MS SCHIEVE:  Hello.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning.

MS SCHIEVE:  Good morning.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hillary, great to be with you.

MS SCHIEVE:  We are so honored to have you.  This is like a special treat.  It really is.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well —

MS SCHIEVE:  It is so nice to have you.  Just so everyone knows – you should give him a huge round of applause – he is the only Secretary of State to come to the United States Conference of Mayors.  (Applause.)  We love you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

MS SCHIEVE:  And it’s not like you’re busy or anything.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Not once but twice.  No, we have – we have a few things going on, but so do all of you.

MS SCHIEVE:  Well – so you came last year too.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s right.

MS SCHIEVE:  And it was really great.  We had a wonderful sit-down, but I was kind of surprised to hear a lot of people say, well, what exactly does the State Department do?  So let’s start there.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first and foremost, what we’re doing every single day is we’re trying to be out there around the world helping to actually solve problems for the American people.  That’s our number one job – their security, their prosperity, their opportunity.  And that translates into a lot of things that may not be so obvious but are actually having an impact I hope for the good in cities around the country – jobs —

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — to say one thing.  We’re out there every single day advocating for American businesses and American workers around the world so that companies that are based in your cities that may be exporting can do it effectively and can cut through red tape in countries around the world, so that at the same time other countries, businesses that want to invest in the United States and invest in businesses in your cities, they’re able to do that effectively.  We can point them in the right direction and help them navigate – actually that’s just one thing that actually has a direct impact on cities.  But you said something, Hillary, that I think is exactly right:  Pretty much everything that we are trying to do around the world for the United States, for our citizens, it actually starts in our cities, and that’s something we can talk about.

MS SCHIEVE:  Well, yeah, we know.  Mayors always say that.  We’re like, we are at ground zero, and we really are because we’re the closest to our communities.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Exactly.

MS SCHIEVE:  So – but obviously you think that mayors play a critical role in the State Department.  Explain to mayors, like, what that looks like.  So how can we help you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  First of all, what you’re doing every day is making a huge difference for us around the world.  So for example, we’re trying to tackle climate change.  The decisions that you’re making in your cities if you decide to electrify your bus fleet, if you decide to compost waste, all of these decisions are actually having a profound global impact, first of all that shows our own leadership; second of all, as a practical matter, is helping to get to solutions.  We see that every single day around the world.

There’s something else that’s really powerful that I’ve seen, and you were talking about the Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver.  I’m convinced from all the time I spent traveling around the world, and traveling around this country, that for any given problem somewhere, someone probably has the answer or at least the beginning of an answer.  And more often than not, it’s actually happening in a city, it’s happening with a mayor, because you’re all problem solvers.  It’s the wonderful thing.  Politics is less of an issue at a subnational level. Figuring out the answers to problems, that’s job number one.  The more we can connect people, including connecting you with us and connecting you with colleagues around the world, the more I think we can sort of short-circuit the process of finding an answer to a given problem.  So that’s an incredibly powerful thing.  It’s why we – it’s why we did the cities summit.  It’s why we actually have this office that —

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — Nina Hachigian is leading for subnational diplomacy.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah, love it.  And I think it’s been really, really effective because I think it’s made mayors think so globally.  And that is so critical, especially economic development – I mean, it touches us on so many different levels.  I think you have done a phenomenal job really – and Nina’s been incredible, and Daniel – love Daniel.  He has a brand new baby.  I saw the baby.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We have – we’ve got a – we have a great team, and —

MS SCHIEVE:  You do.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  But —

MS SCHIEVE:  You do.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And Nina — as you mentioned, of course, is deputy mayor in Los Angeles, so she knows from both sides – and we worked together back in the Clinton administration on foreign policy, so she’s got this from both angles.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And it’s really powerful.  But think for a minute just about some of the things we’re trying to do.  Let’s say you care about climate change – and this gets back to what the State Department’s doing.  We represent in the United States maybe 15 percent of global emissions.  So even if we did everything right at home, that still leaves 85 percent around the world.  We’re out there, John Kerry’s out there, trying to find ways forward to make sure that other countries, other cities, other states are stepping up.  And of course, sometimes national governments may be a little slow on the uptake.  We’ve – that’s where cities come in.  That’s where states come in.

