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“But if I really say it/ the radio won’t play it/ unless I lay it between the lines.”  This song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary was about rock & roll music, but the same principle was applied in conducting public diplomacy programs in Shanghai at a time of censorship and chilly bilateral relations. China had officials whose job was specifically to guard against “American spiritual pollution,” so overcoming these challenges called for a creative bent.

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Which Witch?

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When stationed abroad, Foreign Service Officers may face dangers such as carjackings, bombings, or even assassination attempts. However, for some, the most serious threat may be a supernatural one:  being cursed by a local witch doctor. The supernatural threats encountered by FSOs must always be taken seriously; otherwise, one risks temporal pain and spiritual punishment (probably even greater than dealing with HR).

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Stranded in Siberia

 

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The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) marked a turning point in relations between the U.S. and the USSR. Signed in December 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty came into force on June 1, 1988. It eliminated  intermediate range missiles (between 300-3,400 miles), including the Soviets’ accurate SS-20s. At the time of its signature, the treaty’s verification regime was the most detailed and stringent in the history of nuclear arms control. It established various types of on-site inspections. In practice, this meant that teams of Americans would fly in to conduct inspections throughout the USSR. Eileen Malloy was posted to Moscow in 1988 right after the treaty was signed and worked to facilitate the visits of U.S. inspection teams. Ambassador Malloy was interviewed beginning in November 2008 by Charles Stuart Kennedy.

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A Book You Can Swear By

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Traditionally, U.S. government officials put their hand on the Bible for their swearing-in.  In recent years, some have used alternatives, such as the Qur’an or the U.S. Constitution.  In June 2014 Suzi LeVine was the first ambassador to be sworn in on an e-reader. Ambassador Peter de Vos, however, had nothing readily available when he was rushed off to Liberia in 1990, set to take over the post in the midst of a raging civil war.  Ambassador Johnny Young recounts the unusual and creative swearing-in ceremony in an October 2005 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy.



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Back in Jonestown, Jones commanded everyone to gather in the main pavilion. The youngest members of the Peoples Temple were the first to die, as parents and nurses used syringes to drop a potent mix of cyanide, sedatives and powdered fruit juice, similar to Kool-Aid, into children’s throats. Adults then drank the concoction while armed guards surrounded the pavilion.

Richard Dwyer was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Guyana when the tragedy took place. In his oral history, he recounts the prelude to the massacre, how he pretended to be dead when shot at the airstrip, and how he dealt with the subsequent harrowing events. He was interviewed by ADST’s Charles Stuart Kennedy starting in July 1990.

Read the Moment here.

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Jonestown, Guyana was the scene of one of the most harrowing tragedies in American history. On November 18, 1978, at the direction of charismatic cult leader Jim Jones (pictured), 909 members of the People’s Temple died, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in a “revolutionary suicide.” They included over 200 murdered children. It was the largest mass suicide in modern history and resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until September 11, 2001.

Jones had established the Peoples Temple, a Christian sect, in Indianapolis in the 1950s, preaching against racism, and attracting many African Americans. After moving to San Francisco in 1971, his church was increasingly accused of financial fraud, physical abuse of its members and mistreatment of children. The paranoid Jones then moved his Temple to Guyana, to build a socialist utopia at Jonestown. 

Richard Dwyer was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Guyana when the tragedy took place. In his oral history, he recounts the prelude to the massacre, how he pretended to be dead when shot at the airstrip, and how he dealt with the subsequent harrowing events. He was interviewed by ADST’s Charles Stuart Kennedy starting in July 1990.

Go here to read the Moment

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With rumors growing about Jonestown, a group of former Temple members and concerned relatives of current members convinced Congressman Leo Ryan (pictured) to investigate the settlement in person.

On November 17, 1978, Congressman Ryan arrived in Jonestown with a group of journalists and other observers. At first the visit went well, but the next day, as Ryan’s delegation was about to leave, several Jonestown residents approached the group and asked them for passage out of Guyana. Jones became distressed at the defection of his followers, and one of Jones’ lieutenants attacked Ryan with a knife.

The Congressman escaped from the incident unharmed, but Jones then ordered Ryan and his companions ambushed and killed at the airstrip as they attempted to leave. The Congressman and four others were murdered as they boarded their charter planes. 

Read the Moment here

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In 1968, growing opposition to the failing sociopolitical and economic policies of hard-line Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, led by Antonín Novotný, finally came to a breaking point. Reformist politician Alexander Dubček replaced Novotný as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Slovakia. The period that followed, known as the Prague Spring, saw an expansion in freedom of expression, economic liberalization and sociopolitical reform that took the country by storm and was ultimately seen as an existential threat in Moscow. As a result, four countries of the Warsaw Pact — Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria — invaded Czechoslovakia on August 20th, 1968 to stop Czechoslovakia from further liberalizing its government.


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The Prague Spring, that period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia beginning in January of 1968, came to a swift end when Soviet troops, aided by other members of the Warsaw Pact, invaded the country on August 20-21. Dubček’s reforms were abandoned as he was arrested and sent to Moscow and was removed from office in April 1969. In the end, Prague 1968, like East Berlin 1953 and Hungary 1956, became just another poignant reminder of what could have been.

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