Diversity in Foreign Affairs and Public Service

Saturday, April 28, 2018
Leah Millis/Reuters
Ruth Davis

Vice President, Association of Black American Ambassadors

Carmen Lomellin

U.S. Permanent Representative, Organization of American States; National Coordinator, Presidential Summit of the Americas

Nicole Bibbins Sedaca

Chair, Global Politics and Security Concentration, Professor in the Practice of International Affairs, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Jerry L. Johnson

Partner, RLJ Equity Partners, LLC

This event is part of the 2018 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs.  Other videos from the conference and more information can be found here


JOHNSON: All right. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to a bright and early panel—(laughter)—on diversity in foreign affairs and public service. I guess it’s a good thing, depending on how much coffee you had or how late you stayed up last night, but we’re definitely kicking off the first panel of the day.

We’re very excited to have three, I would say, luminaries in public service as well as foreign policy. We have panelists that range from, you know, former ambassadors to entrepreneurs to department chairs at Georgetown. And they’re each going to go through and sort of talk about their backgrounds and how they got to where they are today. And our hope will be to shed some light on the opportunity in foreign affairs and also the importance for diversity.

To my far right is Ms. Carmen Lomellin. She is the principal and founder of Lomellin Global Advisers.

Then we have Ms. Ruth Davis. She is the vice president of the Association of Black American Ambassadors.

And to my right, I have Nicole Bibbins Sedaca. She is a professor at Georgetown and chairs their global politics and security concentration.

And I’d just like to start over to my far right and ask Carmen if she could give a few notes on her background and just introduce herself.

LOMELLIN: Thank you very much and good morning, everybody. I’m glad to see everybody is awake. (Laughter.) You have had your coffee, right?

My name is Carmen Lomellin. I’m the former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States. I served in that post for five years as a political appointee.

I’m originally from the city of Chicago. I stumbled here into Washington through politics and worked for President Clinton in the Clinton Administration. Then I went to the Organization of American States which is where I developed my expertise in foreign affairs and foreign policy in Latin America, and also gender. I used to be the head of the Inter-American Commission on Women. Gender is something that I’ve worked on my whole entire life, personally and professionally, and it has served me well. And I was in a position where I could actually mandate that gender must be incorporated in all policies that came out of my office at the State Department. It was a real thrill. And one of my things I used to stomp my feet about was the lack of diversity. I didn’t see enough African-American young people, I didn’t see enough Latinos or Asians at the State Department, and I was always making a lot of noise on that and will continue to do so.

DAVIS: Thank you very much. Look, I don’t know about you—(laughter)—but I’m very excited to be here. (Applause.) I look out at this audience and I see the hope of the world and that really excites me.

I was a Foreign Service officer for 40 years. And I believe, as Congressman Rangel used to say, the Foreign Service is the best-kept secret in Washington. I came to Washington as a child of the segregated South. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona and I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia which has the sign of the phoenix. And you know the story of the phoenix. It’s the bird that rose from its ashes and became more beautiful and more potent than ever. And I believe that people can rise from their own circumstances and make a very important difference in this world. And I sense that out in this audience there are people who will make a difference. The only question is, where will you make that difference?

My difference hopefully that I made in the world was in the Foreign Service. And I’ll tell you that I became interested in the Foreign Service at a point in my life just where you are now. I was a student at Spelman College, went overseas, met African students who were talking about going back and doing nation-building. And I wanted to get out there and see that nation-building and be a part of it, and went into the Foreign Service, rose through the ranks of the Foreign Service to serve as ambassador, to serve as the director of the Foreign Service Institute and as director general of the Foreign Service. In a career that I looked for one moment of boredom and I never found it. (Laughter.)

So I’m here and I want to talk about—I don’t want to be a hog of all of the time—

BIBBINS SEDACA: Hog away. (Laughter.)

DAVIS: But I want to—I want to share with you some of my experiences during this conversation.

BIBBINS SEDACA: I’m inspired. (Laughter.) My name is Nicole Bibbins Sedaca and I have the great pleasure currently of being at Georgetown University, as Jerry has shared. I started my career at the State Department, was there for a decade, looked up to a lot of people who had accomplished far more than I had during those years and it was great to see those people in leadership when I was at the State Department.

I’ve served overseas in Ecuador and then came back and have been at Georgetown for a number of years. My area of focus has been in democracy and human rights. And it’s been a great pleasure to work in that field on these issues, but now with students. And it’s the greatest joy of mine to be able to pour into the next generation, because I am certain, as Ruth said, that you all will be the next set of leaders who will be sitting up here and who will be shaping the generation after you. And so just to have this conversation now of tips and things that we’ve learned along the way is just a great pleasure to just continue to pour into what is already a great start to your careers and watch you all soar from there.

JOHNSON: Carmen, I was very inspired hearing your background as we were preparing for the session today. Can you share with the students sort of your road to Washington and the opportunities? And also, talk about reaching out of this I-95 corridor—(laughter)—to folks.

I’ve often heard—I mean, in many ways, if you’re sitting in this room at the Council on Foreign Relations, you’ve made it about halfway, if not all the way there. And I’ve always heard the term “each one help one.” I think we’re in the situation we need each one to help 10. (Laughter.) And if you can talk a little bit about, you know, how to reach out beyond ourselves because, you know, a lot of us are sitting here because of the strides that, you know—you know, that Ambassador Davis has done and folks before her, et cetera.

But, Carmen, if you could just talk about that.

LOMELLIN: Well, as I mentioned, I’m from the Chicago area. I grew up in a steel town a half hour outside of Chicago. Everybody I knew worked in the steel mills. My first job out of high school was working the midnight shift in the steel mill, something I worked for many years.

I didn’t know anybody that went to college. I was considered a big deal because I actually finished high school. I didn’t know anyone that focused on international affairs. I didn’t know—I have—I can’t even remember the State Department became a real thing for me. I think it was during Nixon and Kissinger where it was always in the news and, oh, OK.

But I think, going back to what Jerry asked, one of the things that has helped me throughout my career is getting outside of my comfort zone. It’s very easy to be complacent if you go, yeah, I’ll figure it out, it’ll happen. No, you’ve got to make it happen.

One of the things that has been important for me as a person, and also I continue it with other young people, is to be a mentor, is learning to identify mentors. One of the things that we were discussing earlier was that a mentor is not necessarily going to look like you and it’s not going to be Latino, it’s not going to be an African-American person, not necessarily. So, you know, who do you click with? You know, you will know. Like I told Jerry, you kind of know when somebody likes you, right? You know, like—so you will know if a person has that interest to help further your career.

