Communication Leadership Blog
Is anger a bad thing? What should we do if a person is angry or a large group of voters is angry and frustrated? Call that person names, tell them they shouldn't be angry, ignore it?
Observing the last few weeks, especially the rise of Donald Trump, and to some degree Sen. Bernie Sanders, made me cognizant of the brewing anger and distrust that exists in America today. And made me pause and wonder about the questions posed above, and what to do with the anger and distrust that resides in a large part of the American public whether it be Republican, Democrat or independent. This anger is about race, inequalities at many levels, being forgotten, war, loss of opportunity and hope, or being lied to too many times.
Anger isn't bad in and of itself. It is just a feeling, not a moral position. Jesus was angry as He turned the tables over in the temple. Gandhi was angry at injustice around the world and especially in India. Martin Luther King Jr. was angry about the unfulfilled promise of America. The question becomes what to do with that anger in ourselves, and how to respond to anger in others.
There are really three options to choose from as regards our own or someone else's anger. As with all things in politics, it plays out always in the lessons we learn in relationships. Politics is nothing but a broader and more public manifestation of what we learn in private and the intimate circles of our life. For personal and political, there are three ways we can approach anger in our relationships and deal with it.
One, we can ignore the anger that bubbles up in ourselves or another and not try to understand it. We can look at it as crazy (Sen. John McCain's philosophy in calling Trump supporters "crazies" or what some people do in relationships by "gaslighting" others), and attempt to disregard it as inappropriate or wrong. This basically puts us in a place of denial, and is definitely not a path for success of our own growth or leading others. By ignoring, downplaying, denying or not understanding the anger this leads us on a movement towards disintegration or disconnection from our own hearts or the heart of another. Many partisans have made this mistake, as well as many in the media, by not trying to understand this anger and give it some validity. They underestimate the undercurrent of frustration and anger that exists in our country today.
The second choice of dealing with anger is to tap into its incredible force, but only use it as a plaything for our amusement or to get what we want. This way is just venting this anger outward in ways that are destructive or don't bring us closer to the life we want to live or the kind of country we want to live in. In this mode, anger is used to make a bad situation worse, or it appeals to our darker angels, and divides rather than unites. In this place we seek to find enemies at whom to vent our anger -- pointing fingers and casting blame. We have had many political figures in our history who did this and weren't helpful for our country. Donald Trump falls into this category of using anger destructively for his benefit, rather than constructively for the country's benefit.
And the third option, which is where leaders fall -- whether in our intimate circles or in the country as a whole -- is understanding someone's anger, meeting them there, and then channeling that anger in a constructive manner. By leading in the midst of anger in a positive way is where all reform and change has come from. This route is by connecting with an angry person or an angry group so they feel understood, and then appealing to their better angels and using that anger for good. The abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, the movement surrounding the Special Olympics, peace movements, and the American Revolution all had anger as a big component of the demand for change and assistance for a neglected group of people. This anger moved towards a positive outcome with the help of leaders who understood its power in achieving good. And in the case of our founding fathers and mothers, instead of destroying a country they built a new one the world had never seen before based on principles of liberty, freedom, and compassion.
If you want to be successful as a leader today in your homes or at the White House, you must come to terms with this anger and figure out ways to move it in a direction of good. Leadership is about understanding the place many are at today, and figuring out a way to achieve a higher and laudable purpose. Don't deny the anger, name-call people who are angry as crazy, play with anger for your own gain, make the situation worse by fomenting anger. Be a leader, and accept that anger, and then use it as a creative powerful instrument in doing good in this world. And like the peace movements, use anger to stop wars, and not start them.
There you have it.
Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.
A Russian linguist closely examines how the Russian Foreign Ministry's communication has resurrected the creepy old Soviet style.
Russian is a tough language to learn not because of the complex tenses and six cases, but because the style of communication is what matters most. The Russian style not only expresses the mood of the speaker or writer, a certain political situation, or the time and circumstances of the moment; the Russian style also "smells." Or stinks.
Thus, Russian politics are all about the style of expression, and the language used to convey a political message in Russia is more than just a mere communication tool. It's a cult and has been one since 1917.
The quantity of candidates running for president won't matter so much as the quality of leadership and vision that emerges by the end of the process. Having numerous candidates didn't hurt Democrats in 1992 and 2008 when they fielded double digits numbers. Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama made it through successfully while becoming better candidates.
