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Cynthia P. Schneider
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Cynthia P. Schneider teaches, publishes, and organizes initiatives in the field of cultural diplomacy, with a focus on relations with the Muslim world. For the Brookings Institution she leads the Arts and Culture Initiative within the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. The Initiative seeks to maximize the potential of arts and culture to increase understanding between the United States and the Muslim world. Its activities include research, convening meetings in the U.S. and different regions of the Muslim world, and catalyzing projects, such as the Muslims on Screen and Television (MOST) Initiative which provides valuable resources and accurate information on Islam and Muslims for the U.S. entertainment community. The Brookings Institution will publish Dr. Schneider’s white paper Mightier than the Sword: Arts and Culture in the U.S.-Islamic World Relationship in October 2008. Prof. Schneider teaches courses in Diplomacy and Culture at Georgetown University, where, from 1984-2005, she was a member of the art history faculty, and published on Rembrandt and seventeenth century Dutch art. From 1998-2001 she served as U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands. During the 1980s Dr. Schneider curated exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery in Washington. She serves on the Boards of Directors of Wesley Theological Seminary and the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy. Schneider received her B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Entries by Cynthia P. Schneider

Building Artists and Leaders in Palestine: The Freedom Theatre Ten Years On

(0) Comments | Posted April 22, 2016 | 12:26 PM

"We are not buildings artists; we are buildings leaders in society."
These stirring words of Juliano Mer Khamis, the charismatic founder of The Freedom Theatre (TFT) in Jenin refugee camp in Palestine, are coming true, despite his assassination five years ago.

Against all odds,...

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Why Culture is Essential for Conflict Recovery and Sustainable Development

(0) Comments | Posted April 4, 2016 | 9:45 AM

Does the revival of culture play a critical role in recovering from conflict and achieving sustainable development? At a conference in Phnom Penh organized by Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) on the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Phloeun Prim, CLA's CEO, argued that cultural vitality...

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Islamophobia, ISIS, and Authentic Muslim Narratives: Television's Potential Role

(101) Comments | Posted February 22, 2016 | 4:12 PM

Recently President Obama and Secretary Kerry each called on US commercial entertainment, specifically film and television, to help in two major challenges: Islamophobia and ISIS recruitment.

In his landmark speech embracing Muslims as part of the American fabric past and present, President Obama called for...

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Malala: a Moderate Muslim Voice Trump Would Block

(0) Comments | Posted December 16, 2015 | 4:18 PM

If Donald Trump had his way, Malala wouldn't be allowed to enter the US.

Fortunately, Trump's hateful bluster is just that, because Malala Yousafzai's story and her voice are needed more than ever before. Against the false narratives recklessly flouted by Trump and others in the Republican...

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The Power of Protests in Washington and Cairo

(3) Comments | Posted September 19, 2013 | 2:34 PM

The power of protest depends not only on how many turn out, but also on what legislative, judicial, and civil society institutions exist to enact the will of those marching in the streets. Comparing the recently commemorated March on Washington with the massive protests in Egypt June 30th-July 3rd emphasizes...

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Think Again: Lessons From Cambodia's Rebirth Through the Arts

(3) Comments | Posted May 14, 2013 | 2:54 PM

The revival of Cambodia's rich and unique cultural heritage has fueled the country's impressive recovery from the Khmer Rouge's genocide of 1975-79. This message rang unmistakably true as the Season of Cambodia (SOC) has dazzled New York audiences in museums, universities, galleries, and performing arts centers over the...

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A Class Act in Diplomacy: Leading With Humility

(0) Comments | Posted November 1, 2012 | 12:29 PM

The last place that the Polish Ambassador to the United States Ryszard Schnepf might have been expected to appear in his first two weeks in Washington was the opening performance of Our Class, the searing play about a dark episode in Poland's history: the 1941 massacre of Jewish citizens by...

