FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good article on the Politico: How to Act Like a Diplomat

Below is a good article passed on to FUUO by the always apt  http://greatmarinereadingmaterial.blogspot.com/ 

(a great blog to pump into your RSS feeds...you have those set up...right?!)  Look for a book review on French's book in the near future by FUUO.  As always, my comments are in italics in the article below.

Here's a link to buy it on Amazon...not the cheapest but a good one for your bookshelf.




By KARIN TANABE | 9/21/10 6:19 AM EDT

It's been more than 30 years since a book on U.S. diplomatic protocol was published, a fact we'll use as an excuse for any breaches of etiquette over the past few decades. But with the arrival of Mary Mel French's "United States Protocol: The Guide to Official Diplomatic Etiquette," it's time to refrain from drinking from the finger bowl and usher in an era of international courtesy and respect.

French served as chief of protocol during the Clinton administration and made sure every "i" was dotted and every "t" crossed. The attention to detail was a necessity. As former President Bill Clinton puts it in the book's foreword, "When we omit courtesies and context from our messages, we compromise the clarity of our objectives, leaving them vulnerable to misinterpretation." Or as French tells POLITICO, "Protocol is the same all over the world - it comes down to good manners."

"A lot of people coming into government don't know basic rules that help you maneuver diplomatic protocol," French says. Her advice is simple and is applicable to new ambassadors and regular folks alike: "If you have the opportunity to visit the White House, dress traditionally. Be thoughtful about your appearance. Don't chew gum. And introduce yourself if you need to - say your name." It's certainly not rocket science.

Since we happen to have a president who gets around town in search of local eats, what should we do if the Secret Service allows us a word with POTUS in a casual setting? "You should introduce yourself and wish them well. This is the president. They don't need to hear your complaints if you have any," advised French.

With her eagle-eyed attention to detail, did French have any cringe-worthy moments during her tenure? Of course.

"In the beginning of President Clinton's administration, I made introductions to the president for leaders from South America. We were all in the East Room with the leaders and the five or six ministers who accompanied them. All of a sudden, President Clinton turns to me and says, 'I want to talk to President Menem from Argentina.' Well, I had no idea in that room of people who President Menem was. Fortunately, I found someone from the NSC who knew him and took me to him," she said. "I was able to bring him back to the president and no one gave me away. Lesson learned."

"Years later it was funny," she said. Weird sense of humor...if that passes for funny, I can't imagine what else the book contains.  Funny would be if she brought back Al Gore or somebody.

French also has some advice for those in the public eye-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, when she stumbled through her opening statement in a televised debate-who commit a public faux pas. "I think you re-explain what your meaning was," French told POLITICO. "It's very difficult to get everything right. In this age, I think we have to be a little more tolerant because communication is instant."

Indeed, to err is to be human. But a simple breach of etiquette can be avoided with a little education. French's book gives manners a modern twist and covers everything from how to address the president to writing a letter (people still write letters?  Wow.) to your sheriff and who outranks whom in government. (Surprise, the director of the Peace Corps outranks the deputy director of the CIA).  Try telling that to the deputy director of the CIA ...maybe Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams and Deputy Director Michael J. Morell will have to arm-wrestle...although if you have ever seen the two gents- my money is Mr. Williams.  Quick aside, to be 'legit' in DC do I need to have a middle initial?)

At the diplomatic level, it's always an era of formalities. But for us average Joes, French advises that we "remember how to be nice to people."

"We need to rethink how we help our country with everyday exchanges," she said. "American citizens make a big impression."  Big is the key word.  How do you say supersize in Japanese?

Thank you,

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