan support we have received for our budget and hope that we can continue to expand our funding for teacher and other exchanges. Thanks for your efforts to continue the relationships you have developed with American teachers.

Question: Thank you, Ms. Karen P. Hughes, for giving us this opportunity to address some of our preoccupations.

In comparing the history of Algeria and that of the United States, I began my studies by looking back to before the American Declaration of Independence. In particular, the 1797 Peace Treaty signed between both countries is of a great interest to me as it constitutes the main part of my PhD thesis. As a Fulbright alumna, I would like to know whether I could benefit from any assistance to have access to this very original treaty. Moreover, I wonder where I can publish articles on this topic at the State Department. I also consider my topic as a means to rediscover our common and so influential past as well as an opportunity to bridge the gap between the histories of our countries thereby enhancing our mutual understanding.

Thank you in advance.--Question from Algeria

Under Secretary Hughes: This is another example of what a terrific resource our Fulbright alumni are! Your study of the 1797 peace treaty is a reminder that our friendship and diplomatic relations with Algeria are almost as old as our country.

According to our State Department Historian, Marc Susser, the treaty itself is probably located at the National Archives and Records Administration and NARA could scan/print color copies of the original for you. For those with similar questions, our State Department historians handle general inquiries from the public at

You might want to publish your articles on the State Alumni website. I agree that rediscovering our rich history and many connections is a way to build foster greater understanding - thanks for your leadership and scholarship!

Question: Ms. Hughes, what general reference books exist regarding public diplomacy? What are some typical case studies that exist regarding this field?--Question from China

Under Secretary Hughes: Many books and studies have been written about public diplomacy - in fact, to prepare for this job, I read more than 30 reports that had been written, many of them highly critical and calling for changes that I have since worked to implement. Two of the most comprehensive are: Changing Minds, Winning Peace, which outlines a new strategic direction for public diplomacy and was written by a very knowledgeable group of experts led by former Ambassador Ed Djerejian. You can read it at

I was very proud recently when Ambassador Djerejian said my pubic diplomacy team has now implemented about 80 percent of that report's recommendations!

Another major study was conducted by the Defense Science board - you can find it at Scholar and Harvard professor Joseph Nye's wrote a book about public diplomacy called "Soft Power."

While I don't agree with all the observations and recommendations in the above reports and books, I did find them to be thoughtful and comprehensive.

Question: Under Secretary Hughes, as the president of the National Capital Area Chapter (the largest chapter) of the U.S. Fulbright Association, I would like to hear your suggestions on ways in which Fulbright alumni can best continue our international experiences once we return to the United States. Specifically, are there program areas into which you would like to see the Fulbright Association expand?

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. --Fulbright Fellow (Russia, 2004-05) Question from the United States of America

Under Secretary Hughes: I have met with many Fulbright alumni and always find them to be most intelligent and impressive - they are wonderful intellectual capital for our country! We are delighted that another distinguished Fulbright alumnus, Professor Leonid Hurwicz, just won the Nobel Prize in Economics, making him the 36th Fulbright alumnus to win the award.

I encourage you to share the story of your experiences with your fellow Americans, especially young people from diverse sectors, and encourage them to participate in study abroad and international exchanges. I hope you will continue to travel and reach out to people in other countries. We also value the important work of Fulbright alumni in welcoming and engaging foreign students and faculty and helping to enhance the experiences of Fulbrighters from abroad currently on their programs in the United States.

I appreciate all of your efforts and the great reservoir of human talent and enthusiasm represented by our Fulbright alumni.

Question: Respectful Ms. Hughes,

First of all I would like to thank you for taking a time to answer our questions. I am a FLEX high-school exchange program alumnus. While I was in Texas, I read your book "Ten Minutes from Normal." It is a great book and I really enjoyed reading it. Inspired by reading this book, I decided to come back to my country and work on the state level. I entered the university and choose political science as my major. Right now, I work as a volunteer at several NGOs in Uzbekistan to strengthen civil society, volunteerism, etc. Thank you for this great book which inspired a lot of young people in Uzbekistan to better advocacy and volunteer actions.


--How do you see the future of Public Diplomacy in joint work with Uzbekistan?

--Will there be special programs for Uzbekistan?

--How do you see the future of Uzbekistan in terms of upcoming future Presidential Elections in Uzbekistan?--Question from Uzbekistan

Under Secretary Hughes: You are a great example of the multiplying power of exchange programs! You've returned to your country and are using the experience and knowledge you gained to strengthen civil society and volunteerism. We encourage the government of Uzbekistan to permit an international NGO to reopen in Uzbekistan to assist in administering education and academic exchange programs, because the benefit young people like you!

We hope to continue cultural and educational exchange programs in cooperation with the Government of Uzbekistan. Public diplomacy programs are one of the most effective ways to build bridges of mutual respect and understanding between Uzbekistan and the United States. We want our successful educational and cultural exchange programs - which have done so much to help people in Uzbekistan and the United States understand each other - to be continued and expanded. We would be particularly interested in developing programs that allow visits of cultural figures from both countries so that Americans and Uzbeks can appreciate the vibrant cultural heritages of both countries.

Question: Hello Ms. Karen Hughes. Thank you for addressing us.