I came into this area, as I mentioned, through politics. I was—I left the steel mills, got my—I went to night school forever to get my degrees, and ended up working for the city of Chicago, for the mayor, which is, you know, there’s a little bit of politics that happens in that town. (Laughter.) And I met Hillary Clinton. And I got very involved in that campaign, which is why I ended up here in D.C., but I was not doing anything international.

The gentleman I worked for, who was the—my first boss and the director of OPM was very, very important for me and he mentored me and guided me and gave me some really good, solid advice, and he made me think beyond what was comfortable for me.

I’ve mentioned, I was offered a position at the Democratic National Committee to do Hispanic outreach, and I asked him about it, he goes, why do you want to do that, is that something you really, really want to do? Is that something because it’s comfortable? He goes think, expand, you know, be curious, go outside of your comfort zone. And I have and that has served me well.

After the Clinton administration, I went to work at the OAS where I headed up the Inter-American Commission on Women. Again, I didn’t really know that much about foreign policy, but I knew how to manage, so that helped me, and I learned. I developed an expertise.

And then when President Obama was elected, I was actually floored that they asked me to take on the position of ambassador because, I mean, I was—I was a kid from the steel mills, you know. People like me don’t become ambassadors. But I was given the opportunity and it was great.

And one thing I did promise myself and I did throughout my professional career is mentor, mentor young people, give them advice. Be tough on them, as one of my mentees who is sitting right there. I come down hard because life is not easy. Nobody is going to baby you. Nobody is going to, oh, you, oh, honey, what’s the matter? Did they—did they look at your awful? No, they’re going to be tough on you, you’ve got to be just as tough. So I—I even—not just with the young men, but with the young women as well; in fact, more with the young women because the challenges are different.

But it’s been meeting people, it’s being curious about how they are. It’s being curious about, what do we have in common, what can we share? And I think, as you’re, you know, going forward in your career—I agree with the ambassador—this is what America looks like, this is the future. And you have to put yourself in positions where you can identify people, like these wonderful people here on this panel, and talk to them and ask them questions. Don’t ask them for jobs. No. That’s one lesson here in D.C. You don’t say hi, nice to meet you, I’m looking for a job. You want to see people running the other direction. But ask for advice. Sit and have a cup—ask if they would meet you for coffee. That’s nonthreatening, you know, and people love to talk about themselves.

So that’s how it happened for me. It wasn’t easy. I’ve had my ups and downs and been smacked around a few times, but, you know, you dust yourself off, you’re tough, you’ve gotten this far, you are tough.

DAVIS: Could I just chime in? I think, Carmen, that your topic on mentorship is probably one of the most important things that we can focus on here today.

How many of you feel that you have good mentors?


DAVIS: So that’s great. That is a good representation.

The one thing that you need to understand is that you’re not going to be successful on your own. You have to have help and you have to have people who are interested in you, who are interested in helping you to understand the bureaucracy, to understand how to succeed. And you can’t wait for those people to come to you, you have to go to them.

I think that in the back of the room we have one of the world’s experts. She’s looking around like she doesn’t know who I’m talking about—(laughter)—Maria Pinto Carland, who is an expert on mentoring. If you want to know anything about mentoring—Maria, hold up your hand—(laughter)—

BIBBINS SEDACA: Ruth is the only person who can tell Maria to do anything. I’ve never seen that happen. (Laughter.)

DAVIS: She knows it. Just cannot overemphasize the importance of mentorship and the importance of you being involved in the process of finding your own mentors, staying in touch with your own mentors, and using their expertise to your advantage.

JOHNSON: And speaking of mentors, who all is at Georgetown right now? Oh. So I know we’re going to have several great questions. And with that—

BIBBINS SEDACA: No, I told them to cheer, no questions. (Laughter.)

JOHNSON: All right. So we’ll have some great cheering.

And, Nicole, just give me your position as chair at Georgetown and also as a professor. Can you talk about—and we had a conversation about service at all levels, regardless of where you are, and also entrepreneurship in the public sector as well as the private sector. Can you speak to some of the tips that you give to your students and also, in your view, the way forward for this generation?

BIBBINS SEDACA: Absolutely. And thank you. It’s a great pleasure just to—I’m learning as I go along as well.

I think I can’t echo enough the comments about mentorship and community in general, you know, that community around you, and that community is going to be people your age, it’s going to be people much more senior than you, it’s going to be people a step ahead of you. That community around you is going to hold you accountable, it’s going to ask you questions. You said you wanted to be here; what are you doing? You know, and that having—building that community around you and recognizing that along the way is important.

You know, I think part of it is we’re all going to be in different sectors at different times and we need to think about how we can vision our future and go after it. And I do think sometimes we don’t know what that looks like because we don’t know what the State Department is or we don’t know what something is. But there’s a really important element of that, which is asking and searching.

Everyone is out there asking. And I think sometimes students—I say students because that’s my demographic—but a lot of people sometimes are afraid to ask or they’re afraid to ask the question, they’re afraid to explore because they think, well, if I ask or if I explore, then maybe someone will know that I don’t know.

But the truth is there are a lot of people out there who are asking and you need to be in that group who’s asking, to say, well, what could I be if I stay in the Foreign Service for 40 years? What are the opportunities that are there? What are the opportunities to become an entrepreneur after I leave the State Department? Ask those questions, surround yourself around people who have asked those questions and gone after it.

You know, one other thing I often say to my students is also—and maybe I’m saying—like, they said the nice, happy stuff, but I’m—that’s not who I am, I’m going to say the tough stuff, too.

All of us have barriers, right? Many times those barriers are external, sometimes they’re internal. And I encourage students also to think, what is the barrier that you have between here and there and what are you going to do to get over it? And if that barrier is you—you saying, well, I don’t know, I mean, just that organization isn’t one that I could ever get into—if that barrier is you, then you need to surround yourself with people who are going to help get you through that because you can get through that.

You are sitting with people, watching people who have gone through barriers which are probably far tougher, truthfully, than you all will face because they were there at a time that was a little bit harder.

But I think that importance of saying, what’s the barrier between me and there and what am I going to do to lean on my mentors, to ask those tough questions, to dig deep in myself, to push myself through those barriers?

And then, again, you know, on the—on the issue, again, of mentorship and community is putting yourself in the positions to build those relationships, it’s really important, which means excel well where you are, do a great job where you are, but also seek out people. Put yourself in the position to have those conversations and don’t be afraid to do that.

