Amplifying Foreign Policy: Interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter

 

By Elizabeth Schuelke, MSPPM ’13

After being asked to join a small group of students to meet with Anne-Marie Slaughter, I conducted a little research to get a better understanding of her background. To say her career has been impressive would be modest. Anne-Marie Slaughter is at the forefront of her field. Not only was she hired as the first female director of Policy and Planning at the Department of State, but she continues to thrust herself into the mix of things as a self-described “policy curator.”

On the day of the group discussion, I headed to the Dean’s conference room early. I had been asked to facilitate the discussion and I calculated that settling in with a strong cup of coffee was my best shot at ensuring success. As I nervously clutched my hot cup, I mentally prepared myself for what I believed to be an intimidating force of brilliance and achievement.

While Ms. Slaughter was just as impressive and articulate as I had expected, she was also approachable, radiating a sincere desire to lend insight and advice to those of us on the cusp of our careers  and addressing each question with a thoughtful and thorough response.  Ms. Slaughter had an innate ability to make each person feel as if their question, their singular comment, was truly insightful and a worthy challenge for her to answer. With that said, Slaughter took no time getting into the meaty topics. Our roundtable discussion touched on everything from her time at the Department of State to the role of women and social media in today’s evolving global community.

When asked about her career at the State Department and how she felt about being the first female director of Policy and Planning, Ms. Slaughter pointed out that it was no coincidence that she has been selected by Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton.  She indicated that Secretary Clinton was looking for a female to fill this role, and believes that Secretary Clinton is eager to see women at the apex of American government and hopes to transform American diplomacy along the way.  Secretary Clinton has shifted focus toward demographics, launching bureaus specifically designed to address the complex issues of women and youth.

As our group was largely comprised of female students (shout out to our stalwart men who were great assets to the conversation!), it seemed natural that the conversation shifted to a discussion about work-life balance. Women across the country struggle to balance pursing the career of their dreams while not giving up on family life. Ms. Slaughter tackled this issue head on. In America, work continues to dominate the relationship between family and career. Ms. Slaughter correctly pointed out that this is not the case around the world, e.g., it is largely recognized that Europe still believes in having a fulfilling life outside of work. She believes that there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with her family, declaring, “I refuse to apologize for that.”

Despite the many advances in gender equality during the last century, Ms. Slaughter noted that despite being 40 years removed from a civil rights movement, fewer than 17% of the U.S. Congress is female. She believes that gender equality will not be fully realized in the upper echelon of corporations and government until a group of policies, including quality subsidized day care and increased flexibility for families with children, is realized.  In addition, she argues that both men and women need to be active in this conversation to see real policy change happen.

According to Ms. Slaughter, this idea of partnership between men and women is of particular importance when looking to the Middle East.  Through social media tools, women, often marginalized in these societies, have been able to raise a voice of resistance previously unheard.  Ms. Slaughter believes that this is because unlike men, who tend to use a more traditional “megaphone” leadership style, women use “convening and connecting” as a form of leadership, which she believes is especially suited to social media.

In addition to empowering women, Ms. Slaughter believes that social media has revolutionized government accountability. As she put it, now any person equipped with nothing more than a cell phone can be empowered to tell us what they see while feeling that others will hear what they have to say. This movement, however, is not sustainable through social media alone.  As Ms. Slaughter correctly pointed out, now the reform movement needs the recognition of traditional government to sustain it.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is not just a student of social media.  She also excels as a ‘policy curator,’ separating the foreign policy wheat from the chaff and keeping a constant stream of relevant foreign policy articles on her twitter feed.  As her tag line reads, “I read everything I [retweet], but don’t necessarily agree.”  Ms. Slaughter believes that her twitter-space is an important vehicle for disseminating the depth and breadth of foreign policy, one she uses with skill and precision.

Many insights can be garnered from my time with Ms. Slaughter, but chief among them are lessons on how our generation should step forward to lead. Ms. Slaughter believes that the under-30 generation is the most traveled of any generation, a characteristic which should better equip us to see the world from a global community perspective and to view other people, be they Syrian or Iranian or Russian, as our neighbors. We are also, however, a generation which has come to the work force in a time of recession. A generation feeling broke and ignored.  It would be easy for us to shut ourselves off from aiding the rest of the world while we focus on putting our own pieces back in place.  Ms. Slaughter cautioned against this. Instead, she calls on us to be leaders who use government for more than simply speeches, to go after work that includes government-to-society as well as government-to-government diplomacy, to play an active role in transforming the face of foreign policy.

 

 
 
 
  • From these types of interviews we are able to get know many new things about such people that we see in routine. I would be glad to read if you are having more to share.