Sports can encourage dialogue between antagonistic countries, says USC public diplomacy professor

“Sport can bring people together,” said Cull, speaking before CCLP senior fellow Derek Shearer’s diplomacy class at Occidental College on Oct. 1, 2015. However, “each conflict is new and we have to communicate and find a shared relevance of mutual interest afresh for each different situation.”

Soccer may be a way to reach certain countries, but not, for example, the Islamic State. Cull used one unique example in Cuba Skate, a non-profit started in Washington, D.C., by one of his students that aims to support and grow the Cuban skateboarding community by providing access to skateboarding equipment that is otherwise unavailable on the island.

In an informative and often humorous lecture, Cull examined the history of sport’s role in international relations, from archaic society to present day. Sports began with war play games and funeral games and evolved into the Olympics in ancient Greece, said Cull. In Medieval Europe an early version of soccer (in which residents kicked a ball through town) was used as a “safety valve” – by having the disorder of sporting events, there could be order elsewhere in society.

In England, the emphasis on sports was fair play and sportsmanship, not competition and excellence. Sports were participation- and rule-based, not winning-based.

“The emphasis was not on excellence, not just on being able to be the best you can be, the fastest you can be,” said Cull. “This is contrasting with the dominant American approach to sports. British children were not taught to win in sports; rather, they were taught to lose and like it and to applaud the skills of the other team.”

Cull said he sees America’s obsession with excellence in sports as a problem. “It’s nice to win,” he said, but it’s not everything. In particular, he cited the language of conquest in sports (“We’re going to destroy the other team!”) as leading to “some really weird interpersonal politics” with negative gender implications.

Cull also said that there is “no reason why our national identity should be the most powerful identification we have. Many of us have relationships or affiliations that are stronger than our national identities that might cross international lines. For a lot of people it’s around sports.”

Cull dramatically recited Sir Henry Newbolt’s poem “Vitai Lampada,” ending with the famously uplifting, “Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

“The poem is teaching young men to sacrifice themselves and saying sport is a rehearsal for war, and in war you must observe the rules of sport and even when there’s no hope, you still keep going.”

Sports and the values embedded within them spread with the British Empire, as well as later by Christian missionaries. Sports have been used as a nation-building mechanism both domestically and internationally. The Olympics, Cull said, are a good example of “sport as utopia,” in which national governments use the opportunity to promote their ideologies and values on the global stage.

Once you do that, Cull said, it becomes “available for other people to tie other messages to it. The [Olympic] competition itself has become a target for terrorists,” including the bloody demonstrations in Mexico in 1968, the attack in Munich in 1972, the boycott of South Africa (including countries that supported South Africa, such as New Zealand), and the Cold War boycotts between the U.S. and Russia.

That said, Cull pointed out that sport can serve as a diplomatic sphere as well. In 1951 the Globetrotters exercised goodwill diplomacy in Berlin. In April 1971, China invited the U.S. ping pong team to play in what became an historic meeting. In 1998 President Bill Clinton used sports to open communication with North Korea. The Para and Special Olympics are successful examples of sports changing countries and cultures to rethink how they treat differently-abled people. Recently, Cull said, sports have also positively changed views of women.

Cull also talked about how commercial sports have become globally.

“Sport is a major business,” said Cull. “As global media has become larger and markets have become broader, you need content to go onto those channels. Global media has been quite happy to have sport as an easily transmitted, easily understood form of content.”

This creates global brands out of sports stars who are “consumable” and “likable” and help sell products. “In some ways, sports personalities are used to sweeten globalization, so that you forgive or don’t even notice the economic consequence; how, in fact, the money is flowing to certain geographical locations based on the power of sports. So it’s becoming a symbol of globalization.”

Cull said sports and media do not exist in two completely separate realms, with media companies owning sports teams or rich people and companies owning both sports and media; “one hand feeding the other,” as Cull put it.

Cull said he’s concerned about the cultural practices that might be being exported along with sports. With the emphasis on excellence in sports, “once you find you can’t compete, you’re encouraged to just sit on the couch and watch and eat potato chips and drink beer. Which is fine, but do we really want to teach the world that sport is only about excellence and competing at the highest level and not about having a good time and participating at whatever level? We have to be careful that sport doesn’t become a thing where the tiny group of super athletes gets to run around and burn calories and everybody else gets to sit down watch them and participate by buying stuff endorsed by those people or watching the commercials that run in between those people performing and drinking beer and eating chips.”

