President Barack Obama's tour of Latin America last week showed the importance of public diplomacy to the President, especially since he left in the middle of the crisis in Libya and after the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Many people are criticizing his timing, thinking he clearly had bigger fish to fry in the east. But I think he was right on, and willing to walk the line to make a difference.
By staying on schedule and touring Latin America for the first time, Obama showed Latin America that he values their relationship and is investing in a shared political future. I think this was a smart strategic move for promoting America's interest. Obama spent 5 days in Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, three countries that are considered success stories in terms of their economic and political development. And since Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup, has discovered a large oil reserve, and is a leading global player in many issues such as climate change, its logical why the President would visit. Furthermore, since approximately 2.5 million El Salvadorians live in the United States, the issue of immigration is important to the U.S. and El Salvador.
However, no matter how many speeches and site visits Obama made while in Latin America, one specific image will be remembered most: Obama playing soccer with Brazilian children. It's an image that captures everything-Obama playing Brazil's favorite sport, soccer, with their future, the children. It's a photo that would make anyone smile. Our President putting his busy schedule aside to show these children that they matter. Something like this photo, so spontaneous (or maybe not with good PD people working for you), speaks wonders. Or so America hopes.