Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Poem I Like

One of the things I'll do overseas as Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer is promote and raise awareness of U.S. culture. Of course, U.S. pop culture - from Hollywood to Top 40 music to burgers and beyond - is often already well-known and popular in most countries around the world. Yet, diplomats like me can add value abroad by sharing lesser known facets of U.S. culture, highlighting our cultural diversity, or connecting well-known cultural references to our deeply held values.

As part of my Public Diplomacy (PD) training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), I heard many of my classmates talk about aspects of American culture that are meaningful to them. One of the things that exercise reminded me is that American society and culture are so vast that no person can know everything. Everyone has cultural knowledge gaps, but it's our job as diplomats to strive to break out of our own cultural bubbles because we have to do our best to represent all of America.

As a result, some of my favorite cultural insights are ones that I didn't grow up with or know about before. Here's one of my favorites - a poem, presented by one of my peers:

"Allowables" by Nikki Giovanni

I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her

I don't think
I'm allowed

To kill something

Because I am

Frightened

I learned from my colleague that Nikki Giovanni is a legendary poet from Tennessee and professor at M's alma mater, Virginia Tech. As an African-American, she has inspired black arts and willingly tackled some of America's thorniest racial and social issues in her work. You can learn more about her at her website here.

I look forward to broadening my own perspective in this career while sharing as much as I can of the inspiring and complex culture of my country with others.

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