Ambassador Samantha Power was the featured speaker in the June 10 discussion.

500 attendees tuned in for the final Jackson Virtual Discussion Forum of the spring on June 10, 2020. Ambassador Samantha Power, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, addressed “How the Pandemic Will Shape International Politics.”

The discussion, part of Jackson’s Virtual Discussion Forum series on COVID-19 and Global Affairs, was moderated by Catherine Panter-Brick, Bruce A. and Davi-Ellen Chabner Professor of Anthropology, Health, and Global Affairs.

In her remarks, Power underscored the importance of global cooperation, a theme touched on by many other speakers in the discussion series. “Our fates are linked to the fates of others living elsewhere,” Power said.

Panter-Brick and Power discussed how leaders can rebuild confidence in international institutions such as the WHO. Leaders will have to “be more persuasive” and not take for granted that people see the benefits of them, Power said.

Power was asked to reflect on her time at the U.N., when the 2014 Ebola outbreak unfolded in West Africa. The logic of U.S. decision-making during that time “was rooted in the idea that we are connected,” Power said.

The Obama administration took the lead in sending health workers and supplies to the region and rallied other countries into pitching in. “That’s what it looks like when the international system works,” Power said.

“The logic at the heart of it was both humanitarian and this sense of connectedness and kind of enlightened self-interest you could call it,” she said.

Power also talked about the dangers of political polarization in the U.S., citing polls that showed Republicans expressed less support for lockdowns and social distancing measures in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you asked me what is the thing that keeps me up at night as a national security professional, it’s that. It’s our polarization. It’s the duality of the American experience,” Power said.

Power was also asked to comment on the role of China on the world stage and how the pandemic may impact refugees and migrants.

Watch a recording of the discussion