The First Resort of Kings


The First Resort of Kings

American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century

Richard T. Arndt

608 pages


March 2007


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eBook (PDF)

July 2011


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About the Book

During the last five decades, U.S. cultural diplomacy programs have withered because of politics and accidents of history that have subordinated cultural diplomacy to public relations campaigning, now called “public diplomacy.” With anti-Americanism on the rise worldwide, cultural diplomacy should become an immediate priority, but politicians continue to ignore this relatively inexpensive, age-old tool for promoting understanding among nations. Richard Arndt probes the history of American cultural diplomacy to demonstrate its valuable past contributions and to make a plea for reviving it for the future. Cultural relations occur naturally between people in different nations as a result of trade, tourism, student exchanges, entertainment, communications, migration, intermarriage—millions of cross-cultural encounters. But cultural diplomacy only happens when a government decides to channel and to support cultural exchange through planned programs to promote broad national interests. The First Resort of Kings examines the first eight decades of formal U.S. cultural diplomacy, from its tentative beginnings in World War I through the 1990s. Arndt also compares America’s efforts with those of other nations and enriches his narrative by detailing the professional experiences of the men and women who have represented American democracy, education, intellect, art, and literature to the rest of the world. His work shows that this dialogue of American culture and education with the rest of the world is neither a frill nor a domestic political concern but is the deepest cornerstone of a positive, forward-looking U.S. foreign policy. Arndt argues that, particularly in the wake of the Iraq War, America must revive its cultural diplomacy programs as a long-term investment in international goodwill and understanding.

Author Bio

Richard T. Arndt worked for USIA for twenty-four years after earning a doctorate and teaching at Columbia University. Since retiring from the USIA, he has served as the president of the U.S. Fulbright Association, coedited The Fulbright Difference, 1948-1992, chaired the National Peace Foundation, and is currently the president of Americans for UNESCO. He lives in Washington, D.C.


"[Arndt's] lengthy and well-written book examines the people, programs, ideas, and debates that have shaped U.S. cultural diplomacy. . . .No other book has, or is likely to have, comparable scope and detail. . . . He has provided an essential and encyclopedic resource for anyone interested in the past and future of cultural diplomacy. The book appears to be the product of a lifetime of work and of research, and it is passionately and eloquently written."—American Historical Review

"People who enjoy history will find this book a real treasure. . . .With the skill of a master mosaicist, Arndt pieces together archives, interviews, and personal experiences to reveal the inner workings of diplomacy."—Asia Times

"Arndt's work is a valuable resource for specialists in U.S. foreing relations. His encyclopedic knowledge, first-person perspective, and timely warnings about the perils of American solipsism make this study essential reading for anyone concerned with 'why they hate us.'"—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Never in the history of the republic have we Americans been so cordially disliked around the world. Never have we needed an effective strategy for cultural diplomacy more. In The First Resort of Kings, Richard Arndt presents the neglected history of American cultural diplomacy, and his story is as accurate and engrossing as it is depressing. We desperately need to do better, and Arndt has some important advice about how and where we can improve. This is a valuable book for anyone who cares about improving America’s place in the world."—Stanley N. Katz, professor of public and international affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

"A massive and disturbing discussion of the bureaucratic politics and the general schizophrenia that have informed America’s attitude toward ‘cultural diplomacy.’ Richard Arndt gives us an insider’s examination of the best, and the worst, official efforts to create a favorable image of the U.S. abroad."—Joseph LaPalombara, senior research scholar and Wolfers Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Management, Yale University

"With twenty-four years of direct experience in America’s efforts at cultural diplomacy, Richard Arndt is adept at sorting out the petty bureaucratic struggles from the serious efforts of many talented practitioners to find an answer to the proper role of our government in this policy minefield. His broad intellectual background and his felicitous expression make him an ideal guide through this contentious field, and his many personal portraits of distinguished Americans in our recent history are a real treat."—Arthur Hartman, former U.S. ambassador to France and the Soviet Union