Back Issues of PDAA Today

Back issues of PDAA Today, PDAA’s quarterly print newsletter are now online and available for download.

New Nonprofit Promotes U.S. Global Engagement

Two Washington-based Organizations Merge

Today, April 15, 2022, the Public Diplomacy Council and the Public Diplomacy Association of America merged to form The Public Diplomacy Council of America (PDCA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit registered in the state of Virginia.

The PDCA will offer an annual award for outstanding public diplomacy initiatives at the U.S. State Department, sponsor lectures and discussions, and foster mentoring and teaching activities and the Hans “Tom” Tuch Fellowship for a graduate student at American University. It will also promote public diplomacy among members of Congress and the general public.

For more than three decades, the two predecessor organizations, the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) and  Public Diplomacy Association of America (PDAA), fostered greater understanding of the United States’ communication with the rest of the world, and promoted more active participation by the American public.

All active members of the PDC, an organization that originally formed to advance public diplomacy as a profession, and PDAA, an organization originally composed of alumni of the U.S. Information Agency, are charter members of the PDCA, which will carry on their programs and activities and create new ones.

The new organization’s membership combines some 400 active and retired professionals with people who aspire to careers in the field. Its members come from foreign affairs agencies, academe, defense, media, nonprofits, and private enterprise.

Dr. Sherry Mueller, a scholar-practitioner at American University, and Joel Fischman, a retired Foreign Service Officer, are co-presidents.

For more information, go to

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Program Addresses “Promoting Democracy in a Turbulent World”

By Bill Wanlund

 Promoting democracy – a perennial US foreign policy component – has become problematic.  Democracy has seen a global decline in the past decade, according to Freedom House and other monitoring organizations.  Complicating the challenge for our diplomats, the United States is no longer automatically the world’s go-to democracy role model:  Persisting race- and gender-based economic and social inequities, book banning, harsh new voting restrictions, a violent challenge to the result of our last Presidential election, a decline in respect for political rights and civil liberties – all have contributed to the world’s perception of America as a democracy in decline.

“Angst, anger and alienation” are key factors behind democratic erosion, said Thomas Carothers, senior vice President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, at the March 7 First Monday virtual event – “Promoting Democracy in a Changing World” — sponsored by PDAA and PDC.  President Biden has called the struggle to reinvigorate world democracy the defining issue of our time – or, as Carothers puts it, “democracy is not a ‘luxury’ virtue, but an existential one.”

Carothers, a co-founder of Carnegie’s democracy program, says administrations of both parties have taken a misguided approach to promoting democracy.  “It has been a shortcoming of American diplomacy over the years to talk about the U.S. as the promoter or the supporter of democracy,” he says. “There are a lot of democracies out there, dozens of them, working to promote democracy.”

America’s internal struggles with democracy, Carothers says, are “out there for the world to see,” and to explain them credibly to others we need to acknowledge those problems and the efforts we’re making to overcome them.  Our message should be a “chastened” one, he adds: “None of us is perfect and we’re all struggling with our own issues, but we’re deeply committed to democracy’s basic principles – and having flaws doesn’t debilitate you from having principles.”

Carothers believes public diplomacy is important to reinvigorate global democracy.  “There are a lot of noxious anti-American, anti-democratic narratives, and PD needs to be there to counter them,” he says.  “We have to engage on every issue, and to up our training game so that our diplomats know the background of the narratives we’re talking about, and have the tools and the flexibility to respond.  The people on the other side are very good at what they do, and unless we’re quick and responsive, the battle is lost.”

Alistair Somerville moderated the March 7 First Monday session; Alistair and Carla Cabrera Cuadrado served as tech hosts. PDCA Program Committee member Bill Wanlund arranged the program and the newsletter invited him to talk about it:

How did you come up with the idea for a program on democracy?

Several years ago, I was doing research for an article on US foreign policy and was struck by the widespread decline in democracy around the world – and that the U.S. was one of those whose democracy was in retreat.  I started wondering how PD officers were handling democracy promotion overseas when democracy overall was falling out of favor, when we were no longer the go-to standard for democracy, and when the Administration–at that time–didn’t consider it a priority.

How did you go about putting it together?

For that article I had interviewed Tom Carothers, who writes extensively about global democracy.  He’d worked for State and knows what FSOs in the field do.  When I volunteered to put together the PDAA/PDC program, Tom was my first choice, and, luckily, he agreed to participate.

What are your thoughts about the state of global democracy?

.  I think it’s recovering.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a brutal, ugly, but timely reminder of what an autocratic regime has to offer, and most of the world took note of that.

Can the U.S. credibly promote democracy in other countries?

Unquestionably, though as Tom Carothers said, we have to acknowledge our stumbles and be clear about what we’re trying to do to correct them, avoid measuring others’ democracies against our own, and remember that what our audiences hear isn’t necessarily what we intend to say – culture and history shape understanding more than our talking points do.

Click  [Access Passcode: 15f@r?Yc] to watch Carothers’s presentation.


Video of the First Monday Program on Promoting Democracy in a Turbulent World is now available. To access the video, go to Video starts at minute 2:20.

President Biden is trying to rally the world’s democracies to reverse an authoritarian trend that has grown steadily over the last 15 years. It’s a challenge for public diplomacy, complicated by the fact that the resilience of our own democracy is being questioned both abroad and here at home. Do we have a hopeful message? Will anyone listen?

To help us explore this topic, PDAA and PDC have invited Thomas Carothers to lead our March 7 First Monday program. The program will begin at noon ET and will be conducted via Zoom.

