She meets leaders from the private sector and in academia in a bid to make public diplomacy more than a government effort.
“We incorporated public diplomacy into everyone’s consciousness,” she said.
No one expects the U.S. to change its policies simply to assuage public anger abroad.
But current and former diplomats credit Mrs. Hughes with helping to streamline a bureaucracy to handle public diplomacy issues more efficiently.
Old-timers and retirees from the U.S. Foreign Service say that much of what she has done involves resurrecting programs that existed during the Cold War.
Patricia Kushlis, a retired diplomat who served in public diplomacy positions in Europe and Asia, said the current English-teaching programs are still tiny compared with what existed in the 1980s.
Back then, millions of students learned English in American centers all over the world, many of which were closed in the 1990s, she said.
“They were one of the most cost-effective activities we had,” she said. “In Athens, for instance, in the early 1980s, we had enrollments of 3,000 students every six weeks.”
Mrs. Kushlis agreed that exchange programs are valuable, but she criticized the State Department for viewing them as a “one-way street.”
In addition to bringing foreigners to the United States, the department could also send more Americans abroad, she said.
Mark Helmke, senior staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Cold War experience does not provide all the necessary answers to current public diplomacy challenges.
“We struggled with the direction and focus throughout the Cold War,” he said. “Americans consider propaganda a dirty word, although every successful politician, president, business and [nongovern-mental organization] engages in it daily.”
American diplomats “have long been trained to talk to other diplomats, not publics,” and that needs to change, said Mr. Helmke, who works for Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the committee.