With the increasing anti-American tone of the third world, our diplomatic efforts are of increasing importance. I spent 28 years in the United States Information Agency (USIA) in overseas posts and in Washington, explicating policies and American values abroad. Taking policy guidance from the White House and the State Department, we built amazing goodwill and understanding among millions around the world looking beyond the confines of their own repressive governments for signs of hope from the US. Today, we have more friends abroad than we might think, and we need to reach out to them anew.
USIA's demise and the consolidation of its functions in the State Department folded a small, resilient, quick-acting government agency that advised the president and his cabinet about foreign public opinion into the oldest cabinet department of our government. USIA is not close to functioning as it used to. In time, the State Department will strengthen its cultural and public-informational outreach efforts in the same tradition as the USIA did at its founding in 1953. Colin Powell has already taken major steps to increase the role public diplomacy plays within the State Department. He sees it as a serious implement of our overall international diplomatic engagement, as it should be.
Bruce K. Byers
Regarding "Ways to curb college binges" (Editorial, April 11): Having traveled to several places in Europe and Asia, I have been amazed by the lack of university students I've seen going to night clubs. When I've asked about this, the answer is always the same. "They are studying." When I was in college, I would have been considered a binge drinker. Because my classes were so easy, I could get away with that behavior. A solution to college drinking might be to have the universities examine their curriculums. I went to school with some students who spent five to seven years getting undergraduate degrees, mostly due to partying. What kind of university policies allow this to happen?
Regarding "Students demand divestment, this time targeting Israel" (April 9): Your unbiased reporting in this article about the activities of the Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California at Berkeley was noticed. I live just over the hill from Berkeley and was shocked to find out this was going on and to realize that the local newspapers had been ignoring this movement and the thought-provoking issues this group is helping to raise.
The articles' accompanying photograph showing the mock Israeli checkpoint was an eye-catching and appropriate one. The next day when the local paper carried a photograph of campus police arresting these angry demonstrators and a sensational article focusing on campus confrontations, I was most grateful for having been provided with a much deeper and more balanced view of the situation.
Regarding "The good news about step families" (Homefront, April 3): Thank you for publishing this article about the good side of stepfamilies. As a soon-to-be stepparent, I find my role often painted in a negative light by the media. We all know of, and hear about, the archetype of the "wicked stepmother." It is encouraging to see something positive about the bringing together of such families, to give hope that a stepfamily really is a "family," and that dysfunction is not the necessary result of a restructured family unit.
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