Carothers is the senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society. He has worked on democracy assistance projects for many organizations and carried out extensive field research on aid efforts around the world. He was chosen to moderate a discussion panel on “Countering Digital Authoritarianism” for the 2021 White House Virtual Summit on Democracy.


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A Remembrance of Vincent John Hovanec

Vince Hovanec

By Rosemary Crockett

Vince Hovanec died in Bonita Springs, Florida, on November 21, 2019, following an acute brain incident.

Born in New Rochelle, NY, Vince earned a BA in History from Dartmouth College. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves 1958-1965, attaining the rank of Captain. He worked as a journalist for The Wall Street Journal and for The St. Petersburg Times when the latter won the Pulitzer Prize (for Public Service) in 1964 for exposing widespread illegal acts at the Florida Turnpike Authority. During his 21-year career with USIA, Vince served in Guyana, Niger, Nigeria, Gabon, Zaire, Yugoslavia, and Mexico. According to The Temagami Times, he worked for Sprint Global One following his FS career.

Vince was always willing to engage anyone on practically any topic. He thrived on interacting with people, places, and new ideas. He was my boss in Kinshasa, Zaire, in the mid-1970s for my JOT follow-on assignment. As AIO, he immediately put me in charge of running the Information Section. We put out a monthly newsletter in French, had a photography operation, and a recording/radio studio. We were responsible for reporting to the Ambassador on the morning VOA broadcast, because President Mobutu listened to it and would call the Ambassador if he heard something he didn’t like. As one of the larger offices on the African continent, we were always busy with something — a SecState visit or green monkey disease, which slowly came down the Congo River from Kisangani to Kinshasa, killing Zaireans and foreigners alike. Vince was assigned a number of special tasks, like supervising the erection of a huge geodesic dome for an international exposition.

Vince took a special interest in the junior officers and taught us a number of management and social skills, like “Always check the mail room” and how to drink champagne properly. Fortunately, my apartment was within walking distance of the latter “training class.” When the staff photographer, a middle-aged Zairean male, refused to take instructions from me, a younger African-American female, Vince came quietly out of his office and told the staffer, he could take orders from me or find another job. On performance appraisals, he clearly stated, she runs the Information Section, giving me credit for everything I did.  Best tennis partner and boss I ever had!


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Remembering Jake Gillespie

By Michael Schneider

Jake Gillespie

Even as a high school senior, Jake Gillespie knew he wanted to become a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. He once commented, “…. If I had to try to do some self-analysis, I would say that deep inside me there was still the boy from Cairo, Illinois, and I figured this was the only way I was ever going to get out of Cairo….”

I think Jake was proud of his mid-Western roots, even as he yearned for adventure and later took on significant responsibilities on a global scale. Jake’s 38-year career spanned two generations of global change and a revolution in communications technology and public diplomacy.

Let’s briefly survey Jake’s rich career with help from his interviews with Stu Kennedy, founder and lead interviewer of the ADST oral history archives. For the full flavor of Jake’s recollections, see{2a6033f7eac5eade65ac45c5dc15245d782bf621d43785c1e0a25870ae642a3b}20TOCs/Gillespie-Jacob-1.pdf. His story in many ways mirrored the evolution of USIA and public diplomacy.

Joining USIA and First Assignments in Africa – 1961-66

At 22, the youngest in his class, Jake was sworn in to the USIA Career Reserve Foreign Service by Edward R. Murrow on October 30, 1961.

He remembered that moment vividly:

“Murrow walked into the room, smoking a cigarette. He put it out as he reached the front of the room. He lit another as he began to speak. …

“…It was obvious that he had been well briefed; he talked about every one of us in the class. He mentioned you have done this, he even said we have a boilermaker…And he said … ‘who is the boilermaker? I’ve always liked boilermakers,’ which of course he was laughing about, but I was the boilermaker. I had spent two summers while I was in college working as a boilermaker working on big boilers of one kind or another. Actually, a big boiler for Kansas City Power and Light the first summer and then the second time I was working on cracking towers up in New Jersey….”

With colonial empires breaking up in Africa, USIA expanded our presence throughout the continent. Jake, 23, and his spouse Susan, 21, served a series of assignments, in Accra, ‘62-‘63, Bujumbura, ‘63-‘64, Leopoldville, ‘64-‘66.

Jake’s stories of life in the Foreign Service in small African posts in the early- mid 60s testify to how slow, costly, and spare were communications between Washington and the field. Hours would be required to file and retrieve information. Shipment, not transmission, of photos required between four days and a week. On the other hand, posts were freer to innovate and improvise.

Jake might have been the youngest acting PAO in USIA history, when not long after arriving in Bujumbura, he took over for his boss who was on sick leave in Europe.

“Those weeks in Burundi were probably the most independent and freest that I ever had in my career in the Foreign Service….”

He had a special talent for relating to all kinds of individuals, and befriended major figures in American culture and arts and some of the most influential foreign policy and political leaders of the late 20th century. To this array of contacts, he brought a combination of curiosity, personal warmth, and bravura. He loved to engage with others in debate over matters large and small.

Jake and Duke Ellington, Montevideo, 1968

After several years in Africa, Jake learned Spanish at FSI and served as ACAO in Montevideo. There, among other American cultural figures he met and won over, was Duke Ellington, who agreed to extend a regional tour to Uruguay. The famous composer and band leader took Jake, indeed the U.S. Mission and a large number of Montevideans, in hand for a whirlwind, almost 24-hour/day/three-day visit.

