by Yale Richmond
A retired public diplomacy professional describes a unique form of public-private collaboration in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. –Ed.
The visit of Warren H. Phillips, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, to Poland, in 1960 illustrates how Public Diplomacy, communicating directly with the people of other countries, could be practiced in a communist country.
Poland had undergone a revolution in 1956 which replaced a Stalinist regime with one of national communism. The new government ended the collectivization of agriculture, ceased harassment of the Catholic Church, restored academic freedom, and sought to renew Poland’s historic relations with the West, and with the United States in particular.
In the following years, many prominent American visitors came to Poland where they received warm welcomes. Among them were Vice President Richard Nixon, Senators Hubert Humphrey and Jacob Javits, Representative Clement Zablocki, presidential adviser Arthur Schlesinger Jr., writers Saul Bellow and Mary McCarthy, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, and the Juilliard String Quartet. Leading the way were the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations which awarded fellowships to Polish scholars and scientists for study in the United States and Western Europe. The State Department followed with Fulbright exchanges for Polish and American students and professors.
As customary for high-level visitors, U.S. Ambassador Jacob Beam gave a lunch for Phillips after which Beam and his senior staffers briefed Phillips on the political and economic situation in Poland.
After the briefing, Phillips surprised us by asking “Mr. Ambassador, what can The Wall Street Journal do for you?”
Unprepared for such an offer, Beam turned to me, his Cultural Affairs Officer, and asked, “Yale, what can The Wall Street Journal do for us?” Somehow, I came up with a novel idea.
“Mr. Phillips,” I said, “Poland has 18 higher schools of economics, much like our business schools in the United States. Can you give each of them a six-month subscription to The Wall Street Journal?” No problem, replied Phillips, send me the mailing addresses, which I promptly did. And in a month or so, in my travels around Poland, I visited some of those schools, and in their libraries I found The Wall Street Journal hanging from the racks next to Moscow’s Pravda and Izvestia.
Yale Richmond, a retired Foreign Service Officer, is the author of Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey (Berghahn Books, 2008), which relates how he practiced Public Diplomacy in Germany, Laos, Poland, Austria, and the Soviet Union.