During their final day in DC, the MPD representatives visited the British Council USA and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.
At the British Council USA, located next to the British Embassy, the students met with Director Paul Smith, who has a distinguished career in cultural relations. Previously he was Director of the British Council in Afghanistan, Egypt, West India, New Zealand, and also held executive positions with the British Council in Bangladesh, Germany, Chile, Burma, Lagos, and Kano.
Mr. Smith and the students discussed the differences between the British and American structures and traditions of public diplomacy, the increasing recognition that culture is at the heart of society and identity, and the British Council’s work to be more inclusive and to intervene in crisis situations.
For their final meeting in DC, the students visited the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum to speak with Dr. Roger Launius, Associate Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs.
Dr. Launius described a big question that influences his work and the work of public diplomats: Is the responsibility of curators to present exhibits or programs that are more celebratory of our history or more critical? He also discussed the challenge of engaging museum audiences, the centrality of international politics to the inception and maintenance of the International Space Station, the political impetus for the Apollo 11 moon mission, and the national prestige associated with space flight achievements.
The MPD representatives would like to thank Prof. Nick Cull and Dean Ernest Wilson for their generous support of this trip. We would also like to thank Prof. Robert Banks and Prof. Geoffrey Cowan, who helped connect us with organizations in DC. Finally, thank you to all of the amazing people we met in DC. You gave us a unique perspective on the successes and challenges of public diplomacy across multiple sectors, and consistently emphasized the increasing importance of this field in creating a more peaceful world. We are excited to bring back what we learned to the students in the MPD program at USC.