American diplomats who are the global face of the United States are struggling with how to demand human rights, democracy and rule of law abroad amid concerns overseas and criticism at home over the Trump administration’s strong arm response to the protests across the country.Lara Jakes and Edward Wong, The New York Times
My father was one of those faces of the United States in Europe and Latin America during his career in public diplomacy during the Cold War. As part of the United States Information Agency, his job was to project America’s image overseas, when much about our country was misunderstood, and even distorted, by our adversaries.
Dad’s career began in 1955 Caracas, when a military dictator ruled Venezuela. As he wrote in his 1995 book How Democracy Triumphed Over Dictatorship, America’s support of President Marcos Pérez Jimenez was predicated on stability — preventing Communist inroads and protecting American business investments in that oil-rich country — but went against our country’s democratic ideals. Dad’s personal feelings bled through in his conversations with journalists and university professors who chafed under the oppressive Pérez Jimenez regime. The dictator’s eventual flight into exile is the first story in my memoir-in-progress, When the Dictator Flew Over Our House.
Dad presented facets and facts about our country to counterbalance negative stereotypes. Sometimes, the stereotypes were lifted right off American television. Southern police officers turning fire hoses on civil rights protesters were offset by interracial jazz groups, candid conversations by leading American writers and other cultural leaders took on special importance.
It may well be that the example of this nation will be more important than its dollars or its words.Edward R. Murrow, USIA Director, US Senate confirmation hearing, 1961
American diplomats today are charged with carrying out the challenging assignment of holding a mirror up to this country while proclaiming the tenets of democracy. What would my father have said when it was his country’s own president that hid in his fortified compound and threatened to deploy the military against peacefully protesting citizens?
The White House is now so heavily fortified that it resembles the monarchical palaces or authoritarian compounds of regimes in faraway lands …Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post
The Trump White House called in the National Guard, Custom and Border Protection, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, and the Bureau of Prisons, and active duty military were put on standby in response to the Washington DC protests. On June 1, smoke, tear gas, pepper balls, and, according to protesters, rubber bullets, were used to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square across from the White House just before President Trump’s bible photo opportunity.
The use of the military to violently disperse peaceful protesters in front of the White House was the biggest gift we could possibly have given to Putin or Xi Jinping and to every other dictator around the world who delights in arguing that America’s government is no different than theirs.Congressman Tom Malinowski, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
The Trump administration has been a godsend for Xi, if only in making him seem like a reasonable leader.Steven Lee Meyers, The New York Times
And yet, American diplomats continue to hold up the values of our country, to demonstrate that is it the people, not one president, who are America’s keepers.
We will not try to hide our painful struggle, and instead believe that on his public debate will help us to emerge better and stronger.US Embassy, Ankara, Turkey
May we continue to hold our country in our hands, protecting it from abuse by the ignorant bully in the White House.
American people are using our voices to demand change, and that is something that could not happen in so many countries where I served.Ambassador Dana Shell Smith, former career diplomat
We must insist on change. Hourly. Daily. Weekly. Until we have restored the White House to thoughtful, intelligent, alliance-building leadership once again.