Assignments in DC – 1970-75

Back in DC in 1970 for a domestic assignment, Jake was asked by Agency Personnel Director Rob Nevitt to work/intern at the relatively young WETA-TV. After learning the ropes, Jake became lead producer for the weekly news roundup and commentary show Washington Week in Review – a highly respected tour of the week’s news that continues half a century later. There he worked with the likes of the legendary Max Kampelman, attorney, Democratic Party leader, and later highly respected U.S. arms control ambassador.

Additionally, Jake helped with local broadcasting by WETA:

“I spent a full year at WETA. I had great fun. I learned a lot; I learned a lot about Washington, about people. We did little programs in Washington. We went out to parts of the city, to neighborhoods and took out sort of a homemade mobile unit because the station had no mobile unit, it couldn’t afford one, but we could rent a truck and put some stuff in it and go out and do things, go back, and make a half-hour program about various neighborhoods in Washington, which was very interesting….”

Just as dissent over Vietnam and a frustrated civil rights movement of the 60s and early 70s roiled America, dissent and reform occurred in USIA. By the mid-70s Agency professionals led by an esteemed career officer, John Reinhardt, carried out a broad restructuring. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs moved from State to USIA, soon to be re-named the U.S. International Communication Agency, USICA. The changes reflected new concepts about the conduct of public diplomacy.

Newly named USICA moved away from an emphasis on media production and placement to more integrated communication approaches. Rather than counting column inches of mainly print placement, Agency pros developed concepts of strategic planning, audience identification, and “programming.” The new emphasis emanated in part from an innovative training program.

The Training Program pointed the way to new communication approaches, in particular the use of visually refreshed Cultural and Binational Centers as venues for exposure to American society and culture. Jake worked with Stan Moss and Dion Anderson and others to demonstrate new approaches to effective PD. With Agency approval, the training team took over Room 1100 in 1776 Pa. Ave., the largest space available at the time.

Their programming concepts emphasized the use of multiple media in support of small group communication and also linked media availability to selected opinion leaders and future leaders in various fields. These activities also linked to longer-term interaction through exchanges. Younger audiences – some at the university level, many, young rising professionals – were preferred.

Newly named head of one branch of the training staff, Jake pulled together “my team of black sheep,” an odd mixture of talents, a very creative and off-beat bunch who created a traveling training seminar.

“We put together a round-the-world trip where we were going to go to Japan, spend three weeks, put on this seminar; we hired two contractors who turned out to be wonderful guys and great at doing this. We were also charged with putting together a big multi-screen slideshow for training and personnel so they could show what posts do…..”

IO in the Netherlands – 1976-1981

Despite complaints from their near-teen kids, Jake and Susan moved to the Netherlands in ’75 and Jake was quickly confronted by a strange ‘welcome.’ Two scandals pressured the US mission: the release of names of a score of alleged CIA agents by former agent Phillip Agee and the global Lockheed bribery scale.

“Before I arrived, everyone had asked why I wanted to go to The Hague, a sleepy little place that doesn’t really matter? Well, it turned out for a variety of reasons: it was a new center of Europe and especially of media interest, which made it interesting for me as the Information Officer and Press Attaché. I very quickly received an introduction to Dutch press and society….. Vrij Nederland, was the top political-social-cultural weekly in the country and was extremely good, and over the years I came to appreciate it very much. I didn’t at the very beginning when they ran an enormous front-page piece naming CIA names in the Netherlands. …If you will recall, at about the same time, the East Germans published a book of-

STU KENNEDY (ADST): “Who’s Who in the CIA.”
GILLESPIE: Precisely.
STU KENNEDY (ADST): I was in it.
GILLESPIE: As was I. ….”

Although Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) dominated public debate for five-plus years, the U.S. Mission and Jake in his role as press spokesman had to respond also to festering terrorism – some from former Moluccan sources, some for home-grown IRA support. Interwoven into these debates were Dutch public concerns about U.S. politics and American leadership – which has only widened and deepened.

Policy Leadership in DC – 1981-85

Jake’s work on INF and experience with European media and public opinion came in handy when he returned to a senior policy assignment in the Agency. His task was to develop public diplomacy approaches that would be accepted by high powered political/policy leaders at State, the NSC, and White House – no easy task. His contributions were invaluable. He knew most of the personalities in the U.S. decision-making system, leading experts, and security commentators and influentials here and abroad. Ultimately, a combination of sage advice from PAOs in Europe, ongoing survey research and media reaction, and well-timed proposals that Jake helped guide from USIA to inter-agency working groups led to an effective U.S. stance and NATO response to Soviet pressures. This effort on behalf of INF placement was among the most successful PD initiatives in USIA history.

For the remaining three years of his DC tour, Jake directed USIA “fast” media guidance, which entailed advice to USIA Press and Publications, Area Offices, VOA, and the field posts on USG daily pronouncements on a wide range of policy issues. He also served as Deputy Press Spokesman in the State Department.

Jake greeting Secretary George Shultz June 29, 1988, in El Salvador

PAO El Salvador – 1986-88

Jake’s assignment as PAO in El Salvador took him from high policy on a global scale to a messy civil war with Cold War implications, at least as viewed by many in the DC policy world. He had to learn early and quickly the limits of his work in that very dangerous guerrilla war situation:

“Embassy people could travel in roughly one-half of San Salvador. The rest was off-limits. My first week there I told my driver and bodyguard I wanted to go to the cathedral. These were two very brave young guys, and I thought they would [agree]. They said, “come on.” And the bodyguard said, ‘I’ll look, you stay in the car.’ And he got out, he walked around. He said, “Well, okay, and I got out. I said if you can walk around, I can walk around. He said no, no. The Embassy was still uptight. Six months before I got there in what was known as the Zona Rosa, which was in a very upper-class neighborhood, it was restaurants and bars, very nice ones. Five off-duty Marine guards were sitting and having a beer. Guerillas drove by and just let them have it, killed them all. In an Embassy that was already a little uptight, this really shut them down and I arrived in that….”

