Tag Archive: Goethe Institut


It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

The courage to stare someone in the eye and tell them something they do not want to hear is becoming an increasingly rare commodity in today’s society.

As Almost DailyBrett has commented in “Losing the Art of Verbal Confrontation,” digital technology has provided us all with the means to be analog cowards.

If you need to deliver some unpleasant news to a soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, also-ran job seeker or one of the losing competitors for a RFP (Request for Proposal), then simply send an e-mail…or even more touching, deliver the news via a text.

Think of the beauty of this gutless approach, you don’t have to see the look of the recipient’s face or faces. You don’t have to hear the reaction. The transmission of unwelcome and uncomfortable news has never been easier.

When singer/songwriter Phil Collins decided to split with his second of three divorced wives, he had to compose a hard-copy message and feed it into a fax machine, and wait for electronic confirmation that the message had been delivered. How primitive.

collins

Today, we don’t have to worry about fibre-optic lines. We can dispatch the unwanted message via wireless technology with the aid of a handy satellite or two, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

What I am about to do is very un-male-like: Admit a romantic setback.

My policy at Almost DailyBrett is to omit the exact name of the person involved; in this case because she may be tad uneasy and maybe a smidge embarrassed, even though she has every reason to be proud. I will refer to her as Mizz “A.”

Over a  dinner last Sunday of grilled pesto chicken breast on a bed of linguine, steamed green beans and pinot gris, Mizz “A” told me that she had boiled down her romantic finalists to “Ron” and myself. I restrained the impulse to campaign for her vote, simply thanking Mizz “A” for her candor.

Three days later, she sent me an e-mail asking if I was available for drink after work. We met in downtown Eugene (or what passes for “downtown” in Eugene). She looked at me and said, “Let’s get a glass of wine (“wine” is a bad sign; “dinner” is a good sign).” My male intuition (not an oxymoron) turned out to be correct.

After some procedural small talk, she prefaced her remarks by saying, “This is not what you want to hear…” Ron had won the competition for her heart. Similar to Bert Parks and the “Miss America” contest, I was the first runner-up (translated: I was the first loser). My competition got the girl.

She expressed her sympathy to me. I replied that she was a “stand-up woman,” someone rare in our modern society. I told her that a phone call would have been sufficient; how it was miles better than the ubiquitous text or email. She didn’t even think that a phone call would have sufficed. Gee, there is a reason I liked this woman.

I asked, what were the deciding factors? She said there were two: First, Ron had expressed a desire to live overseas, something that has always interested Mizz “A.” I countered by reminding her of my receipt of the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut and how I always wanted to live in a Schloss, drinking schnapps and clicking zee heels in the Bavarian Alps. She also said that Mr. Ron was a very religious and spiritual man, and that was very important to her. Alas, that is not me…and that clearly separates the two final contenders.

Upon departing, I resisted the temptation to say to her that she could contact me if things do not work out with Mr. Ron. That statement in my humble opinion sounds weak and may be perceived that I am rooting against their relationship, which is not the case.

Looking back at this experience and venturing forward to the continuation of my post-marriage (I am a widower after 22 years of blissful matrimony) dating life — characterized by more activity than accomplishment — I know that at least one person exists out there who knows how to treat people right. She clearly follows the Golden Rule.

Sooner or later, we all have to deliver less-than-cheerful news. The rule that I humbly submit is the more that someone genuinely puts into a relationship, the search for a position, the quest for a project, the more they deserve a face-to-face delivery of your difficult news and an explanation of your decision. That may not be physically possible every time, which leaves the phone as a distant second best option (at least you can hear the reaction). E-mails and texts should never be used to deliver bad news to those who have invested considerable time, resources, emotion and effort. If you do, it says more about you (and your organization, if applicable) than the person or persons receiving the news.

One last point: If you are fearful of an inappropriate reaction to your eyeball-to-eyeball transmission of less than stellar news, then I would opine that you shouldn’t be in this “relationship” in the first place. Have to call me as I see em.

Editor’s note: Here are three recent Almost DailyBrett blog posts about the adventures of mid-life crisis dating and social media.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/losing-the-art-of-verbal-confrontation/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/%e2%80%9cit%e2%80%99s-not-you-it%e2%80%99s-me-%e2%80%9d/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/unfriending-your-%e2%80%9cfriends%e2%80%9d/

 

 

 

Has there ever been a country in the planet’s existence that has ever been so thoroughly and negatively stereotyped based upon only 12 years of its history?

Consider the national brand of Germany and its 82 million residents. What does the mere mention of the country’s name trigger in the minds of most people? The Nazis, Hitler, Goose-stepping, Blitzkrieg, Luftwaffe, Panzers, Gestapo, Sieg Hail, Holocaust, Lugers, Monocles, the Bunker etc.

