Admitting Imperfection

There has been much talk lately about Michelle Obama’s visit to China. Some have criticized the First Lady’s trip for being light on the substance at first, but Mrs. Obama has surprised everyone by speaking out in support of minorities and free speech.

In a meeting with Chinese high school students, Mrs. Obama highlighted America’s belief in having “the right to say what we think and worship as we choose,” but made sure to highlight that the United States’ road to equality has been long and bumpy.

This seemingly simple speech highlights the importance of admitting imperfections in the world of diplomacy. It may be tempting to want to portray the United States as perfect nation to which all countries should aspire to be, but it is more productive to paint a picture of the US as being flawed and human just like everyone else.

In a country such as China, which has had a complicated relationship with the US in the past and present, it would have been detrimental for Mrs. Obama to paint a picture of the US without imperfection, but it would have served only to make us appear cockier than we already do on the international stage.

The White House has emphasized the “people to people” exchanges that  have happened during the trip, highlighting yet another aspect of diplomacy that cannot be forgotten.



One thought on “Admitting Imperfection

  1. A major component of Michelle Obama’s trip to China was to stress the significance of education. And although her presence serves as a form of both hard and soft power I think it is important that she admitted U.S. has struggled in an attempt to secure equality for its citizens. This could have been an inadvertent way to reference the infractions against U.S. journalists within China. The recent series of visa denials coupled with the level of difficulty in seeing American cinema within China has further complicated the already complicated relationship between China and the U.S.
    The stress on “people to people” experiences in an attempt to highlight facets of public diplomacy was also successful. Especially when most U.S. college campuses are equipped for study abroad programs as well as the renown of the Fulbright program.

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