During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to replicate a program launched in Germany after World War II. "America Houses would offer state-of-the-art English-language training programs, discussions, and a wide selection of current periodicals, newspapers, and literature," he promised. "They would offer free Internet access and moderated programs that promote direct exchange with Americans through the use of modern information technology."
A year ago, we rated this promise Stalled. But the Obama administration has since made significant progress putting this promise into action.
On Dec. 1, 2010, Judith A. McHale, the undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs, traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia, to open the first @america Center -- a new-generation gathering place where young Indonesians can see "the best of the United States -- our ideas, our creativity, our ideals and our ingenuity," McHale said at the dedication.
The center is located in a shopping center -- Pacific Place Mall -- and conducts outreach on social media such as Facebook and Twitter in order to reach young Indonesians. It has partnered with Google Earth, Cisco and Microsoft -- which donated Xbox Kinect game consoles -- to bolster its high-tech resources.
"By getting out from behind the Embassy walls, @america will be an open, inviting, and accessible place to explore and experience the best of America," McHale said. "Although the United States and Indonesia are separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, @america will use modern technology to bring our young people together to learn and cooperate on issues of importance to our nations and the world."
Indonesia is the world's largest majority-Muslim nation.
In the meantime, American cultural centers elsewhere are enhancing their facilities and outreach.
An America House in Arab East Jerusalem recently sponsored an evening of entertainment for more than 100 children aged 5 to 15 from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al Joz. "The evening included a Ramadan sing-along, a puppet show, and balloons and school gifts for the kids," said an account in a State Department website. "This is the first of eight cultural activities that the America House is sponsoring in east Jerusalem during Ramadan."
Several other American cultural centers are also undergoing upgrades. They include Burkina Faso, Burma, Chile, Haiti, Mozambique and Nicaragua.
While a broad network of these centers remains to be built, the Jakarta outpost appears to fit the promise's description so closely that, in combination with the activities of the center in East Jerusalem, we're rating this a Promise Kept.