Q&A WITH DR. NANCY SNOW, Associate Professor of Public Diplomacy- Interview by Sabith Khan
1) Tell us a bit about how you got interested in public diplomacy? Was there any one event that prompted you to choose this as your career?
My meeting with the Housing coordinator (also the Fulbright coordinator) at Clemson University, where I was an undergraduate, was the turning point in my life. Within a year of this meeting, I was selected to be a Fulbright Scholar in Federal Republic of Germany. It led me to give up my goal of law school for a Ph.D. in international relations.
2) Would you say that we are in an age of “Soft Power” these days and the days of aggressive diplomacy are gone?
We are in a Hard Power and Smart Power Age. We are living in a time of great opportunity for a shift in consciousness, but it’s only an opportunity. It is easily thwarted by terror attacks, global economic insecurity, corruption, and abuse of human potential.
3) What do you think the USA should do to improve its image in the Middle East? What actions would resonate well with the words of President Obama in Cairo?
The Nobel Peace Prize Committee referred to the Cairo speech as evidence of what President Obama has done to raise aspirations. You ask the right question, however. The State Department under Hillary Clinton is using the same language with which I was familiar during my days at USIA/State in the early to mid-1990s. The US wants to promote more entrepreneurialism, democratic participation, economic and social develop- ment, and move away from just geopolitics. We’ve got to match our rhetoric to our words. A great example of what one nongovernmental organization is doing is Business for Diplomatic Action, which has sponsored exchange of professionals between the USA and Middle East.
4) You are a strong advocate of scholars as ambassadors of a country. Can you please share some examples of successful initiatives in the Middle East?
Absolutely. Not just scholars, but all human endeavors, including scientists, artists, writers, business in- novators, doctors. If we can right this global economic ship, then we’ll be in a better position to sponsor more such exchanges. Check out Young Arab Leaders, International Visitor Leadership Program and the Fulbright Program.
5) How does President Obama’s personal vision and charisma impact US diplomacy?
In my field of public diplomacy, President Obama is persuader-in-chief, to use the words of my latest book. In rhetoric alone he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Further, the latest Zogby poll shows that the US elector- ate is divided about how transparent the new administration is. We’ve got to continue to advocate for the public interest beyond the Beltway of Washington as much as beyond the corridors of power in the Middle East.
6) Finally, any parting thoughts on how to bridge the seemingly wide gulf between how the US wants to be perceived and how it is perceived in the Middle East?
We need to hear more from our counterparts in the Middle East, mostly at the ground level, not just the upper echelons of government. The people are demanding change in the Middle East and they will get it. Having met young people from the Middle East, I can see that change before my eyes and it’s very promising to think that these young people are going to continue to move up the links of influence both inside and outside government.
About Dr. Nancy Snow
Nancy Snow teaches in the dual degree Master’s Program in Public Diplomacy sponsored by the Newhouse School and Maxwell School. She is an affiliate faculty member of the Maxwell School in the Executive Education Program, the Middle Eastern Studies Program and Interna- tional Relations Program. Her website is http://www.nancysnow.com.