If you care about – as we all do – the pandemic, well, again, even if we did everything right in the United States, if you have a pandemic that’s out there and continues to be out there somewhere else, you’re only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.  So the State Department is working every single day to strengthen global health security, to make sure that countries have what they need to be prepared hopefully to prevent, but if not, to deal with the next pandemic so it doesn’t come here and bite us.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  These phones we’re carrying in our pockets every day and all that technology – and now AI – the way they get used, the rules, the norms, the standards by which they’re used, they tend to get decided in windowless rooms somewhere around the world with lots of other countries.  We’re not only at the table; we’re at the head of the table.  And that means that the way those rules get decided and get shaped hopefully will be more reflective of things we care about, like privacy, like making sure that technology is not used to hold people down but to lift them up.  So in each one of these ways and so many more, the things that we’re doing around the world have an impact here.  But as I said, it goes the other way too.  What you’re doing every single day in your cities has a huge impact around the world.  And the leadership that you’re showing, that’s also leadership for the United States.  And I hear that everywhere I go, and I hear people – counterparts talking about something that’s happening not just in New York, or Washington, or Los Angeles – in Reno, just for one example, and the incredible work that you’ve done on technology, on climate.  That resonates around the world.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah, and I think, mayors, we are sort of that unified national voice, right?  So I would agree with you absolutely.

So one of the things we talked about – and I was so impressed, because you really understand this, and this is a bit – we’ve been talking about this all year with the mental health crisis, with fentanyl, opioids.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.  Yeah.

MS SCHIEVE:  And so you were very honest, and I honestly – I was like, wow, you were impressive.  Let’s talk a little bit about that, and what that supply chain looks like, because it’s crippling our cities.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I know you – almost all of you are living this and feeling this, both as mayors but also as mothers, as fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers – we’ve seen the impact of this in virtually every community in this country.  You all know this: the number-one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49, number-one killer of Americans —

MS SCHIEVE:  Number one; did you know that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Fentanyl.  Not cancer, not car accidents, not violence; it’s fentanyl.  So we have a profound responsibility, if this is the number-one killer of Americans 18 to 49, we have to be doing something about it across the entire chain that brings fentanyl from one place, or at least its ingredients, right here to the United States.

So we’ve actually organized the world on this.  This summer we built a coalition, now more than 140 countries and organizations, to work together to tackle this problem.  And one of the reasons that all these countries came together is we were able to say to them, look, we’ve been the canary in the coal mine.  We’ve had the impact of fentanyl and synthetic opioids for a while here.  We’ve seen the devastation it’s wreaking.  But now we’re seeing it pop up in other places, and to the extent that markets even got saturated here, the criminal enterprises that are engaged in this, they’re trying to make markets elsewhere – in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America, close to home.

Second, when we had the Cities Summit of the Americas, it was incredibly powerful, because we had 250 or so mayors from around the hemisphere, and we spent some time talking about fentanyl.  I got to meet with local officials in Denver, including the mayor, the chief of police, and heard about the efforts that are being undertaken there to deal on the ground with the problem.  But then we connected the dots:  How does it actually wind up in Denver, or any of your cities, in the first place?  And one of the ways that it does that is, as many of you know, the ingredients that go into making fentanyl, the so-called chemical precursors, a lot of them right now are being made in China, and then they get illicitly shipped, typically to Mexico, synthesized into fentanyl, and then it winds up in the United States.

So President Biden was determined to do something about this.  Now, we can go after Chinese companies, and we have; we can go after individuals who have been engaged in this illicit transfer of these chemical ingredients.  But the best way to actually get results ideally is through cooperation.  So we spent months engaged with the Chinese in advance of the President meeting with Xi Jinping in San Francisco just a few months ago on this.  And we made clear to China that it had a responsibility, even if it didn’t care about what was happening in the United States.  More and more countries around the world were getting deeply concerned about synthetic opioids, and if China was seen as part of the problem, that wasn’t going to be good for them; if they were seen as part of the solution, that could be a very positive thing.

Anyway, short – to get to the – cut to the chase, the agreement that President Biden and President Xi reached in San Francisco led now to China taking a very – much more positive role in doing something about this.  So the issue of rules and regulations, making clear to their companies that they can’t be in the business of taking these ingredients and shipping them off to Mexico or anywhere else.  Second, and even more important, they actually cracked down on the businesses that were doing this and took down dozens of companies.