The large field is reflective of four things: three concern our current political environment, and one a reflection of our culture. First, the large field is a sign that many see the real possibility of capturing the White House. The current president's job approval is in the 40s, the percentage of people who think the country is on the wrong track is in the 60s and a majority of voters want a change in policies. All of which improves the odds for the G.O.P. in the general election if the right candidate emerges.
Second, multiple candidates reveals that there is no dominant player in the G.O.P. race. The leading candidate has only 15 percent of the vote. Thus a candidate who gets "hot" can emerge from the process with no elephant candidacy to contend with. This is highly unusual for the G.O.P. where they normally have a candidate-in-waiting ready to take the mantle.
Third, the Republican Party is composed of four equal constituencies: the establishment, Tea Party folks, libertarians, and social conservatives - and no one has found a message or a mechanism in uniting these four elements. It leaves multiple opportunities to appeal to members of these four groups and opens the field for many candidates.
And fourth, the multitude of candidates running is reflective of the current reality TV culture. You could call it the Kardashian effect -- more people now earn a living just by being famous, not for any social good accomplished. I suspect some candidates are running for this reason, to gain publicity and celebrity, and possibly for a book deal or a TV show. In short, to create their own Andy Warhol moment.
Many candidates running for president is a reflection of our current politics and times and isn't going to be a negative for the general election. In the end, a candidate who can appeal to a great majority will determine success, and if that doesn't happen -- no matter if three or 33 ran at the start -- he or she will lose.
Matthew Dowd, a lead analyst for ABC News, has worked in campaigns on both sides of the aisle, including as chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign, and is now a vigorous independent. He is the founder of Paradox Capital, a social impact venture fund, and is on Twitter.
Over the past few weeks, punters in China underwent a near-death experience when their country's two stock exchanges entered freefall. The rapidly inflating bubble that had driven share prices to dizzying heights had suddenly burst. By this spring, the stock markets in Shanghai, with 831 listed companies, and Shenzhen, with 1,700, boasted a combined market capitalization of $9.5 trillion, which made them - along with the much older Hong Kong exchange - the second-largest financial market in the world.
In the 2016 Presidential general election which voters will ultimately determine victory?
So often in life we have to communicate to a group of folks by giving a speech or talk or we need to interview with someone we have never met before for a job we are seeking. And I have learned the best strategy in getting ready to do this effectively is to try and figure out who your target audience is. Who are they, what do they care about, what is their history, and what is going on in their lives. By doing this you can pull a mental picture together, and then understand more clearly the best way to enter into the discussion. So too in politics and in a presidential campaign.
Every single voter group will be important in an election likely to be decided by a very narrow margin -- and determining how a campaign will devote resources to swing voters versus base voters (persuasion vs. mobilization) is a key strategic imperative. But in the end this election is going to be decided by a small group of independent voters.
Unless a strong third party candidate emerges (or if one of the major parties nominates an inherently flawed candidate), this general election looks like it is headed towards another polarized situation -- GOP voters lined up overwhelmingly on one side and Democrats nearly universally behind their candidate. And so about 8 percent of the expected electorate, who are independent, will determine success or failure.
Whether you are the Democratic nominee or the Republican standard bearer, it is of great import to have a mental picture of who your audience is before you enter into the ultimate job interview -- for the presidency of the United States. And that is just what it is -- a job interview. When you are elected to the most powerful position in the world, you are hired by the voters, and it is best not to forget that because they can fire you or elect other people around you to put a stopper on your behavior.
The independent voters who will be doing the hiring in 2016 have many things in common. They believe the country is off on the wrong track and nor going in the right direction. They disapprove of President Obama's job performance, but like him personally. They have negative perceptions of both political parties and the leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress.
These voters are fiscally conservative, but socially progressive. They pay their own bills every month at home, and don't understand why the federal government can't live within its means. They support gay marriage, but also worry about the loss of traditional institutions. They are faith-filled people who are either religious or spiritual, but they aren't judgmental or think they have all the answers.
These folks love this country, but worry that America's best years are behind them. They want the government to have a role in their lives, but limited and as local as possible. For example, they have mixed feelings about ObamaCare liking some of the elements, but concerned it maybe too much federal involvement. They think both parties are captives of Wall Street and special interests and they wonder whether anyone is looking out for them. They don't like the great income inequality that exists, but are more concerned with the lack of economic mobility. They don't begrudge wealthy people, but have come to believe the system is rigged.
