The Power of Idealism with Samantha Power
Samantha Power, Chase Jarvis
The Power of Idealism with Samantha Power
Samantha Power, Chase Jarvis
1. The Power of Idealism with Samantha Power
The Power of Idealism with Samantha Power1:34:35
The Power of Idealism with Samantha Power
Harry. What's up? Welcome to another episode of the Chase Travis Live show here on Creative Live. You know the show. This is where I sit down with amazing humans, and today's guest is one of those amazing humans. This bio is heavy, so get ready. She's a writer. She's a renowned speaker, public servant, Pulitzer Prize winner among so many things. So again, hold on to your headphones for this bio, uh, and know that we talk about some huge stuff in this episode, like using creativity to solve the world's biggest problems, like storytelling, and what a critical skill is in almost any job in the world. Why art and our humanity are among the biggest means for connection. That's right. I am talking about Ambassador Samantha Power. Ambassador Power began her career as a journalist reporting from places like Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, Zimbabwe. She was the founding executive director of the Car Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School. Then she became a distinguished profes...
sor of practice at the Harvard Law School, and from to 2017, she served as the U. S. Ambassador to the U. N. And a member of President Obama's Cabinet. She served on the National Security Council as a special assistant to the president, and she, you know, who wrote her first book Again, which won a Pulitzer. She also has several others. Um, most recent one just came out this week in paperback called Education Oven Idealist, and it was recently named one of the best books of 2019 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Economist, Vanity Fair, NPR, Time and others. And she's about to go before the Senate to get confirmed to run now the largest aid agency in the world, President Biden said when announcing her for the new critical role. She's a leading voice for humane and principled engagement in the world. She will rally the international community and work with our partners to confront the biggest challenges of our time. And I'm telling you, you are in for a treat, So I'm going to get out of the way. And please welcome to the show Ambassador Samantha Power. We love you, Ambassador Power. Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here today. Very grateful to be here. Um well, to say well, for the for the first of all, folks who might not be familiar with your work. As I mentioned, uh, in our little gathering before the show, the audience of our show is largely creators and entrepreneurs. Um, people who identify with trying to develop take inspiration from a wide swath of folks. Part of my job as the host. This show is to curate a really diverse set of voices. And yours is a voice that has, um, so much experience and is slightly different than most of the guests the entrepreneurs say that we have on this show. Although you are very entrepreneurial in your own way, you you have been an ambassador, and you started off as a journalist. And so, for people who are not familiar with your work, if you could help us just, you know, ground us in time and space with your personal experience and maybe intro how you got to where you are today. Okay, great. Thank you. Um, well, first I should say that I'm an immigrant to America from Ireland. I came when I was nine years old. Not by myself. My mother came wanting. There was no divorce in Ireland. back then, Uh, the Catholic Church was very influential, and my mother and my father, unfortunately splitting up. So my mother came with my younger brother and me with a fellow Irish doctor who she would go on to marry later, when she'd been in this country long enough and we lived in Pittsburgh. And then I went to high school in Atlanta, Georgia. I was into sports like that. You just if you heard my name in my school or in any of the environments I found myself in, I was either playing sports or talking about sports. And I was a political. My began his newcomers to this country. I would have known the difference between a Democrat or Republican and I probably because I was Irish. I think Irish kids have a decent grasp of geography in their DNA because I think there's some sense in the bloodstream that you might have to leave someday, uh, dating many centuries back. So, you know, even though I was not, I was I was a decent student. But even though my focus was on sport, I would have had some sense that there were things happening out in the world, particularly back in my home country of Ireland, where my family still were. And but if you'd asked me in college what I would go on to do, I'd say, Well, I've failed to become an Olympiad or a professional athlete So I guess I'm gonna be a sportscaster. And the summer after my first year at Yale, I was interning in the sports department of the CBS affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia, where I got to high school and I was taking notes on a what I thought was the most important thing in the world that day, which was in Atlanta Braves game on As I was taking notes in order to cut the sports highlight for the evening news, the footage from Tiananmen Square was beamed in on the CBS News feed, which I would not again, as a matter of