Nick Cull is Professor of Public Diplomacy and is the founding director of the Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC. His research and teaching interests are inter-disciplinary, and focus on public diplomacy and — more broadly — the role of media, culture and propaganda in international history. He is the author of two volumes on the history of US public diplomacy: The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989 (Cambridge 2008), named by Choice Magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Texts of 2009 and The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency: American Public Diplomacy, 1989-2001 (Palgrave, New York, 2012). His first book, Selling War, published by OUP New York in 1995, was a study of British information work in the United States before Pearl Harbor. He is editor of the journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, President of the International Association for Media and History, and a member of the Public Diplomacy Council.

Derek Shearer is the Chevalier Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He also serves as Director of Global Affairs, handling the college’s international relations and directing the expansion of its International Affairs programs. He served in the Clinton administration as an Economics official in the Commerce Department, and then as ambassador to Finland (1994-97). He was a fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute and at the Woodrow Wilson Scholars Center in Washington, D.C. He was a foreign policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign and to Senator Hillary Clinton in the 2007-08 presidential primary contests.

 Immigration activist and filmmaker urges USC students to talk to those they don’t agree with

“Too often when we talk about immigration we talk with people who already agree with us,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration activist, and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas, who has traveled around the country on a speaking tour in promotion of his films Documented and White People. “I talked to many young white students who seemed to not know where they’re from. How can you ask me where I come from if you don’t know where you’re from? ‘White’ is not a country.”

Vargas spoke before an audience of 200 students in Professor Robert Scheer’s communications classroom on Sept. 29 for the first forum in a new series entitled Media and Social Change. The series is presented by the Institute for Development and Empowerment (IDEA) and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP). The goal of the program is to expose students to the complex issues surrounding diversity and to challenge students to think outside the norm by having experts discuss their experience and expertise in the matters at hand.

The event began with a screening of Documented, the 2013 documentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas, who “outed” himself as such in a 2011 New York Times Magazine article.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Scheer and consisting of Vargas, filmmaker and producer Janet Yang (DocumentedThe Joy Luck Club), and USC professor and CCLP faculty fellow Roberto Suro.

Suro pointed out that the conversation immediately became racial.

“I want to step back from this conversation for a second, and note the racialization of the issue,” said Suro. “This conversation went immediately to race. What happens when you look at immigrants as non-white or as members of a racial group? What happens to the dialogue about immigration? You’ve really bought into the frame that is used as the basis of restriction.”

Vargas noted that he and his films are not the only ones to conflate race and immigration. He pointed out that many people use “illegal” and “Mexican” interchangeably.

Scheer cited a new Pew Research Center study that projects immigrants will account for 88 percent of the U.S. population increase, or 103 million people, between 2015 and 2065, as the nation grows to 441 million. The study also predicts that Asians will make up a much larger share of the immigrant population by 2065. Suro said that it’s important to keep in mind that these are just projections, which could be wildly inaccurate. He said the number of immigrants in the U.S. (11 million people) has remained fairly static since 2007.

Vargas pointed out the contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to America, such as paying state and local taxes and the $100 billion they contribute to the Social Security fund.

One student in attendance said that no matter what facts one has, some people will continue to hold onto their previously held views.

“Politics is not a fact-based activity,” Suro responded. “Politics in this country are not driven by majority views. Right now they’re being driven by a fairly small rump of the Republican Party. The American public is not intrinsically opposed to immigration reform. You distort the picture if you focus only on the small, loud factions.”

Yang said the narrative can and should change, and that it starts with the media and the entertainment industry. In reference to diversity among actors in films and television shows, she said economic realities are driving casting choices. However, she said, “I’m cautiously optimistic” as things begin to change.

When asked what is coming next in terms of immigration reform, Suro said the country is currently in uncharted territory. “There is a lot of uncertainty right now. A significant minority in the right places can stir a reaction.” He pointed out that the legal challenge to President Obama’s executive order on immigration could go to the Supreme Court. That order, issued last November, would allow some immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal resident children to apply for work permits and deportation reprieves.

