From the 1950s to the 1970s — as jazz took the world by storm, thanks to vehicles like Voice of America— the U.S. Department of State sent dozens of America’s greatest jazz musicians – including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and Randy Weston—to tour the globe sharing their unique talents. This moment was a new experiment in what is now known more broadly as “cultural diplomacy.” While publically intended to build bridges and tell a larger story about freedom in America, the tours helped promote a positive view of the United States and win over ideological allies when Cold War tensions were at their height. Equal parts altruism and political calculation, “weaponizing” jazz as a form of soft power allowed the State Department to engineer an image of racial harmony to offset bad international press about racism at home, related to desegregation and civil rights. What is the legacy of this kind of cultural investment? How in the post-Sept. 11 era could we leverage deeper engagement around cultural diplomacy and soft power? Is there opportunity for this in the age of America First? Join us for an engaging discussion with jazz critic/musician Will Layman followed by some live jazz with Layman, WorldOregon's Tim DuRoche, and special guests!
Will Layman is the Executive Director of the Centennial for the Walsh School of Foreign Service. Mr. Layman will be leading the planning and execution of the school’s 100th anniversary celebration. He is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and worked for six years as a litigating attorney in Washington, DC, primarily at Williams & Connolly. He just completed a 25-year career as a leader and teacher at The Field School, where he led Field’s branding, communications, and advancement initiatives around its 40th anniversary and capital campaign, as well as the school’s admissions, marketing, communications, and accreditation work over the last decade. Mr. Layman is a graduate of Williams College. He has been a contributor to National Public Radio and WNYC's "Soundcheck" as a jazz critic. He plays rock, funk, and jazz in the bars and clubs in and near the nation's capital. His fiction and humor appear in print and online.