course, have been watching, but for the serendipity of having to cut the sports highlights. And what I saw in that footage was kids my age is after my freshman year was 18 years old, getting mowed over by tanks, kids who have been protesting for weeks and actually been allowed to protest prior to that point kids jumping onto their bicycles and draping the wounded over the handlebars. And so far it was just an arresting set of images. And it wasn't a movie. It was riel. And it didn't make me say, one day I'm going to be U N. Ambassador. I'm gonna be standing up for human, right? I mean, that would have been like saying one day I'm gonna live on Mars. I mean, it was so far from my life experience, so far from where I would have had even thimbles worth of confidence to be able to think about going. But it did. It is a you know, I can kind of feel it viscerally, even to this day, which gives you a sense of what it even meant at the time. You know, sometimes we go back and we find out of the haze of the highlight reel. You know, these events and maybe superimposed ah, meaning onto them. But I definitely talked to friends at the time and said, This is galvanizing. I have to know more about what's going on in the world. I went back to college, became a much more serious student. I still had a sports show with a group of guys at night where we sounded off with big opinions, sort of a precursor to talk radio. I'm embarrassed to say not of the podcast vintage O. R. Uh, depth. But after college, I was by then much more informed about events in the world. The Cold War had ended. I graduated in 1992 the Persian Gulf War had occurred and these big coalition had been mobilized to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and it felt like the rules of the road might actually exist that human rights might actually be enforced and promoted. And then there was this conflict in the former Yugoslavia. That was kind of cutting in the opposite direction where people were being ethnically cleanse and it was heartbreaking, and but also just again kind of seemingly counter historical like it was like a relic, it seemed now, little did I know then that in some ways it's a preview for some of the sectarianism and extremism and tribalism that we see even plaguing our own society. At the time, it felt like a last gasp off. A group of people hadn't gotten the memo that things were about to get better, and the liberal liberalism was going to prevail worldwide and all of that, but because I had been a sports reporter and I'd covered the college volleyball team in basketball team on because I had no other skills to actually be able to help anybody. But because I was now open, my my innards were kind of open to taking in what was happening there. I looked Thio to find a way to make a difference because it was this was refugees one and two people in Bosnia where displaced and sent into Europe. And again we've had such high hopes for what Europe would become after the Cold War ended and so unable toe work for a humanitarian aid agency or really do anything that felt tangible to be of use. I thought to myself, Well, I can write a lede. Aiken write 500 words or 800 words. And maybe what I really need to do is get a deeper education about what could make people turn on each other like this. And with that, I got an agreement from U. S. News and World report. Uh, you know, one of the glossy magazines with Time and Newsweek at the time to just take my what were called collect calls. Remember, collect calls to Rio charges That was a big deal in those days. So to get an editor to agree, yes, we'll take your collect call. You could build us. That was like hitting the jackpot. So I went over, and I had never really reported in anything other than basketball, baseball, volleyball, crazy and but the community of people who were there were young people like me who are equally horrified, and they took me under their wing and taught me the ways of the ways of the road. You know, let me be in their armored cars because I had no resource is because I was just a freelancer and really educated me. So I was the beginning of what I call the education of an idealist, I guess. But just learning the trade craft of how to be a war correspondent, I couldn't have learned that on my own. And and it's a zoo. You know, journalism has a reputation for being so cut throat and and that people would be sort of kissing up or kicking down, and it wasn't like it was. It was amazing. It was mainly women, actually, young women who had gone and were similarly freelances. But they were freelancers, but they were further along in their evolution. So so that was where I cut my teeth. I learned I was there for 2.5 years. I learned about what can cause ethnic conflict. I learned about the U. N. And the limits of its response. I learned about the solidarity of working in a community which I had never experienced before was a lot like a team sport in some ways, which is not what journalism is often accused of being. And but I also, I guess, experienced the sort of hollow sense that you have when you write something that is searing and you feel it's kind of landing on deaf ears. And so I suppose, if Tiananmen and seeing those images from June of 1989 in Beijing was like a first inflection point, a second was actually succeeding in becoming someone who wrote for The Washington Post in The Economist. I