And, you know, as Carmen said, people are happy to talk about themselves, so give them the opportunity to do that, but, you know, use it as a—as a two-way conversation to really—to really shape what you’re thinking as well.

JOHNSON: Could you raise your hand if you’re in college? And keep your hand up if you’re less than 10 years out of college. And put your hands up if you’re interested in foreign policy.

So this question is for Ambassador Davis. She’s the only ambassador sitting up here.

What does it take to be an ambassador?

Oh, so we have two ambassadors. So what does it take—

LOMELLIN: See what I mean? (Laughter.)

JOHNSON: But, I guess, Ambassador Davis is the head of the ambassadors’ association, you know, so, you know—so we have two ambassadors here.

What does it take to be an ambassador? And what do you wish—both of you—you had known at this point in life to prepare yourself to be an excellent ambassador? Because you don’t want to just be an ambassador, you want to be the best ambassador that’s ever lived, you want to be an ambassador like Michelangelo was a painter type of ambassador. (Laughter.)

So I’m going to start here. What does it take? What does it take? I mean, what do you do to prepare yourself?

DAVIS: You go ahead.

LOMELLIN: You know, it’s developing relationships. I was an ambassador to a multilateral institution. I had prior friendships and relationships with a lot of the—with most of the missions accredited to the OAS. And you find out that the people that you know now in 10 years are going to be in charge of something, so you maintain those relationships. You network. You go out for a cup of coffee. You discuss things. You get a sense of where they’re coming from. And that, I think, has been the best thing that I could have learned, that I wish I knew years ago. Because I, you know, I used to be a quiet kid, I was this Catholic-Mexican kid, I didn’t talk to anybody, I was obedient. Well, you don’t have to always be obedient. Again, go out of your comfort zone.

And I think ambassador—the relationships, whether it’s at the staff level, whether it’s at the diplomatic level, they are very, very important because you never know what the future will bring.

DAVIS: I think that’s right. There are a couple of ways to become an ambassador. One is through the career Foreign Service, which is the way that I did it, and I came up through the ranks. And the other is through a political appointment. Thirty percent, usually about 30 percent, of our ambassadors are political appointees, but you start off in the Foreign Service, if you’re not a political appointee, at the junior officer level and work your way up through the service, as I did.

I am very pleased to note that I look out in this audience and I see some real—at least one potential ambassador, Tony Fernandes, who has been one of my mentees. (Applause.) Let’s cheer Tony on.

LOMELLIN: Yea, Tony.

DAVIS: And why is it that I say that Tony is a potential ambassador? And I can say that because I understand the Foreign Service, I understand the bureaucracy. Tony is somebody who is very dedicated to the goals and objectives of U.S. foreign policy. He is someone who makes it very clear that he wants to do things to improve the institution in which he is working.

He is a presence and that is exactly what you have to be. You have to be a presence. You have to decide, how is it that I want all of these people around me to perceive me? What do I want them to think about me? Do I want them to think that I’m an expert on this, an expert on that? Do I want them to think that they can depend on me in terms of advancing institutional goals and objectives? So the road to success, the road to an ambassadorship really is in your own hands about how you project yourself.

JOHNSON: The other question I have is just around today. And if you pick up the newspaper today, you would think that the State Department is in turmoil. We’ve gone through two secretaries of state, you know, within an 18-month period. It seems like there’s more of a focus on defense versus diplomacy.

And I’ll ask Nicole—and all three of you, I’d love for you to comment on this—is talk about the ebbs and flows of diplomacy, the Foreign Service. And also, just speak to the importance of it today and in the future. Because if I put myself in your shoes, I would read the papers and think that, you know, the State Department is not as necessary or at least is not a focus in this administration. Could you really just talk about the future of foreign policy and the Foreign Service?

BIBBINS SEDACA: The State Department will always be relevant because the State Department is the body of experts, it is the body of relationships that have been built over many, many years, and it is the place where an expertise has been built up over many years to advance American interests through diplomatic engagement, and so it will never go away. And having the best and the brightest there is absolutely essential.

And I’ve talked to many students who sometimes they have concerns about the environment, about the staffing, different issues. My belief is public service is serving your country, and it is serving your country at all times, in every way. And that means sometimes it will be the president that you voted for, sometimes it won’t. Sometimes you’ll be asked to do some things which you don’t necessarily—it wasn’t your favorite thing, sometimes you won’t. I don’t believe if it crosses an ethical line you should do it, but there is a huge value of being in, representing your government, carrying the best of what your country has out to the world, and using all of your talents, from the morning to night, in order to serve your country. And I believe in every stage, including this time that we’re in right now, it’s super important that we have people in.

Also, people stay in for 40 years sometimes, which means presidents come and go and we will need a diverse, talented, excellent, smart Foreign Service—and Civil Service, by the way, I served in the Civil Service—we need that in 2020, in 2025, and in 2030, and beyond.

And I think that if you’re not there now doing it and engaging now, you won’t be there in 2020 or 2025, and we’ll need people who have served, who understand the organization, who understand the tools of diplomacy. And we need those people to be in the pipeline and to be building their expertise over a long term, so that when you get to be an ambassador—and I’m sure Tony will be there one day—you have—you have gained the knowledge of the entire process that got you there.

JOHNSON: Ambassador Lomellin?

LOMELLIN: I just wanted to add one thing and that’s to look at—because I know that sometimes the political situation gets very anxious and everybody is running around in a tizzy and, you know, experts are on all the morning news programs—take the longer lens. I love when they have the historians—Michael Beschloss or Jon Meacham—because they’ll be able to say, you know, this is not unlike what happened in 18-blah-blah-blah, you know. It’s like, oh, OK, we’re not going—sometimes we hit bumps in the road, that’s just human nature.

So take just a historical perspective and look at our history. It has not always been smooth, it has not always been easy, it has not always been pleasant. I personally disagree with a—with a lot of the policies, but you know what? I believe in our government. I believe in our system of government, in our democracy. And the republic survives. It has survived since George Washington first became president. So look at all of this with just a wider lens.

JOHNSON: Ambassador Davis, if you could bring us home in terms of the future of the State Department and the opportunity for new people entering careers there today.

DAVIS: Well, I think that what has been said here is absolutely true. I believe that you have to take the long view. And I believe that in the long run, diplomacy will and must prevail.

I think you’ve all noticed that even the generals have said, listen, it’s important for this administration or any other administration to support diplomacy because if you don’t support diplomacy, you’re going to have to augment the military budget in a way that we don’t necessarily want because we don’t want to have to go to war.

