Ryan Chiao, Photo Editor

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley joined students and faculty on Wednesday to discuss foreign relations, the role of government and the future of the Republican Party.

The event was hosted virtually by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program, which aims to “promote intellectual diversity on Yale’s campus,” according to its website. The night’s questions, posed by Buckley Program President Jasper Boers ’22, shifted between Haley’s experience in foreign policy as a lead diplomat and her stances on domestic issues. When asked about former President Donald Trump’s role in the future of her party, Haley said that she expects he will maintain an active role in politics, including in the 2022 midterm elections.

“I hope that he uses his voice as a force for good,” Haley said of Trump. “I hope that he uses it in a way where his energy and momentum really catapult new faces, new voices, but also kind of keeps those fighters of the conservative movement that have worked so hard to kind of get us to this place.”

Haley served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 until resigning in 2019. She was the first Indian-American woman to hold a cabinet-level position in the federal government and previously served as governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017. Most recently, Haley has focused her energies on fundraising for GOP campaigns.

Asked about the GOP’s unexpected gains among minority voters during the 2020 election, Haley said that members of the Republican Party can capitalize on this success by “[talking] to people that don’t always sound like us and look like us.” Gen-Z and millennial voters should be a priority for conservatives as well, Haley said, suggesting that crises like the COVID-19 pandemic will shape new generations of better leaders.

Foreign policy was a central theme of the evening, with discussion focusing on Haley’s work on the United Nations Security Council. Praising Trump’s “tough on China” approach, Haley said that a number of issues, including China’s aggression in the South China Sea and actions during the pandemic, made the country the United States’ biggest adversary. She added that China’s treatment of the Uighur ethnic group is particularly concerning, saying that the United States “cannot turn a blind eye” to the abuses and mistreatment of the Uighurs. Strengthening ties with allies like India, Japan and Australia would be crucial in solving these issues, Haley said.

Also discussed was Haley’s tenure as governor, during which she said she focused on bringing jobs to South Carolina. Praised for record-low levels of unemployment during her tenure, Haley noted that some called her home state the “Beast of the Southeast” when she left office.

“As governor, my mindset of being in a small business applied in government,” Haley said. “Our businesses really need a friend right now … and we have to make sure we get out of their way, we support them and allow them to grow and do what they need to do.”

According to Haley, fiscal responsibility and lowering taxes on businesses are necessary for America to achieve pandemic recovery. She highlighted the record speed at which the private sector developed and manufactured vaccines last year. The government also has an obligation to address several issues concerning the next generation of children, she said, including education gaps created by the pandemic and a record-high level of federal government debt.

Absent from the discussion were rumors that Haley is preparing to seek the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2024, with one GOP consultant calling her the race’s “front-runner”

Audience member Max Krupnick ’23 had hoped to hear more about her relationship with Trump and Trump-era politics, he said.

“Haley provided a refreshing dose of calmness and clarity,” Krupnick wrote to the News. “I wish she had elaborated further on her relationship with Trump and Trump-era politics. Every 2024 Republican hopeful and former administration official will have to grapple with that question.”

In an email statement to the News, Boers wrote that the Buckley Program board has wanted to hold an event with Haley for many years now. With over 530 attendees, Wednesday’s event was a “smashing success,” he said.

“We wanted to engage one of America and the Republican Party’s leading voices on foreign and domestic affairs, and hoped that she would be able to speak to her experiences at all levels of American politics,” Boers said.

The Buckley Program was formed in 2010 and officially launched in 2011.

Isaac Yu | isaac.yu@yale.edu

ISAAC YU
Isaac Yu writes about transportation, traffic safety and urban planning in New Haven. He is also a production and design staffer for the News. Originally from Garland, Texas, he is a first-year in Berkeley College majoring in English and Urban Studies.