Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Turki Al-Faisal highlighted the importance of public diplomacy in today’s world in remarks at Kansas State University in Manhattan today. Prince Turki’s speech was part of the university’s Landon Lecture Series.
“Having been given a voice by the media, the internet and satellite communications, people are empowered as never before to influence the outcome of world events,” Prince Turki said. “The people have a voice. Leaders listen. And the simple fact is: Governments can work together better when their constituents are supportive of their aims. Whether or not a nation’s citizens foster a positive environment toward a foreign people matters a great deal.”
Prince Turki cited the Saudi-US relationship as an example of this point. While Saudi and US leaders have had close ties since King Abdulaziz Al-Saud and President Franklin D. Roosevelt met in 1945, relations between the two peoples have also developed.
The Saudi-US Strategic Dialogue, which seeks to institutionalize relations between the two countries, includes a working group on people-to-people exchange, he noted. The Kingdom has increased scholarships for Saudi students to study abroad. Saudi officials are also traveling through the US each year talking to Americans; Prince Turki said that he alone visited 25 states and made over 100 public appearances during his tenure as ambassador.
Prince Turki said that these efforts would lead to better understanding between the Saudi and American peoples.
“When a hard-line evangelical makes a racist comment about Arabs in the US – and it ends up in The New York Times – the Saudi people will understand this is a minority sentiment. They will actually know Americans and know what they think and feel,” he said. “The same goes for when a radical imam makes comments aimed at incitement. Americans will understand that this is not the view of the Saudi people – but of one fanatical cleric.”
The ambassador also said that the Kingdom has invited more American journalists and members of Congress to visit Saudi Arabia, and see what it is really like. It has opened up more to foreign trade and amended visa laws to encourage visitors.
With such deep bonds, Prince Turki expressed optimism that the Saudi-US relationship will continue to endure and overcome future challenges. “The strength of our longstanding relationship can weather tough times and rise to meet new challenges and an evolving world of complexities. I remain hopeful we will someday see lasting peace,” he said.Transcript of Prince Turki’s remarks