Security and Globalization: Remarks at the US State Department

U.S. Department of State
November 14, 2007

All of us are aware that nations are more interdependent, individuals more interconnected, and humanity less divided by narrow domestic walls. And as nations and peoples become increasingly interconnected, this is both an exhilarating and, at times—daunting—moment for American research universities.

It is daunting because—by necessity as well as choice in this brave new world—American research universities are transitioning into global universities. As we do, we face a critical paradox: As we do our work, how do universities simultaneously advance both our growing global interests and our national interests—including strengthening security?

How we address this paradox is the focus of my comments today. Specifically, I wish to focus on three themes:

(1) What is a global university.

(2) What questions must a global university address.

(3) And why is the role of universities in this era of globalization so important.

What is a global university

I have the privilege of serving on many boards and commissions with my academic colleagues—both at home and abroad. If you bring a group of us together, there will be no clear consensus on how to become a global university.

While there is no road map—no established path to follow—we do know that a global university is different from an international university. Georgetown is 218 years old—we were founded just nine months before the founding of our Republic in 1789. At a time when travel was difficult and distances great, 20 percent of our first students came from a foreign country. Since that time, like many colleges and universities, we have been international.

…A few current statistics: We have students from 134 countries represented in our student body… …12% of our students come from abroad… …52% of our undergraduates will study abroad… We send our students to more than 120 universities around the world. Such indicators certainly constitute an international university.

But to be a global university requires a different way of engaging with our world, it requires that we recognize that being global entails an engagement in the world that is multilateral, multinational, and multicultural, an engagement that requires many partners that transcend national identities, national boundaries.

It is in the context of becoming a global university that Georgetown established our first campus in another part of the world, our School of Foreign Service in Doha, Qatar. We have joined five other American universities in Doha’s “Education City,” and we are flourishing in our third year. Among the countries represented in our student body in Doha are Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, the Palestinian Territories, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and the U.S.

It is in this context of globalization that we have initiated new kinds of partnerships. Our law school is taking the lead in creating a center on translational legal studies in London that will engage law school faculties and students from around the world, and later this month we will be launching a new on-line journal, “Globalization and Competitiveness” through our membership in the “Universia” network, an online portal linking 985 universities in 11 countries across Latin America, Spain, and Portugal that promotes collaboration and cooperation between universities and corporations.

…It is in this context of globalization that we’ve established a formal academic relationship with the Central Party School in Beijing— the think tank and executive education center for future leaders of China.

…That we’ve engaged with the Catholic Bishops conferences in Africa and India, with whom we’re exploring ways to support their efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic…

…That we’ve participated in projects to foster co-existence in the Middle East…

…And that we’ve expanded our network of relationships with universities around the world…

We believe that these are all positive steps on our journey to becoming a global university. We also know that they entail new kinds of security challenges. Members of the Georgetown community now study and live and work in virtually every corner of the world—at more than 120 sites—and we undertake a number of measures to ensure their health, safety and security.

Before approving any overseas program, we assess not only the academic opportunities, but all aspects of the program – including on-site safety, housing, evacuation routes and medical support systems.

Before our students travel, we provide in-depth, pre-departure orientations where they are given emergency contact information and are required to register with the State Department.

And when students study in less stable environments, our International Programs staff, along with area experts from our faculty, meet with each student individually to ensure that they are prepared to handle the unexpected.

Once students are settled into their new surroundings, they get a 24 hour emergency contact number, and we continue to communicate with them on a regular basis by sending them State Department updates. We also collaborate with the U.S. embassy staff, as well as local authorities and emergency personnel, as needed in each country.

Our Office of International Programs has also prepared a detailed plan to handle all levels of emergencies that may occur overseas, and we have integrated those steps into our master plan developed for the entire university community.

What Questions must a Global University Address

Given our security concerns, why do we continue to strive to transition into a global university? Why does it matter? It matters for two reasons: First, we need to ensure that our students have the skills to find their place in this new interconnected world, that they are fully prepared to engage the opportunities and embrace the challenges inherent in globalization.

Second, being a global university—with all of the opportunities that it entails—will allow us to better answer four questions. These are questions that all of us engaged in university life must grapple with. They are questions of innovation, horizons, development, and citizenship.