These are middle-class folks with old-fashioned values are facing great change in their lives and are wondering who has their back. And they judge people not based on words or speeches, but on actions. They are tired of being told one thing and watching folks do another. Many of them voted for both President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush -- and came away very disappointed in both. They want both political parties to work together, but only see divisiveness and dysfunction.
And on Hillary Clinton, they like her, but don't trust her. They believe she has done much good over the years, but wonder if she can really change things in Washington D.C. The bounce between "she is part of the problem" and "she has possibility of being the leader" they thought she was. They would prefer to vote for a new leader, but will vote for Hillary if the alternative doesn't represent them. And the same is true for Jeb Bush.
This is the job interviewer that Hillary, Jeb, John, Marco, and others need to keep in mind when they ask to get hired. That's the person they need to practice on to figure out the best way to connect and communicate. Whoever does it best will probably get the job offer in November.
There you have it.
Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.
For longtime observers of China, the last two years have been unsettling. Under Xi Jinping the Chinese Communist Party has made it more difficult than ever to hope that the People's Republic is still dedicated to the agenda of "reform and opening up" that was the mantra of the Deng Xiaoping era. Instead, Beijing has served up a neo-Maoist cocktail of autocracy within and truculence without.
Despite meetings between Presidents Xi and Obama, and a yearly Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the level of discouragement and pessimism, especially among China specialists, about the future of Chinese-American relations is at its highest since the bloodshed of 1989.
To the litany of the old problems -- Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, intellectual property, currency policy -- a host of new ones have been added. In China, advocates for civil and political rights have been arrested; civil society groups harassed; controls on free expression in academia, the media and civil society tightened; and "universal values" attacked. Outside China, Beijing's new assertiveness has inflamed disputes in the East and South China Seas even as new controversies have multiplied over hacking and other cyberattacks, harassment of political and social activists, blockage of news media websites, and punitive denials of visa applications for American journalists, writers and scholars who want to work in China.
The Pew Research Center finds that only 38 percent of Americans view China favorably, down from 51 percent four years earlier. In a recent poll by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, a champion of closer relations, 60 percent of respondents said that foreign businesses were less welcome than they used to be, up from 41 percent a year earlier.
The idea that countries with such different political histories, systems and values could ever cooperate arose out of two summit meetings: in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, visited Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai (with both countries alarmed about the Soviet Union) and in 1979, Deng Xiaoping visited President Jimmy Carter (when both countries resumed full diplomatic relations). Sadly, these breakthroughs were followed by a breakdown, the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and cities across China, in 1989. Nonetheless, over the ensuing decades the relationship improved enough to allow many on both sides to imagine that, with more time, economic liberalization, and educational and social exchange, China might evolve into a more open society and a more responsible "stakeholder" in global affairs, giving us a common goal.
It is this inchoate hope that has now been arrested by Mr. Xi's "Chinese Dream," an indigenous reverie confected to rally his people not to the promise of greater openness and constitutionalism, but greater wealth, power, national unity and global clout.
President Bill Clinton once scolded President Jiang Zemin for being "on the wrong side of history." As far as Mr. Xi is concerned, history is now on China's side, as it returns to a central role befitting its ancient civilization and its status as the most populous country.
How should America respond to this new challenge?
We should reaffirm in the most public way possible that while we welcome China's "rise," we will not accommodate unreasonable claims around the world and, if necessary, are even prepared for a latter-day strategy of "containment," which Western democracies used to circumscribe the Communist bloc during the Cold War. However, at the same time, we must make it indelibly clear that we far prefer a collaborative path forward. Such a path needs a road map, and a personal presidential commitment.
To send such a signal, and to set the stage for their meeting in September, Mr. Obama should appoint a special envoy to China, and ask Mr. Xi to reciprocate. (The meetings between Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, during President George W. Bush's administration, are a model.)
Second, Mr. Obama should create a China think tank within the White House, composed of experts, to examine our government's basic strategy toward China.
Third, to edify public discussion during an election season, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should hold special bipartisan hearings, as Senator J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, held in the 1960s on the conduct of the Vietnam War, to elicit views from an even broader range of American experts.