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Empowering Egyptian Women Through Music

(0) Comments | Posted March 26, 2012 | 1:01 PM

"I entered this competition because I wanted to represent the generation that witnessed the revolution, and let people know what's happening,' explained 14-year-old Zain Abed before she launched into a robust rendition of James Morrison's "Up," her entry into the "Sing Egyptian Women" contest. The U.S. Embassy in...

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Cultural Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Empowering Local Voices

(0) Comments | Posted February 22, 2012 | 12:11 PM

Political scientist Milton Cummings's classic definition of cultural diplomacy -- "the exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of fostering mutual understanding" -- needs an update that reflects new "best practices" in today's world of 24/7 communication and social media. While...

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Hard Power Trumps Soft In U.S. Policy Towards Egypt

(8) Comments | Posted December 23, 2011 | 2:04 PM

"But as the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt made clear, the enduring cooperation we seek will be difficult to sustain without democratic legitimacy and public consent. We cannot have one set of policies to advance security in the here-and-now and another to promote democracy in a long run that...

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The Gospel of Sufism in Post-Revolutionary Egypt

(8) Comments | Posted September 16, 2011 | 11:05 AM

"I want to help build a bridge to the Middle East that won't break." -- Kevin Patrick, CEO, Share the Mic

"You do not love America! If you loved America, you would send me singers!" Entesar Abd El Fatth, director of El-Ghouri Center for Musical Heritage and Cairo's International Sufi...

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The New Arab World Is Coming, With or Without the U.S.

(7) Comments | Posted March 2, 2011 | 4:59 PM

Co-written with Nadia Oweidat

Young Arab women and men of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen have proven that they are willing to die to build a better future. They yearn for freedom, opportunity and democracy. It is doubtful they will accept anything less. It may take time and...

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Richard Holbrooke and Rembrandt

(1) Comments | Posted January 13, 2011 | 12:39 AM

"Is The Polish Rider by Rembrandt?" The first words Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, then U.S. envoy to the UN, spoke to me had nothing to do with the business at hand - the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague (ICTY). At the time, in fall of 2000, I was serving...

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Cultural Diplomacy and the "Oh, I Didn't Know That" Factor

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2010 | 3:04 PM

Measuring success in cultural diplomacy -- the use of education, creative expression in any form, or people to people exchange to increase understanding across regions, cultures, or peoples -- is challenging. How does one quantify changes in attitude, abandoning stereotypes, or feeling empathy as a result of a performance, a...

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No One Cares About Our Deadline

(5) Comments | Posted August 31, 2010 | 1:53 PM

"We will meet our deadline for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq." The fixation with meeting our own deadline, necessitated by domestic politics, reveals a particularly -- even for America --- myopic view of the world.

Here is the bad news. No one cares about our deadline. The world --...

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America in Alexandria, de Tocqueville in Arabic

(5) Comments | Posted July 7, 2010 | 5:22 PM

"This is the most extraordinary place I have ever seen," exclaimed Sid Ganis, film producer and past President of the Academy of Motion Pictures, about the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the modern day reincarnation of the famous Library of Alexandria. Ganis was in Alexandria to participate in a conference organized by the...

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It's the Emotion, Stupid

(5) Comments | Posted January 26, 2010 | 2:30 PM

How is it possible that the same man who swept the country -- and the world -- off their feet now appears to be stumbling? In one year, how could President Obama go from providing the magic touch for every campaign, including his own, to being unable even to salvage...

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Reading the (Three Cups of) Tea Leaves on the Afghan Strategy

(9) Comments | Posted December 10, 2009 | 6:11 PM

On the same day President Obama unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan, Greg Mortenson published his second book, Stones into Schools, which continues the extraordinary tale begun in his best seller Three Cups of Tea of his mission to "promote peace with books, not bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan". The response...

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The Lockerbie Trial: A Unique Moment in International Justice and Diplomacy

(45) Comments | Posted August 21, 2009 | 12:17 PM

The understandable outrage at the release of convicted terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi , found guilty of the bombing of Pan Am 103, should not overshadow the memory of the trial that brought Megrahi to justice. It was an extraordinary example of international cooperation, justice, and diplomacy.

Early in...

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