had you know, this amazing set of relationships and ended up on the front page and and yet having a sense that the people in Washington who were reading these stories, they may very well have been moved. They may. I may very well even have succeeded from a literary sense of bridging these distances. But the reporting I was doing was grimmer every day. You know, the war was just getting worse for the people that I was coming to carry out an awful lot about because they were right. They were my neighbors and my friends. And so I left Bosnia before the war ended just before and went to law school. Go figure. But I had some big idea that I would go, like hunt down the bad guys and the Hague. True, the crimes tribunal had just been set up, but I could be a prosecutor. But instead, when I was in law school, I wrote a paper for a class on American Responses to Genocide in the 20th century 20 page paper that became a 50 page paper that became an 80 page paper that eventually five years later became a book and one senator named Barack Obama, who had just been elected, uh, in this sort of in 2006. That right? No sorry. 2004. He was elected and took took office into early 2005. He read the book and he's like, All right, Why's why's gal You got all these big ideas? I'm new to Washington. I care a lot about thinking differently about foreign policy. Come join me and let's let's figure some of the stuff out together. And so that was a major change in my in my life's journey and brought me to Washington and ultimately culminated in me being US ambassador to the U. N. That was a long accounts of a winding road. I apologize. No thing is why people tune in because they don't want the short version. They want the long version and you're the I mean, to be fair, you just sort of, I guess, traversed like 25 years, right? Eso that you did a great job and but there's so much toe unpack there for our listeners and watchers and, um, a couple of places I'd like Thio cut in if I may, and one of them starts with you talked about, um, being an outsider early on when you you know, first went there and didn't know the craft and you had just enough. It sounds like from your sports journalism it just enough to be dangerous and not enough to, you know, do the job to excel at the job and to say, I think your words were felt like an outsider or new to the role or whatever. Um, I was hoping you could, because there's so many people are watching listening that they're moving into a new area of life where they are a now outsider. Or there's imposter syndrome or, um, they need to seek mentor, ship or guidance or be a part of a community. What role? It just sort of triangulate a couple things like mentorship, um, imposter syndrome. Feeling like an outsider. You know, what role did that play in shaping who you are? And if you could give any advice on how you like tactically, how did you start to? I don't know if the right word is assimilate or um or join that community and learn and grow in your craft. Maybe I'll go back in time. Just Thio. When I came to America and I hadn't even thought of the analogy until you pose the question in the way that you have. But when I moved thio America as a kid, I noticed that everyone around me was talking about baseball. I moved to Pittsburgh. The Pirates were winning the world. Siri's, The Steelers were about to win the Super Bowl, and I think just reflexively as a kid, you're like, Okay, what's the currency? This is the currency. And and so if I flash forward to being in Bosnia, I think that I felt completely like an outsider. I mean, from the basics of being asked by National Public Radio not long after I arrived to do a spot and saying, Yes, absolutely. I'll call you back in a few minutes and I'll do the spot hanging up and saying to my close friend there at the time, Laura, what's a spot? A zit has actually a regular English language. Meaning s so I know what a spot is. But what's this kind of spot? And and you know what is the arc of it? And then being so embarrassed to, like, try it out in front of her and and, you know, afraid that I'd be I'd be shunned or that I'd be outed. You know, that's how we mainly feel when we're new to something. And now we're all confident. And but what I what I thought to myself is, you know what? What can I bring? I mean, what do I know? That these people don't know? These people have been covering this war. Maybe they started covering the Croatian War and they've been in Bosnia from the beginning. I was a year came, like, 15 months into the Bosnian war. And you can imagine you're sitting around late at night and they're drinking their whiskey and you're drinking yours, and you feel like they deserve their whiskey like they've been here for 15 months, living under siege in Sorry about now, out, Let's say, in a more peaceful part of the region and entitled to their drink, you know, what the hell have I done? And one of things I noticed was that most of them were very dependent on interpreters, local interpreters who became their close friends. Um, these were more like partnerships, but I had before coming I had started to learn to seek to learn at least server Croatian. I don't have a gift for languages, but I do have a gift for stubbornness. So I was I was like, All right, I'm gonna be the person who they don't have to pay. He's gonna be the colleague who's never gonna be great. Like it's