The School for Ethics and Global Leadership

White House leaders highlight final days of fall 2020

Date: Dec 10nd, 2020

The weather is turning colder but our learning is heating up! Our final weeks have included visits with two high-ranking White House leaders, an advisor to six Secretaries of State, and our social entrepreneurship coach.

The first White House leader to visit was Fernando Cutz, who served on the White House National Security Council under Presidents Obama and Trump. (At the NSC, he moved from Senior Advisor to National Security Advisor Lt. General H. R. McMaster, to Acting Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, to Director for South America.) Cutz, SEGL’s 2019 Golden Mug Award winner, told ethical tales not only from his time at the National Security Council (imagine having to pull the President from the golf course to share news of a potential nuclear disaster!), but from earlier in his life. He also spoke about his current work at Facebook, where he is Global Lead for Legal Takedown Request Operations.

Cutz visited as part of our final case study on Grand Strategy. That case begins with a basic introduction to international relations: first, an overview of social contract theory (Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau), and second, an overview of realism, liberalism, and other key IR theories. The students asked themselves questions like “why do governments form in the first place, and what does that have to do with how governments ought to interact together?” “what is the proper role (if any) of the United Nations?” and “is it right for a country to risk its own citizens’ lives in order to promote human rights?” Several case studies from earlier this summer (perhaps most notably our Rwanda case study) echoed through the conversation.

The case ends with an intense six-hour crisis simulation in which each student plays a key role in the Executive Branch as a series of crises unfold. You’ll have to ask a student what happened–and what reflections they have on their decision making!

Our second White House leader was Christy Goldfuss, the former Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Goldfuss was the final speaker in our climate change case study (which also included George W. Bush CEQ official Khaury Cauthen, Hon. Greg Walden (ranking member of the House Energy Committee), and lead U.S. climate negotiator Trigg Talley). The conversation was wide-ranging and touched several key climate and leadership themes. Student questions included how best to connect with those who deny climate change, the value of the “Green New Deal,” the connection between the current pandemic and the climate, and more.

We also met with the final speaker in our Israeli-Palestinian case study, Aaron David Miller. (Earlier this semester we met with Israeli Embassy spokesman Elad Strohmeyer and leading Palestinian negotiator Ghaith al-Omari.) Miller was a key advisor to six different U.S. Secretaries of State and is currently a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He helped provide context for the current status of the conflict and answered questions about his time as a lead negotiator for the U.S. at the 2000 Camp David II discussions and other key negotiations. (You can read one of Miller’s recent op-ed pieces here.)

We also wrapped up our social venture project (“SVP”) capstone with a second visit from Joe Weinstein, our SVP coach. Weinstein is a Senior Partner at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business “Business for Impact” project, which works with “companies, nonprofits, and government leaders to help solve the world’s most pressing issues.” He has previously worked at Arabella Advisors (which advises philanthropists), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Signal Vine, a start-up technology firm that improves student outcomes in college attainment and persistence. Weinstein’s mentorship (in particular, his “pitch sessions”) was instrumental in the success of our students’ final SVPs.

Next up: farewells and our graduation ceremony. What a semester it has been!