MS SCHIEVE:  Good.  Good.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Finally, they’ve agreed to establish with us a working group so that we can track this every single day.  And that means that as a result of this diplomacy, as a result of what President Biden did in pressing the Chinese on this and now having cooperation, we’re getting results.  And those results, I am convinced, are going to translate into all of our cities, all of our states, hopefully with fewer of these chemicals getting to Mexico, and so less fentanyl coming into the United States.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah, thank you so much.  I think it’s – and also what I’m hearing is that there were other countries that weren’t at the table, and it sounds like that is changing.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Now they are.  Mexico is now playing an increasingly leading role in this, really engaged in this global coalition that we put together, really engaged with us every single day in trying to take down the criminal enterprises that are engaged in this.  And with Mexico, it’s both a matter of policing – and we’ve been working very closely with them – but there are other things that are really important.  The entire regulatory scheme that they have, to make sure that they have the rules and regulations in place to do something about the illicit manufacturing of, the illicit trade in these chemicals.  And that cooperation is, I think, better than it’s ever been.

Now, it’s a big challenge because – two years ago we seized – seized – and that doesn’t mean we got everything – we seized enough fentanyl to kill every single American citizen.

MS SCHIEVE:  Wow.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That is the scope of the problem.  That’s why cooperation that we get through diplomacy with a China, with a Mexico, with other countries, is so important.

MS SCHIEVE:  Wow.  That is unbelievable.  So let’s talk a little bit about Ukraine.  Last night, I met a mayor from —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Lviv.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yes.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

MS SCHIEVE:  And it was really – I mean, I think sometimes we forget, obviously, because as mayors we’re so local and doing the things that we do in our own cities – but how can we sort of support them as mayors?  And talk a little bit about Ukraine.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.  Well, first, I think what you all have done already is incredible, because – and I was talking to Tom Cochran about this just before we came on – I think almost from day one, the connections between mayors, sister cities between the United States and Ukraine, that solidarity, the fact that they’ve got – they know that they have so many supporters.  And of course, you – many of you have Ukrainian American communities.  That’s important as well.  But that solidarity makes a big difference.

And let me just say this.  It seems like it’s half a world away, across a big ocean.  So why are – why should we care about this?  And I guess I’d say two things.  First, I think most of us don’t like the notion of a big country coming in and bullying one of its neighbors.  That sort of gets at us and we don’t like it.

But even more important is this:  If you allow someone like Putin to do this with impunity, to just go in, try to redraw the borders of another country by force – in fact, what he wanted to do was wipe it off the map, eliminate it, erase it as an independent country, subsume it into Russia.  If you allow that Pandora’s box to open in one place, chances are it’s going to open in lots of other places, and would-be aggressors in other parts of the world are going to see that.  And if they see that there’s no response, they’ll think, “Well, I can get away with that too.”

And Putin himself, if he had not been stopped in trying to do what he was trying to do in Ukraine, almost certainly would not have stopped at Ukraine, might have gone after other countries, including countries in NATO where we have responsibilities to actually come in and protect them.  Right now, it’s Ukrainians fighting on the ground for their country, for their future, for their freedom.  We and dozens of other countries are supporting this – supporting them.  We’re not in this alone.  We have 50 countries.

And Hillary, we talk a lot sometimes about, oh, the United States is spending all this money, doing all of this stuff overseas, no one else is doing it.  In the case of Ukraine, yes, we have invested a lot thanks to the generosity of our taxpayers, bipartisan support in Congress.  But other countries have actually done more.  We’ve put in about $70 billion, $75 billion into this over the last couple of years.  Our partners and allies, over $100 billion.

And right now the President, as some of you know, is trying to get some additional support for Ukraine from Congress in this supplemental budget request.  The money that we’re requesting and that will go to supporting Ukraine’s military, almost all of that will actually be invested in the United States, including in a number of your cities, to invest in the equipment, the military equipment, the weapons – our defense industrial base – which can then be provided to Ukraine.  So I hope – more than hope – it’s really necessary that this happens.

But your support, your solidarity, it resonates in Ukraine.  And the mayors in Ukraine, just like here, are really the heart of the country, and their knowledge that so many of you are with them makes a big difference.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah, it is so true.  It really is.  Just I could tell emotionally he was in such a different space.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

MS SCHIEVE:  And it was just – it was heartbreaking.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, it’s living with that every day.  I mean, every single day that the Russians continue to launch barrages of rockets and missiles and try to destroy the infrastructure, hitting a lot of people – so what we’ve done and what other countries have done is really important for the future of that country.

MS SCHIEVE:  So speaking of emotionally – and like I said, we’re doing a lot on mental health – how do you take care of your mental health?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Laughter.)

MS SCHIEVE:  Like, I mean, your job is not stressful at all.  (Laughter.)  So talk a little bit about that.  Like, because I learned something about him and it’s very cool, and I know – I bet you anything this is what you’re going to say.  So you tell me.  I want to know how – how do you take care of your mental health?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I’ve got a few things going for me.  First of all – and I suspect it’s the same for many of you – I’ve got an amazing team working with me.  For every hour that I work, they’re working two or three or four hours.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So that makes a huge difference, right?