So I think that the whole notion of diplomacy will, as I said, prevail and remain relevant and very, very important. The question is, what kind of diplomacy will we have? And my thoughts are—and I believe that everybody in this room agrees—that we need to have diversity in our foreign policy. But we’re not the only people who think like that. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 says that the Foreign Service of the United States should be reflective of the American population.

And you look like the American population to me. So I think that the more interests that we have in foreign policy from people who look like you and who look like me, the better off our foreign policy will be.

One of the things that I’ve devoted my career to is diversity in the foreign affairs area. And it is very heartwarming for me to see you hold your hand up and say that you are interested in foreign policy, because I know that right now is a very, very difficult time, but you need to get embedded in the system so that you will be ready to make the system better in the future.

BIBBINS SEDACA: Can I just make one more point on that?

JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely.

BIBBINS SEDACA: I just—I echo everything that my colleagues have said. And you will face challenges, external or internal, but you will face challenges in your career and that is just a fact. What those challenges look like will be a whole range of things. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to push through it and figure out how to climb over it, climb under it, climb around it? Or are you going to let it take you out of the game?

And we don’t know what those challenges are. They could be downsizing in the State Department. It could be a boss who is problematic or whatever. But the question is, are you going to stand with your community, are you going to stand with mentors who are going to help you figure out how to get through it and how to push through those things?

And my encouragement to you is, when you face those challenges, because you will, figure out how you stay in the game. Figure out how you get in the game, figure out how you stay in the game so that you get to that place which made you raise your hands today and really show that commitment to this area that we all love so much.

JOHNSON: And with Nicole’s comments, we’re going to open it up to the audience to ask questions. And as Ambassador Lomellin and also Ambassador Davis said, if not you, who? If not now, when?

So let’s start now by asking some questions. Go right here. And if you could, I just want to remind you that this is on the record, and if you could speak your name, your full name, and your affiliation.

Q: Sure. My name is Christian Martinez Lusayme (ph). I am a second tour political-coned officer through the Rangel fellowship. I’m also a PPIA alum of 10 years, so I’m very happy to be here.

And, Nicole, you set me up for my question. You spoke about challenges that we’re bound to face, how do you stay in the game. You also spoke about limits that we have within ourselves that could sort of inhibit us from getting to that next phase.

So I want to sort of challenge you guys or women, ambassadors as well as Nicole, to provide us with one specific professional challenge that you faced and how maybe an internal barrier or external barrier inhibited you, but how you overcame that.

I personally find that I find ways to solve my own issues by reaching out of examples of others who have overcome. Thank you.

DAVIS: Well, I’ll get started. When I was appointed consul general in Barcelona, I did not know it, but the Catalans and the Catalan society was very, very closed—you know now they are really lobbying for independence from Spain—but it’s very closed. And I understand that when I was named consul general, the word was, what have we done to offend America that they would send a black woman to Barcelona as consul general?

Well, I didn’t know that, but what I did know was that Catalan society was really very, very closed and it was very difficult to penetrate it. But I felt that I was there, I was going to represent the U.S. come hell or high water. And I attacked and I really attacked Barcelona—(laughter)—by going everywhere that I was invited. I was—I made it very, very clear that I loved being in Catalonia, I loved the Catalans, and it was my intention to represent the U.S. government as best as I possibly could.

The going was rough at first, but when I left Catalonia, the Catalans brought my parents to Barcelona for a good-bye dinner, surprise dinner for me. And they had the mayor on one side and the president of Catalonia on one other side of me. What I’m trying to say is that, in many instances, if you put yourself into it, you can overcome very, very difficult situations.

JOHNSON: You all have been hearing, you know, turning lemons into lemonade; I mean, she turned lemons into port. (Laughter.)

LOMELLIN: I think one of the challenges that I faced, and it was such a surprise to me, when I was at the Organization of American States and the way the commission that I ran was run, we had a representative from each of the 34 countries of the region. So I worked with women ministers.

There have been times where tensions, political tensions were a little complicated between the United States and our colleagues in the region. And I was kind of—I hate to use the word “victim” because I don’t like that word, but I was a victim of the political tensions. All of a sudden, people wanted to get rid of me because I was an American, because they didn’t like the policies of the United States. So they—I remember somebody saying, well, I just know she gets her orders from the White House and I’m, no, I don’t.

And I always—a part of this, too, I always considered myself I’m Hispanic, I’m Mexican American, and to have somebody say no, you’re not, you’re a gringa. You know, so how do—how do you deal with that and continue doing your job?

You know, it was—it was very, very difficult for me because these tensions went on for quite a few years. But you just kind of, like I said, you know, you dust yourself off and you keep moving.

BIBBINS SEDACA: I worked in an office, which—so you’ve heard African-American American, I’ll do the woman part. (Laughter.) I worked in an office where I was one of the very few women in the office and I was also 20 years younger than most of the people in the office. And it was an office in which the environment was not, let’s say, politically correct or even appropriate in the conversations many times. I shared many stories with my class the other day about this.

In some cases, I chose to confront those situations and in some cases I chose to shake it off. And the wisdom of discerning between those two was often who I could talk to, who were my mentors, who was that community around me that could help me discern.

But I’ll just say two things which I’m hearing and what they said, which I think is also important, is, to some extent, your excellence also becomes a shield. Right? If you do your job so well, at some point people get over their issues. Right? And that doesn’t mean, oh, you’ve got to work double hard because you’ve got this extra burden. But to some extent, you say I’m smart, I’m good at my job, I’m just going to do my job. Right? Which is what I hear, which is just be excellent.

And the second part of it is don’t internalize other people’s issues, right? Because what we often do is you’re, like, oh, the Catalans think that I’m not great; well, maybe I’m not great. I mean, I would not—I would not debate that Ambassador Davis is not great.

And so when someone comes at you—and they will come at you at some point and say, what did we do wrong to get this substandard diplomat, you’ve just got to say I’m not a substandard diplomat. That’s an easy question, I’m not. So, sorry about your issues, but I’m not going to internalize them and let them be my narrative. My narrative is I’m a strong, smart, talented person that my government sent because I’m a strong, smart, talented person. And that’s got to be your narrative.

And the sense that you allow it to internalize their issues, you define your—you allow them to define your narrative, which is—which will cap you at some point.

