Overview

Formally launched in 2014, the American Secretaries of State is a joint initiative of the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School, the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, and Harvard Business School. The Project is co-directed by Professor Nicholas Burns of Harvard Kennedy School, Professor James Sebenius of Harvard Business School, and Professor Robert Mnookin of Harvard Law School. The Research Director is Dr. Eugene B. Kogan. Alex Green serves as Senior Research Associate.

This project aims to interview all former U.S. Secretaries of State to examine—with Harvard faculty, students and experts—the most consequential negotiations they conducted while serving in the nation’s highest foreign policy office.

kissinger book coverBuilding from these extensive interviews and with the support of a research team, Professors Burns, Sebenius, and Mnookin will write teaching cases, produce video teaching tools, documentary films, and author two books on diplomacy, negotiation, and leadership. The first book, Kissinger the Negotiator: Lessons from Dealmaking at the Highest Level, was released in May 2018. Henry Kissinger’s geopolitical insights, controversial policies, and individual negotiations have been extensively analyzed. Yet perhaps surprisingly, no serious cross-cutting study of Kissinger’s overall approach has extracted its lessons for current diplomatic and business negotiations. This book neither aims to judge Kissinger nor to set the historical record straight. Rather, by plumbing a career of extraordinary effectiveness, it seeks to learn as much as possible, extracting useful insights into the art and science of negotiation from Kissinger’s dealmaking at the highest level.

The second book, for which the proposal is being drafted, aims to distill the central negotiation, leadership, and management insights from the diplomatic negotiations by the U.S. Secretaries of State, starting with William Rogers, with Soviet Union/Russia, China, and the Middle East.

American Secretaries of State is also working on several case studies—for example, Kissinger's negotiation campaigns in South Africa and Vietnam—and has plans to develop documentary films on the diplomatic negotiations, conducted by the Secretaries of State. These outputs will make a unique and substantial contribution to the teaching of negotiation and diplomacy across Harvard University and beyond, while serving as a resource for future generations of scholars and practitioners in international affairs. An archive of associated research materials will be available to scholars studying related disciplines of conflict prevention and resolution, mediation, negotiation, and diplomacy.

In addition to the rich material, teaching tools, and academic resources being generated from the interviews with the former secretaries, this cross-university program inspired a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary course, “Negotiation and Diplomacy,” co-taught by Professors Burns, Sebenius, and Mnookin. The course explores how diplomacy and negotiation can effectively address seemingly “intractable” international conflicts and overcome barriers to agreement in civil wars, interstate conflicts, as well as in trade and finance.