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An American outreach 

I have said freedom of movement contributes to economic prosperity—and was not surprised to learn in Fortune (May 15) that the United States has lost $286 billion in revenue since 1992 in tourism, thanks to 9-11-related concerns.
   I think back to the heady days when foreign students were going to the US in droves and helped fuel the economy upon graduation; now, some fear the digital fingerprinting and photographing at passport control.
   I never worry about this personally, and the US has every right to have more secure borders and protect its citizens—especially at a time of war. But the loss is notable, for over-secure borders also mean less sharing.
Given that the securing of borders has resulted in less awareness of the United States, and anti-American sentiment contributes to that, then something needs to be done to get the country back on a tourist’s radar
   I think back 16 or 17 years when I began dealing with the US in the software world, and found that you could not beat the professionalism of an American business person. Americans were willing to bridge cultural divides for mutual benefit.
   Given that the securing of borders has resulted in less awareness of the United States, and anti-American sentiment contributes to that, then something needs to be done to get the country back on a tourist’s radar.
   Anti-Americanism has meant that the great symbols of the United States, such as Mt Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty, mean less to foreigners than they once did. They are mere set pieces, with some tourists not appreciating the values behind them.
   I believe the answer may lie in technology. Many Americans are great bloggers, so why not a campaign by those who love their country to reach out?
   This is not the sort of top–down outreach that the present administration tried to do some years ago to win the hearts and minds of the Middle East. Or, for that matter, the one-size-fits-all advice that many groups give, and I include the Carter Center.
   It is the sharing that I know Americans love to give—and those away from the politicized centres of the coasts are great at it.
   I remain in close contact with Americans privately and regularly, and I’m still learning—despite having roots there myself after my great-grandfather settled in California over 95 years ago.
   So while I have advocated that we go and find blogs in Iran or elsewhere, so we don’t rely on the mainstream media, those who are critical of the United States might do well to seek the blogs of everyday Americans.
   This campaign can’t be top–down. I don’t advise that the Department of State write letters to bloggers and compel them to be the tourism department. But a general communiqué, outlining the problem, and letting people do what they think is right—including criticize—might just help show people what American freedom is all about, and get those tourists back. Talk about your values and what makes you great. And live them in your lives, real and virtual. Show why in the hour of need, America once led—and can do so again, with pride. Time to restore the American nation brand.

Del.icio.us tags: USA brand America nation branding blogging cultural divide freedom marketing promotion freedom of movement 9-11
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Update: coincidentally, my friend Randy Thomas wrote a great blog post today that shows a sense of American pride—and the sort which could have been inspired by such a programme.  
We are half a world apart and completely on the same page! That's awesome.  
I know! I was so surprised to see what you had written—amazing (and a great post)!  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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