Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Washing Machine and an Argument

PUTTING THE NIXON-KRUSHCHEV "KITCHEN DEBATE" INTO CONTEXT, WITH STOPS IN GREECE AND THE MUSLIM WORLD.


In WhirledView, Patricia Kushlis writes "Seeing Is Believing: Nixon, Khrushchev and the Magic of American Exhibits," a look at the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow and the limits of cultural and educational exchanges in public diplomacy. It was at this exhibition that then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had their famous debate next to an American-built panel washing machine, but Kushlis and others cite the ANE as an example of what the U.S. was doing right in public diplomacy at that time: having Russian-speaking Americans make the U.S. case one on one:

This was the time when our small Embassy staff was largely confined inside Moscow’s outer ring road. But our exhibits traveled off the beaten path – to places like Ufa, Novosibirsk, Rostov, Tashkent, Baku and Kishinev (now Chisenau, Moldova). These exhibits about American life and American people made millions of American friends. They made friends because Soviets, for the first time, had the opportunity to meet Americans and see for themselves how we lived. On a personal level, Soviets and Americans often got along very well - even in the worst of times.

Kushlis also recalls her time at U.S. Embassy Athens, where Ambassador Monteagle Sterns was determined to bring U.S. culture to town and host groups like the Alvin Ailey Dance Company despite anti-American sentiment and even the murder of a U.S. naval attaché.

She also warns that public diplomacy has its limits when real diplomacy—in the form of policies that other countries can't help but hate—is pulling in the other direction.

1 comment:

PHK said...

Paul: Thanks for highlighting this piece. Most appreciated.

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