The U.S. needs to uphold its values and form multilateral coalitions behind just causes, Ambassador Samantha Powers, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, emphasized in a speech on American leadership at SHU on Jan. 13.
The Jubilee Hall auditorium was packed with a variety of guests including students, recent refugees from the troubled middle east and members of organizations such as Church World Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Human Rights First and the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Power’s office reached out to Seton Hall directly about hosting this speech, Gwen DeBenedetto, director of Marketing and Communications for the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, said.
In the town hall-style forum, Power began with a speech on the need for the U.S. to work with other countries on large undertakings, upholding national values and welcoming refugees before she answered audience questions.
Power said she was struck by how people around the world consistently look to the U.S. to lead, and how likely they are to believe that little will happen if the U.S. does not get involved; a theme that President Obama touched on during his State of the Union on Tuesday night. She stated that in order to successfully tackle the great problems of our time, the U.S. has to rally other countries to share the burden.
“Even if we try to do everything ourselves—on climate change, for instance, or on terrorism—one country cannot deal with the threats that cross borders in the way that modern threats do,” Power said.
Power also reflected on American values and how they relate to accepting refugees into the country.
“We recognize that one of our greatest strengths, and a major reason that the world looks to the United States to lead, is our values,” Power said.
She said that we are witnessing the largest wave of refugees and displacement since World War II, yet more than half of America’s governors have said they do not want to admit refugees from places like Syria into their states.
The people who say that keeping “others”—like Syrians and Muslims— out of the U.S. will keep the country safe misunderstand what makes the U.S. strong, Power said.
“Compromising on those core values has never made America more secure—and it never will,” Power said. “Just look at our history, name a time when sacrificing our pluralism, our respect for freedom of religion, or any of our other core principles has made this country more secure. It has not. It will not. You cannot think of a time when it has.”
Power reminded the audience that refugees are woven into communities throughout the U.S. She reflected on SHU’s tradition of accepting people of different religions and nationalities, and urged people to go out in their communities and welcome refugee families who are part of the American fabric.
“This is in keeping with the vision and service of Seton Hall’s founder, Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, who found his way to his Catholic faith working with poor
immigrants in Harlem in the middle of the 19th century, many of whom had immigrated to the United States from Ireland, as my family did when I was just nine years old,” Power said.
Power’s full speech can be found at https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=TDqRFZ9D0Po.
Samantha Giedris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.