February 6, 2019 - 4:30 PM

Keynote Conversation


by GU Politics

The half-day symposium concluded with a keynote conversation with The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th Secretary of State, in Georgetown's historic Gaston Hall, moderated by Ambassador Bill Burns, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State ('11-'14).

This event was co-sponsored with the Walsh School of Foreign Service as part of the Lloyd George Centennial Lectures on the Future of the Global Order.


On February 6th, 2019, the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service at the McCourt School of Public Policy, in partnership with the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS), concluded the half-day symposium, "The Future of Diplomacy," with a keynote conversation with The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th Secretary of State. The keynote took place in Georgetown's historic Gaston Hall and was moderated by Ambassador Bill Burns, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (‘11-’14).

In his welcoming speech, SFS Dean Joel Hellman discussed the current state of affairs and the new challenges that have come to exist, and emphasized the need for conversations evaluating the needs in American foreign policy leadership. Following Dean Hellman, Abby Nichols (SFS '20) introduced Secretary Clinton as someone who has spent four decades in public service “as an advocate, attorney, First Lady, United States Senator, Secretary of State, and Presidential candidate” and described Ambassador Bill Burns as one who has spent “thirty-three years in U.S. foreign service, most notably as Ambassador Russia and Deputy Secretary of State.”

Once they were seated on Gaston Hall’s stage, Ambassador Burns began the conversation by asking the Secretary how she balanced the priorities of the United States against the continued call for diplomacy. Secretary Clinton answered by describing how, at the beginning of her term as Secretary, she had taken a trip around the world to collect information on other countries' sentiment towards the U.S. In these discussions, she found that many nations and their citizens felt “left behind” by the U.S. She discussed how that knowledge impacted the ways in which he conducted diplomacy through the rest of her term. She advocated for U.S. investment in Guatemala and the Honduras to help end conflicts, and worked on the ground to assist in their political stabilization.

The Secretary also touched on the importance of maintaining the values that America holds dear, even in the face of local and international pressure, saying “the future of diplomacy needs to have a commitment to universal values. If you give it up, you give up the strength of your case for democracy and freedom.” The importance of democracy came up again with a student question inquiring about the activities of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, with the Secretary emphasizing the danger of authoritarians and authoritarian parties.

Clinton and Burns also spoke about the current state of U.S. and China relations, with Clinton warning that the U.S. is currently losing the influence war with China. Specifically, she cautioned against China’s demonstration of “soft power” including their investments in Latin America and Africa. In response, she had advocated for an increase in U.S. cultural diplomacy and their own usage of soft power to increase U.S. alliances. This includes helping to maintain NATO and strengthening our relationships with countries who we may hope to count on. She warned that “to be in a hostile relationship with people who share a lot of our values is dangerous.”

Clinton then answered a series of questions submitted by students in the audience. In response to one about women who may want to enter politics, Clinton offered a simple message: “If you feel it and you want to try it, then don’t give up." She applauded the recent unifying display of white by congresswoman at the 2019 State of the Union, but emphasized that women “don’t need to be candidates if they want to be involved in politics.”

Ambassador Burns concluded the conversation by pointing out it is a very difficult time to convince young people to go into public service and asked Secretary Clinton to make the case for why it is valuable a career choice. She answered by pointing to the Georgetown students that she had met at the prior symposium events that very day.  “Today, I've met so many students who understand the importance of being involved in foreign policy, diplomacy, and development, and who have an urge to pursue those fields as careers.” Not only was it important for students to want to enter public service, but it was also important for the field to recognize its potential. "We need [these students] now more than ever," she continued. "There's a lot of hard work that needs to be done, but there's also a lot of room for imagination."

Clinton wrapped up the keynote by pointing to the areas that still need that work and imagination, including climate change, women’s rights, and the LGBTQ community, all of which are critical to the future of diplomacy and the wellbeing of the U.S. “We are making the case for diplomacy here today, but I also think that we’re making the case for America.”

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