JOHNSON: And just going back to how we started the conversation with Carmen and Nicole and Ruth around networks and mentors, you’re going to—you’re going to hit speedbumps, there are going to be issues that come up. You’re going to go into situations that seem very difficult. The way to get over those situations is by having those networks and building the bridge before you need it.

And as we’ve kicked off, reach out, meet people, have coffee, don’t ask for anything, and just develop an authentic relationship, because you never know when you may need advice from that person because they’ve seen that road ahead of you.

Over here.

Q: Thank you. Earl Carr representing Momentum Advisors. We’re an international wealth management firm on Wall Street, and I also teach as an adjunct professor at NYU. Thanks for your great, insightful remarks.

When I was at CFR, the advice that I got from a lot of mentors was go into the private sector first and then later you can—it’s easier to get a career in government. Can you talk a little bit about what are the pros and cons going into a different career path or a different industry and then going into government as opposed to going into government first and then trying to transition into the private sector or another industry?

JOHNSON: Carmen, you want to—

LOMELLIN: Geez. Well, in the private sector, you’re going to make a heck of a lot more money. (Laughter.) And you’re in the financial business. But, you know, it depends what your interests are. I know people that have bounced in and out of government. They keep—they leave government and then they decide, no, they really did like government and they go back. It depends what you are interested in, what gets you excited, you know, what really makes you want to get out of bed and go to work.

I happen to love government. I believe in public service. I think it’s a noble cause. When you help others, when you help your country, I think that’s very important. It’s always been important to me, but that’s me. For you, you know, maybe the private sector is where you want to be, where you belong.

Now, that being said, whatever it is that any of you are interested and do, you will find that at the State Department. The State Department is a large organization with financial people, with experts in—with engineers, with experts on policy, of course. But whatever it is you’re interested in, you’ll find it there.

JOHNSON: Nicole?

BIBBINS SEDACA: There are any number of paths to get to the State Department and some is the long-term career path, some is to come in in the middle or higher up as a political. I would echo what Carmen said, which is do what you’re passionate about. You can’t plan everything out to the detail. There’s some people for whom going to Wall Street is great, for some people that would be not where they would thrive.

And to some extent, you’ve got to keep doors open as you go forward and keep those options on the table, but you can’t—you can’t game all of them out. If you really want to be at the State Department now, go after it hard. If you say, yeah, maybe in the future that’s fine, find something else that’s your passion in between.

JOHNSON: In the back.

Q: Hi. I’m Abby Van Buren and I’m a—I work at the Council on Foreign Relations in the New York office.

We’ve heard a lot about mentoring and the importance of fostering those relationships, but I was wondering what you look for when you’re—when you’re choosing a mentee. And how can you market yourself as someone worthy of mentorship from such a distinguished person? And also, what can a mentee offer you in terms of, you know, what, like, what we can give you as a mentor, because I know it can’t be just a one-way street. Thank you.

JOHNSON: Nicole?

BIBBINS SEDACA: I believe mentorship is organic and that’s not a very satisfying answer, but I don’t always believe that it’s as easy as going “hi, will you be my mentor” and then “yes, I’ll be your mentor and you’ll be my mentee” and then we agree to it, we sign something. (Laughter.)

I think that you develop relationships with people—and again, to echo Carmen’s point—those people will look very different. Right? They may look like some of us, but they may be—many of mine have been older white men who have seen something in me and said I will—I will shepherd her along.

I think that you build an affinity with someone, but you only know that you build those affinities if you put yourself in positions to click with people. Right? Which means that you have coffees with people in your office at all different levels and there’s someone who then sees something in you and you see something in them and you sense that there is that relationship.

But you’ve got to put yourself out there a little bit, go see your professors, go see your bosses, go see people elsewhere in your organization and give yourself the opportunity to have that click.

DAVIS: And when you click with someone, you have to think about continuing to develop that relationship. You have to think about communicating with that person, not just when you need them, but all along let them know how you’re doing, send them postcards—if anybody uses the mail anymore—(laughter)—they’d really be impressed if they got the postcard. Stay in touch.

And, you know, I’ve had many mentees and the ones that have impressed me most are the ones who keep me informed about what they’re doing, about where they’re going, about their family issues, births of babies, all sorts of things. It is very necessary for the mentee to work on developing that relationship.

LOMELLIN: If I could just add one more point to the excellent points raised by my colleagues. You’re right, being a mentor/mentee, it is a two-way relationship.

One thing I always insist when I talk to a young person that wants to be mentored is that you have to promise me that you will do the same for somebody else, otherwise, you know, forget about it. And I know it sounds a little harsh, but it’s true. Because you give of your time, you give of yourself, it can’t be just one way. So, yeah, I’ll help, but, you know, you have to help other people. And so far, my kids have done well. (Laughter.)

JOHNSON: Over here.

Q: Good morning. This is—okay, I’m Jadayah with the International Youth Leadership Institute.

And I’ve been blessed to have some really amazing mentors in my life. And now I’m in a position as executive director of an organization that I’m an alumna of to now be, like, a mentor as well. And so that’s exactly the question that I had on my mind. Like, everyone’s life path is different, everyone has different goals and dreams and aspirations. And so how do you, like, well, take what it is that you have of yourself in order to, like, be, like, a good mentor, keeping in mind the fact that what works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for someone else? Like, I have a mentee in the room, like, right now who’s, like, okay, well, how do I—how do I do this well? Thank you.

BIBBINS SEDACA: I think it’s—we talk a lot about emotional intelligence at our school. It’s just being aware of what is around you and what you need and what they need and connecting in whatever way is appropriate. So sometimes that is meeting all the time, sometimes that’s not possible or that’s not what’s needed, and sometimes it is just checking in periodically with someone and saying, hey, I just want you to know that this thing happened in my life.

I do think—and I’m going to pick on Tony, because if Ambassador Davis can pick on him, I will, too. You know, one thing which I love about Tony’s presence in our community is he’s constantly sending emails to serve the community. And it may or may not be advancing his cause, but his focus is not singularly on that. And I do think that if you enter into relationships not just, all right, what am I going to get out of this person or whatever as opposed to I’m building a relationship, and sometimes it’ll be pouring this way and sometimes it may be pouring this way. Sometimes it’ll be a lot of communication, sometimes it will be once a year. And just thinking about how do I—how do I cultivate a relationship as opposed to check boxes, and how do I serve as much as I receive, I think, is a good framework for those.

DAVIS: I think that we would be absolutely remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to hear at least one comment from Maria—(laughter)—and one comment from Patricia Scroggs, because these people are par excellence, knowledgeable about mentorship.


