An Act of Diplomacy

This story is from our monthly newsletter that offers communications insights, and hopefully, some amusing diversion.

The ugly mug in the black and white photo is me. The happy face is me as well.

I don’t mind calling out the ugly photo for what it is. The State Department ordered me not to smile for my passport photo, and I did not disappoint them. 

The ugly photo raises the question about the diplomatic impact of millions of unhappy-looking, dour-faced Americans crossing borders en masse all over the world. I can’t imagine it does much for our image which has already been battered of late. 

What if instead, the State Department told us to put on our happy face? Imagine if the first image of Americans abroad was a smiling, inviting, engaging face. As you never get a second chance to make a first impression, what an act of diplomacy this would be. 

It turns out the state department wants your best dour face because it’s the most compatible with facial recognition technology. I’m not sure who this ultimately serves. Yes, if there’s trouble abroad, your digital image could help. But it also puts a digital image in the hands of foreign governments, and who knows what they do with it? All the more reason for the happy face. If images of Americans are populating the archives of foreign governments forever, better that they are smiling faces.

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