Ambassador Samantha Power ’92, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, spoke to a packed auditorium in the Yale Law School about the dangers facing the world — ranging from Ebola to sexual violence against women and violent extremism — and the importance of developing long-term strategies against them.
“We are living in an age of daunting and perpetual crisis,” Power said. “We have to help shape a world where these things don’t happen.”
While Power’s Chubb Fellowship presentation focused on a variety of global challenges, Power also connected the issues to domestic actions. After presenting short-term strategies to combat each of the issues, Power stressed that it is essential to focus on long-term solutions and to search for the root of the problems in order to prevent them from recurring.
Power further encouraged members of the Yale community to take an active role in working to combat the range of challenges facing the world.
While the fight against the current Ebola outbreak in Africa is far from over, Power urged her audience to “look beyond the [current] outbreak in order to prevent the next epidemic outbreak occurrence.” As a UN ambassador, Power has visited several nations impacted by Ebola, and she highlighted the inadequate health service infrastructure in West African countries as the underlying cause of epidemic outbreaks.
Power presented two long-term solutions the United States is currently taking to address the lack of health services in these countries. The United States is currently forming partnerships with regional health services to offer more extensive support for local citizens. As an even longer-term strategy, the U.S. government recently formed the Mandela Washington Fellowship to invest in the education of young African leaders. The fellowship allowed 500 young African leaders to attend a leadership program in 20 American institutions, including Yale, during the summer. Power urged Yale administrators to take a further step in the University’s participation in the fellowship by sending Yale students to Africa to partner with Mandela Washington fellows directly.
Power continued on the theme of education by discussing the empowerment of women and girls. The ambassador listed a string of statistics that highlighted the atrocities women and girls face around the world. In particular, Power addressed the issue of sexual violence in Brazil, Honduras and the Congo, as well as at home, on college campuses across the United States.
In response to the immediate dangers facing women, the United States has worked to promote accountability in the justice systems of developing countries, while President Barack Obama has launched the It’s On Us campaign to address sexual violence occurring on American college campuses, Power said. She also applauded students’ initiative in working with the Yale College Council, the Yale Women’s Center and with administrators to create a safe environment on campus.
However, in the long term, the empowerment of women must come from education, Power said. She stressed that there must be a change in the mental models and attitudes of societies where female education is a threat and not a right. In order to eradicate sexual violence against women in the long term, the United States must remove the fears and prejudice facing female education, and affect change in the public policies of developing countries.
Finally, Power addressed the rise of violent extremism in the Middle East, once again stressing the importance of long-term strategies in the fight against terrorism. She said that America must encourage Muslim voices which oppose the Islamic State and other extremist groups, adding that shutting down Guantanamo Bay would increase the legitimacy of the U.S. in what she called the “moral battle.”
Power’s message that America must be a leader in developing long-term, global strategies was well-received by the audience.
“I thought her message of America being seen as the leader in addressing global issues, and to have this responsibility to empower our nation was an important one,” Makana Williams ’18 said.
Williams also praised Power’s strategy that sexual violence in college campuses should be eliminated by student-led activism, saying that she came to college not only for educational purposes but also for social development.
Attendees interviewed were particularly absorbed by Power’s analysis of women’s empowerment, both abroad and at home. Gavin Schiffres ’15 was impressed with the ambassador’s emphasis on developing judicial institutions in foreign countries to bring sexual criminals to justice.
Others felt that Power’s speech connected with their personal experiences.
“Women education is a very important issue for me personally,” said Dasia Moore ’18, who previously attended an all-girls school. “While we should address the immediate concerns facing women, the education and empowerment of women would solve more fundamental problems.”