Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Secretary Clinton's Reset Button Gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

I’ve been a fan of the AFS Intercultural Eyes blog for some time now and found Bettina Hansel’s[1] March 10th post on the cultural miscommunication between U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to be quite interesting. You can access Bettina’s post here.

[1] Bettina Hansel is AFS’s Director of Intercultural Education and Research and she created and maintains the AFS Intercultural Eyes blog.

1 comment:

  1. I was interested to note this "intercultural gaffe" as well. It seemed to indicate that even though Secretary Clinton's first days in office and inaugural trips abroad have been generally successful and well-received, and even though there is much positive momentum toward restoring the image of the U.S. as culturally sensitive in our dealings outside our borders, we still have a long way to go. As Bettina notes in her post, not only did Clinton get the wrong Russian word on her gag button, but it was written in the Roman alphabet instead of the Cyrillic one. The head of the State Department couldn't find one person who speaks Russian well enough to get the right word, and then actually write it correctly in Russian? I imagine the case was not that such a person wasn't available, but that Clinton had her assistant quickly iGoogle the translation instead, because it was more convenient. So if it is indeed the "thought that counts" in this and other acts of diplomacy, no matter whether intended as a light-hearted joke or not, I do hope that Secretary Clinton stops and takes the time to get it exactly right in the future, rather than rushing through and only sort of getting it right, then being forced to laugh off the mistakes.

    One other note: Bettina writes that "a big red button in the context of the USA and Russia evokes images of the button that would be pushed to start a nuclear war." The Daily Show did a great piece to that same effect: Go to 4:45 in the video to see what I mean.