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.