Journal Article - SAIS Review

The SAIS Review Interviews Nicholas Burns

| June 10, 2020

SAIS Review: Would you be able to provide a brief summary of your background as it relates to diplomacy? What made you want to pursue a career in diplomacy?

Ambassador Nicholas Burns: I was an American diplomat for twenty-seven years and I wouldn’t trade a day of that career for anything. It was an extraordinary experience to serve our country and to live overseas with my family in five different diplomatic posts.

I felt compelled to join the Foreign Service when I was at SAIS, way back in ancient times, between 1978 and 1980. I was 17 when the Vietnam War ended in 1973, and that war had a major impact on me. It got me thinking about America’s role in the world, about our obligation to lead honorably, which we had not done in Vietnam.

I became interested in international politics from my experience living as an exchange student in Europe, both in high school and in college, and I wanted to contribute to a restoration of wise and effective American leadership in the world. And boy, it’s interesting to think about that in this interview! When I think about where we are today, we need another restoration of American decency, American engagement, American leadership. I’m sorry that we’re handing the baton to your generation when the world is in such rough shape, but your generation will carry us forward. You’ll account for our mistakes. We will return to reason as a country. But it’s interesting; your question makes me come full circle between my days at SAIS and where we are right now. It’s really an extraordinary coincidence.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

"The SAIS Review Interviews Nicholas Burns: June 10, 2020." SAIS Review of International Affairs, vol. 40 no. 1, 2020, p. 163-175. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/763663.