never gonna be, you know, TV, interview, quality translation. But maybe if I studied my flashcards long enough, I nerd out on this language I can get by and I can. Thus, when we're on the road and we have a flat tire, God forbid in a in a war zone, I could be the person engaging about how to get the flat tire fixed. Or I can get through an interview, depending on you know, the level of education of the person I might be speaking with. And and so I dug into that, and I dug into history. And these air, this is Maura kind of rational answer than a spiritual one, I suppose, But But it really was about, you know, how can I feel like I'm not just a hanger on or freeloader for people who know what they're doing? Because I knew I was there not only taking notes on my interviews, but taking notes on the way others were taking notes and others. I knew what I didn't know. What I do think that that's that has been a strength. It's a weird strength, I suppose. But I am always acutely aware, at least of the outer bounds of the limits of what I know, and so that sort of not being afraid. Thio ask questions. Or to appear there's a vulnerability in asking questions. There's a vulnerability and admitting the novelty of of something and not kind of faking experience. And I was I made myself very vulnerable in those days, but at the same time, I worked at trying to be in a position toe offer something, and I think in a way, my my friends from that time we just say You didn't need to offer anything. You were just one of us, like we we had started 15 months before and been equally clueless. We didn't we didn't need you toe interpret, but it's all psychological in my own head. I just felt so much better when when I felt like I was giving something back to this community. I I love that answer not only because it plays into a personal belief in mind, but because it is heartfelt, in earnest and vulnerable. But there's some really e thinks, um, precise language that I want to try and attached to it. First of all, you said earlier, you know, this is, in a way, the education of idealist and again for those new to you and your work. I want to say Congratulations on your book titled said earlier phrase. The Education of Ideal, an idealist. Your memoir, which was a New York Times bestseller. Just come out in paperback. Eso a congratulations. And for those folks who are New Year work, I cannot recommend it enough Page Turner and so much history and self reflection and humility. Humanity. That's just it's incredible. So, um, first of all, congratulations. But if we think about this, what I hear in your voice is this idealism Aiken, go there. I can. What I'm hearing also is deconstructing the world around you and this idea of, uh I think of it in two steps and I want to share this and then have you reflect and see if I'm off on the mark or off the mark and what you would editorialize. So in in deconstructing what you said is the currency of others, there's almost a humility and respect for those who've come before you, the work that they've done but also you. It seemed like you did that as a ah way to connect and be a part of something. But there's some switch in there that you flipped and you started to do your own thing. You started to take the have a sense of confidence, or I'm curious is where I want you Thio pick up my narrative here and say, What was it? Because there's a humility to fit in? And then there's also has to be some sort of desire to stand out. You can't do those things at the same time you did one first. Where did that come from? And if you think of who we're talking to today, the community that listens to this like that is a really important sort of skill or self awareness, and it's seemingly in the story that you just tell it's It was intuitive to you. So pick up where I I and again or throw rocks at this concept that I'm introducing here. But Well, you know, I think so. What? I've become familiar in later years with the idea of being, And the expression I keep hearing is mission driven, right, Mission driven. And that could mean a whole host of things. And it could be a blinding way to live in the world in so far as you can lose perspective. And indeed, if I think of myself in my early twenties, maybe with a sizable dose of sanctimony about what so and so in Washington should do about this or that or the other thing, Um, you know, I may have. I may have been in the mission driven to a false kind of category, but I I was very actually motivated by e mean. It just sounds again, sort of cheesy, if nothing else, But just it was so horrible what was happening, Uh, in this place at that time. In some ways, it's a reflection of the kind of relatively privileged, privileged life that that I had lead, you know, being from Ireland, coming to America, being embraced, ultimately, you know, by my classmates having these educational opportunities. But to go from, you know, being a Yale College student to being in Sarajevo, as people are just being targeted because of their ethnicity. That wasn't supposed to be happening anymore in Europe, right? Like we'd all read Elie Weisel and we read about Anne Frank and we pledged Never again in our political culture, in our popular culture. Schindler's List had just come out the year that I would end up moving thio Bosnia. And I'm mentioning this, which is a little bit of a tangent from your question, because