It’s been over a year since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the world is still reeling from the brutal human and economic consequences. Approximately 43,000 lives have been lost, 13 million people are currently displaced, and global food and energy markets remain in a state of turmoil. With no predictable path or timeline for resolving the conflict, the coming months will be critical for determining the course of the war. In addition, the United States and its allies face other urgent foreign policy issues — from China’s aggressive posturing and challenges to the international economic and security order, to rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear enrichment and potential weaponization program.
At this event, part of the Shell Distinguished Lecture Series, former Deputy Secretary of State and current CIA Director William Burns joined Baker Institute Director David M. Satterfield to discuss these and other pressing foreign policy issues. Director Burns also reflected on his extraordinary career in government and the importance of public service.
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Shell Distinguished Lecture Series
The Shell Distinguished Lecture Series is the Baker Institute's flagship speakers program, reflecting the vision of our honorary chair, former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, and Shell's commitment to defining the role of statesmanship, integrity and bold leadership in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.
In-person attendance was free and open to members of the Baker Roundtable and special VIP guests through the link in their email invitation. Current faculty, staff and students at Rice University also received one complimentary ticket for in-person attendance.
A livestream link was available to the public.
The Honorable James A. Baker, III
Honorary Chair, Baker Institute for Public Policy; Senior Partner, Baker Botts, L.L.P.; Former Secretary of State; Former White House Chief of Staff
William Burns, Ph.D., was officially sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency on March 19, 2021, making him the first career diplomat to serve as director. Director Burns holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service — career ambassador — and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become deputy secretary of state.
Director Burns retired from the State Department U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 before becoming president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Director Burns is a crisis-tested public servant who spent his 33-year diplomatic career working to keep Americans safe and secure. Prior to his tenure as deputy secretary of state, he served as under secretary of state for political affairs from 2008 to 2011; U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008; assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from 2001 to 2005; and U.S. ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001. He was also executive secretary of the State Department and special assistant to former secretaries of state Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright; minister-counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; acting director and principal deputy director of the State Department’s policy planning staff; and special assistant to the president and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
Director Burns received three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and the highest civilian honors from the Pentagon and the U.S. Intelligence Community. He is the author of the best-selling book, "The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal" (2019). He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from LaSalle University and master’s and doctoral degrees in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.
The Honorable David M. Satterfield
Director, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy; Janice and Robert McNair Chair in Public Policy; Former Ambassador to Lebanon and Turkey