June 12th, 2006 07:09 EST
Public Diplomacy Must Stress Common Values, State's Hughes Says By Howard Cincotta
Washington -- U.S. public diplomacy must emphasize the common values of faith, democracy and human dignity that unite societies and nations around the world, according to Karen Hughes, under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague, the Czech Republic, June 11, Hughes said that U.S. public diplomacy now places greater emphasis on engaging in a "conversation with the world" rather than on simply asserting the American viewpoint or policy position.
In her international travels, Hughes said that, along with expanding U.S. exchange programs, she tries to meet with a diverse cross-section of people, including young professionals and citizens of low-income neighborhoods who have never before met and talked with a U.S. official, and participate in television programs where an American has never before appeared and been interviewed.
"The core of public diplomacy is, I believe, people-to-people programs and exchanges and ways that we can actually reach out to people," she said.
In a recent trip to Morocco, she said, " I was talking with a couple of people who had been on exchanges and I asked them what their feeling was in America. And they said they felt so free -- they couldn't believe how free they felt." (See related article.)
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY GOALS
Hughes said that, as head of the U.S. public diplomacy effort, she has set forth three overarching, strategic goals.
The first, she said, is that the United States must "continue to offer the world a positive vision of hope and opportunity that's rooted in our values, our belief in freedom, our commitment to human rights, our belief in the worth and dignity and equality and value of every single person in the world."
The United States also must work with allies and friends to isolate and marginalize violent extremists whose ideology of tyranny and violence stands in "clear contrast between our vision -- which is for education and openness and tolerance and inclusiveness," she said.
Finally, according to Hughes, the United States must encourage recognition of the "common interests and common values between Americans and people of different countries and cultures and faiths across the world."
People around the world often do not recognize that Americans consider faith and family among their most important values, Hughes observed. As a result, the United States is working hard to encourage interfaith dialogue that demonstrates that all faiths share a belief in the sanctity of human life. This is in stark contrast to terrorists who have "targeted innocents and committed horrible crimes against innocent civilians across the world," she said.
Another goal of interfaith dialogue is to give the world a more accurate picture of the lives of Muslim Americans, Hughes said. (See Muslim Life in America.)
"Muslims work and worship and practice their faith very freely in my country. And so do many Jewish citizens. So do many Christian citizens of all different denominations. And some Americans choose to practice no faith at all, and that's fine too. So we have a very diverse and tolerant society."
As part of this effort, Hughes said she is encouraging Muslim Americans to serve as a bridge to Muslim countries around the world. Within the next several weeks, Hughes announced, the United States will be supporting trips by unofficial Muslim-American groups to communities around the world, with a goal of letting "Muslim communities across the world hear different points of view and debates."
The U.S. commitment to democracy and freedom in the world is central to its public diplomacy effort, Hughes said. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, she said, President Bush has recognized that democracy is not only a vital principle, but a matter of national security in regions where lack of freedom can breed violence and terrorism that affect countries around the world."
"And so slowly, but surely, we believe that freedom is on the advance," Hughes said, citing multiparty elections in Egypt, a democratic government in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, and continued U.S. support for civil society organizations in Central Asia and other places that promote the growth of freedom in many different areas.
In the case of Hamas, Hughes observed, the United States believes that the Palestinian people have the right to choose their own representatives even though "we don't agree with a government that refuses to renounce terror and refuses to recognize its neighbor's right to exist." Still, she emphasized, "We do agree that it is good for the people to get involved, to make their voices heard." (See The Middle East: A Vision for the Future)
For more information on U.S. society, see U.S. Life & Culture.
Information on U.S. exchange programs is available on the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Web site.
The transcript of Under Secretary Hughes' interview is available on the RFE/RL Web site.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)