In the course of his two+-year tour in San Salvador, Jake had to face almost all of the elements that can truly test one’s service in dangerous places around the globe. The revolutionary situation was almost out of control, there were major public outcries over the U.S. intel, and military communities using Salvador as a staging point for support to opponents of the Contras in Nicaragua. Names such as Hasenfus and Rodriguez were the source of serious policy, political, and public contention in Salvador, the U.S., and abroad.

“Then,” as Jake recalled, “on the Friday before Columbus Day weekend in October 1986, at approximately 12:00 noon, San Salvador was hit by a massive earthquake. It ripped through any number of the city buildings. . there probably were four or five thousand people who were killed. The Embassy sat right on a fault, literally, or right next to one but not the main one. … The top three floors of the Embassy were destroyed. It was a four-story building, and the top three floors were never used again. Donna Oglesby, USIA Deputy Director for Latin America and my Washington boss, was there. She and I were sitting with a temporary TDY Cultural Affairs Officer talking with the FSN who did the Fulbright program in the Cultural Affairs Officer’s office when it hit. … I grabbed her and put her in a doorway, and I put the other two in another doorway, and I jumped in with Donna …. The quake went on for what seemed a very long time. It ended, I got them out, and then I spent probably [what] was not more than 15 or 20 minutes but it seemed like forever, making sure that everybody was out. Then with the young man who was my driver, … we went to the film and book section. He and I were throwing books and films over because that had all collapsed and there were–we thought there were three people back there, but there were only two. We all got out of the building.”

A visit by Secretary of State Shultz after the earthquake made for a highly complex test for US Embassy public affairs, and the U.S. and international press covered the civil war in Salvador with increasing intensity. It was very difficult to be the honest broker for the press at the same time as protecting the U.S. Mission.

Those were the times of Duarte, the FMLN, ARENA, and Fernando D’Aubuisson.

“Duarte had come back earlier and set up the Christian Democratic Party to oppose what was known as the ARENA, the right-wing party. The…party’s leader was Fernando D’Aubuisson Riso, who was a terribly charismatic man, but I sincerely believe in almost 40 years of service overseas, I don’t think I ever met anyone else who I think was really evil, but this man was….”

“…. In any case, we did succeed in some ways. There were things that still were remarkable, I think, and one was the types of things that we still managed to do as an institution…. I was a press officer and an advisor to the Ambassador. Those were the things that I did, mostly. But, starting when Pen Agnew was CAO before I arrived, we developed an Exchange Program that worked. One of the things in crisis in a place like that is you do get money and we were sending International Visitors off regularly, a lot of them; there was a new program under the academic exchange system that was set up. We had a small Fulbright program. USIA provided a great deal of money and the emphasis had to be on students who were not yet in university and who were not wealthy, poor. …. The new Cultural Affairs Officer, Gene Santoro, and the academic exchanges’ assistant, Jorge Piche, really developed a terrific program. Students went to the States for a year of English to make sure they could function in a university and then they sent them to small state teachers colleges around the country. It was a wonderful program.”

What a change in emphasis from ‘50s and early ‘60s USIA premium on media placement and established leaders!

PAO Madrid – 1989 – 1994

Jake arrived in Spain in 1989, a time of significant change and challenge for Spain as it sought to strengthen its nascent democracy and looked forward to several historic celebrations in 1992, including the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s journey to the New World. Politics in Spain remained a significant divide between left and right. As the U.S. stepped up preparation and then support for Desert Storm, Spain figured to play an important part through U.S. use of our several bases there. Jake had to caution U.S. leadership about potential public unrest while showing Spanish media that America cared about their nation’s autonomy.

“For the first Gulf War, virtually every piece of equipment, every person who was flown to Saudi Arabia for that war flew through Spain. And by early ’91 there were aircraft taking off and landing virtually every minute. As soon as one was off another would come in and it would be fighter planes that were going out; it could be C-5As that were loaded with enormous loads of equipment, and that was just non-stop.”

“The problem was you were in a country, … where the fascist dictator had only been dead for 10 years. They had had a … new democratic constitution and government only for eight years. They’d had one successful change of power, and the government of Felipe Gonzalez, a Spanish Socialist,…was in power. They had, throughout their history, been anti-NATO, anti-Franco, and anti-U.S. They blamed the U.S. for propping up Franco with the bases agreement, which we made in the ‘50s. You can argue this either way ….”

Jake, like PAOs in a number of nations in the Mideast and Europe, was concerned that Desert Storm would provoke public outbursts, but for many reasons, public reaction in Spain was mild to the massive use of U.S. bases.

The Madrid Middle East Peace Conference later in 1991 was a far easier responsibility.

“…. It was a remarkable seven days. Bush came and then Secretary of State Baker stayed for almost a week afterwards, continuing to negotiate with the Israelis and the Palestinians, trying to get negotiations going. And they made some headway. I think [it was] actually successful in that it got something started that has never really completed but it is ongoing.

“And then came the Seville Expo, the Olympics and the 1492 celebrations.

