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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Edward R. Murrow Award given to State Department’s Daniel Langenkamp

FletcherEvent-scaled

Daniel Langenkamp is pictured receiving the Edward R. Murrow Award on April 4.

Members of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy gathered on April 5 to award the Edward R. Murrow Award to Daniel Langenkamp, a U.S. State Department public diplomacy officer who served in Ukraine at the beginning of the Russian invasion. The event, titled “Public Diplomacy on a Digital Planet: The View from Kyiv,” was co hosted by the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World and the Institute for Business in the Global Context.

“The Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy is an award given each year to a U.S. State Department employee by Fletcher,” Tara Sonenshine, the Edward R. Murrow professor of the practice in public diplomacy at Fletcher, wrote in an email to the Daily. “State chooses someone who best exemplifies the standards of dedication, integrity, courage, sensitivity and excellence in the PD field.”

Rachel Kyte, dean of The Fletcher School, was the first to speak at the event.

“We’re delighted to partner, as we often do, with the State Department,” Kyte said. “We’re here to honor and recognize one of its finest, Daniel Langenkamp.”

Kyte then introduced Liz Allen, the Department of State’s senior official for public diplomacy and public affairs and President Joe Biden’s nominee for Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. Allen oversees about 5,000 U.S. public diplomacy officers worldwide.

“Central to our efforts in Ukraine is the work of public diplomacy, and public diplomacy officers who, in Russia and Ukraine and those stationed around the world, are helping disseminate accurate and timely information to audiences and are strengthening our relationships with civil society leaders,” Allen said. “This is where the work of Dan Langenkamp comes in. Few people are more intimately acquainted [with] what has gone on in Ukraine than Dan, which is what brings us here today.”

According to Allen, Langenkamp was the “sole public affairs officer at U.S. Embassy Kyiv when Russia invaded Ukraine.” Langenkamp added that he was involved in the embassy’s decision to return to Ukraine shortly after.

“His dedicated public service … and exceptional work in Kyiv both before and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought recognition from across our government,” Allen said, adding that he was integral in the effort to preempt Vladimir Putin’s actions leading up to the war.

“Dan was really the tip of the spear in this effort,” she said. “He was instrumental to our State Department effort to disseminate accurate information to the public as events were unfolding so quickly.”

Langenkamp graduated from The Fletcher School with a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy in 2002, previously graduating with a bachelor’s from Columbia University in 1992. During his career, he has worked for organizations including the International Rescue Committee and as a reporter for The Boston Globe.

“I carried Fletcher in my heart ever since I left,” Langenkamp said during the ceremony. “I left Hungary, where I had been a reporter, deeply involved in its internal politics … and Fletcher gave me the breadth to transition to this career that I have now.”

Langenkamp has worked at U.S. embassies in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Uganda and most recently in Ukraine, where he served as a press attaché, scheduling press interviews for Deputy Chief of Mission Kristina Kvien. As a former reporter, Langenkamp took an aggressive approach in managing the State Department’s press relations in Ukraine.

“I honestly thought when I left Ukraine that I had hurt my career because of some of the things that we had done, some of the risks that we had taken,” Langenkamp said in an interview with the Daily. “So to me, the award is important because it validates that approach.”

Langenkamp’s job involved combatting Russian misinformation.

“Russia was bearing down on Ukraine and … we were seeing this disinformation machine be as aggressive as the kinetic military machine that they were building up,” Langenkamp said. “We realized that we had to step up to the plate. We had to get aggressive in our own media strategy and our own outreach to be able to push back on this.”

Langenkamp cited a viral meme posted to the U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s social media accounts as one such example of this innovative approach. Langenkamp said the meme, comparing early cultural development in Kyiv and Moscow, was a retort to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim, which Langenkamp paraphrased as “Ukraine has no history, no culture, no language of its own.”

During the award ceremony, Sonenshine moderated a panel conversation between Langenkamp, Allen and Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business and professor of the practice, on public diplomacy in the digital age. Much of the conversation focused on the State Department’s work in Ukraine at the time of Russia’s invasion of the country in February 2022.

Sonenshine asked panelists about the role of digital media in international affairs.

“What gives us, the U.S. government, a strategic advantage in social media is our credibility,” Allen said. “Keeping the social media accounts of the embassy online was so important because, amidst all the noise out there, we were a credible source of information in [the] country, not just for American citizens but for the Ukrainian civil society.”

Bhaskar praised the resiliency of Ukraine’s tech infrastructure for softening the blow on the country’s economy. The tech industry is the country’s third largest export, he said, and grew 25% by the end of 2022 — despite the war.

“We have the benefit of having truth on our side, particularly in Ukraine,” Langenkamp told the Daily. “Now is more important than ever for American officers all over the world to be talking about values that people believe in: democracy, transparency, merit, free markets. These concepts are under threat all over the world, and if we don’t talk about why they’re important, they will get trampled.”