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Hello, everyone. I’m delighted to join you in celebrating the first-ever alumni gathering for the Secretary’s Leadership Seminar.

I’m grateful to all who’ve made this extraordinary program possible: our Foreign Service Institute Director, Joan Polaschik, and our partner at the Harvard Business School, David Ager. We’re also indebted to Howard Cox, who dreamed up this initiative and brought it to life with his generous support. To all our alumni: We’re proud of your hard work and dedication — in this program and at the State Department. And to the members of our newest cohort: congratulations.

The State Department and Harvard Business School launched this program in 2019 to bolster leadership training for mid-career members of the Civil and Foreign Service. In just the past few years, we have seen remarkable results, to the benefit of our rising leaders, our institution, and the American people we serve. One hundred and fifty Department employees have participated in this program, from every bureau.

The training has imparted practical skills, like financial analysis … risk management … inclusive leadership. You’ve collaborated on projects aimed at finding solutions to pressing challenges for our institutions and for American diplomacy, from reducing our carbon footprint around the world, to deterring and responding to cyberattacks. You’ve done it all on top of your day jobs, taking classes at 5 a.m., working on assignments late into the night. With your new skills, your dedication, your ideas, you’re not only advancing your careers, you’re also leading around the Department, driving innovation, encouraging creativity. And you’re helping strengthen our institution — now and for many years to come.

For example, we launched the Data for Diplomacy awards — suggested by the first cohort —to encourage employees to more effectively integrate data into their work. At the recommendation of the second cohort, we’re conducting a Department-wide review of our use of artificial intelligence, and asking what’s working, what’s not, and where do we need to do better. We’re developing a “State 101” orientation program for new hires — an idea from the third cohort. And those are just a few of the changes we’ve made, thanks to all of you.

Many of you have continued to collaborate with your classmates after the program — working together to drive change from the middle out and the bottom up. We want to foster more of this cooperation, and more opportunities for you to lead together, which is why, today, we are proud to launch the formal SLS alumni network. This group will organize regular meetups, where alumni can connect across cohorts. And together, FSI and SLS alumni will look for opportunities to host workshops, where they can further develop their skills.

This kind of ongoing professional development is at the heart of our modernization agenda for the department. SLS is not a one-off. We’re investing in our people across the Department, at every level, so that they can grow throughout their careers, within and outside this institution. By investing in our workforce, we’re investing in the future of America’s leadership in the world — in our Department’s innovation, in our competitiveness, in our ability to deliver on the issues that matter most to the American people. So, whether you’ve completed the SLS program — or whether you’re just getting started — we’re counting on you to continue to grow and to lead, and to continue building the State Department of the future.

Thank you very much.

U.S. Department of State

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