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A Conversation with Henry Kissinger at I-House

Over the past century, International House has hosted countless guest speakers, some on the cusp of making history and others who, at the time of their visit, were already global influencers. On Thursday, January 11, 2018, I-House added to this incredible history by hosting former U.S. Secretary of State and Dr. Henry Kissinger for a candid conversation with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. Kissinger served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of International House from 1977 to 1985, and has been an Honorary Trustee since then. Zakaria has been a Trustee of International House since 2003. The audience of 130 invited Residents, Alumni, Trustees and friends gathered in Davis Hall for intimate, off the record conversation. Guests included I-House Trustee and Alumnus Peter M. O’Neill (great grandnephew of I-House co-founder John D. Rockefeller), who was instrumental in organizing the event; Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, current Chair of the International House Board of Trustees; Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, former President of the UN Security Council and a current I-House Trustee;  Alumna and Life Trustee Daisy Soros; Noel Lateef, CEO of the Foreign Policy Association; Ambassador Raymond Quereilha, French Consul General to South Africa; Alumnus David Wickline, Chairman & CEO at Alchemy Ventures Group; and journalist John Avlon and political consultant Margaret Hoover, fresh from a joint appearance on CNN that evening. “It is such privilege to be a member of the I-House community,” mentioned Resident Marino Mugayar-Baldocchi from Australia. “The opportunity to be part of something like this is so amazing.” As I-House President and CEO Calvin Sims introduced the talk by describing Dr. Kissinger as “one of the most significant figures in foreign policy of the last century,” the enthusiastic audience could barely contain their applause, cheering before he could finish his introduction. Sims also reminded guests that this talk, like all others presented by I-House, was meant to engage participants in conversations that are “open, honest, and frank – free of any inhibitions.” The conversation was, therefore, being held as “off the record” and not to be shared on social media by any audience members. This caveat was also met with a round of enthusiastic applause by members of the audience. Dr. Kissinger, in turn, shared his pleasure in returning to the House for this special event. “I joined International House just after I left government,” the former I-House Board Chair said. “The mission was and has remained very close to my heart and I have always enjoyed my association with it. I am glad to be back.” Over the next 30 minutes, Zakaria delved into a wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Kissinger exploring everything from how the state of international relations has changed since the Cold War to “fluidity” in the continuously evolving international balance of power, as well as the need for world powers to apply a more fluid approach to international policy. Kissinger also recounted some of his experiences working with Richard Nixon and other world leaders over the past half century. These recollections prompted Zakaria to query the audience on which among them expects to be able to do so as vividly when they reach 94 years of age. Following the conversation with Zakaria, Kissinger took questions from the audience. The legendary statesman responded to thoughtful questions by Residents from Ukraine, China and Pakistan, which sought further insight on regional and global relations and the balance of power among the US, Russia and China, as well as the rise in influence of new international players. “Yes, solve the Ukraine crisis in 30 seconds,” Zakaria joked, impressed with the challenging nature of the questions from the students. In his closing, Kissinger credited on his lifelong fascination with history for his ability to stay engaged and aware of global affairs. While his legendary career has allowed him to shape the course of history, he believes his passion for international relations has always been a part of him. “I am lucky in that I am doing what I would be doing anyway.” Dr. Kissinger received a standing ovation from the audience and was immediately surrounded by guests seeking additional comments, as well as selfies, with the globally renowned statesman. “What an extraordinary evening!” enthused Alumnus Peter Vanham of the World Economic Forum. In addition to hearing off the record insights, he was able to reconnect with other Alumni from his time at the House. “A night to remember!” The event marked the second in the Paul Volcker Speaker Series. Established through the Volcker Fund in 2014, the series brings some of the world’s preeminent thought leaders to I-House to address important international issues. The series launched in 2016 with “When the Federal Reserve Speaks…The World Listens,” a live panel discussion also moderated by Fareed Zakaria and featuring candid commentary by Federal Reserve Chairs Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen.

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