“I was downstairs with the Public Affairs Officer from Barcelona, Guy Burton, who was taking care of Arnold [Schwarzeneger]. And he said Arnold is going to do an interview later and … he’s supposed to meet me. Well,  ..[h]ere was the Terminator, and kids saw him and surrounded him. He signed autographs and he was doing that with a great big cigar in his mouth. Suddenly, Mary Jo Fernandez and Gigi Fernandez, who had just won the women’s doubles gold medal, with their medals on their neck came in the lobby. And the kids, the whole group just moved like a cloud from Schwarzenegger to the athletes and he was standing looking somewhat bewildered. He couldn’t understand. Where has my audience gone?”

“…. One special friend was a man named Pepé Ortega; José Ortega is a historian. He is the son of José Ortega y Gasset, the famous Spanish philosopher. And there is an Ortega y Gasset Foundation in Madrid and it is a Brookings-like institution, a think tank where they have a number of visiting scholars. Pepé very kindly started to include me in their weekly luncheons when there were American fellows who were there or anything like this, and he and I just started to have lunch frequently and chat with each other. And one day he said to me, Jake, when did you get over your civil war? And he was very serious. When did you, as a country, really get past all of the things after the civil war? And this is a man who has studied at great length in the United States, who knows the United States well. But I could see where he’s going. I said I know it took us a long time….”

Director USIA Foreign Press Centers – 1993-97

After Spain, Jake was named Director of the Foreign Press Centers, located in DC, NYC, and Los Angeles. He loved the job and the people in the FPCs, a lively mix of civil and foreign service professionals, and he valued the opportunities to relate to the vitally important international press corps in the U.S.

Executive Director, Inter-Agency Exchanges Coordinating Committee – 1997-99

Jake rounded out his career by chairing an innovative but little-known inter-Agency committee that gathered information on the exchange activities of USG agencies and the Smithsonian Institution. The proposed merger with State seemed to be fated:

“ …. I had sat on several of the committees dealing with the consolidation of USIA into the Department of State. This was not a happy time for me. I loved USIA. I thought it was a great mistake to do away with it, but what upset me most was I thought that they were planning the consolidation in ways that would make things less effective or just not work. USIA worked … because it was small, it was flexible, you could shift resources quickly, it could come up take ideas and put them into action relatively quickly; because it was small there were few bureaucratic layers. We made perhaps more mistakes than we would have because we moved quickly. But as a friend of mine, who had worked for USIA, once said “USIA doesn’t have bombs; it’s never going to kill anybody. The mistakes that we made, we corrected, apologized, and went on. But that didn’t happen that often. USIA had a lot of professionals. …”

“In any case, one morning in late ’98, I woke up and I sat down at breakfast with Susan, and I said I think I’d like to retire. And I did. Looking back I loved what I did, I loved the people I worked with from all agencies. I think that over the almost 40 years that I did it and what I saw, I worked with some remarkable people, I met some remarkable people. We really did pretty well. The United States has moved; if you look at 1961 and where the world is today, even with all of our problems we’ve really moved a long way and the world is a better place. I don’t know how much we had to do with it. The United States is safe, lives in a good place, and I think they miss USIA. I think I was correct.”

I had the pleasure of working with Jake in the Bureau of Policy and Programs when he directed fast media guidance for USIA and represented the Agency on inter-agency groups dealing with East-West power politics and the issue of INF emplacement. Our paths crossed often in the 70s and 80s and as neighbors in retirement. His years of experience, knowledge of these very complex issues, and his wide professional association with USG leaders and others who shaped US policies made a big difference in our counsel and support for USG goals.

I especially admired Jake’s ability to take on the tough issues directly, his care for his colleagues and love of family and friends. What a quintessential mix of bonhomie and serious purpose, love of home country, and fascination with others — a competitive sportsman, a raconteur, and a principled person.

Retired FSO Richard Gilbert summed up the feelings of diverse people who worked with Jake:

“Jake was one of my very best friends over the years, from the time we first encountered each other in 1971 in the freshly painted psychedelic art decorated corridors of the 11th floor training division of 1776.

“I was a USIA newbie just returned from a JOT tour in Thailand, and Jake was already an Africa veteran officer (to me). We had lots of encounters over the years, from my perch in EU and Jake in the Netherlands or from his desk in the Wireless File. We bonded when my spouse, Carol Urban, and I (newly retired) showed up in Madrid in 1992, Carol [Urban] as PAO Jake’s Admin Officer.

“That was the memorable (and challenging) year of the Barcelona Olympics and EXPO 92 in Seville. And oh, did we have good times, wearing out the greens and fairways of the golf course at Torrejon air base, eating out at “Sal’s Diner” … and debating almost everything over a bottle or two of wine and tapas on the patio of the PAO residence overlooking Calle Ayala.

“.… Carol and I counted ourselves among Jake and Susan’s best friends and, no matter where we were, the “summer at the lake” Christmas card of the ever-growing Gillespie family enjoyed a place of honor on our refrigerator. Home again, we were neighbors for a brief time off Connecticut Avenue, enjoying innumerable hours of golf at Rock Creek Park or Falls Road. (Jake would want me to affirm for all that he always covered his debts promptly at the end of the round (😊).

“After we settled in the mid-Hudson Valley, we paid regular visits to Jake and Susan in Washington and Ipswich (ah, everyone to Woodman’s for clams!). Jake had a multitude of friends from his many guises, and I feel privileged to have been one of them. He was a great contrarian, and our conversations–politics, the demise of USIA, the latest press outrage–could often be counted on to raise one hackle or another, to the dismay of our patient spouses. I’ll miss that pleasure, and I’ll miss his company.”

A pretty good run – from Cairo to North Oaks, Baltimore, Hanover, DC, Accra, Bujumbura, Leopoldville, Montevideo, The Hague, San Salvador, Madrid!

Michael Schneider is former president of PDAA.

