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Adair Lecture: Amb. Stephenson on the Future of Diplomacy

On Aug. 31, AFSA Presi-

dent Ambassador Barbara

Stephenson gave this year’s

Caroline and Ambassador

Charles Adair Memorial Lec-

ture at American University

in Washington, D.C.

The Adair Memorial

Lecture is co–hosted by

AFSA’s Fund for American

Diplomacy and the School of

Professional and Extended

Studies at AU.

AFSA thanks Dean Carola

Weil and Dr. Christian Maisch

for facilitating the event,

which took place in packed-

to-capacity Kaye Spiritual Life

Center on the AU campus.

Made possible by the

generous support of former

AFSA President Marshall

Adair and the Adair family,

the lectures—now in their

10th year—are designed to

expose students to indi-

viduals who have spent their

careers practicing diplo-

macy and thus add practical

insights to the students’

theoretical studies.

Amb. Stephenson shared

her thoughts on the future

of diplomacy, saying that

she expects the conduct and

practice of diplomacy to be

very different over the next

decades than when she first

started her Foreign Service

career. This is due to a range

of new threats, she explained,

that are global in scope and

as diverse as collapsing

fisheries, rising oceans and

epidemic diseases such as

Ebola and Zika.

The AFSA president

emphasized her dedication

to ensuring that the next gen-

eration of the Foreign Service

is equipped to handle these

new challenges.

Citing several current

diplomatic initiatives, she

described how the practice

of diplomacy is already being

reshaped to prepare for

the future. She hailed, for

example, the Conference Of

Parties 21—the global climate

change initiative agreed on

in Paris last year—as a bold

move toward public problem

solving and a key example

of stakeholders working

together with “traditional”

diplomats to address a global


“My central argument

is that most of the global

challenges ahead will require

working with a much broader

array of partners than was

the case in the past—and

a cadre of people prepared

to step up and provide the

leadership necessary for that

effort. People who are com-

fortable talking about sci-

AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson addresses students at

the 10th annual Caroline and Ambassador Charles Adair Memorial Lecture.

A student in the school of Professional and Extended Studies at American

University asks Amb. Stephenson a question at the Adair Memorial Lecture.



ence, technology, engineer-

ing, medicine, transportation,

climate science and even

social work,” Amb. Stephen-

son said. “The people I’m

describing are you.”

A lively Q&A session

followed the lecture, with

students from the United

States, Egypt, Afghanistan

and Japan stepping up to ask

questions about the future of

American involvement in the

Middle East, engagement of

non–state actors in the fight

against new threats and Amb.

Stephenson’s personal expe-

riences as a U.S. diplomat.

For a video of the event,



—Gemma Dvorak,

Associate Editor

Citing several

current diplomatic

initiatives Amb.


described how

the practice of

diplomacy is

already being

reshaped to prepare

for the future.