The threat of climate change presents both countries with, paradoxically, a fortuitous area of common interest that could catalyze the "new kind of major-power relationship" that Mr. Xi has called for. Last fall's joint agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a potential game-changer.
But to achieve any kind of lasting breakthrough in the China-United States relationship, both sides must be prepared to make difficult concessions.
The United States should contemplate such previously unthinkable options as:
• Giving climate change at least as high a priority as democracy and human rights in the management of our relationship with China;
• Acknowledging that China is entitled to some kind of "sphere of influence" in the South China Sea, just as the United States has in the Caribbean, without completely yielding to all of its territorial claims;
• Imposing new limits on flyovers by American military intelligence aircraft near China's coastal waters;
• Openness to discussing terms for the end of arms sales to Taiwan;
• Guaranteeing that, if Korea unifies, the United States will place neither troops nor nuclear weapons in the North;
• Exploring new ways of giving China a greater governing role in the International Monetary Fund and other institutions of global governance;
• Investigating how the United States could actively support Mr. Xi's new economic reforms to spur domestic consumption, as the success of those policies is also in our national interest.
The Chinese side might contemplate such options as:
• Agreeing to allow maritime disputes to be adjudicated by international law;
• Consenting to support sanctions against the North Korean regime in a more effective way;
• Discussing terms for a disavowal of the use of military force in the Taiwan Strait;
• Allowing Hong Kong more autonomy to work out its timetable for attaining universal suffrage.
Because these issues are so intractable, a breakthrough is a long shot. But what's the alternative? Allow China to follow the path of Vladimir V. Putin's Russia -- which is now well beyond any hope of "reset"? It would be a great pity to let the Chinese-American relationship -- of far more importance than the Russian-American relationship -- reach a similar state of military impasse without a herculean effort to arrest the slide.
Perhaps the growing pessimism is justified, and the only possible outcome is containment, even confrontation. Am I optimistic? Not really. In China, there is too much paranoia -- and talk about covert "hostile foreign forces" as the cause of China's problems -- to instill confidence. But if I have learned anything in my more than six decades of studying China, it is that when it comes to interacting with the outside world, China can be a counterintuitive and unpredictable player. I have learned to remain open to surprise.
If there is still a peaceful way for the United States to accommodate China's rise, it will involve a judicious mix of resistance and compromise. Perhaps now, with China's plummeting stock markets rattling the party's nerves, is the moment for a bold, concerted effort to recast the way our two essential nations interact.
Orville Schell is director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society and co-author of Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the 21st Century.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 10, 2015, on page A27 of the New York edition.
WASHINGTON - It is well known that Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck toured the world as American Jazz Ambassadors, and American symphony orchestras have played throughout the world. Less well known is the role country music has played and is playing in U.S. public diplomacy.
That was the focus of this month's CCLP Communication Leadership Lunch Forum here, presented by David Firestein (pictured right), a China expert and vice president at the East West Institute.
"For public diplomacy to be effective," said Firestein, "it has to be organic, personal and emotional." He added that it must be "true to who you are and/or relevant to people's lives."
According to Firestein, those are exactly the attributes of American country music: it is "quintessentially American," similar to jazz and blues; but blues are mainly sad, he said, while jazz is mostly instrumental.
"'Telling America's story' is a phrase we all use in public diplomacy," he said, noting that successful country music songs always tell a strong story. Firestein also noted that country music is firmly American - one-third of U.S. adults listen to country music, he said - and includes references to family, a universal appeal worldwide.
"You don't hear Lady Gaga singing about her cousins or her family," he said.
Rap and pop are also American, but he noted their lyrics are often unintelligible to foreign audiences with at best a "mid-level command of English." And rap and pop have another problem: the choice of words.
"What may play fine in London or Paris doesn't play well in the Middle East or, for that matter, Moscow," he said. But country music deals with difficult issues, "including race, the economic downturn, 9/11... and does so without using the F word." Country music, he argued, was "mom-tested and mom-approved," because most country listeners are women, many listening with their children.
Challenged by one forum participant who argued that country music is often associated with racism, Firestein was emphatic, saying he had analyzed the lyrics of every top 50 country song of the past fifteen years, and he could not find any evidence of racism, anti-Semitism or homophobia. (He has also written about country music and U.S. politics; see, for example, "The Honky Tonk Gap".)