DAVIS: Come on. (Laughter.)

Q: I am ashamed to be speaking in front of three people, four people who have already given you such great advice.

One thing that always struck me was advice that comes from therapists and psychologists about having a third ear, that you need to be listening beyond the simple words that are coming from your mentee. You need to be watching.

MR.     : (Just moving ?) the mic a little closer.

Q: Oh, no one can ever hear me when I talk in public. (Laughter.)

That third ear is something you should use as a mentor. And that’s—that third ear is something you should be speaking to as a mentee. Make sure that your mentor understands, as Ruth said, what you’re going through, your family, your job, your personal concerns. You’ve got to share in order to get back, and the same holds true for a mentor. You have to be able to share some of your life so that the mentee doesn’t feel it’s just a one way—a one-way track. So think about that, third ear.

Q: Well, hi. I’m Patricia Scroggs. I’m the director of the Rangel International Affairs Program.

So much has been said on mentorship, but it’s so important, I think. I would say, for mentees, go out there, find people, take advantage of their expertise, and don’t look at it—you know, sometimes we’re uncomfortable with the idea of networking and mentorship. Are you asking for something? Is it—does a feel a little—it’s not. People love to talk about themselves, they love to work with young people. I mean, you brighten their day. Remember that. Go in, but be very conscious of the time that you’re using of theirs and use it well. Make sure you have a very good idea of what you need in a particular meeting, what you have to offer, so really go in very intentional.

For the mentor, understand that not only are you able to help somebody, but that person is able to help you in a lot of ways. They can give you insights into things that maybe you aren’t seeing that are, you know, at a different level. They’re just wonderful relationships.

I would actually like to use my time to ask a question, too, which is—(laughter)—can you please tell me—OK, a little self-serving—but can you please tell me your views about the importance of programs like the Rangel, Pickering, and Payne program for helping to bring diversity to the Foreign Service?

JOHNSON: That’s a good question.

DAVIS: I will certainly say that, as I said, one of my main interests in life is to bring diversity to the Foreign Service. And we at the State Department have not done a very good job of that.

One of the ways that the State Department is trying to remedy the lack of diversity is through a number of programs, the principal ones being the Rangel program and the Pickering program. These programs provide scholarships for graduate study in exchange for a commitment in the Foreign Service for about five years, but hopefully a commitment for a career in the foreign service. And these programs allow you to study anywhere in the United States that you want to at any of our fine universities as long as it is related to foreign affairs and related to a future career in the State Department.

I am a great proponent of the Rangel and the Pickering program. And I suggest that if you are interested in foreign affairs or the foreign service that you hastily take a look at the website of the State Department and review the Rangel and the Pickering programs.

Kathy Davis (sp) from—Kathy (sp), raise your hand; good, thanks—(laughter)—from recruitment in the State Department is here with you. And you might want to ask her about the programs as well.

JOHNSON: So one question. There are—I was reading the participants. Some folks are not at the State Department, they may be within the government. And I believe there is a program in the government where you can apply to other agencies. Can you speak to how you can go laterally, say, from the Treasury Department to the State Department on a detail? Or do they do any of that today?

DAVIS: Oh, yeah, we do, we have details. The State Department does details to the Hill, does details to the Defense Department. And it’s a question of being in the system and applying for those opportunities. And a lot of people do take advantage.

When I was in the State Department, I took advantage of a program called the Pearson program and I worked in the city government for a year and then decided to extend it for two years. It was a very exciting experience.

JOHNSON: So I’m going to ask a question as a—really roleplay as a mentee, a potential mentee. And you say, OK, you schedule some time to have coffee, what do you—what’s the question? And I’ll make the argument that you’ll be the same today, you’ll be the same 10 years from now and the way you grow are either through books, people, or visiting places.

And I’m going to ask the panelists here if they could talk about the most interesting place they’ve been, the most interesting person they may have met, or an interesting book. Just pick one.

BIBBINS SEDACA: And you’re going to pick me first. So I said—I said my background is in democracy and human rights. I’ll pick two places I’ve been where I have never felt the absence of that more than I’ve felt anywhere at other times in my life.

In 1989, I was visiting—I’m half German, half American—I was visiting my aunt in Berlin. And at that time, the wall was still up and I got an opportunity to go by myself; she couldn’t travel. I spent a day in East Berlin. And when you go in a city divided from one side, which is colorful and bright and beautiful and amazing and vibrant, to the exact same people, the exact same culture on the other side, and the difference is democracy and you see it’s grey and fear-ladened and heavy, you realize the difference. That started my interest, built on the interest, or at least cultivated my interest in international affairs and how is it that we have societies that are divided.

I had the opportunity when I was at state many years later to go to North Korea. I had spent a week in South Korea—again, Seoul, beautiful, wonderful, great food, vibrant, wonderful place—and to go to a country where, again, similar cultures, similar people, divided by history, grey and dark and oppressive. I always say it’s the only place that no one has ever stared at me as a 6-foot-tall African-American, so you know it’s got to be oppressive if people don’t stare at me. (Laughter.)

JOHNSON: Wow, wow.

BIBBINS SEDACA: But the difference in those cases are authoritarian governments captured a people. And the difference in those people’s lives were that a government took away from them what is given to them inherently, which is their freedom and their movement and their ability to speak freely and raise their children freely and well.

And so that propelled me and has kept me going, the difference in many places, the things that we enjoy here is that freedom. And we take it for granted all the time, but that difference changes people’s lives and it is—it’s the most foundational thing, I think, for us in foreign policy.

DAVIS: I think for me, my experience in Africa was really the most impactful experience that I had. This society that we live in is very Eurocentric. If it’s European, it’s good.

So the challenge, I believe, for Africa is to gain its rightful footing in the world, and I believe that that will be reflected on how African-Americans are seen in this country.

So when I was ambassador to Benin, I remember one foreign official at the foreign ministry said, Ambassador, I see you going to work at 7:30 in the morning and leaving late at night. He said, you really are different from most of the ambassadors. And I said, you know what? This is not a job for me, I’m working for history. I’m working to help make this country better so that I will be reflected better in the United States. So I think that it was Africa that really was impactful and that’s the kind of experience that you can have in the Foreign Service.

And I’m not going to get into a long discourse about how I was able to work with the Beninese government to lay the foundation for democracy. It was sort of like working with Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Washington in history. So these are experiences that you can only have in the Foreign Service.