First: How do we ensure that we can be an engine of innovation, imagination and creativity?

We will not sustain our place in the world—and our students will not find their place in the world—unless universities are engines of innovation, and this capacity can only be built on our strength in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, the most explosive areas of knowledge creation in this new century. Unfortunately, this is an issue that should greatly concern all of us.

In 2004, China graduated 500,000 engineers—the U.S., 70,000. The National Science Foundation found that among 23 advanced countries—the U.S. ranked 19th in the number of twenty-four year olds who hold degrees in natural science or engineering. Additionally, more than 36% of all U.S. masters and doctorates in natural science and engineering were awarded to foreign students in 2002. And all this has much more than academic implications.

A seminal report—Rising Above the Gathering Storm—which was issued by the National Academy of Sciences in 2005, identified the urgency of this issue for our nation’s security. The report warned that we are falling behind the rest of the world in science and technology. And it found that “The scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.”

The report went on to note that the creation of high-quality jobs in our modern world is disproportionately dependent on advances in science and engineering. In turn, these high-quality jobs are the foundation of a nation’s collective prosperity. Without this prosperity—and the tax revenues it generates—we will not be able to afford to pay for investments in our national welfare—including investments in national security.

Science and technology help ensure our domestic welfare. But there is another, positive, dimension to promoting science. Science is the closest thing we have to a universal language—a global language. And science presents the fewest obstacles and road blocks to intercultural understanding. It is the fastest way to intercultural interaction, and promoting it is the fastest way for universities to globalize.

As we wrestle with issues of science, the second question we must answer is how do our universities foster understanding across borders, boundaries, and faiths where the common vocabulary and logic of science are not applicable? I believe it requires fusing what we can call, “horizons of significance,”—a phrase I borrow from the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer. Let me explain.

As we’ve been discussing, through developments in both transportation and information technologies our world is growing smaller. But as it has, it also seems to have become more polarized and prone to conflict. We’ve certainly seen this to be true in acts of terrorism across the globe; in “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans and Rwanda, and in conflicts in the Middle East, the Sudan, Sri Lanka; Chechnya, and East Timor.

In such an environment, we must all work to build bridges between communities, cultures, nations, and faiths.

But universities have a very special role in this process. A university provides a unique home for multiple traditions, cultures, disciplines, methodologies and modes of inquiries—what we can call “communities of interpretation.” What distinguishes different communities of interpretation is the “horizon of significance,” the background of social practices, morals, laws, customs and institutions that provide meaning for individual members of that community.

Nowhere is the engagement between conflicting and competing communities of interpretation, between different horizons of significance,so constant and so part of daily life as in the Academy. The engagement is embedded in our mission.

Providing the context where horizons of significance can be fused—where bridges can be built between communities of interpretation—is one of our continuing challenges, and one of our greatest opportunities to make an enduring difference in our world. And by ensuring that this engagement is one of the central themes of academic and campus life, we can more fully prepare our students to be global citizens and leaders. And in the process, we help promote global peace—and therefore security.

Of course, when we talk about fusing horizons, what universities especially bring to this engagement are our “critical methodologies.” One of the greatest intellectual contributions of our universities is our commitment to critical methodologies—in other words, our styles of critique, our approaches to seeking the truth through analysis, questioning, and answering. Of course, critical methodologies are as old as Plato’s dialectic, but every generation must recommit to undertaking them with rigor.

We—at universities—take these methodologies for granted. This point was brought home to me in a recent conversation with a colleague from another region of the world. She said to me that, “What differentiates education in the United States from that in our country is that we tend to accept the position of those in authority, in your country you don’t rest until you are in possession of the truth.”

But a global university has a responsibility to do more than build bridges in the global community, and that brings me to my third question, how do we develop human potential both nationally and globally?

At home, we are not adequately developing our human potential. Let me try to put this into perspective. If you take 100 18 year olds in the United States, this is the pattern you will see. Approximately 1/3 will not finish their high school educations – 70 students will graduate from high school. Of that number, 3/4’s or 50 will pursue higher education. This is an exceptionally high penetration rate – among the best in the world. By comparison, according to the Chinese Department of Education, they have doubled their penetration rate in the last decade—with 19% of Chinese secondary school graduates now pursuing higher education. Their completion rate is near 70%.

But of that 50 who have gone on to higher ed in the United States, only ½ or 25 students will earn a college degree.

Among the 18 most advanced countries, the U.S. now ranks 17th in the percentage of college students attaining degrees. We are not developing our human potential.

Developing our human potential at home is essential if we want to sustain our place in the world. At the same time we cannot forget our responsibilities—and the security implications—of developing human potential abroad.

We know that the forces of globalization have certainly produced staggering differences in wealth and well-being. We need only look at the current state of the world community:

Three billion people live on two U.S. dollars a day, one billion on less than a dollar a day. Sixty percent of the world’s population exists on only six percent of the world’s income. And when entire communities are exploited, marginalized and neglected, unrest, terrorism and violence becomes a collective way of dealing with the hopelessness.

When the U.N.’s Arab Human Development Report 2003 found that the absence of “effective and peaceful channels for dealing with injustices” is one of the primary reasons radical political groups seek change through violence, it was only highlighting the inextricable link between poverty and hopelessness, between injustice and threats to security.

Universities have a responsibility to deploy their extraordinary resources—our talents, knowledge and know-how—to help address the hopes and dreams of that half of the world that has not benefitted from globalization.

One way that we can be very helpful: Large development organizations often have difficulty connecting to small scale—local—institutions and to marginalized communities. And because of the disconnect, even those plans and projects with the best intentions do not always yield benefits.

James C. Scott, in his insightful book, Seeing like a State, examines why large-scale schemes to improve the human condition in the twentieth century have so often failed. He demonstrates that plans cannot succeed unless they take into account local customs and local know-how—or the knowledge that derives from the practical experience that the Classical Greeks termed “metis.”

Additionally, even if a development project takes these things into account, its actual success depends on the response and cooperation of those it is designed to aid. That means the plan must also respect local values, desires, tastes—and dignity.

Universities, with the depth of our disciplinary strengths, and with our ability—when we are at our best—to grasp the deeper meaning within cultures, may be able to play this important role in development efforts better than other institutions.

Helping to promote human development is one of the most important functions for universities in this new century. I would argue that it is also our most important moral responsibility. This brings me to my fourth, and final, question: What are the responsibilities of citizenship in a global context?

At this moment in time, given our interconnected world, we must see ourselves not only as citizens of a single nation—but as citizens of the global community. We need to remember that these two ideas—of being a citizen of a nation and a citizen of the world—are not mutually exclusive. They must support, reinforce and advance each other.

Universities, historically have played important roles in nation building. The modern university was born in the 19th century in Germany. At that time, the university played an instrumental role in bolstering the German nation. In our country, in the decade after World War II, higher education played a similar role. With the GI Bill, investments in Big Science, and efforts on the cultural front to capture and celebrate American’s cultural history, higher education helped create and sustain the new idea of America as a super-power.

As Americans, we work to strengthen our national values and moral commitments—and the institutions that embody those values and moral commitments.

We also seek to ensure an America where all of our people are able to fulfill their promise and potential, where we are able to provide for our children, where we are able to take care of our families, where we are able to strengthen the bonds that hold us together as a people—an America that embodies the American dream.

And as global citizens, we need to recognize those challenges that cannot be addressed by any single nation, challenges to the sustainability of our planet—our air and water, challenges to protecting the inherent dignity of all women and men, girls and boys, challenges to assisting the marginalized, and challenges to ensuring global justice and equality. These challenges transcend our identities as American citizens, and place us in a new role as “global citizens.” As global citizens, recognizing and addressing these challenges is our moral responsibility.


Our nation’s colleges and universities provide an incomparable resource for our nation as we respond to the unfolding challenges of globalization. The extraordinary talent that we are able to bring together in academic communities ordered by deep traditions of scholarly engagement. Our practices and values, our experience and our infrastructure can enable us to serve as catalysts in our nation for responding to the forces of globalization.

The work of engaging these challenges, the work of living the questions that I have described is work we are familiar with…it is the work of our colleges and universities. And it is work we must engage in at this moment in the life of our planet.

If we engage these challenges, we will be stronger as a nation.

If we engage these challenges, we will help ensure a stronger, more predictable, more coherent, more reliable—and safer international system.

And if we do engage these challenges, we will fulfill our responsibilities as citizens of our nation—and our globe.