At this week's forum, Firestein played some of the songs he plays for foreign audiences, straight from YouTube: the Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried", "Cost of Livin'" by Ronnie Dunn and "Home" by Dierks Bentley, a song about patriotism that Firestein said always gets a reaction.
The forum audience listens to the songs, following along with lyric sheets.
"What I found is that sometimes the best public diplomacy is vulnerability," he explained. "My take on public diplomacy is we don't have to get up and say we're number one. A lot of that may be true, but a lot of folks around the world don't want to hear that." Country songs about hard times can convey that vulnerability, and audiences around the world can identify with it.
Firestein said he was not a country music fan growing up in Texas, adding his friends were country fans, but he did not discover the music until he was in his 20's. Then in China, he discovered that country songs also appealed to Han Chinese, who identified with country music's themes of blue collar homes and families. Since 9/11 he said he has used it in presentations in China, Russia and the Middle East, where it always connects with audiences.
"Without exception," he said, repeating for emphasis, "without exception, every time I play country music overseas, there are tears in the audience."
An historical perspective: Firestein identified Garth Brooks as the key figure in the transition to modern country. In 1995, Voice of America presented Garth Brooks to a global audience, and then VOA Director Geoffrey Cowan (now CCLP's Director) said international audiences responded strongly to Brooks' music.
The series continues through the summer. The topic for the August 3rd forum will be "Combating Boko Haram."
This article was originally published in Huffington Post.
Food security and related humanitarian needs present the great unacknowledged challenges of the 21st century. While conflicts in countries like Syria and Ukraine dominate the daily news cycle, and longer-term concerns about climate change and energy security are frequently aired, the problem of hunger and the emergence of new threats to world food supplies receive far less attention than they merit. These problems contribute directly to political instability, forced migration and violence. Without sustained focus at an international level and the commitment of adequate resources to address the problems, there is a real risk that the responses needed to address these issues will come too late to avert the geopolitical instability and widespread human suffering that may result.
Across the world 805 million people remain chronically undernourished. Although the target of halving the rate of hunger by the end of 2015 set under the Millennium Development Goals is close to being met, the rate of progress has slowed in the last decade, and developing trends raise troubling questions for the future. Global warming, creeping desertification, soil degradation and water scarcity all threaten agricultural production at a time when population growth is increasing the number of mouths to feed. The growing mismatch between supply and demand is already apparent in commodity price volatility, declining reserves and the rising number of countries dependent on food imports.
More than a third of countries now import at least a quarter of their grain requirements, while 13 are 100-percent import-dependent. Without sufficient spare capacity in the world food system, many of these countries will become increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries of climate, production and political volatility. We saw in 2011 how quickly some countries resort to food nationalism and export bans in the face of supply shortages and price rises. Unless these problems are solved within a collaborative, multilateral framework, there is a danger that states and sub-state groups will resort to unilateral force to meet their basic needs. Hunger could easily become the principal driver for global conflict and refugee flows in the coming decades.
While the United States has historically been the largest contributor of food assistance in humanitarian disasters, no country, however powerful, can solve this problem on its own. Only long-term global leadership can defeat hunger and guarantee food sufficiency for all. The role of the United Nations, the World Food Program and of the Food and Agriculture Organization is essential in pooling resources and galvanizing the international community behind common strategies. The World Food Program does vital work in delivering aid to 80 million of the most vulnerable people each year and encouraging local production in developing countries. The leadership of the UN has also been critical in launching the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012 with the aim of achieving 100-percent access to adequate food all year round.
The future of this initiative, and of humanitarian responses to food-related crises generally, should be on world leaders' minds in choosing a new UN Secretary-General to replace Ban Ki-moon when he steps down at the end of next year. It is imperative that someone with a strong commitment to the UN's focus on development and food security, as well as an established track record of leadership in this field, be selected.
In my judgment it would also be a big step forward if they chose a woman. The UN has never had a female Secretary-General. As the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has said, gender equality "is the single most important determinant of food security." Empowering women as decision makers and asset owners increases agricultural yields and redirects expenditure to the welfare of children in particular. Appointing a woman would show that the UN means what it says about the importance of gender equality as an instrument of wider change. The role that women and girls play in alleviating poverty and building a safe and productive society cannot be understated.
