In his memoir, Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey, Yale Richmond tells us what public diplomacy is in a lively and personal way, by recounting his many experiences, in Asia and Eastern Europe (as well as Washington, DC), as a Foreign Service officer (FSO) handling press, educational, and cultural affairs during the second half of the past century. Thanks to his subtle, engaging, and witty narrative about his distinguished 30-year career, the reader learns a great deal about how public diplomacy is carried out in the field by a model FSO (for what overarching policy purposes, however, is not covered in detail by this slim volume).
Richmond’s elucidating anecdotes about the key persons he met throughout his career abroad underscore that public diplomacy — as Edward R. Murrow, the Director of the United States Information Agency (USIA) during the Kennedy administration, famously said — “is not so much moving information or guidance or policy five or 10,000 miles. … The real art is to move it the last three feet in face to face conversation.” Focusing on individuals (rather than governments), public diplomacy encompasses an infinite variety of activities, some of which can have important (but hard to quantify) long-term consequences: from building “national consciousness in a new country” (Richmond on what he did while posted in Laos in 1954-1956) to organizing educational exchanges, a “vital part of Public Diplomacy” (to cite Richmond again) which (in the case of the Soviet Union, where Richmond served 1967-1969) can be effective “in bringing about change in a country that had isolated itself from the West for so many years.”
Read the whole review at AmericanDiplomacy.org as well as an excerpt shows the style of most of the book. It does not read like a text book, but as a series of first hand experiences told by a remarkable individual that, as Pat Kushlis remarked, is “one of our very best practitioners” of public diplomacy.