Sponsored by Bank of America, Samantha Power Opens Women and Leadership Series at the Quick

Sponsored by Bank of America, Samantha Power Opens Women and Leadership Series at the Quick

Former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power launched the Women and Leadership Series with her Open VISIONS Forum lecture on Oct. 2 at the Quick.

One of Time’s “100 Most Influential People” and one of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” Samantha Power has been a leading voice for principled American engagement in the world.

True to her journalistic roots, Samantha Power is a great storyteller. She began her sold-out Open VISIONS Forum lecture at Fairfield University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Wednesday, Oct. 2, with a humorous excerpt from her new book, The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir.

The anecdote was relatable to anyone who has ever accidentally sent – or received – an embarrassingly misdirected email; judging from the audience’s roar of sympathetic laughter, that included pretty much everyone in the Kelley Theatre.

Power herself was also relatable, speaking with the same honest and direct personal style that has been a trademark of her diplomacy work, including her role as the 28th U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017. 

The former journalist also worked for Senator Obama and later served in President Obama’s cabinet, a role in which she became the public face of U.S. opposition to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria. Power negotiated the toughest sanctions in a generation against North Korea, lobbied to secure the release of political prisoners, helped build new international law to cripple ISIL’s financial networks, and supported President Obama’s groundbreaking efforts to end the Ebola crisis.

In her lecture titled “The State of the World: A Global View,” she chose not to address specific current events such as these, but instead to engage on three “cross-cutting issues” that she predicts will determine the shape of U.S. leadership in the world — and impact our national security the most. The primary challenge to our future national security, Power told Wednesday’s audience, is “the bitterness of polarization and division in this country, and the far-reaching impact of new technologies.”

She described how foreign enemies of U.S. democracy use botting, trolling, and tweeting on both sides of polarizing domestic issues in order to “jam up the debate and turn us on ourselves.” Instead of uniting under this threat, our polarization has made us vulnerable to such manipulation, Power noted, adding “If I had a panacea to polarization, I’d be up here proselytizing only about that.”

Power also touched on the global decline in political rights and civil liberties that has come to be known as the democratic recession. Cautioning against “the surge of support around the world for populist, nationalist figures,” she stressed the importance of human dignity, calling it “the most underestimated value in politics today.”

In closing, Power told the Fairfield University students in the audience that instead of feeling that the world’s problems are too big for “just one person” to impact, they might consider the idea of “shrinking the change,” or taking on a large-scale problem with many small steps over time. 

As an example, she talked about the FreeThe20 campaign she helped launch to bring awareness to the plight of 20 females around the world who had been imprisoned for human rights activism. She and her team put a spotlight on one woman each day for 20 days, and eventually 16 of them were released – a small number, but a significant percentage.

Fairfield University’s Open VISIONS Forum lecture by Samantha Power was the first of a new inspirational Women and Leadership series presented by Bank of America. According to Bill Tommins, Bank of America’s Southern Connecticut market president, “Bank of America is especially excited to collaborate in launching the Women and Leadership Open VISIONS Forum series, highlighting women whose groundbreaking careers are inspiring and empowering the next generation of women leaders."

The next OVF lecture in the Women and Leadership series sponsored by Bank of America will take place at the Quick Center on Monday, December 9, 2019, and will feature award-winning photojournalist and MacArthur Fellow Lynsey Addario. For tickets and information, please visit www.quickcenter.com.

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Last modified: 10-04-19 10:19 AM

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