I think since World War II, the American public diplomacy and foreign broadcasting efforts have helped contain and defeat Soviet communism, promote democracy in many countries around the world, and expose foreign publics to American values. My question is how can the Department of State reinvigorate U.S. Public Diplomacy on the national and the international level, and reflect the wise vision of President Bush? Thanking You.--Question from West Bank

Under Secretary Hughes: That's exactly what I am working hard every day to do! My great public diplomacy team is aggressively engaging with international media, expanding our education and exchange programs and promoting freedom and democracy across the world.

As you know, the world's communication environment has changed dramatically in the years since the Cold War, so we are developing new ways to communicate with mass audiences. During the Cold War, we were trying to get information in to largely closed societies whose people were hungry to hear from us. With some exceptions, there aren't too many people across the world sitting around waiting to hear from America anymore. Instead, we're competing for attention and credibility in a very crowded and noisy communications environment.

Mass audiences today are getting news, information and impressions from television in a way that they never have before. If you travel today in the Middle East you see that almost every roof-top has a satellite dish bringing in hundreds of television channels from around the world. News also travels the globe in an instant on the Internet, so we have had to make our communications outreach much faster.

To get more American officials out to discuss our values and policies on television, we have established three regional media hubs in Dubai, Brussels and London. These hubs recognize the increasingly regional nature of today's media, which transcends borders. In a media center like Dubai, dozens of media outlets are represented -- and they aren't just focused on the United Arab Emirates, they're focused on the entire pan-Arab world. We have dramatically increased our presence on Arab media and many of those interviews are in Arabic.

I've challenged my team to come up with new ways to reach younger people - we've put TV cameras in the hands of some of our exchange students, so that they can do postings to YouTube. We're getting into pod casting and all sorts of the range of new communications tools that we need to reach younger audiences with images and tell our story visually. We engage in blogs and web chats - currently in English and Arabic, and we're planning to add other languages.

Our Bureau of International Information programs sponsor web sites in English and six major languages ( and our embassies in each country usually host their own web sites in local languages.

All these communications improvements help us convey our message that we want to have a dialogue with people in other countries. We also have a host of other programs that I described as part of answers to earlier questions, so I hope you'll take time to read those responses as well!

Question: I commend the U.S. government for funding the International Visitor Leadership program (IVLP). However, in-line with U.S. policy on sustainable development in Africa, could the U.S. government go a step further, by:

1) Funding an African Alumni Network / Exchange Program? -I believe this would go a long way in facilitating exchange of ideas, local capacity building, and peer review among African nations

2) Establishing an Alumni Advisory Group that would be represented in the process of planning and implementing U.S.-supported development initiatives.--Question from Nigeria

Under Secretary Hughes: Thank you for your question about alumni networking.

As you know, the State Alumni website was set up to help alumni of the various U.S. government exchange programs network within their own countries as well as regionally and globally. To date, we've been focusing our efforts, along with our U.S. embassies in Africa, on helping to set up country-specific alumni associations. So far, we have created 46 different alumni associations in Africa and efforts are growing. Considerable networking is taking place between and among African countries. For example, Guinea is in the process of setting up an alumni association and has invited representatives from Senegal to attend and provide some hands-on assistance.

Our Alumni Affairs Office had a conference in the Philippines in early October 2007 which brought together alumni, Embassy staff and State Department officials to investigate and share alumni best practices across the region. We are looking at this as a possible model for networking in other regions. In the meantime, I urge you stay involved with your fellow alumni in Nigeria and alumni throughout the region through the State Alumni Global Community.

Question: Do you think the U.S. is introducing itself well enough?

For example, I learned about Susan B. Anthony, the women's right supporter when I was invited to U.S. and in my country many people don't know about her.

You have got so many great authors, scientists and intellectual people, so talking about them is much more attractive than teaching English as there are so many private English-teaching schools in almost every village.

You have been to Turkey and many countries in order to learn the local ideas. Would you tell us some about your visit to these countries?--Question from Turkey

Under Secretary Hughes: I'm glad you learned about Susan B. Anthony! We are fortunate to have a number of great scholars, scientists and other leaders, and we send many of them on trips abroad through our international speaker's program. We also teach about great Americans in our English programs -- I was in China not too long ago, and one of our Fulbright scholars was teaching a class of Chinese students English by teaching them based on the speeches and letters of the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Watching those students recite the words from his famous "I Have a Dream" speech was an amazing experience -- and I realized they were also learning a great deal about American values as they learned from one of his famous letters that we believe "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Another strength of our English teaching programs is that it brings young people in contact with Americans - I was in Morocco recently, and met with young people who had met an American for the first time in their life because of our summer English program. I had a wonderful visit to Turkey and one of my most memorable conversations took place there when a young man asked me through a translator: "Does the Statue of Liberty still face out?" I believe what he was fundamentally asking was whether America is still that beacon of hope and opportunity, that welcoming country that he believe it to be - and it's vitally important that our answer to that question always be: yes. I spend a great deal of time letting young people around the world know that we want to welcome them to America.

Under Secretary Hughes: Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions. It's been great hearing from you - I hope you will stay involved and continue to be part of our public diplomacy family!


The State Department's Office of Alumni Affairs facilitates interaction with the more than 800,000 alumni of international exchange programs managed by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The State Alumni website is a web-based global community where alumni from all over the world network to share ideas, projects, and experiences.

Editor's Note: State Alumni moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Under Secretary Hughes are representative of U.S. government policy. All other guest and participant views within the transcript do not necessarily reflect U.S. government policy.


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