Suro also pointed out that comprehensive immigration reform would have been passed in 2013 if there had been an up-or-down vote in Congress, but that the minority blocked it. That said, he noted, “the status quo is incredibly generous in terms of immigration flows.”

“As it should be,” said Vargas.

One student asked why immigration authorities did not pursue or deport Vargas after he announced that he’s an undocumented immigrant. In Documented, Vargas expressed surprise at the lack of response.

“There are published policies and a known track record of the circumstances under which people encounter immigration authorities,” said Suro. “You’re an intelligent guy; you know exactly why people get removed. There’s no mystery about it. So why were you surprised?”

“At that point, especially with ICE, we weren’t sure,” Vargas said. “People thought maybe because of all the fraud, they would go after me in that way.” Vargas used fake documents to obtain jobs at several major newspapers around the country, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. “Frankly I didn’t really know what to expect.”

Vargas co-founded Define American, a media and culture organization using the power of stories to transcend politics and shift the conversation around immigrants, identity and citizenship in a changing America. He also launched #EmergingUS, a digital magazine.

The Media and Social Change series continued on Tuesday, Oct. 20 with a panel addressing the issue: “Is higher education failing blacks and Latinos: How a college degree did not protect black and Hispanic wealth through the recent financial turbulence.”

USC Marshall’s Jerry Giaquinta named CCLP faculty fellow

Marketing consultant, corporate executive, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Management Communication at the USC Marshall School of Business, Gerald Giaquinta, has been named a faculty fellow of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan announced today.

“This is a great opportunity to further the collaboration between Marshall and Annenberg,” said Giaquinta. “USC’s interdisciplinary approach creates exciting opportunities for faculty research and teaching. I am honored to be named a faculty fellow of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.”

As a faculty fellow, Giaquinta will focus on leadership communication in the new economy and the role and impact of public diplomacy on business. With this appointment, Giaquinta joins distinguished USC faculty members such as Sasha AnawaltThomas HollihanMichael ParksPatricia RileyPhilip SeibRoberto SuroStacy Smith, among others.

Giaquinta is an expert in strategic communication, marketing, and operational analysis. He has over 25 years of executive-level corporate and agency experience and has advised Fortune 100 and start-up companies. His recent work has been in public-private partnerships. He is the founder of The Giaquinta Group, a strategic communications and marketing consulting firm whose clients have included Visa, Netflix, MGM, Lexus, Daimler, Sony, World Expo, and Grocery Manufacturers Association, among others.

“Through his leadership at the USA Pavilion at Expo Milan, Jerry played a critical role with CCLP to present impactful programming before a global audience,” said CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan. “We are delighted he will join our roster of faculty fellows to pursue important research and programs for students and industry professionals.”

Giaquinta’s professional career began when he was finishing his MPA at the University of Southern California and began working for Eli Lilly & Co., the pharmaceutical giant. Hired in sales, he then became a spokesperson for product and corporate issues. While working, he continued his studies at USC for a PhD in Public Policy and Administration.

Giaquinta worked at Toyota USA for 10 years where he held progressively responsible management positions in public relations, government relations, strategic planning and advertising. While at Toyota, Giaquinta attended Loyola Law School and earned a JD. He was a key member of the Lexus launch team.

Mercedes-Benz recruited Giaquinta as head of North American communications and then as vice president of West Coast operations responsible for sales, marketing, and distribution. He then transitioned from the corporate world to the agency side and became president and CEO of Chiat/Day Communications. Strengthening ties with clients such as Nissan and McDonald’s, he integrated the agency’s communications activities with Chiat/Day Advertising.

Giaquinta later joined Sony Pictures Entertainment. As executive vice president and corporate officer, he worked in all aspects of Sony’s corporate marketing and communications efforts and was the liaison and integrator with Sony Electronics, Sony Music, Playstation, and Sony Corporation in Tokyo. From motion pictures to television to digital entertainment, he coordinated company-wide communications and strategies.

About the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is a policy center that conducts academic research and organizes programs to develop ways in which communication leadership, policy, technology and mobile innovation can contribute to a more informed electorate and a better world. For more information, visit