Thankfully there are several qualified women candidates. One is Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New-Zealand, now running the United Nations Development Program. She has worked closely with the World Food Program in making the eradication of hunger the top priority. She has also distinguished herself in her work at UNDP, leading swift responses to humanitarian crises and planning major long-term initiatives. Another serious candidate is Irina Bokova, former Bulgarian Foreign Minister and current head of UNESCO. She has been very active in using the organization's mandate to address issues of extreme poverty and food, water and energy security. And although she's an American, Catherine Bertini, who served as Under-Secretary-General for Management at the UN and as Executive Director of the World Food Program, would also be an excellent candidate.
These three women have great diplomatic and UN experience, have won the respect of U.S. policy makers for their work and would make excellent appointees. There may be other qualified candidates as well, but the time is ripe for a woman possessing the credentials, leadership and management skills to head the United Nations and ensure that food security remains a top priority for the UN and the international community.
Soccer is truly the world's sport. It is played and watched by more people across the globe than any other sport.
Every four years, it is the center of global attention when the World Cup is held. It's as if the World Series and Super Bowl were rolled into one mega-sporting event with viewership in the hundreds of millions.
A private organization based in Switzerland called FIFA controls the selection of the host country, the commercial sponsors for the event and the rules by which the matches are played. In other words, FIFA has monopoly control over this massive global event.
For decades, many fans and players, including leading professional soccer stars, have considered FIFA to be a deeply corrupt organization. Now the US, itself not a leading soccer nation, has challenged FIFA's position as global arbiter of the sport by indicting leading soccer officials.
"These individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organizations overseeing organized soccer worldwide," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. "They were expected to uphold the rules and keep soccer honest. Instead, they corrupted the world of soccer."
How I became a fan of the 'beautiful game'
I came late to my interest in soccer. I grew up in California playing the classic American sports of football, baseball and basketball. Soccer was not a varsity sport at my high school, and there were no youth soccer clubs. Only when I had children and they signed up for soccer teams sponsored by a relatively new group called the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) did I become interested, learning the rules and agreeing to become an assistant coach.
As an American ambassador in Europe during the Clinton administration, I began to follow soccer more seriously (although ice hockey was still the predominant sport in Finland, where I served). By the time I returned to the US for an academic position in Los Angeles, I had become a fan.
At Occidental College, I began teaching a course on sports and diplomacy, inviting leading soccer experts such as Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper and journalist David Goldblatt to speak on campus. During the summer of 2014, I was thrilled that ESPN broadcast every World Cup match in real time; I watched as many games as I could.
FIFA's dirty casino
The US Department of Justice announced indictments of 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives this past week, charging them with "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption. When Swiss authorities made early morning arrests of half of them at a posh hotel in Switzerland as the FIFA World Congress met to reelect its authoritarian leader Sepp Blatter, I cheered at the news.
The US move has been praised and condemned, but I think that it strengthens America's soft power around the world, sending a clear message against monopoly, anti-democratic processes and corruption - and in a sport that most of the world loves.
The importance of the role that FIFA plays in controlling a global sports event cannot be underestimated.
For many countries, hosting the World Cup or the Olympics is seen as a coming of age event - an opportunity to promote its country brand on a global stage. Hosting the World Cup in 2010 signaled that South Africa was now a rising multiracial society. When Brazil was awarded the 2014 World Cup, the country's president announced that the country had arrived as a global player. The competition to host the World Cup can be a high-stakes game; FIFA owns the casino, sets the term of the bets and controls the winnings.
Soft power triumphs
The selection by FIFA of Putin's Russia to host the 2018 World Cup and of tiny Qatar to host in 2022 was highly suspect. Suspicions of money changing hands and undue influence on the FIFA executive committee were widespread, and led to cynicism about FIFA as an international sporting organization.
Blatter, who was re-elected for his fifth term as head of the organization, has continually shrugged off concerns about his leadership. He has worked at FIFA for 40 years, the past 17 as president. Although FIFA is mocked by TV comedians like John Oliver and criticized by citizen groups demanding great transparency, reform of the organization has seemed unlikely. Blatter maintained tight control of the organization. FIFA's insider-controlled governance structure seemed impenetrable, until the US took legal action.
