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School of Foreign Service Commencement 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014 3:00 p.m. ET

May 16, 2014 – Former Secretary of Defense – Robert Gates (G’74) talked to 360 new graduates from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service (SFS) today about the importance of responding to world crises and balancing hard and soft power.

“I have been a strong advocate of soft power, of the critical importance of diplomacy and development,” he said after receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the SFS commencement ceremony.

But the Georgetown alumnus also talked about the importance of “hard power,” and said that the ultimate success against aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century is a strong American military.

“Starting a little over 20 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union ... a lot of people began to think that Americans didn’t need to learn about the Russians anymore, much less worry about what their government and military were up to,” said Gates, who received his Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown. “The SFS graduation speaker of last year –the president of Lithuania [Dalia GrybauskatiÄ—] – would, I suspect, beg to differ, as would the leaders of the other Baltic states … Ukraine, Georgia and others which have the misfortune of being located next door to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

He urged the Class of 2014 to enter public service.

“It falls to you, the next generation of globally oriented citizens and leaders, to pick up that mantle,” he said.

As the ceremony ended, acting SFS Dean James Reardon-Anderson gave special recognition to Carol Lancaster, who stepped down as dean earlier this semester due to declining health. This week represents the 50th anniversary of her own graduation from SFS.

Avanti Narayanan (SFS’14) of India studied international politics during her time at Georgetown.

“I am continually amazed by how my education in a foreign environment actually helped me form a closer connection to home,” she said. “While the international politics program allowed me to explore ideas, norms and theories outside my comfort zone, I was simultaneously encouraged to synthesize these teachings with my own experiences in my homeland.”

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