LOMELLIN: I think for me it’s not a person or a place, but it’s an issue. One of the main issues that I worked on—and it kind of builds on what you were talking about, human rights—is the issue of trafficking in persons. Hearing the stories of women that have been trafficked, hearing about the extreme poverty that made them so susceptible to the coyotajes or to the smugglers and the traffickers, it really—it just hit me square in the forehead. And we worked very hard to bring the issue to the political agenda of the OAS and it was not easy.

I remember a delegate, who was not around very long after that, but he said, is the commission suggesting that we eliminate prostitution, prostitution is good for our economies. That’s the stuff that we were dealing with. And I tried to explain the difference. No, we’re not talking prostitution, we’re talking sexual exploitation of women and children, women and children who are trafficked. They didn’t want to talk about it. They didn’t want to even touch the fact that there were young boys that were being trafficked, because that opened up another whole can of worms.

So it’s something I’ve worked on for many, many years. And even today I get all emotional because it breaks my heart to think that somebody was, against their will, brought into our country, whether it’s domestic servitude—which happens a lot, by the way—or for prostitution or sexual exploitation. It goes on, it’s in front of our noses, we just don’t see it.

JOHNSON: Questions? In the back.

Q: My name is Yuan Johnson (ph), I go to Temple University in Philadelphia.

My question involves leadership. So I have my identity as a black man with a disability, my goals and my aspirations, but I do have a roadblock and my roadblock is impostor syndrome. I’m put in a lot of situations where I’m, like, wow, this is a gift, wow, I don’t believe I’m here, do I really belong here? And I try to find confidence in that situation.

So my question to you is, how do you find it, or how did you find it through this journey that you’ve had?

DAVIS: Let me—let me address that question with an example from my life. When I grew up in the segregated South, in the summers I would work as a domestic because I wanted to get monies to have during the schoolyear. And I remember that there was one of the women that I worked for who was telling me about a vacation that she had in the Caribbean and how wonderful it was that her friends who lived in the Caribbean worked from 9:00 to 2:00 and they had the most wonderful life. And I said—I was a teenager—I said that sounds great, I’d love to have a life like that. And she looked at me and she said, but, Ruth, that’s not for people like you. That was the minute that I decided that I was going to be somebody and that I was going to take advantage—(applause)—of all that America offered.

So when I was chatting with the king of Spain, I thought—(laughter)—is this for people like me? (Applause.)

LOMELLIN: Wonderful. I’ve been in places where—I’m the first one in my family to graduate from college, I’m the first to do dot-dot-dot. I said two words: You belong. You belong.

I remember the first time I walked in—because I worked in the White House during President Clinton’s administration. The first time I was, like, actually walking, I couldn’t breathe. It’s, like, again, what the heck am I doing here? I don’t know anything.

But you do. You have so much to contribute and so much to offer. Usually, it’s a different perspective on life. You have had, I’m sure, incredibly valuable experiences that it’s important that others hear them. So, listen, you belong.

BIBBINS SEDACA: Yeah. I think a part of it is also all of us have had or have or may still have impostor syndrome, everyone in this room at some point. It is not about waiting for that day that you are fully confident. It’s about figuring out how to push through. So I’ll try not to get upset about it. (Laughter.)

But it’s figuring out how you push through. And when you push through and you say, OK, I’m here, I can either fail or succeed. Whether I belong here or not, I don’t feel like I do, but I’m going to—I’m going to push through and I’m either going to succeed or fail, let me try to succeed, that’ll be a better option. And when you succeed, you’ll go, oh, I just did that and I succeeded. OK, and you pushed through.

It doesn’t mean that you wait to that day and you’re only going to step into that room when you’re, like, I’ve got everything together, I’m fully confident, I know everything. Because truthfully, that day may never come for any of us in every situation. So you just say I’ve got this opportunity right now, how I got here is because someone saw something in me and I deserve to be here, I have a place at the table, and I’m going to use it, and then choose to push through it.

And the more you do that, the more you’re going to look back and be, like, oh, I did that, oh, and I’m still standing, and I’m OK. And then you’ll be able to push through the next time, because you’re just going to keep pushing yourself through these scary moments, but you’ve just go to own I am in that moment and I’ve got an opportunity, I can either succeed or fail.

And knowing that you will never have that day that every position you feel confident in. In fact, if you get to a point where you are always confident that you know everything and you are totally prepared, then you’re not doing enough. Right? You’ve got to be in those positions where you’re, like, I’m a little bit scared and I could fail.

And you know what? Fail. Don’t be defined by it, but just keep pushing through it.

DAVIS: There you go, that’s right.

LOMELLIN: If I could just add one more thing, just thinking about my experiences, is sometimes we have cultural barriers and we continue to self-impose those cultural barriers. Oh, man, I can’t go there. I mean, I’m not supposed to be there. Or I’m a woman, a Latina, should I really be there? You start self-doubting.

Just identify them for what they are and deal with them and put them aside. You could revert back with the cultural barriers when you go home and visit your parents. (Laughter.) But really, when it comes to the place of work, just put them aside.

JOHNSON: And I know he’s not popular based on the few comments you’ve made over the last couple of days, but Kanye—(laughter)—I mean, just like you said, that which does not kill you will only make you stronger.

But I will say that regardless of who you are, I don’t care if you are Christian, Muslim, white man, white woman, black man, life is not fair. It is only going to get more difficult. And I often hear people say it’s not fair. That’s just part of the game, the game is not fair. And you just have to go out every day, dust yourself off, leverage your mentors, your network, your family, and just keep pushing, because every one of us sitting here has some type of a handicap.

Q: Hi. My name is Conchin Astina-Murthy (ph). I am a second-year MFS student, one of Professor Bibbins Sedaca’s students.

And I just had a question for you about navigating intersectionality. So this panel is not only composed of women, but women of color. And I think sometimes, at least speaking from my own experience, in your professional life you’re navigating not only issues of sexism, but also, in some cases, racism or insensitivity. And I was just wondering, what are the tools that you’ve taken with you from your own experiences to navigate that professionally and keep moving?

BIBBINS SEDACA: I think when those barriers come, and they will come, to some extent, it is just addressing them head-on. We don’t—we don’t always know when it’s racism, when it’s sexism, when it’s some other ism, but addressing them for what they are and calling them out. This is where also having a community where you can say, hey, is this happening to you? OK, it’s not happening to you as a male, but it is happening to me. OK, well, I’m going to address whatever this thing is and I’m going to address it that, hey, this clearly isn’t happening to everyone, I don’t know why it’s happening to me, but it is happening to me, so I’m going to address it, and I think just stepping into those situations.