Jacob Priester Gillespie, 82, a Foreign Service Officer who served his country for 38 years in capitals both dangerous and delightful, died October 30, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Born on the 4th of July in Cairo, Illinois, raised in Chicago and Baltimore, he graduated from Baltimore City College High School in 1957 and Dartmouth College in 1961. Jake joined the Foreign Service soon after college. He was the youngest of 20 officers sworn in by Edward R. Morrow to the United States Information Agency. His assignments included Accra, Ghana; Bujumbura, Burundi; Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Montevideo, Uruguay; The Hague, Holland; San Salvador, El Salvador; Madrid, Spain; and multiple positions in Washington. In retirement, Jake did short-term press officer assignments with FEMA in disaster sites and was a volunteer reader for recordings for the blind, watched and attended many sports games, and enjoyed spending time with his family in Ipswich, Massachusetts and Kezar Lake, Maine. His wife, Susan Wagner Gillespie, was the love of his life. They were married 59 years. In addition to Susan, Jake is survived by his children, Jim Gillespie and his wife Kristen, their children Jacob, Kathleen, and Molly; Betsy and her husband Ian Lipson, their three children Jack, Bryson, and Abraham; and his sister Mary Jane Gillespie.  The family will hold a private celebration of life.

Published by The Washington Post on Nov. 7, 2021.
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The Regional Program Office Vienna

by Robert J. Baker

In Vienna, an independent organization, the Regional Program Office, included a printing house with four big four-color presses, a 30-strong total of experts in translation, editing, design, exhibits, photography, printing, administrative, and computer work. Our work was entirely to help U.S. Embassies in Communist Europe. RPO reported directly to USIA headquarters in D.C.

The collapse of Communism marked by the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall meant two big things in my view. Hurrah, for the Evil Empire’s millions of oppressed people, and second, alack for me. After thirty years working against Communism, I wanted an easy last assignment for my personal part of the battle. I had suffered from workaholism my whole career and wanted to retire without intense work pressure.

Twenty years earlier, I had seen the RPO Director, John Jacobs, sitting at the same desk I coveted. His staff published some excellent magazines and produced exhibits and other support for eight Central European and Russian posts. He did excellent work and still had time to enjoy Vienna. Now I was Director of the Regional Program Office.

Its flagship magazine, the monthly, America Illustrated, was directed mainly at the Soviet Union, but also appeared in Polish. It was excellent. It even won American publishing prizes. USIA in Washington, selected the best articles from American magazines and bought the rights. RPO translated and printed them in Russian and Polish. It was one of the premier ways the U.S. had to get past Soviet censorship. Under our bilateral accord, Moscow limited distribution of America Illustrated to 50,000 Russian copies. However, copies passed from hand to hand, so an estimated 50 people read each copy, until it fell apart. Moscow was allowed to circulate 50,000 copies of Soviet Life, its propaganda magazine, in the U.S. in exchange. It sold so badly that American agencies sometimes bought copies from newsstands to keep the circulation up so the Russians would not reduce the number of copies permitted to America Illustrated.

RPO also typeset a quarterly intellectual magazine, Dialogue, in Russian, Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Czechoslovakian, and Hungarian and printed four versions. RPO translated six versions and two were translated at post. Dialogue was a major piece of work for RPO and of significant influence among elites in the countries where it circulated.

RPO also made handsome photo exhibits for American Embassy public libraries in Communist countries. Our shop printed up to wall size color prints, about 8×12 feet. The mostly smaller photo exhibits hung in the American Embassy public library windows. We published the occasional art catalogue for Ambassadors whose official residences held outstanding American art, e.g., for Spaso House, the residence in Moscow. We also did routine printing (letterhead, envelopes, invitations, etc.) and computer work for all our posts. We e-mailed the daily official USIA Wireless File of U.S. news and views, and canned official feature stories, every morning to all posts. We made exhibits for many posts to mark special events.

All that worked beautifully until 1991. I had expected to sip my excellent coffee, give directions, do some editing, officiate at staff retirements and work just 40-hour weeks until I retired in four years. Perfect! I had always worked very long hours and deserved an easy job at the end of my career.

10/11/1986 Trip to Iceland Reykjavik Summit Arrival of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at Hofdi House

However, Moscow’s reformist Communist General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, appeared on the Soviet scene. He perestroiked the USSR to collapse while trying to rescue its creaky administration and discredited politics.

Hard-line Kremlin men seized him at his dacha in the Crimea one weekend just a month after my first sip of that great coffee in Vienna. They muffed it. When I read that the coup had failed and Gorbachev went free, my heart sank for me, though it rose for the millions suffering under Communism.

I believed that the hard-line Communist failure to overthrow Gorbachev meant the end of the USSR and freedom for the Evil Empire’s people and its suppressed nationalities.

I knew that would mean also, inevitably, new countries arising from the ruins of Moscow’s empire. Quite soon, new American Embassies I felt would be established in the new countries. The USSR did soon brake up into 15 countries. The new governments welcomed American information efforts. So did new non-communist government in the Baltics and the Balkans.

For RPO, I believed that meant we needed to translate, and to print many new languages from our little shop. Printing in local languages would demonstrate U.S. political respect for the new non- communist governments and their peoples.

Because Czechoslovakia broke into Czechs and Slovaks, we needed new typefaces for them; ditto for Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia which came out of the old Yugoslavia. Our printers, editors, translators, and artists all worked to create the new language typefaces needed for printing at RPO, but we also needed new translators for many countries.

Russian had been imposed on them by Moscow, at least as a second language. Before Moscow collapsed, it insisted we send only Russian translations to all parts of the USSR. Uzbeks and Ukrainians had to read America Illustrated in Russian, for example.

