April 9, 2019

Ambassador (ret.) Nicholas Burns '80, the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School
Moderated by Vali Nasr, Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)

Retired U.S. Ambassador and Johns Hopkins SAIS alumnus Nicholas Burns served as the keynote speaker for the 3rd Annual Betty Lou Hummel Memorial Lecture on American foreign policy.

Looking back at the history of the past 75 years, Burns stated that one of the greatest achievements of the United States was that, by understanding the price of isolation, it helped create and defend a liberal world order that has held the great powers at peace for the last seven decades. The current world order may not be perfect, but the world still depends on the U.S. for protecting its benefits, Burns argued.

Burns pointed to what he considered several troubling changes in American foreign policy: waivering of U.S. commitment to alliances and global trade; rising authoritarian and populist leaders on the world stage; and U.S. threats to accept fewer immigrants and refugees.

Burns pointed out the risks of what he called the “Trump Revolt” in American foreign policy on weakening and even cracking the current world order with unforeseeable consequences for global security and peace. “We are also wrestling with that dark isolationist gene in our DNA, which is clearly visible today on the extreme left of the Democratic Party and extreme right of the Republican Party” Burns said.

In conclusion, Burns quoted Winston Churchill, saying “the price of greatness is responsibility,” and called on leaders of the next generation of Americans to show the world that America matters.

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