BEACON SOFT POWER AND PUBLIC DIPLOMACY SERIES:DAY 1Paul Kretkowski's Beacon
features a post by John H.Brown
, a former Foreign Service officer and the compiler of the respected Public Diplomacy Review
. An excerpt:"Public Diplomacy Dateline 2001: Willis Conover, the American Deejay Who Penetrated the Iron Curtain for 40 Years
My best episode of public diplomacy in my 20-year foreign service career is a 2001 jazz festival in Moscow honoring Willis Conover, the legendary host of the 40-year Voice of America Jazz Hour program that had such an impact on Eastern European audiences during the Cold war. The event, organized by the cultural section of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and Russian jazz organizations—and financially supported by the State Department and the Voice of America—commemorated the fifth anniversary of the death of this extraordinary disc jockey, whose unforgettable baritone voice, turning his heartland American English into a kind of musical composition of its own, introduced millions outside the United States to the uniqueness—and universality—of jazz.
American and Russian musicians took part in the two-day celebration, which drew a packed house and many young people. It was wonderful to see how Willis—without whom, arguably, the Cold War would not have ended—was remembered with such affection and admiration in what was formerly “enemy” territory. Conover had become a part of the collective memory of jazz lovers, an artistic genius (so unlike crude propagandists involved in the East-West struggle) who made the best of American cultural achievements accessible to information-starved listeners behind the Iron Curtain eager for an alternative to communist efforts at mind-control.
It is ironic that Willis is practically unknown in his own country, as his programs were not aired stateside due to the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which prohibits the domestic dissemination of U.S. government-supported information products intended for foreign audiences."
Read John H. Brown's guest post in full here