In his recent book, “The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal,” Ambassador William J. Burns draws on newly declassified cables and memos to give an inside look at American diplomacy in action. Recounting some of the seminal moments of his three decades as a U.S. diplomat, Burns describes his dispatches from war-torn Chechnya and Gadhafi’s camp in the Libyan desert, as well as his warnings of the “perfect storm” that would be unleashed by the Iraq War.
At this event, Burns joined Baker Institute director Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian for a moderated conversation about his book and the enduring importance of diplomacy. A book signing followed the presentation. Copies of the book were available for purchase courtesy of the Rice University Campus Store.
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6:00 p.m. — Reception
6:30 p.m. — Presentation
The Honorable William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. Burns retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a diplomatic career spanning 33 years. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become U.S. deputy secretary of state. Prior to his tenure as deputy secretary, Burns served from 2008 to 2011 as under secretary of state for political affairs. He was ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2005 to 2008, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from 2001 to 2005, and ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001. Burns has been the recipient of three President’s Awards for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service and a number of Department of State awards. He has also received the highest civilian honors from the Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community. Burns earned a bachelor's degree in history from La Salle University, and master's and doctoral degrees in international relations from Oxford University.