Barack Obama has the capacity to overcome the recent image of a global bully by restoring America’s reputation as a peace-loving, progressive nation. But he faces far greater priorities during his first weeks and months in office as president than say the future of the Voice of America. An entire generation may well be perplexed by just what the VOA means. But the international buzz caused by President-elect Obama earlier in the month offers him an opportunity to revive what had been a valuable American resource for so many years. In short, the reputation of the Voice needs to be revived and treasured — not squandered as it has been by the Bush Administration the past eight years.
It was the regularly scheduled broadcasts of Willis Conover, the music maestro who spread the love of American jazz around the world. During the worst of times in the Soviet Union I remember Russian musicians taping Conover’s daily programs and then transcribing the music to sheet music for jam sessions of their own. There also were often countless days when Soviet Jews and other political dissidents who had heard VOA programming, would thank me for telling their stories to the outside world in my CBS News radio broadcasts from Moscow that were repeated by the Voice of America.
To read all of Fromson’s column, go here. For two of the many previous Rifftides postings about the VOA and Conover, go here, here and here. To be repetitive in an area in which repetition is needed, allow me to suggest that if you’re a US citizen, you send to your senators and congressman a letter or message something like this one, which I sent nearly two years ago:
I urge you to fight the Bush administration’s budget cuts that would result in the Voice of America stopping or reducing English Language news broadcasts. At a time when the US image around the world is soiled, we need continuation of the objective shortwave news programs whose very existence has informed millions about our nation, not to mention helping them learn English so that they might better understand what The United States of America stands for. This proposed budget cut would effectively disable one of the few official cultural exchange vehicles left to us. Please discuss this with your Senate and House colleagues and do all that you can to preserve the VOA.
The influential Public Diplomacy Council, a coalition of foreign policy specialists including diplomats and academics, has joined the chorus urging the new administration and the Congress to move quickly to resuscitate the VOA. For a report, click here.