"Today, soccer wins, transparency wins. Enough of dirty deals, enough of lies," former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona told the media after the indictment. Romário de Souza Faria, a Brazilian soccer star turned politician, praised the FBI on the floor of the Brazilian Senate. Popular British soccer blogger Roger Bennett told CBS Morning News that the US deserved the thanks of the world for moving against FIFA officials.
The immediate impact of the Department of Justice action is a plus for American soft power. Although the US is late to the soccer world - baseball, football and basketball have always had more appeal - the game has greatly expanded from AYSO youth leagues to top collegiate teams to a professional soccer league. Begun in 1993, Major League Soccer (MLS) has expanded to 20 cities in the US and Canada and is now moving toward profitability. Average attendance at matches exceeds that of the NBA and the NHL.
Growing Latino immigration has also fueled interest. The US women's World Cup soccer team, led by such stars as Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, has helped grow the sport as well. Slowly but surely, the US is becoming a soccer nation.
US overreaching? Hardly
Some countries are less than pleased with the US legal moves. Russian President Vladimir Putin charged that the US actions "are another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states." At a press conference, Putin tried to link the FIFA indictments to the US pursuit of former NSA employee Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
No doubt Qatar officials are getting nervous that their selection as 2022 hosts might be reversed. After the arrests this week, Swiss prosecutors announced a new criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Authorities in Brazil and Argentina have begun investigations of their own soccer officials in cooperation with their US counterparts.
In the voting for the head of FIFA at the close of the week, the US and most European nations supported reform candidate Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, while most Asian and African nations stuck with the incumbent. FIFA's president is elected in a one-country, one-vote system, with a secret ballot among its 209 member country soccer organizations. Blatter has used his position and control of millions of dollars doled out to developing countries to offset his unpopularity in the US and Europe, so it was not a surprise that he was reelected by a 133-73 vote.
Like Putin or other authoritarian leaders, Blatter will not give up power easily. It will be interesting to see if the US will stay the course, continue legal investigations and use public diplomacy to call for transparency and honesty in global soccer.
This op-ed was originally published in the Kansas City Star.
Over the last few years, we've seen the public's trust in government reach historic lows.
This lack of connectivity with our political leaders and institutions is acute with today's millennial generation showing low voter turnout and half of them identifying as politically independent. When government ceases attracting top talent it deepens government inefficiency and public mistrust.
Unfortunately, there is evidence that a cycle of distrust and cynicism is already beginning as members of the next generation dedicate themselves to careers outside government. According to a recent Bipartisan Policy Center report, "Fewer young people are interested in serving as political appointees, and fewer still think of running for elective office."
Young people are interested in meaningful careers and making a difference but they just don't see political office as the way to do this. Millennials are also more optimistic about the country's future than older generations. The question is, how can we get our young, talented future leaders engaged in government service that can create positive outcomes for their fellow citizens?
The first step is to restore a sense of civic duty in ourselves. Our nation needs to rededicate itself to the merit of service to re¬engage the next generation.
Imagine a country where all young Americans completed a year of some type of service. Imagine how this could dramatically alter the pipeline of individuals interested in service and how it could alter perceptions about those who serve.
National service creates an entry point to understanding how society works and it also can help foster active participation in our democracy. Service -- military service, AmeriCorps or working in the government -- can help fuel cooperation by helping individuals develop a greater sense of empathy for others and exposing them to new experiences and individuals.
I'm currently on the Leadership Council of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute. The Franklin Project is chaired by General Stan McChrystal and the initiative is working to make a year of national service a cultural expectation, a common opportunity and a civic rite of passage for every young American.
As the Bipartisan Policy Commission report indicates, national service can be an antidote to some of the nation's most pressing challenges, bridge social and economic divides and limit political polarization. This will require investment from many sources -- public, private and nonprofit.
For decades, administrations from both parties have invested in national service. But this year, the House and Senate have approved sequestration¬ level budgets and assigned spending allocations that place our national service programs and the Corporation for National and Community Service at risk. For example, the House is currently considering legislation that would reduce the CNCS budget by nearly $370 million, a devastating 34 percent cut over the previous year.
If one issue could cause members of Congress to cooperate in a bipartisan fashion it is funding for national service programs.
We are going to lose the next generation of political leaders if we don't find a way for our country to restore confidence and trust here at home. Supporting national service is one way to work to remedy this.
Dan Glickman represented Kansas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 to 1995 and served as secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2001. He is currently a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.