I do think it it rendered less salient for me. The question of Am I standing out and it, By the way, I'm not sure my colleagues would even agree with what I'm saying here, you know, because it rendered way more salient for me. Am I writing for publications that are going to be read by people who can make a difference in the lives of people here? And that's so if presumptuous for sure, pompous, potentially as well. But it was I was I was literally like this was, you know, the Internet was there, but it wasn't the same today. We're like, today I could write for the Boston Globe, and I could just know you know that if if I broke a story and uncovered a mass grave or if I wrote a very compelling you know, it would sort of circulate in the in the corridors of power. Maybe you could assume that today I think you can. But then it was much more siloed the media environment. And so I wanted to be a freelancer for The Washington Post. I wanted to when I saw, you know, kids who were jumping rope in a playground and picked off by snipers or by shellfire. And I wrote that story and wrote about the impotence of the U. N. Peacekeepers who were There are the policymakers behind them. I really wanted President Clinton to be reading that article like I was, and that was a little weird, right? That was that was not all that I mean, others were very moved and had come to the former Yugoslavia because of they were they was sort of like the Spanish Civil War. Back in the day, it was it was it had that same kind of magnetic pull on people who wanted to tell the stories of people who were voiceless. But I went that next to that next step of you know, I wonder if the assistant secretary for Europe it's really like that, like, again nerd ing out on on the other side of it about what was happening back in Washington. And so why is that an answer to your prior question? Because I have found over my career, and I and I'm thinking about this now, as I was, I contemplate, you know, a new, a new job of even greater ambition arguably than anything I've ever done in terms of ambition for impact in the world. And I have a set of hiring decisions that will be before me soon, And I've just learned that those people that are that can articulate the mission that moves them most. The hunger they have to acquire the skills for lack of a better word, to figure shit out, to be able to get things done on behalf of what? Like what? What gets them out of bed in the morning? That is the most adaptive, um, professional qualification that I confined. It's at least the chapeau under which a lot of those other, um you know, kind of skills can fall or it's what motivates again the acquisition of those skills. So So I think that my my drive, which toe others might have just looked like she wants to be in The Washington Post, You know, she's not only she one of us, you know, Now she's insisting on, you know, sucking up to get that freelance arrangement, you know, or whatever. However it might have looked when I look back on myself. It was so kind of innocents and clueless in its way in believing that if if, as if President Clinton didn't have access to all the most important information in the world already, I mean, it was it was delusional, You know that if I only wrote that story in that way, that that could kind of change the calculus. So but I But I do mention it because, boy, if you come and I say this to young people, because now I'm back on the campus and in the classroom, you know, if you go from instead of, I believe in social justice or I want to promote human rights or I, you know, want to deal with systemic racism and can drill into that and be really specific about your slice of that. I do find that that ends up being, um, a recipe for, you know, just instrumental izing Those skills were just like, Okay, I need to learn how to fundraise now, Dammit. That book that would have seemed really boring if I would order it from Amazon no matter what. But, you know, I got my Twitter account. I got the phone, I got my kids. I got, like, many things. We're gonna keep you away from reading that book. But if I have a mission to raise money around black lives matter in this moment or, uh, you know, to deal with the migration or displacement crisis at the southern border in this moment, my motivation of this stickiness right of a mission where you then attach the skills that you just need on. But you're you're almost mindless about acquiring them because it's so driven by what's motivating you in the first place trip that is so well articulated. And it it mirrors an experience that I had in my first time. I really felt like I wanted to learn something. There's school and there's getting a good grade good or passing grade and the things that others want you to do. And then there was my desire to say, learn how to be a photographer, how to tell stories and that it was a moment of what was an awareness moment for me. Like not only does this not sound like work, but this is required. This is like, this is the thing standing between where I am right now and where I want to be. And, you know, if you go back to the title of your book the education of idealist, I think there is this that is sort of baked into that thought that that you shared and it is idealism. But yet here you are. You know, not only have you not been in service of that mission, but you, it could be fair to say that