This deeply ingrained stereotype (e.g. Wilhelm Klink and Sergeant “I know nothing” Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes) comes immediately to mind and will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. However, there may be four answers to at least soften the country’s perception problem: time, normalcy, products and most of all, famous women who have or who are softening the nation’s image.

As Pulitzer Prize writer and journalist William L. Shirer wrote in his best seller The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich he personally detested totalitarian dictatorships and came to loathe Nazi Germany as he lived through it and “watched its ugly assault upon the human spirit.” That was from 1933-1945 or 66-78 years ago.

merkel1

Since then, Germany was conquered, occupied, divided and then reunified. Das Land in der Mitte (The nation in the middle of Europe) has become the central economic engine of the European Union (EU). Many are openly wondering whether Germany will bail out Greece, and if they do, will they then be asked to do the same for Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or add any other ailing EU country here.

As vexing as these questions are, they also signal that Germany may be increasingly regarded as a normal country. This is not to suggest the concentration camps, the ovens, the mass graves and the Holocaust should ever be forgotten; all should be permanently remembered to prevent this horrifically sad chapter of human history from ever repeating itself.

Why do I care about this subject? Personally, I have been studying the German language since 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and with it, the end of European branch of Communism. An authentic piece of the wall sits within inches of my mouse pad as I write this commentary. Just this week I received word that I will receive the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut, signaling at least a basic conversational proficiency in the German language. The question is should I openly celebrate?

On more occasions than I could possibly count, colleagues and associates express surprise when they hear that I am studying German. It doesn’t take long for the 12 years of the Third Reich to come into the conversation (not that I raise it). I even experienced one of my colleagues suggesting that I banish Shirer’s award-winning best seller from my home book shelf because it includes a Swastika on the side cover…Gee, I didn’t put that emblem there…

Maybe, I should just be at peace with my interest in learning a second language and let people think what they want to think? Germany does not have the same luxury. So how is Germany rebuilding its reputation and enhancing its brand, even though the damage from the Nazi years will never be totally mitigated?

● Time. The World War II generation is dying out. With each passing day, there are fewer people who have first-hand experience with the War in Europe and its aftermath. The Prussian guns have been silenced and an enduring democracy has emerged from the ashes of war.

● Normalcy. As discussed already, all eyes are on Germany as the solution for the European economic crisis. Germany has been sending its military out of the country…not as invaders and occupiers…but as peacekeepers (e.g. Bosnia) or to assist in the War on Terrorism (e.g. Afghanistan).

● Products, brand names and reputations. BMW, Daimler-Benz, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Bayer, Siemens, SAP, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Bank, Becks, Bitburger, Spaten and more are all regarded as world-class competitors in their respective automotive, pharmaceutical, technology, banking and brewing segments. German craftsmanship and quality engineering are legendary.

● The influence of prominent women. One of the quickest ways to soften an image and maybe to start the job of repairing a brand are women who do not threaten and command respect. Three German Frauen come immediately to mind in ascending order: Steffi Graf, Katharina Witt and most of all, Angela Merkel.

graf

Graf, 42, (born, Mannheim, Baden Württemberg) won 22 Grand Slam tennis titles (second most ever) including the only calendar year Grand Slam (Australian, French, Wimbledon and US). Fräulein Forehand played a classy brand of tennis and earned the respect throughout the tennis world. She is married to former male tennis star Andre Agassi and they are raising two children.

Witt, 45 (born, Staaken in former East Germany) won two Olympic Gold medals in figure skating in Sarajevo (1984) and Calgary (1988). She won the figure skating World Championships four times. She raised a few eyebrows with her nude portfolio in Playboy in 1998 becoming only the second personality to ever sell-out an entire editorial run of the magazine; the other is none other than Marilyn Monroe. She is regarded as one of the best figure skaters of all time.

wittgold

Merkel, 56, (born, Hamburg but grew up in East Germany) is the nation’s Chancellor and first female head of state in the various iterations of Germany that goes back to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire in 962. Merkel is the head of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (party) and is the second woman to ever chair the G-8. She has positioned herself as a pragmatist and centrist in domestic and foreign affairs. She was welcomed to the White House with an official state dinner earlier this month.

Just like the rubble that piled up in Berlin took years to clear out after the shooting stopped in 1945, the rebuilding process for Germany’s brand is well underway. Will the Nazi past and with it Vergangenheitsverdrossenheit (angst about history) ever go completely away? The answer is nein. However, time, normalcy, engineering prowess and the influence of some key women (and men too) are maybe the keys to reassessing Germany’s reputation and steadily building its national brand equity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steffi_Graf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katarina_Witt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/06/07/watch-live-welcoming-chancellor-merkel-germany-white-house-official-visit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogan’s_Heroes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany

%d bloggers like this: