A crowd of nearly 3,000 filled the IU Auditorium as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a major foreign policy address in commemoration of the new Indiana University School of Global and International Studies (SGIS). Kerry delivered a wide-ranging speech, made brief remarks during a luncheon, and met with students at the Global and International Studies Building.
Kerry is the first sitting secretary of state to visit IU in 20 years. Warren Christopher delivered an address in March 1995.
The secretary’s address
Kerry congratulated the university for making such an investment in seeing the connection between understanding the world and U.S. success in it.
“It underscores why this conversation today is so important, because you can’t function in today’s world without understanding the connection,” Kerry said. “I have said many times, from the day I was nominated, that foreign policy is economic policy and economic policy is foreign policy.”
“The opening of this school is really in keeping with this university’s very proud tradition of helping to explain the world to America and America to the world,” Kerry added. “We do have to understand each other. And to do that, you have to listen—not just talk, and particularly not shout.”
Kerry also paid tribute to SGIS Distinguished Scholars and Professors of Practice Richard Lugar and Lee Hamilton, former colleagues of Kerry’s when he served in the U.S. Congress. Kerry commended IU for having them as a part of the school, thanking them for “their extraordinary example of a lifetime.” And he added that Founding Dean Lee Feinstein “is exactly the right person to blaze a path for an institution such as your new School for Global and International Studies.”
The secretary touched on U.S. interests and policies in numerous parts of the world. He commented first on developments of the day, condemning new violence in the Middle East and noting that morning’s announcement by President Obama that more than 5,500 American troops would remain in Afghanistan past next year. But he cautioned that dealing with the immediate problems are not enough to effectively conduct foreign policy.
“As we look ahead, we seek not simply to address the immediate crisis of the day,” Kerry said. “Our strategy is to lay the groundwork for solutions that will strengthen the community of nations for decades to come.”
To complete that strategy, the secretary implored his audience, particularly students in SGIS, to help in the cause.
“I invite you to come and join us,” Kerry said. “Join the State Department. Apply to the Foreign Service or the Civil Service. Contact the U.S. Agency for International Development. Enlist in the Peace Corps. Or participate in one of the many partnerships the State Department has forged with diaspora communities, faith-based groups, and students such as yourselves.”
“I ask you a simple question: Would you rather spend the next 40 years complaining about the world or would you like to try to improve it? Your country needs you.”
Comments from the SGIS dean and IU president
Feinstein began the event by noting how responsive the audience was to Kerry’s announced appearance; the tickets required for entry were nearly gone within minutes of their availability. He said that was a tribute to the fittingness of the featured speaker.
“Mr. Secretary, your dedication to public service is a model to the future secretaries of state in the auditorium this morning,” Feinstein said.
IU President Michael A. McRobbie outlined Kerry’s extensive public service in making his introduction, ranging from his war service to later protest of the Vietnam War, his long tenure in the Senate, and his travel of more than 900,000 miles as secretary of state.
“We are honored that you have chosen to speak here, especially given your commitment to international understanding and cooperation, and preserving the promise of democracy for the next generation and for the world, commitments that we wholeheartedly share,” McRobbie said.
During the luncheon in the Global and International Studies Building atrium, Secretary Kerry, Senator Lugar, and Congressman Hamilton offered toasts. Afterward, Kerry took questions from a select group of SGIS students who met with him in a discussion on a broad range of topics.