At the meeting of the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s Board of Governors this week our Council’s president, Adam Clayton Powell III, weighed in on a question up for debate these days: in today’s world, are things getting better or worse?
The world is getting better, and American investments and values are the reason, he asserted.
Powell made the case that America paved the way for growing global prosperity by exercising and investing in “American principles” like freedom, education entrepreneurship and empowerment of women. He cited Brookings Institution scholar Homi Kharas, who wrote that by 2020 more than half the world’s population will be able to cover their basic needs with a little left over.
This story is not as easy to promote as it used to be. The facts may demonstrate overall improvement in the human condition, but the news media highlight new crises and injustices every day. Moreover, politicians magnify problems in their pursuit of power.
U.S. broadcasting and public diplomacy have always been about telling America’s story, and that means delivering facts and reason to counter political propaganda.
Read below the full text of Prof. Powell’s remarks, or view them on the video (at 48 minutes into the hearing.)
Remarks by Adam Clayton Powell III
U.S. Agency for Global Media
Board of Governors
September 5, 2018
My name is Adam Clayton Powell III, and I am President of the Public Diplomacy Council and Director of Washington Programs for the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Communications Leadership and Policy. But these views are my own and not those of either institution.
Today we seem immersed in conflict and disorder – perhaps more so here in Washington DC than in Cincinnati or Des Moines or San Antonio. Many argue that the focus on daily disagreement has obscured the larger agreements that unite Americans, things that we all believe, those truths that are self-evident.
But beyond that, the focus on daily debate has obscured a larger and extraordinary event, an event without precedent, which offers an opportunity to those in this building and beyond whose work is to tell America’s story to the world.
Buried deep in the news a few weeks ago was the report that some time in the next two years, probably in the year 2020, barring world war or another catastrophic event, for the first time in human history, the majority of people on earth will be free of want.
The actual headline was that most people will be middle class, middle class defined as being able to afford food, shelter, other essentials.
Which brings us to telling America’s story to the world. In this case, telling America’s story to the world is reporting America’s role in this historic worldwide achievement.
How did humanity reach this milestone?
Was it through the work of a leader in Moscow? Not likely.
Was it through the leaders in Teheran or Pyongyang or Havana? I don’t think so.
Rather, it was through principles and ideals that are essentially American, principles and ideals that we may not have invented, but that we have embraced and from which we prospered.
- Empowerment of women
And as America prospered, Americans shared:
- 70 years ago the Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe.
- 50 years ago, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations’ Green Revolution saved a billion people from starvation with agricultural innovations that still benefit us today.
- 20 years ago, the spread of Internet and mobile phone technologies empowered people throughout the world.
- Today Gates and others work to reduce disease worldwide and to harness microcredit and other entrepreneurial tools to help people lift themselves from poverty.
And the U.S. government has invested and continues to invest in all of these, and so much more, that have brought us to this moment.
This global human achievement is the achievement of billions of people around the world. It is also America’s achievement. And so at this turn of history, it is a part of America’s story that should be told to the world.
End text of remarks
Joe B. Johnson consults on government communication and technology after a career in the United States Foreign Service. He is an instructor for the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where he teaches strategic planning for public diplomacy. Read More