you blew that original ambition out of the water. And so, you know, help me synthesize for people at home, like how important that idealism is because we're often told to give up on our dreams. And, you know, maybe when you're there in Bosnia, your colleague, instead of telling you what a a spot was, could have just rolled their eyes and said, You know, what are you doing? You don't belong on you know, NPR or or even if they just made a joke and didn't give you the information or, you know it's hard to, and this is also from from even neutral parties, they might not not want you to succeed. But they're like, You know who you know, who are you to fill in the blank? And I believe that that's a huge part of our culture. We want to surround ourselves with people that lift us up and empowers and engages. And even if those people aren't there, that you what? What can you do for yourself? Acknowledging the privilege port that you said earlier like if you're in a community where that's not, um, popular than its, you have an extra gravitational pole that you need to, you know, escape velocity or whatever. But, you know, speaking very specifically, you are an idealist, and yet you've been able to accomplish so many of the things, maybe even outperform your own idealism, given the role that you're stepping until we could get into that in a little bit. But how you know what advice would you give to others that might have Might feel, disproportionately that gravitational pull that that sort of media, you know, this like the beige, the mediocrity that, for better or I would argue for worse is pervasive in our culture. You escaped that you remained an idealist. You wrote the book with that title, You clearly living it. What advice would you give to others who are contemplating it? But afraid, yes, it's a great question. So first of all, what I would say is that, um, my idealism really is is is not Grant, right? Um, in so faras I think it's a general sense working for the president. I'll come to with how crazy stuff happened in the end, but but it's a pretty simple, like, I think, I think, you know, almost irrespective of one's line of work or even increasingly see that get with younger and younger people. You know, even high school students and middle schoolers. Just a basic sense that the world is not optimized. We're not in. We could do better, right? And then a related sense. And this is where people I think stumble and I have stumbled through my life which is, and Aiken, Not even that I can do something about it, but I'm gonna try to do something about it. And the it is not saving the whole world. It's some sliver and and like next to the problems of the world arguably minuscule, minuscule sliver. And so there are two things and what I'm saying, I mean, it is that sometimes I think that, you know, even when when you look at the trajectory of the career that I've been fortunate enough to have if I had set out and said as I was sort of joking that I never would have in in the moment where I first sort of got a little reoriented towards caring about international affairs or human rights back during the Tiananmen time if I had said to myself, my goal is to become U N ambassador. First of all, they're in madness lies like anybody who sets their goal around a title or position. Forget about, I mean, you've increased the utter impossibility. The odds of of that ever happening have plummeted. And and I have, you know, young people come up to me is like I you know, I love your life. It's incredible. And I also want to change the world. How do I become U. N Ambassador? You know, one day, like don't do that And it's not Just don't do that because you sound like an asshole. Its's, It's Don't do that because then you won't. You won't. It's what you were talking about. It you won't have the stores of experience and, frankly, the ever incrementally expanding skill set to make your difference. Right? And so So my idealism again is more sort of at a general level. And had I set my sights, you know, on ending the war in Bosnia singlehandedly, I probably would be a sportscaster now, right? Because I would have been that would have been a crushing defeat. It wouldn't it wouldn't have happened. Or I certainly would have. I had as a kid, you know, a huge impact in in events there. And so this is the important point is that I think and I don't know why I've been instinctively that this has been my approach. But I have always set the immediate goal in a rather modest way, and I have this sort of way I describe it in the book that I It's sort of ah, term that I've come thio use or phrase that I've come to use for, which is the ex test right where you're at a crossroads Something in you is It's like things are a little off. You've either exhausted what you can learn or you have exhausted, which you can contribute. Or maybe you know, somebody's driving crazy, whatever, something's a little off or you're seeing something on the horizon. Maybe something on the news that you want to do something about. If you set your objective to be fixing that thing that you've seen on the news, it's gonna be really hard to take that leap right and thio to just go. And that's just again, a degree of gumption that most of us do not have, right, that I'm gonna leave my job and I'm gonna go fix this problem. If, by contrast, you say okay, the problem, for example, that that animates