Q How does it feel to be back at Yale?
A It’s nice to be back; it’s wonderful. It’s always nostalgic. It’s an excellent time of year to be here, too: to be part of a debate and see the energy and enthusiasm of everybody, so it’s fun.
Q Speaking as a former President of the Yale Political Union and now someone who actually compared the Yale Political Union to Congress itself tonight, what do you say about the power the YPU has to make a difference at Yale? It is often gridlocked, too, like Congress.
A We’ll it’s a microcosm of society today. It’s inevitably going to be a microcosm. But, you know, it’s healthy to have those debates. The point is to keep it civil, keep it real, and to find the point of compromise where you can say, “Hey, here’s a way where we can go forward,” and I think it’s good for people to work at that.
Q Speaking as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there are actually two big foreign relations issues that confront Yale right now — the first being Yale’s expansion and internationalization, specifically the campus that Yale has proposed in Singapore. What’s the view on this and what role can universities like Yale play in international relations?
A I think it’s a terrific concept. I’m very excited about it. I’ve talked to President Levin about it; I’m actually going to be meeting with him on it at some point in the not too distant future. I think this can have a profound impact on America’s sharing of responsibility – if you will – for helping to spread information and educate people. That’s the mission, and the great equalizer across the planet in terms of reducing tensions, helping people to maximize opportunities [and] bring about understanding will come through education, and so I think Yale is smart to understand its obligation. This world we live in today is not confined to New Haven.
Q Are you at all concerned about struggling with the academic environment of a country like Singapore that isn’t the same as the United States?
A Well, those are always tensions — that’s the world we live in. The more I move around in it and the more I learn that you have to respect other people’s cultures and history and moment in life — if you will. Sometimes it’s not right for everything you want them to be because they don’t want everything you want them to be. You have to respect that. I think one of the things we need to learn more effectively is how to do those things and still find the common ground to solve the problems around which we can all organize ourselves. I mean, those countries don’t want violence, they don’t want the world going to war or at odds with each other. I think there are often a lot of ways to work some of that out. I believe in diplomacy, and education is the foundation of that.
Q You’re not at all concerned that the political expression environment of a country like Singapore could be an issue?
A It could be problematic in some respects, sure. I mean, there it’s a very authoritarian, tightly-managed state. But I think those are the modalities that have to be worked out in terms of education. I’ll give you an example. I helped to start and have helped to support the major global Fulbright program that we have — it’s in Vietnam, of all places. A lot of people don’t know that. We started this program in the 1990s. It’s now the largest single higher education institution in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese like it; they’ve embraced it. We have people come over from Harvard, and I’d love to see people come over from Yale to help in the teaching and in the management of it. So, it works. It can work, not withstanding they have a one party, authoritarian government. We know the limits, but what we’ve done has greatly improved the relationship of the United States with Vietnam. This week, Secretary Clinton will be going over there for several days of meetings in Hanoi, and a lot of that’s coming about because of this kind of bridge that we’ve created.