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Rick Stengel Leaving Time For State Department

September 13, 2013

I really like the offerings of Rick Stengel in Time, and know we will make a positive imprint at the State Department.  I found this news nugget today just rather comforting. 

Secretary of State Kerry spent his early months on the job thinking about recruiting. He particularly wanted to focus on how to remake Public Diplomacy for this new age — a complicated world, changing demographics, new media, a need to sell America and our values to a world where old means of communication weren’t sufficient. Kerry’s view was that he wanted someone who was a thinker both about changes in the world and changes in communication. Kerry was long been a Stengel fan, going back to Rick’s work on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Road to Freedom,” one of just 13 books on Kerry’s personal bookcase in his inner office at the State Department. Stengel has to be announced formally and has to be confirmed by Senate, where he has friends across the aisle, including Sen. John McCain. State hopes he will be in the job by mid-fall.

In early summer, Stengel met secretly in Kerry’s private seventh-floor office , accompanied through security and upstairs by a State Department aide who did not know who he was. The cover story (!), if Stengel had been spotted, was that he was on Mahogany Row to see the principal Deputy Secretary of State, Bill Burns. Sitting down with Stengel near a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, after a talk about Princeton basketball, Kerry appealed to Stengel’s sense of public service: “You’ve written a lot about the spirit of national service. Well, this isn’t a partisan job. I’m out of politics myself. There’s no bigger service than writing the story of America for the world. This is about selling America to millions of young people in the Middle East who aren’t sure which side they’re going to choose. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.” Stengel accepted on the spot.

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