Monday, December 15, 2014

A Good and Grand Life in Public Diplomacy: Walter R. Roberts

Back in 2010, while I was still at George Washington University, I had the good fortune to conduct a lengthly, on camera interview with Walter Roberts -- a broadcaster, diplomat and scholar who lived a long, extraordinary life in public diplomacy.
Walter first came to the U.S. in 1939 as a graduate student and refugee from his native Austria.  He began his career at the Voice of America, at the very outset of the U.S. government's wartime information effort.  At the end of World War II, Walter transfered to the State Department, then joined the newly organized U.S. Information Agency in 1953.  He served at USIA with distinction, occupying a number of senior posts in Washington before joining Ambassador George Kennan at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia as counselor for public affairs.  After his retirement from federal service, Walter taught public diplomacy at GWU -- in what was certainly one of the first U.S. university courses devoted to the study of international information programs.  He was a prolific writer throughout his life -- on international broadcasting, on diplomacy, on Yugoslavia and on many other topics -- and created a fund that supports the study of public diplomacy, the Walter R. Roberts Endowment.

Walter passed away in June 2014, at 97, remarkably lucid and insightful to the very end.  Last month, at a memorial gathering at GW's Elliot School, Walter's family was joined by many former colleagues, friends and admirers who paid tribute to this remarkable man and shared their memories of his good and grand life.  I propose to do the same here, by sharing excerpts from the 2010 interview that shed light on his life and career.

No comments:

Post a Comment