The uses of gratitude in diplomacy

Adapted from an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 2016.

In a trip to Europe earlier this year, President Obama relied on a little-used art of diplomacy to help the Continent resolve its divisions and woes, which include a refugee crisis. He asked Europeans to be more grateful for the progress they have already made.

“Perhaps you need an outsider, somebody who is not European, to remind you of the magnitude of what you have achieved from the ruins of the Second World War,” he said in a speech in the German city of Hannover. “Your accomplishment—more than 500 million people speaking 24 languages in 28 countries, 19 with a common currency, in one European Union—remains one of the greatest political and economic achievements of modern times.”

Diplomacy doesn’t always entail arm-twisting negotiations or forceful persuasion about shared interests. It can also mean stepping back to acknowledge past accomplishments toward a common good. Mr. Obama, who campaigned on a message of hope and is now in his final year as president, has tried to anchor that theme with a new focus on gratitude.

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Gratitude and progress
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