Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Muppet Ambassadors?

In order to determine whether Sesame Street is a form of public diplomacy, we must first establish which lens to view public diplomacy through. If public diplomacy is citizens—or in this case Muppets—acting on behalf of a political body to establish interpersonal connections, then no, Sesame Street is not a vehicle for public diplomacy. However, if public diplomacy is measured by outcome, and not intention, then I dare say that Elmo and friends are cultural ambassadors. Their mission is to act on behalf of their audience to educate them—equipping them with lessons on literacy, counting, cultural awareness, friendship, self-esteem, kindness, and tolerance. Providing youth around the world with an educational outlet, emphasizing morals and values (both local and shared) is one of the best forms of diplomacy. There are some hearts and minds that Big Bird can touch that a government will never be able to—so let the show go on, and tell everyone how to get to, how to get to Sesame Street.

1 comment:

  1. There is one major component of public diplomacy which I don't think can be separated from its definition: in general, I think that the term implies that you are doing it strategically, with the intent on getting people to view you, your culture, and your policies, in a more favorable way, or simply, the way you want them to. This is what will be measured when you measure “the outcome" of PD, like you mentioned. This is the goal of governments and likewise of cultural ambassadors. Even if the goal is winning hearts and minds, like you said.

    Granted, it is hard for us to imagine that themes like "friendship" and "tolerance" shouldn't be global goals, not some country’s “strategy”. I think I get what you are trying to say, that there is a general good will interest to educate, not to get people to associate Sesame Street with The US. In that case, I don’t think it could be called PD exactly.

    I think the question becomes, though, could it really not be? Don’t we all carry an inherent identity that is speaking volumes louder than our words? And isn’t this “ambassadorship” always turned on? And doesn’t an ambassador always have a country/government he represents, at least in the eyes of others?