me a lot is refugee the refugee crisis, the largest displacement around the world than at any point since the Second World War. So I could say I want, you know, the last administration. Let's say thio change its immigration policy. Or I want governments around the world to give more money to UNHCR. So there'll be more food and shelter and education for these folks. Um, but that said it's like, um I gonna really as a private citizen now, no longer, um, I am I gonna have it within my reach to be able to make that kind of difference. Probably not. And I know that even modest success is fuel its fuel for again an incrementally enhanced set of objectives. So instead, to simply say, I'm going to adopt one refugee family and damn it, I'm gonna help those kids get through high school, and I'm gonna make sure that they see a friendly in a welcoming side of America. And so the ex test for me is when you're at a crossroads to say to oneself If all I get out of doing this next thing is X, will it have been worth it? And so in that, in the refugee context of all I do is help three people who Syrian American Syrians who come to America in this horribly inhospitable time. Well, damn that like that be a good way to spend ah, year or a week or a life, frankly, to help three people. And so even then I was in government. I was in the Cabinet, the president, United States. That still ends up being a really useful way of embarking on risk because it's kind of self protective. It acknowledges one's own kind of fear of those big gaps between one's goals and ones. You know what one delivers it. You could get build teams more easily around it. You can kind of meet people where they are, where they're thinking. Also, Samantha's got some crazy idea again about how we're going to fix this or that. No, it just say, Hey, hey, team, You know, if all we do is this we launched when I was U N ambassador campaign to free 20 female political prisoners around the world. And when you think about America, the superpower, the idea that our campaign would be just that it's so small, so modest, and yet oh my God, the young foreign service officers in the civil service officers, when the first woman got out of jail and was reunited with her family, I mean, you would have thought we'd, you know, resolved every conflict on planet Earth for the morale boost. And yet when I set out Thio launch that campaign, I didn't say to them we're going to get these women out of jail. Even that seemed too ambitious. What I said is think of how their families will feel if they know that the United States is standing with their wife or mother or daughter and just the signal that that was in that show of solidarity. Think of the ways in which we can use thes single cases to expose systemic injustice. Where there had, there's been impunity and, you know, that's that's a good in its own right. So So So the idealism is there, and the kind of grand ambition is out there. Yes, I want to change the world, but But I just I know that world changing happens in the tiniest bites, just as a practical matter. But but also that Teoh attach yourself to something small that is actually within your grasp and that can be achieved can end up kind of weirdly counterintuitively being more motivation, more easy to get. People pass that precipice where they're thinking. I want to try to make a difference. But now I don't really think I can. I'm not one of those people. I'm not a self described idealist. I'm just a person, right? And you said, We know, like, let's not define idealism in this, you know, galaxy altering way. Let's define it as Is there anything out there you'd like to see different? Is there some slice of it that together we could we could make a dent in like, Let's let's see if we can articulate that that there, I'm going to try and put that into one phrase that I've used in the show, and that's that you don't actually have Thio understand and know the whole staircase. You just have to take the first step. The first step reveals the second or the third, and it's your narrative around that is so powerful because it's actionable. There's so many people who are listening right now who would be paralyzed with the thought of trying to end the conflict in Bosnia or land on the moon if you're Mars, if you're alone, musk or, um, I remember So Cory Booker is a friend has been on this show before and Senator Booker at the time was the mayor of of Newark, New Jersey, and he talked about fixing potholes. And you could add him on Twitter. If you'd see a pothole, you take a picture of it and he would say on it And how that small, incredibly tangible act of repairing potholes that citizens individual citizens would reach out to their mayor and the he'd put in place of the mechanism to repair those in, like, 24 hours. How powerful that was. You talked about galvanizing others building teams. And I'm wondering if that has that been this this fix or help three families? Has that been, uh, a part of your journey in all of these different disciplines? Because right now we're talking about the crisis in Bosnia, help one Bosnian family. And then, you know, you're seeing women being released from prison, etcetera. Have you applied that to other areas? This just see the first step and then suddenly you find yourself in the President's Cabinet. Is this a known function? Let me let me describe it. Let me answer in