And to some extent, you know, I tell people, when you are in a group that is a minority, however you define that, to some extent you have to have it always at the front and never at the front. Right? Always at the front because it’s always a possibility, but never at the front that you lead every conversation saying “but I’m a black woman.”

I’m a professor at Georgetown University, right, a great honor to have. But you lead with that and you excel in that and you overcome and address the obstacles when they come, and they will come, as that thing, knowing in the back of your mind it could be these other things, but you address them as that.

And also, you have confidence that you are all of your identities, but one of your identities is also ambassador or professor or permanent representative. And stepping into that situation and addressing each of those, again, always knowing that that can be an issue, but never making it the only issue.

DAVIS: Yeah, I agree. Yeah.

JOHNSON: In the back.

Q: Hello. I’m Ashley Uzamere and I am a Master’s student at Georgetown University in the Global Health Program.

So I have a question because we’re talking about networking and mentorship and things like that. And I find myself in a lot of situations where I think I’m coming off too strong or I’m not coming off strong enough, I’m not making what I want be known because I don’t want to be too pushy. So as a student that’s trying to get their foot in the door, what are the things that you guys do not want to hear? And not just for you all, but for the other, you know, professionals in the room, what are things that are, like, no-goes that we wouldn’t know, we probably think that, you know, it’s an OK area to go to or something like that?

LOMELLIN: For me personally, don’t whine.

DAVIS: That’s right, a positive attitude.

BIBBINS SEDACA: Oh, no, sorry. (Laughter.)

LOMELLIN: No. Don’t sit and complain and poor me, this is what I’m going through, nobody is taking me—no, cut that out. Life isn’t fair, life isn’t easy, so deal with it, don’t whine. If you want to have a conversation about goals and objectives and how to get there, what are your thoughts, but don’t sit and throw a pity party because I won’t attend. (Laughter.)

DAVIS: I couldn’t agree more.

BIBBINS SEDACA: I agree. When you walk in and you have a conversation, if you’ve got 15 minutes with one of these folks, know what you want. Right? Know what you want. Don’t come in and say, well, I’m trying to figure out, what should I do? It’s not my job to figure out what you need to do. My job is to help you. But walk in and know what you want.

And don’t make excuses. Right? But what that—it doesn’t mean that you have to have everything organized, like, in the sense you don’t—you don’t have to know where you’re going to be in 50 years. Right? People have this idea that either I know nothing or I have everything planned. That’s not—those aren’t your options. But have a vision of where you’re going. And even if you’re doing deliberate searching, which is why I say to people that’s fine, deliberate searching is great, but then tell me as your mentor here’s how I’m deliberately searching. I’m thinking about this field, I’m thinking about this field, I’m thinking about this field. Can you just reflect back to me which of—what do you—what do you see in me, what do you think about these fields? But know what you’re asking of me.

And also, know how to read a room. So if you’re in a meeting with me and I’m doing this, I’m done with the meeting. Right? (Laughter.) And you need to know that, because all of us have limited—all of us have limited time. So know that you are also not the only thing on my agenda. I’m delighted to pour into you, but I’m probably delighted to pour into you for 30 minutes or 15.

So knowing where you stand in life is part of that. That comes with age. We’ve all blown it at some point. But know what you want in that meeting. Know that that’s not the only thing on the person’s agenda, and build that mutuality.

JOHNSON: Who all has a 401(k)? Who all plans on investing?

The most important investment that you can make is not in a 401(k), it’s in yourself. And I would say that, you know, education is not get your four-year degree and go to graduate school and you’re done. Education is a lifelong investment.

And one suggestion I would make is that I would fund my investment fund in myself before I fund in a 401(k). So think about where you have blind spots, take courses. I would say get a coach. You know, there are executive coaches out there. Any school that you go to, there are a list of executive coaches that you can talk to once a month about where you want to go, what skills, because that’s really important.

And then, look, learn how to play golf. You know, I think, you know, at the end of the day, you have to have an outlet. I mean, you can only talk about this foreign policy stuff, you know, so much. I mean, it’s great. But have—figure out some outlet that you have that has nothing to do with work, that you’re passionate about, because I’ve experienced that having outside activities and doing other things, you make connections to the point you develop relationships and mentors when you’re trying to hit a golf ball versus, you know, talking about, you know, what we’re going to do with North Korea.

So any other questions? One more? Right here.

Q: Good morning. My name is Karin Edwards. I’m a graduate student at American University.

I’m just curious to know what your definition of failure is, what does it look like for you, and how you’ve overcome it.

DAVIS: Failure actually is a very important component of success. You are going to fail at some point. And for me, failure is the lack of achieving my objectives. And you have to be honest about failure. And the question is not so much are you going to fail, the question is, how will you recuperate from that failure? And theoretically, you should learn from your failures and that will prepare you for success.

LOMELLIN: Agreed. Agreed.

BIBBINS SEDACA: Yeah, yeah. I would—I would echo that. Also, I think part of that is don’t be defined by your failure. We all fail. We’re doing a high-level search right now, we’ve got three great candidates, someone is going to fail and they’re great. I mean, they’re amazing. We all fail all the time. The question is, as Ambassador Davis is saying, what do you take away from it and how do you recoup?

But there’s a middle ground, which means don’t let it define you and then you become that failure, but also don’t say, oh, I did everything great and that’s their problem. You’ve got to say, what do I take away from this? Maybe I’m not good in—didn’t do as well in this and I’m just going to work on it. It doesn’t mean I’m not a great person, it just means I have work to do in that area. So find that middle spot where you learn from it, but you also don’t sit in that moment forever.

JOHNSON: And my only comment on failure is that fail often, especially at this point in your career. If you don’t look back over the course of the year and say, man, I really messed up on these eight things, you’re not going to be successful. I mean, if you look back over the course of the year, it’s, like, wow, I haven’t, you know, failed at anything, because by definition, failure is the assumption of risk and in order to have risk, risk is directly correlated with reward. And so look for areas that you’re not in your comfort zone, where you may not succeed, et cetera, et cetera.

And I’d just like to just end by saying, for me, this has been a fabulous panel and priceless. I hope it has been for you as well. I don’t think you get, you know, this type of honest, open dialogue on a daily basis. And I just want to thank all the panelists for everything. (Applause.)

And the other thing is that when you leave here today, when you go home, look in the car, look in the mirror, look in the mirror in the bathroom, and I can tell you what you’ll see when you look in the mirror, as Ambassador Davis said, you will see the future because you are it. (Applause.)


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