MS SCHIEVE:  It’s so true, right?  (Applause.)  Right?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We all know that.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Second, just in terms of keeping things real, I have two young children at home.  I’ve got a soon-to-be five-year-old and a soon-to-be four-year-old.  So if anything’s going to keep you real —

MS SCHIEVE:  Oh, okay.  You’re busy —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — right?  It’s that.

MS SCHIEVE:  You’re even busier than we thought.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah, in fact, one time about a year ago, my wife was telling our kids, “Oh, daddy’s going to be on TV.”  And they said, “No, we want to watch Sesame Street.”

MS SCHIEVE:  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So that keeps things in perspective.

MS SCHIEVE:  It’s probably a good thing.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And then everyone has their hobbies, their pastimes, something to come back to.  For me it’s music.  And so —

MS SCHIEVE:  Did you guys know this?  He was on Jeopardy the other night.  I did not know this.  And he’s like, well —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I didn’t either.  Nobody told me.

MS SCHIEVE:  He goes, “I’m sure that they did not get the question right.”

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

MS SCHIEVE:  And I said, no, they actually – two people got the question right.  But I thought it was so interesting because they had a picture of you at the White House and you were jamming on the guitar, and so I didn’t know that about you.  Like, so you were a musician?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So we had this – we had this great event at the State Department.  One of the things that we do is we try to connect people around the world through sports and through the arts – through music, through other arts.  Music’s, for me at least, the best connector; it breaks down barriers everywhere.  It doesn’t matter —

MS SCHIEVE:  So true.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — if there’s a language barrier, a geographic barrier, even a political barrier.  It connects people.  And so we – we’re engaged in music diplomacy.  We, going back many years, have sent American musicians around the world on different programs, and it’s done incredible things for the United States.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  People really respond to that.  So we had a big event at the State Department for some new initiatives we’re taking in music diplomacy.  We had a lot of performers.  And look, the truth is the event was running late; we needed to clear the room, and I thought the fastest way to get people out of the room would be for me to go up there and play.  (Laughter.)  So that’s what we did.

MS SCHIEVE:  I love it.  I love it.  What are your music tastes?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, I’m sort of grounded in blues.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And I’m kind of stuck in the 1970s.

MS SCHIEVE:  Okay.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hope there are a few people – yes, thank you.  (Applause.)

MS SCHIEVE:  All right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

MS SCHIEVE:  All right.  I love that.  I absolutely love that.  Okay.  So I know that you’re incredibly busy, so we’ll wrap this up.  But okay, one question.  Here we go.  Let’s see.  Okay.  Taylor Swift or James Taylor?  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh.  Well, here’s the great thing:  They’ve played together.

MS SCHIEVE:  Ah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I take them both.

MS SCHIEVE:  Oh, you are —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hey.  (Applause.)

MS SCHIEVE:  One last question.  (Laughter.)  That is – see, you aced that.  I thought I was going to stump you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I didn’t get that one in advance either.

MS SCHIEVE:  (Laughter.)  No, we didn’t – we didn’t – you didn’t know I was going to ask.  But what about, I mean, you ever think about running for office?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, hah.  (Laughter.)  I’m leaving that to all of you.  I so admire people who put themselves out there, as most of you have in running for office.  I’ve got to tell you, I’ve worked for President Biden for more than 20 years.  It’s been the greatest —

MS SCHIEVE:  Wow.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — privilege of my career.  We – I started working for him in the Senate, then when he was vice president with President Obama, and now as President.  And he’s an extraordinary person to work for, and the back and forth, the – just the conversations, the discussions, and every once in a while an argument or a disagreement.

MS SCHIEVE:  Sure.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And every once in a while he’ll say – when we’re having an argument and it’s going back and forth, he’ll look at me and say, “How many votes did you get?”  (Laughter.)  That pretty much stops the conversation right there.  So I really —

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I admire all of you because putting yourself out there in that way, especially now, in these days, I know how challenging that is, how tough that is.  But thank you, thank you, thank you for doing it.

MS SCHIEVE:  All right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Every single day, what you’re doing, it’s making a difference not just for your own constituents – it’s making a difference for the country, and I really believe it’s making a difference for the world.  Thank you.

MS SCHIEVE:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Well, no, thank you.  (Applause.)  And we are so grateful that you came, and honestly, please give him a huge round of applause.  I’m such a fan.  I am such a fan.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Right back at you.

MS SCHIEVE:  So thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future