Instead of simply directing our Viennese staff to do their routine work, I had to work intensely seven days a week. That was just what I had hoped to escape in Vienna after a lifetime of self-imposed workaholism.

The day in August 1991, when Gorbachev returned from his dacha to Moscow, a free man and still the General Secretary of the Communist Party, I called my staff together. I asked them to find me as soon as possible, good translators for the new countries or governments I felt would arise after the ruin of the Soviet empire. Two weeks later, none had been found though the staff checked all Austria and all their contacts beyond. I needed new translators for Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Estonian, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Slovene, Tajik, Turkmen, Ukrainian, and Uzbek. We already had translators and could adapt in-house the typefaces for Slovak and Czech, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian, when those countries emerged.

For Albanian, I had a brainstorm. I vaguely knew we had a Vienna listening post that did translations from Albanian into English for the CIA’s daily world roundup of radio and television news reports. I found the guy in Vienna who translated Albanian into English. I called him and took him to lunch at the Embassy cafeteria. He agreed to become our Albanian translator. I gave him a copy of the U.S. Constitution and asked him to translate a couple pages. I sent his work to the Voice of America Albanian section in Washington, D.C., for checking. He got a perfect score. I hired him to translate the rest of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, our two most basic political documents. They told a lot about the U.S. and might even inspire Albanians as that country searched for political ideas for its own new constitution. Under Albania’s strict Stalinist Communist dictatorship, we had not even been permitted to have an Embassy in Albania.

With a translator on board, I asked my staff to find Albanian typefaces so we could print his translations. No luck commercially anywhere in Western Europe, but my enterprising Czech chief editor found a tiny Eastern Rite monastic order in Vienna. They had Albanian typefaces to print religious pamphlets they smuggled into Albania. We got their help and sent off to the U.S. Embassy, Tirana, the Constitution and the Declaration in Albanian. They gave them out to the new political leadership in less than a year after the fall of the dictatorship.

Most of the needed translators were still missing. I recalled that a friend was now Vice President of Radio Free Europe, the CIA’s broadcasting service to Eastern Europe based in Munich. I called him and flew to see him for lunch. With his cooperation, I signed up 15 of his staff translators, all previously cleared and vetted as competent. I set them all to translate initially the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

We were still missing the Baltic state languages, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian. I made a trip in 1991 to meet professors of English in each country and added them to our stable of translators. We also obtained or made typefaces for each country and were able within a year and a half to print the Declaration and the Constitution in 18 of the 21 languages of formerly Communist Europe. We sent them to our Embassies to distribute to political leaders and universities hungry for authentic, basic political information about the United States. I hoped they also might inspire ideas for the new governments being organized throughout the region.

After the fall of Communism, we needed to meet the huge demand for information about the U.S. in countries fed almost exclusively anti-American propaganda for 70 years.

Europeans like exhibits. I thought we could make a cheap, handsome photographic exhibit based on a U.S. map we already had printed in nine languages. That map included on one side, 2,000 words of basic facts on U.S. geography, population, politics, and history. I checked, and the facts were 15 years old. My Deputy updated them. Our exhibits staff illustrated the facts with color photos from our 100,000-photo file. Two of the chosen photos used for the exhibit, I took during my recent holiday in the U.S. That was all our photo editor picked out of 200 I submitted to her. No favoritism for the boss there.

The exhibit cost only $500 per copy to make in our photo shop. It produced the beautiful color photos in 3′ x 2′ format. The photos were heat transferred onto sturdy Styrofoam boards seven feet high and three feet wide.

A dozen boards, illustrated with photos and text on each side, stood up by themselves, zigzag. The individual boards were connected by flexible plastic bands. Each exhibit folded into two large cardboard packages. You simply pulled the exhibit out of the two big cardboard boxes in which we shipped it and stood it up on any flat surface.

Standing, it ran about 50 feet long and showed a total of 50 photos. They were big and beautiful in excellent color. I had the printed text for each photo run in both English and the local language side by side. That way the exhibit served also as an English teaching tool. It was by far our most effective and cheap exhibit.

I knew posts needed very easy set up for exhibits. Headquarters had sent out for the U.S. Bicentennial a beautiful photo exhibit, but it was the very devil of complexity to set up. As our new Embassy staffs had zero exhibit technical ability, I had asked the RPO exhibits staff to come up with a plan to make it easy to set up. They did.

We produced about 70 copies of the exhibit in 31 languages and shipped them to USIS posts and U.S. Embassies. They gave them to local city halls, museums, universities, secondary schools, etc. In several countries the local school systems trucked them around for months from town to town until they were worn out. In several East European capitals, they were opened as a special show at the City Hall by the U.S. Ambassador. In some countries, all the panels were shown and read out loud on local television, creating a mini-seminar on the United States. For people hungry for accurate, true information about the U.S., the exhibits were a major and inexpensive success. Easily and cheaply shipped by air, they were the best idea I had in Vienna.

Shipping was easy for that show, but sending heavy objects was often a nightmare. Crooked border guards demanding bribes were just the icing on the cake of incompetence and confusion in the remnants of communist centrally planned economies.

Embassy Budapest, not that far from Vienna, complained bitterly that the computers we had promised them a month earlier never arrived. We checked. They had been properly shipped and reached Budapest according to our meticulous shipping paper trails. No dice. Embassy Budapest said they never arrived. It was overwhelmed with work and asked us to find the badly needed computers. I sent our shipping expert. He went to the Budapest railroad shipping office where our paper trail ended. Nobody there knew which of the three Budapest rail warehouses might have the computers. He went to search each one, but found they had no working lights in their cavernous depths. Nobody would help him to search. He tried to buy a powerful flashlight to search by himself. None were for sale anywhere. The economy had collapsed.

