“On the eve of a NATO summit meeting here [in Strasbourg], President Obama offered a compact for a renewed partnership with Europe, saying ‘America is changing but it cannot be America alone that changes’…Hundreds of people, many of them students from France and Germany, applauded him loudly as he spoke in a sports hall, particularly when he evoked efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles and close the Guantánamo Bay detention center. He also drew enthusiastic cheers when he insisted: ‘The United States does not, and will not, torture.’”
I have noticed that in all his speeches over the last several days, President Obama has emphasized that the U.S. wants to listen and have a respectful dialogue with Europe and the rest of the world. Mr. Obama has even admitted U.S. mistakes concerning the global economic crisis and has implied that the U.S. will no longer dictate terms to Europe. He spoke candidly at the town hall meeting about U.S.-Europe relations in the past:
“[President Obama] urged a shift in attitudes. In America, he said, there had been ‘a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world,’ and there had been ‘times when America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive,’ Mr. Obama said…But in Europe, he went on, there had also been anti-American attitudes. ‘On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common,’ President Obama said. ‘They are not wise.’”
The language and tone being used by President Obama would have been unthinkable during the Bush administration. Pledging to listen and engage in dialogue are hallmarks of effective public diplomacy, as is reaching out to foreign publics, such as today’s town hall meeting in Strasbourg. This could be a boon to U.S. public diplomacy and lead towards less anti-Americanism in Europe.
What remains to be seen is if President Obama’s tone is followed by the actual implementation of policies and if Europe is willing to reciprocate regarding a variety of issues facing the U.S. and Europe.