The 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium: a Discourse on America’s Discourse

2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium

The 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium brought together public diplomacy and strategic communication practitioners from the State Department, the Defense Department, the Agency for International Development, and other governmental and non-governmental groups, including academia, media, and Congress for a first of its kind discussion. The goal to have a frank and open discussion on the foundation and structure America’s global engagement was achieved. Held on January 13, 2009, just one week before the Obama Administration came into office and just short of the Smith-Mundt Act’s sixty‐first anniversary, this one‐day event fueled an emerging discourse inside and outside of Government on the purpose and structure of public diplomacy. The symposium was convened and chaired by Matt Armstrong.

Filling the largest room of the Reserve Officers Association on Capitol Hill, the symposium was a frank, on the record discussion among a diverse group of stakeholders, practitioners, and observers from the Congress, the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, and outside of government to discuss public diplomacy, strategic communication, or whatever their particular “tribe” calls communication and engagement. Many of the attendees never had a reason to be in the same room before, let alone share tables to discuss surprisingly common interests.

Smith-Mundt Symposium Final Report (2009) - cover page Smith-Mundt Symposium Final Report (2009) – cover page

Recorded and almost televised (C-SPAN had planned to broadcast the event but the sudden scheduling of several confirmation hearings the same, including Hilary Clinton’s, took precedence and meant C-SPAN had to cancel broadcasting this Symposium), transcripts and audio are available below.

A 23-page summary report on the symposium is available here (434kb PDF).

The agenda, transcripts, the original audio recording of the event, and biographies are available below or at this page.

glassman glassman

Morning Keynote by then-Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman. Amb. Glassman’s remarks are preceded by opening comments by event chair Matt Armstrong.

  • Transcript  (65kb PDF). Glassman’s comments begin at the bottom of page 5, after Armstrong.
  • Audio (54min, 13mb). Glassman’s comments begin at the 13:45 mark after Armstrong.

First Panel First Panel

Panel 1: History of Smith-Mundt (transcript)

Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Jeff Grieco Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Jeff Grieco

Panel 2: America’s Bifurcated Engagement (transcript)

Mike Doran Mike Doran

Lunchtime Keynote by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy Mike Doran

Panel 3: Rebuilding the Arsenal of Persuasion (transcript)

Kristin Lord, Ted Tzavellas, Nancy Snow, Colleen Graffy, Bill Kiehl Kristin Lord, Ted Tzavellas, Nancy Snow, Colleen Graffy, Bill Kiehl

Doug Wilson, Congressmen Paul Hodes and Adam Smith Doug Wilson, Congressmen Paul Hodes and Adam Smith

Panel 4: The View from the Hill (transcript, 140kb PDF)

Closing Comments by Matt Armstrong (transcript included above)


On January 6, 2010, a pre-event media roundtable was hosted by the AOC (transcript). Speaking at the roundtable were:

  • Rear Admiral Greg Smith
  • David Firestein
  • George Clack
  • Matt Armstrong

Matt Armstrong convened and chaired the symposium. Financial support came from Mr. Armstrong’s firm, Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC, and promotional support was through Mr. Armstrong’s blog, Additional financial support came from the Center on Communication Leadership.

Questions or comments should be directed to Matt Armstrong at

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One thought on “The 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium: a Discourse on America’s Discourse

  1. One of my students at American University, a Bosch Fellow named Rebecca currently in Germany, posted this to my facebook wall:”So I found myself trying to explain the Smith-Mundt act in my political German class the other day. In German. My teacher was very confused although he understood what I was saying, he still couldn’t understand the concept. A fruitless effort indeed.”
    Too true.
    -Craig Hayden

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