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The State of the State Department

  • Boston Public Library 700 Boylston Street Boston, MA, 02116 United States (map)

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Late last year, Amb. Barbara Stephenson, President of the American Foreign Service Association, garnered broad media attention with an outspoken column on damage done and future danger at the U.S. State Department, stating, “There is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution—and to the global leadership that depends on us.”

Weeks later, Amb. Nicholas Burns, one of the country’s best-known commentators on international affairs, published an equally attention-grabbing New York Times op-ed, declaring, “We are ringing the village bell in alarm,“ citing “a deliberate effort to deconstruct the State Department and the Foreign Service. “ 

Join these two experts at a special WorldBoston event on “The State of the State Department” and its implications for the future of the U.S. national interest as Congress debates a budget foreseeing a 31% cut to the State Department.

Ambassador (Ret.) Nicholas Burns is the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Burns served in the United States government for twenty-seven years.  As a career Foreign Service Officer, he was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008, and previously served in a variety of roles, including U.S. Ambassador to NATO and to Greece. Ambassador Burns has received fifteen honorary degrees, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, among others, and has a BA in History from Boston College (1978), an MA in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (1980), and earned the Certificat Pratique de Langue Francaise at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (1977).

An active-duty member of the American Foreign Service for over 30 years, Barbara Stephenson was elected President of the American Foreign Service Association in 2015. Previously, she served as Dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute. In 2008, she was appointed Ambassador to Panama and later became the first female Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in London. As Deputy Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Coordinator for Iraq (2006-2008), she won the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award for developing and implementing the “civilian surge” that helped improve governance and reduce violence in Iraq’s provinces. Ambassador Stephenson speaks Spanish and Dutch and holds a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Florida.