Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the third RCLA Town Hall speaker of the 2020 season, focused largely on global challenges such as climate change, technology and the threat of terrorism during her talk on Monday
Exploring everything from relations with North Korea and Iran to climate change and technology, Sherman looked at how the United States is dealing with the controversial topics.
“The issues that cross borders are our present and our future,” she said.
Beginning her speech, Sherman spoke on how climate change is a threat to humans as a whole.
“Many have a hard time embracing [it]. Whether the extreme intensity of Australian fires, the fear of losing Miami Beach, or the unanticipated melting of a Pine Island glacier of Antarctica… climate change is the greatest threat to the future of our planet,” she said.
Continuing on to the next challenge, Sherman said that technology will bring as many threats because cyber tools can be used for a wide range of destabilizing purposes.
Citing China’s technological advancement, Sherman called for President Trump to shift his worry of China from economic to something more technical.
“Where we can, we must work with China. Where we must challenge them, we must confront them when necessary,” Sherman said. “Our greatest immediate challenge is of course in the arena of technology, where they hold the data set of unparalleled proportion and are moving rapidly into the 5G world and into artificial intelligence. Our government, our private sector, must invest more in research, development and planning for a world that looks very different than the world today.”
A large portion of Sherman’s address focused on terrorism. As a former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2011 to 2015, Sherman led U.S. negotiations with Iran and was awarded the National Security Medal by President Barack Obama. Today, she is a professor of public leadership and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.
She said that though the physical rule of ISIS is gone for now, the threat of terrorism still remains.
“We know from 9/11 the fact that America is protected by two oceans is no protection at all. In the face of a terrorist ready for suicide in an airplane or in a vest, conventional deterrence does not work in the face of this threat. It will take intelligence, alliances, Special Forces and careful persistent work to diminish the terrorist threat,” Sherman said.
The question and answer section was moderated by Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC.
The Q&A session drew questions about how Sherman’s upbringing in a Jewish community in Baltimore informed her work ethic, “challenging the norms” set by President Trump and negotiating with Iran as a woman.
When it came to her upbringing, Sherman shared a story about how her father sold houses to African Americans in the 1960s at the urging of his Rabbi despite the chance that his business would suffer. Sherman said through that experience her parents taught her how to have courage.
“They taught me courage and that courage usually comes with a price,” she said. “But if it’s the right thing to do then one should do it.”