The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2023

12 JULY-AUGUST 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS People-to-People Diplomacy Thanks for the wonderful May 2023 FSJ collection, “Up Close with Ameri- can Exhibit Guides to the Soviet Union, 1959-1991. ” Great stories well told. This Russian-speaking U.S. exhibit guide programwas one of the inspira- tions for our student ambassadors at Expo Shanghai 2010, where 160 Mandarin- speaking U.S. students represented 38 states and 84 universities. Their ability to welcome the crowds in fluent Mandarin (as well as Shanghainese and Cantonese) became one of the hallmarks of the USA Pavilion. With their youth and language skills, the student ambassadors joked with the crowds and encouraged audience response in a quintessential American way. We were also proud that many took the Foreign Service exam at the consul- ate while in Shanghai. Aware of the earlier exhibits program, we invited former guide Tom Robertson, a retired ambassador, to speak at the Washington orientation for the student ambassadors. Although they seemed most interested in hearing how Tom met his wife while serving with the exhibits program, we did impress on them the historical legacy of people-to-people diplomacy. The baton was passed—and several went on to join the For- eign Service as well. Beatrice Camp FSO, retired Arlington, Virginia Meeting Exhibit Guides Though I was not an exhibit guide in the Soviet Union like those in “Up Close with American Exhibit Guides to the Soviet Union, 1959-1991, ” I was very much influenced by the program. Shortly after arriving on assignment in Moscow, in October 1966, as the most junior FSO at the embassy, I accompa- nied Chargé d’Affaires John Guthrie and a few others to Yerevan for the opening of the Hand Tools USA exhibition there. Instead of the intended quick trip, I stayed for almost a week due to bad flying weather. While there, I spent most of my time with the guides and with the exhibits director, Fritz Berliner, a wonderful man. Conversing with the guides was a great introduction to everyday life in the Soviet Union. They were young, enthusi- astic, and knowledgeable. All were fluent in Russian. Their stories of interacting with ordinary citizens, especially in the hinterlands, were a real eye-opener for this USSR newbie. Two of the guides were Black. I distinctly recall an anecdote related, with relish, by one of them. While walking down the street in a provincial city, he encountered a mother and her obstreperous young son approaching on foot from the opposite direction. In exasperation, the mother told her son that if he didn’t behave, she would give him to the Black man, who would eat him. She could not imagine that the for- eigner understood Russian. Ignoring the blatant rac- ism of the remarks, the guide decided to have a little fun with the situation. When he reached the mis- behaving boy, he scrunched up his face and growled loudly. He said he didn’t know whom he had frightened more, the mother or the boy. Lesson: Never assume that those around you do not understand whatever language you are speaking. I had later encounters with exhibit guides when Industrial Design USA came to Moscow in 1967, including a few of the guides I had met in Yerevan. It was great to spend time with them again. My experiences with the guides and the two exhibitions were helpful to me professionally and also enjoyable per- sonally. And from what I could see, the Soviet attendees gained a lot from what both had to offer. Jonathan B. Rickert Senior FSO, retired Bainbridge Island, Washington What about Today’s PD? I enjoyed the May 2023 Foreign Service Journal ’ s articles related to public diplo- macy, “Public Diplomacy: The Cold War and Beyond.” However, I was disappointed to find that it didn’t include any articles on the important, creative, and strategic day-to- day work that is being carried out around the world right now. This public diplomacy merits equal recognition and coverage. Dan Sreebny FSO, retired Issaquah, Washington Small pins (znachki) given as souvenirs at the Hand Tools USA and Industrial Design USA exhibits in the Soviet Union in 1966 and 1967, respectively. JONATHANRICKERT