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My first recorded attempt at writing.

A few days ago I was startled to realize that we were rapidly approaching the 500th post on my Ambassador’s blog, which is quite a milestone for what was our first, modest experiment in 21st Century Statecraft at Embassy Wellington.

When we launched the blog on March 14, 2010, I wasn’t quite sure what direction it would take or how long it would last. I was dubious and a bit bemused at the prospect of regularly writing a public diary, as the tone of my first post indicated. Frankly, I wasn’t sure the blog would survive, given the volume and intensity of demands on an Ambassador’s time.

As I write article number 500 on Christmas Eve, however, I couldn’t be happier that I devoted the time and energy to the prior 499 pieces, an eclectic mix of travelogues, policy discussions, adventure stories, profiles of impressive people, information sharing, and historical notes.

We’ve covered in prose and pictures a lot of exciting, diverse ground … from my collecting air samples at the South Pole to attending multilateral meetings on maritime security in tropical Rarotonga … from teaching high school classes to greeting American Cabinet Secretaries on the tarmac … from issues of ocean acidification to intellectual property to freedom of religion … from touring with the Harlem Gospel Choir to digging through the New Zealand archives … from celebrating independence days to helping friends in need.

I have been particularly pleased to highlight the transformative work of trail-blazers such as Adi Tafuna’i and Lina Chang … share off-the-beaten-path experiences of New Zealand and Samoa … revive shared history … feature extraordinary places to visit and study in the United States (and make such endeavors easier) … and celebrate American-origin treasures as diverse as the Peace Corps, blues and jazz music, Eleanor Roosevelt, muscle cars, Marine Corps, Creole cuisine, vibrant civil society, pride parades, Special Olympics, internet, public national parks, Fulbright, and more.

We have posted on average three times a week for more than 3-1/2 years, attracting a sizeable audience composed largely of folks who otherwise would not see the doings of an Ambassador or take an interest in the work of an Embassy. We have featured a variety of guest authors including students, scientists, and policy experts. The large volume of feedback we have received from readers has guided me in selecting topics and refining content and approach. And in the process we’ve expanded the conversation in very healthy ways and won a few awards.

While still bemused about many things, I am no longer dubious about blogging, tweeting, and other digital “ings.” In my experience, they are viable, valuable, and potentially powerful tools of policy and diplomatic engagement, allowing one to engage in a broad-based, enlightening, authentic conversation without the distortions and blockages of traditional filters. Of course, there will always be intractable skeptics and insistent gatekeepers, but such folks will gradually recede out of sight in the rear-view mirror.

So, what now? Well, I still have a few posts left in me before I shuffle off stage right. And the blog’s second act will be very exciting. But I’ll talk about that later.

For now, I’d just like to thank you for coming along for the ride, for reading what I write, and for enriching my time in New Zealand and Samoa with your comments and suggestions.

Mahalo nui loa. Fa’afetai, fa’afetai tele lava. Kia ora.

DH Sig

Last April I wrote a blog post for Social Media NZ about how our Embassy engages in digital outreach using social media platforms. Those efforts are part of a larger initiative launched by Secretary Clinton to develop and institutionalize what she calls 21st Century Statecraft, by which she means harnessing and adapting the digital networks and technologies of today’s interconnected world to enhance traditional diplomacy.

The State Department has designated January as 21st Century Statecraft month and will run a variety of events to test, highlight, and leverage our evolving social media tools. We here at Mission New Zealand will run our own series of events including, if all goes well, a live webcast from the Ice with several of my scientist friends during my upcoming Antarctica trip.

If you follow me on Twitter, you are already aware that State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland will be answering live from her regular Friday press briefings questions received from the worldwide public through State’s 10 official Twitter feeds (@StateDept plus 9 non-English feeds). Video clips of the questions she answers will be subtitled in the languages of the original tweets and made available on the Department’s YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/statevideo .

At the center of the 21st Century Statecraft effort is my friend and colleague Alec Ross, the Secretary’s Senior Adviser for Innovation. Alec participated today in a LiveAtState video web chat with journalists, bloggers, and other commentators from around the globe in which he talked about conducting diplomacy and meeting challenges in a wired world. You can view the video above or read what Alec had to say here.

Alec has done great work back at HQ and in his travels, and I’ve been trying for some time to persuade him to visit us here in New Zealand. It looks as though the stars have aligned for him to headline a few events we’re planning later this year. Stay tuned.

Today I’m turning my blog over to a new friend of mine, Michael Moore-Jones.

Michael Moore-Jones.

Michael Moore-Jones.

Mike comes highly recommended. As I mentioned back on April 1st, I had tea at my Residence for New Zealand’s former Ambassadors to the United States. As I was walking Ambassador and Mrs. Frank Corner to their car, Lynn suggested that I take a look at her social media guru grandson Mike’s websites.

So I did. And they impressed me.

Mike is currently 16 years old and attends Scots College here in Wellington. Over the course of his life thus far he has lived in five countries: the United States, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, the Philippines, and Spain.  I list the US first because that’s where he was born.

Mike is passionate about technology, business, and education, and he acts on those passions. He blogs, mentors, and gets involved in start-up companies. One of his projects is They Don’t Teach you This in School, a website that aims to help young people succeed by learning from the experiences of older folk. Among other things, the site runs 60-second videos of adults talking about the most important things they didn’t learn in school. It’s a great idea.

Mike, thanks for your guest appearance today. The floor is now yours …

*   *   *

Why and How Leaders Should Use Social Media to Communicate with Young People

by Michael Moore-Jones

New Zealanders and Americans have a lot in common, but one of the most immediately obvious things is that in most cases we’re both incredibly passionate about our countries. Quite rightly, too – we both have a lot to be passionate about.

As a young Kiwi with strongly positive feelings for my country, I want to know where it’s heading. I want to know what kind of place New Zealand will be in fifty years. From here, lots of questions start coming to mind - Where are our leaders trying to guide our country? Where does New Zealand fit on an international stage? Who are our diplomats overseas talking to, and what partnerships are they working on? What decisions are on our leader’s minds? Simply – I want to know how my country is placed internationally, and how it is being made more influential.

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Social media users have been playing a starring role in the grassroots dramas unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa. In many countries in the region – including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria – the Internet is serving as a catalyst for journalists, activists, and other citizens to connect with each other and share with the world their stories and calls for change.

Click through for image source.

“We were unplugged for five days, no Internet connection, no mobile devices. We were like in a big prison in Egypt,” says Egyptian blogger Dalia Ziada in talking about attempts by former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime to stifle the unalienable rights of human beings to speak, access public information, and assemble peacefully.

The attempted cyber black-out did not – and could not – succeed. It did not – and could not – stop people from connecting or from gathering in the streets to demand change.

“The civil rights movement is not new,” Dalia explains, “but it did not succeed until the Internet appeared and social networks like Facebook and Twitter attracted larger numbers of Egyptians.”

Dalia makes a fundamental point. The Internet is an instantaneous global convenor that amplifies demands for freedom of expression and other universal human rights, facilitates vibrant and open discussion of a wide range of topics, and connects citizens with each other and with people around the world in powerful ways.

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