Swearing in Diplomat, Kerry Describes Battle Between Modernity and Extremism

April 15, 2014 - 9:38 PM

(CNSNews.com) – Swearing in former Time magazine managing editor Richard Stengel as undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he told him that “every day we have to deal with people who haven’t changed their ways for centuries and folks who have not broken out of outdated traditions, and sometimes people who seem very removed from the modern world.”

“And Rick told me – and I know it’s true – he understands all that because he managed a print magazine in the 21st century,” Kerry added, to laughter.

Kerry said when he first discussed the post with Stengel last summer, “I asked him about being the principal person in the State Department to help share what America is trying to do and share it with millions of young people in the Middle East and North Africa and South Central Asia, in East Asia – people who are struggling over which side they’re going to choose to be on: whether they’ll take the long walk to freedom and to modernity or choose the temptations of a path that leads to extremism and violence and nihilism.”

The “long walk to freedom” phrase was a reference to Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of that name. Stengel collaborated on the book with the late South African leader in the 1990s.

Stengel was nominated last September to succeed Tara Sonenshine as undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, and was confirmed by Senate in a 90-8 vote in February, the “no” votes all coming from Republicans.

According to the State Department, the undersecretary “leads America’s public diplomacy outreach, which includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism.”