Hello! Thank you, Dean Rich, for your introduction and for all the work you do on behalf of your students. And, thank you to our distinguished Diplomat in Residence, Kyla Brooke, for all you do and for making today’s event possible. It is so wonderful to be here today at the Colin Powell School for Civic & Global Leadership.

Let me begin by saying that your slogan — “transforming the world’s most diverse student body into tomorrow’s global leaders” — is not only inspiring, it speaks to why I am here today.

I had the great privilege of working for Secretary Powell, a game changing moment earlier in my career. Let me tell you that his commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Department of State, and to instilling a culture of leadership throughout our organization, cannot be overstated.

One of my favorite quotes from Secretary Powell is this: “Diversity is about recognizing that every human is a gift to a community…Diversity is strength.”

This quote holds true for my current boss, Secretary of State Blinken, who has repeatedly emphasized that diversity and inclusion make us stronger, smarter, more creative, more innovative, and that our diversity gives us a significant competitive advantage on the world stage.

We know, then, two key things:

One, building a more diverse State Department is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. It is how we bring to bear people’s many ideas, experiences, expertise, and contributions for the benefit of our organization and our country. We simply cannot advance America’s interests and values around the world without a workforce that is truly representative of the American people.

And, two, it is not enough simply to hire a diverse workforce. We must also build a workplace culture where all employees are truly included, where people’s differences are respected, and where employees feel empowered to bring their authentic selves to work instead of trying to fit into a narrow mold. When a workplace is inclusive, everyone can contribute to their fullest abilities and the entire organization benefits. So today’s State Department prioritizes inclusion, alongside diversity.

I know all too well that women, people of color, and other persons from marginalized and underrepresented groups have in the past faced barriers to entry and advancement in the Department, but we are changing that. This year, the State Department has made historic strides, from ushering in our first paid internship program to launching new fellowships to diversify the talent pipeline for the Civil Service, through the Colin Powell Leadership Program, and the Diplomatic Security Service – via the William D. Clarke, Sr. Diplomatic Security Fellowship.

These new fellowships — alongside flagship programs such as the Thomas Pickering, Charles Rangel, and Foreign Affairs Informational Technology Fellowships – offer promising students like yourselves a path to a life-changing career at State. Where else can you can represent our nation to the world, be part of a dynamic and diverse global team, get paid to learn languages and grow professionally, and support American prosperity, security, and values on a daily basis?

And I want to be clear about what I mean when I say “career at State.” While I served as Foreign Service Officer for nearly three decades, and currently serve as an Under Secretary of State, there are many types of careers at State, and many different entry points. For example, we have here today my Special Assistant, Maite Hostetter, who joins my team from the career civil service track. We also have Ryan Walsh in the room, who is an intern with the Virtual Student Federal Service program, and also attends the Colin Powell School. My office alone has a wide range of foreign service officers, contractors, civil servants, fellows and interns!

The diversity of options is exciting – and I encourage you to engage whenever you can with Kyla, our wonderful Diplomat in Residence, to explore the options that may work for you. Possibilities are nearly limitless, from working abroad in far-flung locales, to any of the dozens of domestic stations where we serve the American people. Our global footprint extends right here to New York City – where Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield leads our mission to the UN and we have a U.S. Passport Agency and Diplomatic Security field office to boot!

I look forward to your questions, your comments, and to having a great, open conversation with you, and with my esteemed colleague, Kyla

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future