We sent a computer expert with two big flashlights and extra batteries. Using them, they found the computers buried in the third warehouse, got them into a taxi, drove them to the Embassy and installed them.

In the Soviet Far East, the only airline to many cities was Lufthansa. Our final copies of material to be edited by the local translator rarely arrived via the chaotic national post offices. One staffer cleverly went to the Vienna airport and gave Lufthansa pilots a bottle of Johnny Walker to carry our envelopes to the Embassy for us after they landed. The RPO staff was excellent.

Our own U.S. State Department was part of our problems. It had a warehouse in Helsinki. It received and stored new furniture for new Embassies in ex-communist Europe. It shipped the furniture in its own sealed trucks (border guards could not hold up or successfully demand bribes from diplomatically sealed trucks). We had sent a big computer shipment to Estonia via that State warehouse. It never got to Estonia. My dozen cables and telephone calls to the State Department warehouse went unanswered. Exasperated, I took two Viennese experts (shipping and computers) with me to Helsinki.

We found the missing computers behind some State Department furniture in the warehouse. Welcome to the planned American economy. I helped lug them in their heavy diplomatically sealed canvas bags onto the ferry boat from Helsinki to Estonia. Once there, my guys installed them so the post could send email to Washington, for the dozens of problems that came up installing a new diplomatic post. The new computers also let them receive and distribute our daily U.S. government wireless file of U.S. news and official statements. Those were passed to local media.

I went with my two experts to all the Baltic capitals. They installed computers and taught the new local staff how to use computers and U.S. official administrative procedures. I wrote up with the local Public Affairs Officer orders for American books, magazines, and furniture for our new public libraries. I met with professors of English and hired one in each country to do our translations, initially for the U.S. Constitution and Declaration.

My Administrative expert trained the new local employees in how to set up and maintain records, how to order equipment, how to use the official U.S. Government accounting system, etc. My computer guy had brought lots of cables, connectors, etc., all needed and not available locally. He got the e-mail systems up and running and left behind spare parts.

Local telephones were literally almost useless back then. They often did not work. The Embassy relied on hugely expensive per minute satellite phones to talk to Vienna or Washington. The email system saved tons of money for the huge amount of administrative work that goes into creating a new post.

My experience in African posts with chaotic local government and services came in handy dealing with similar conditions in ex-Communist countries. Doing business was so hard mostly from plain incompetence and dysfunctional government services.

Even local electric power often went out. I offered posts cheap Japanese gasoline-driven power generators. They could power a computer and a couple light bulbs indefinitely to keep the office running in emergencies. The exhaust could easily be run outside so the generator could stay inside and unfrozen without the exhaust choking our staff. We had to buy everything from trucks to batteries for the posts, but it all helped.

The RPO staff did a great job dealing with the problems that came with a sea change in their target communist countries. And it was tiring.

Bob Baker is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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Three members recall their time in Afghanistan

Three Public Diplomacy practitioners recall their Afghanistan experiences in the latest issues of PDAA Today, the newsletter of the Public Diplomacy Association of America. The full contents of the newsletter are available only to paid members, but we are publishing the three recollections on our website.

Bruce K. Byers: Afghanistan 1978-79: A Fateful Year in Kabul

Adolph “Spike” Dubs

Six weeks before my family and I flew to Kabul, there was a coup d’état that ousted Afghan president Mohammad Daud Khan and saw the rise of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan under Mohammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin with Kremlin backing.

In Kabul I dealt with Afghan radio and TV, the Kabul New Times, and vetted American journalists seeking interviews with Afghan foreign ministry and other officials and requests for interviews with Ambassador Adolph “Spike” Dubs, newly assigned to our embassy after serving as Chargé in Moscow. Dubs was a Soviet expert, spoke Russian, and knew Kremlin politics well. His appointment to Kabul in the wake of the ouster and execution of Daud must have given Kremlin leaders pause.

Continue reading here.


Donald M. Bishop: Looking Back at the “Year of Decision” in Kabul

PAO Don Bishop in Bamiyan, at the location where the Taliban destroyed the Buddhist statues.

Before I left Washington for Kabul, Richard Holbrooke told me that 2009-10 must be the “year of decision,” so Public Diplomacy would receive $72 million for FY-10 and more than $100 million in FY-11. This money surge was staggering, but a surge of people was promised too. Within a few months, David Ensor arrived as “Uber.” He was an excellent choice.

Very junior PDO’s worked crushing hours to send more and more Afghan Fulbrighters, IVs, and other exchange program participants to the U.S. Two successive English language fellows spun up a huge program. More Lincoln Learning Centers in key cities and universities were established. Cultural heritage programs grew. ECA well supported these traditional PD programs.

Continue reading here.



Patricia McArdle: Extracting Farhad

With Farhad the day I bought a burkha in Mazar-e-Sharif’s central market.

America’s longest war is now officially over, but efforts to extract Afghans who worked for the U.S. continue. My former interpreter, Farhad, was recruited by the U.S. Army in 2003. He continued working for American and NATO forces until 2009, when he was hired by our Embassy as LLC Mazar director–a position he held until he and his family fled before the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

When the evacuations from Kabul airport began, I sought help from the State Department to get Farhad and his family out of Afghanistan. Although my efforts failed, this story has a happy ending.

Continue reading here.


To join the Public Diplomacy Association of America, click here.


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