DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  Good morning, everybody. Thank you, Isabel, for that wonderful introduction.  I want to thank Chris and Tyler as well for giving me a quick tour of Dillard, and how excited I am, Isabel, that you’re a Rangel Scholar and that we’re going to have all of your talent at the State Department.

And Dr. Ford, I love saying Madam President.  I think it’s a wonderful thing saying Madam President. I really appreciate the invitation to speak here at Dillard today.  And it’s wonderful to be here in New Orleans.  Someone asked me if I was having a good time.  I said who doesn’t have a good time in New Orleans?

After I’m here I’m traveling to the Dominican Republic and then on to Argentina — two very critical democratic partners in the Western Hemisphere.  But it was really important for me to stop here first, not only in New Orleans, but here at Dillard.  That’s because the work our government does overseas has an impact here  at home.  After all, we are overseas to represent our country.  The work we are doing at home is fundamental to our success around the world.  It’s an important part of my job as Deputy Secretary of State to make connections between our country here and all those countries out there.  To listen to our citizens’ perspectives on our work.

And I especially wanted the opportunity to meet with this group because you represent the future.  As students and eventually graduates, your generation will have the chance to craft and shape the next chapter of our country and our world.  And it’s a world I’m not even going to recognize.  You all are probably already on ChatGPT and seeing what AI is doing, for what we are doing in this world.  Sooner than you all can imagine, you will take the reins from folks like me and take on the responsibilities of leadership that President Ford mentioned.

So let me share a few thoughts about U.S. foreign policy and the world you’ll inherit. We are entering the early years of a new chapter in our history.  The post-Cold War world is over, and there is competition among major powers to shape what comes next.  For evidence of that, look no further than what is happening in Ukraine, where Russia’s horrific war represents a brazen challenge to the widely accepted idea that countries should have the right to choose their own future.  Vladimir Putin decided he should decide the future of the Ukrainian people instead of the Ukrainian people themselves.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China is the one country with the means to reshape the international order and the way we live, and its actions and Xi Jinping, the leader of that country, his actions, suggest it wants to.

We also face a wide range of shared global challenges.  Climate change, health, food and energy security, racial injustice, terrorism, to name just a few.  And while we juggle all this, new and emerging technologies are dramatically changing our world.  As I noted, recent leaps in artificial intelligence are just the latest example.  ChatGPT and other AI tools have impacted all of us in the last six months — your professors don’t even know if you’ve written your papers anymore — from the classroom to the boardroom.

It’s a really complex world out there, and if we are to make it free, open, prosperous, equitable, and secure for future generations, we need a diverse workforce with the skills to match.  So if there’s one core message I want to share with you today, it’s this:  whatever your background, skills, or field of study, we want you.  There is a place for you at the State Department.

We have many avenues to full-time jobs and fulfilling careers.  We have paid internships, fellowships, funded study abroad, international exchange programs such as the Fulbright program.  Dr. Ford, by the way, is a Fulbright alumna.  Through these programs, we make it possible for young people to travel and study overseas regardless of means or background.

At this point, I’m going to ask a few members of my team to stand up.

Nina Diaz, in this beautiful purple dress, is one of my advisors and she covers South and Central Asia.  She joined the State Department as a Pickering Fellow when she was a junior in college, then completed summer internships — first in Washington and then in Singapore — before joining the Foreign Service as an economic officer.  That’s Nina.

Nadia Shepherd, also one of my staff assistants and my logistics guru, among other talents.  Nadia started with the State Department as a student summer hire in Senegal and then in Washington, DC in our Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs before joining the civil service after graduating college.  That was Nadia’s way forward.

I’ll also mention one of my colleagues who couldn’t join us today. Desirée Cormier Smith, who happens to have Louisiana roots, she is our first ever Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice.  She started as a Pickering Fellow, served as a Foreign Service Officer, then moved to the non-profit and private sectors before returning to government. Desirée and her team are working every day to promote racial equity and justice while combating racism, discrimination, and xenophobia around the world – NOT because we have solved these challenges here at home but because we recognize from our own experience that systemic racism fuels mistrust and weakens societies. Systemic racism is a global challenge as well as a challenge here at home, that requires global solutions.

One other member, Jason Raskin is a Foreign Service Officer who works in public diplomacy and communications.  Some of you I know are interested in communications, you should talk to Jason.  He’ll get you on the right path.  He’s also a brand new dad, so you can have family and still be in the Foreign Service.

Desiree, Nina, Nadia, and Jason all embarked on their State Department journeys when they were about your age.  We also have with us today recruiters, photographers, and passport specialists.  They and every one of our 25,000 Civil and Foreign Service employees found their own path to our workforce, many through State Department student programs.

I want to emphasize that our career opportunities are not just for political science and international relations majors, though we want those too.  We are recruiting talented students from all fields, including STEM, business, and engineering.  Our workforce has employees from every socio-economic background, gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability status.  Because decades of research show that more diverse and inclusive teams make better decisions.  Simply put, our foreign policy and national security are made stronger when we bring a wide range of perspectives to the table.

Last year, we welcomed more Foreign Service personnel into the State Department than we had in a decade, and we expect those numbers to increase over next year.  We are also hiring Civil Service employees at record numbers.  We’re hiring.  So if you’re interested, come join us.  You can engage directly with members of my team who will be located at tables just outside these doors after we’re finished.

Since we’re at this city’s oldest HBCU, I also want to say a few words about the State Department’s partnerships with HBCUs and other minority-serving educational institutions.  HBCUs, Hispanic-serving Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions collectively enroll over five million students and produce some of this country’s most prominent leaders.  Our Vice President being one of them, from Howard.  If we are going to build a workforce that reflects the America and the American public we serve… if we are going to craft inclusive, innovative foreign policy… if we are going to tap the full potential of our society to meet the global challenges we face, we need to be building relationships with all of you and the institutions preparing you for success.

This is why the State Department is investing in its relationships with minority-serving institutions of all stripes.  This year we will spend an additional $1 million to support Fulbright exchange participants being hosted by HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.  We will also increase funding for the Gilman Scholarship Program, which offers study abroad scholarships to undergraduate students who might not otherwise participate due to financial limitations.  We will increase this by $1 million as well this year.  And right here at Dillard, we are partnering on an IDEAS grant to help fund this university’s first study-abroad office.

Later this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield, a very patriotic Louisiana native, will deliver remarks at the inaugural minority-serving institutions conference in Washington.  All of these steps — the conference, the funding, my visit today — serve as a testament to the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to deepening its partnerships with minority-serving institutions like Dillard and to recruiting a more diverse workforce to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

So once again, thanks for joining me today.  I sincerely hope you will consider a career in diplomacy or in any of the fields in both Civil and Foreign Service in our department, or with one of our partner agencies like USAID.  But even if public service isn’t your future, I encourage you to find other ways to engage with the world and become a citizen diplomat.  This can be through internships, travel, or language study. Or it can be at home in your community, by hosting exchange students, participating in events, or simply talking about foreign affairs with families and friends.  The opportunities are endless, and you don’t need a diplomatic passport to take advantage of them.

Above all, I wish you much success in your whatever your continued studies and wherever path you might take.

I’m now going to turn it over to Professor Condoll and will be glad to answer any questions you have about U.S. foreign policy, my life, or anything else on your mind.  I may call upon our expert recruiters to help answer questions if they’re specific to the Department, but I look forward to a great conversation.

Thank you all very much.  Professor, over to you.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future