Friday, March 12, 2010

Ambassador Robert R. Gosende on Public Diplomacy and the Peace Corps

From an e-mail from Ambassador Robert R. Gosende to the compiler of the Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, regarding the article: Public Diplomacy: The World Should Be Teaching Us, Mr. Kristof; Gosende image from

This almost never happens but one must always be prepared for surprises. I disagree with you! (I believe only on the following issue.)

I spent last weekend Thursday evening, all day Friday and Saturday, at a Model UN organized by the UN Ass'n of Rochester, NY. In attendance wereabout 600 high school students from across Upstate NY from about Uticain the east and then west to the PA border. (I did not see anyone fromOlean!) This was a scintillating group of young people. I spoke tothem twice - the group was too big to fit into the biggest hall at St. John Fisher University which had given its premises over to the UNAR for the Model UN. These students were for the most part senior and juniors. Many already knew where they would be going to college/university. The ones with whom I spoke, and there were several, indicated admission to some of the best places in our country. I sat in on the sessions forthe EcSoc Comm and the Comm on disarmament. The level of discussion was amazing. These students were wonderful, well read, and very articulate. I used my short keynote to urge them to study abroad during their undergraduate careers - telling them that this does not happen automatically - that 70% of college-bound hs seniors in the US say they want to study abroad and about 3% end up doing so. Anyway, Kristof' s idea about us sending more of our young people abroad is right on in my book - perhaps not for what they will do while they are abroad - though I will speak about that a bit below - but for what it will do for us. We know that perhaps the greatest benefit that the Peace Corps has is for how it changes the way young people think about themselves and our country.

But this is the below part from above: I recall being on a visit to Yaounde, Cameroun once when I was Area Director for Africa. Our Ambassador there was Hume Horan - I don't know if you ever came across him. He was a fluent Farsi, Arabic and French-speaker and one of the best people we ever had as an Ambassador. He was asked to leave Saudi Arabia after only being there as Ambassador for a few weeks because the Saudis could see that he understood what they were saying to each other on the sidelines of his meetings with them. He died all-too-young a couple of years ago with cancer. He said to me in Yaounde that he thought that USIS programs were good for the US image in Cameroun but that the best of all for this was the Peace Corps. He had at that time around 150 PCV's in the country and he was trying to spend a full day with each one of them while he was serving in the country.

So I think that sending more young Americans abroad is a good thing.The thought that some of the young people I was with last weekend in Rochester is ALL good for our country and for them. ...


Amb. Robert R. Gosende
Associate Vice Chancellor for International Programs
The State University of New York
State University Plaza
Albany, New York 12246

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