an immensely parochial and self involved way, which is so and again, this is This is the answer to the people who want to leap from from a to Z right without like, from the bottom of staircase to the top of the staircase to take your metaphor. But, you know, every career crossroads that I've been at, I think that I made the sort of on paper kind of wrong decision in so far as if my goal had been to become U. N ambassador. I did the thing that would seem seemingly have taken me. That wasn't my goal. I would have never dared to even think of that. But But, I mean, just again, taking the top of the staircase and making it sort of titular positional in that way. So, you know, graduated from college and had a lot of opportunities back in the day, Um, and decided I'm gonna go be a freelance or correspondent because I have such vast experience covering thier basketball and volleyball team. I'm gonna make it doesn't work out. Then I actually get the string after two years writing for The Economist in The Washington Post, which would have been, you know, is a somebody had become a bit of a foreign policy nerd just so thrilling to me and I'm there and it's working. And I have a chance potentially to go back and work for these publications and become a full fledged foreign correspondent not, you know, a freelancer. I mean, I know I'm gonna go to law school and then I'm in law school and I end up through serendipity mainly, but partnering with somebody and we set up a human rights center together. I end up getting to teach at Harvard's Kennedy School, which is all these young public servants. Incredible sort of idealistic culture, but also through teaching. You learn so much yourself. I have health insurance. My mother's over the moon. Finally, I have health insurance, and then this. I meet this first term senator named Barack Obama and yeah, you could say, Okay, that was a good career move, Samantha. But he didn't have a job to offer me. He didn't have anything that you know. He was building out his staff and he'd already filled the key jobs. And I said, Well, why don't I come and affected? My book had come out and the book had done well and been read by a lot of people. And, you know, I could have been all you know, Hadi and said I need this and I did. But like I was gonna do that, I said to myself, What's the worst thing that can happen if I go down and work with him in his Senate office? Um, I absolutely x test, right? If all I get out of this is, I learn about the role that the Congress can play as a check and balance on the executive branch and what it does in foreign policy. I mean, this is my career's I'm learning more and more about foreign policy is a as I grow. And if all I do is get an up close understanding of the limits of congressional oversight and the possibilities your respective of what Barack Obama does with his time or his life like that, that's better than going Thio graduate school and and learning that and, um and lo and behold, it is Barack Obama. I could learn about how to be a better public speaker at the bare metal, so I'm like itemizing these tiny you know, people are thinking you're gonna go work for the future of the Democratic. What? He's gonna be president one day. I'm like, I think I could learn to be a better public speaker, you know, like in other words, to just define it. It's so self protective. It's kind of ridiculous. And then, of course, he, despite giving me assurances that he has no intention of running for president anytime soon. And what kind of guy would come and be there for two years and then run for president? Hey would end up running for president. And similarly, you know, as I thought about going into government and having been an activist and been a journalist, you know, if all I achieved is be that voice in the room standing up for people who are not in those meetings in the situation room, I can't guarantee they're gonna be huge outcomes. I mean, there's a lot of gravity in American foreign policy that cuts in favor of military assistance, and, you know, not scrutinizing some of the relationships that we have around the world. And it's hard to elevate sexual violence against women and girls in the halls of power. And, you know, I had written a book on how hard it Waas. But if all I did was just I was in those meetings raising that voice that someone out there would know that that that that voice was there, that was a kind of low bar to clear. And so So, you know, these things have come along and they look, you know, increasingly grand and, um, you know, and as if they and there is a stature associated with them. But at each instance, I'm and I'm as I approached this new mission potentially that I will have in this world. I'm trying to think What's my ex test? You know, if all I do is what will it have been worth it to the institution? Will it have been worth it to the people who are placing faith in May? Well, have been worth it to my family and my kids who are now It's gonna be going back into the 24 7 national security. You know what kind of better world Um, I am I leaving in being a less available mom that I might have been the last four years, and so I find it really helpful to just you kind of define away. Oh, are. You could just kind of create a minimalist account of what success can look like that then gets you up to that second stair, and then you're in, as you say, and you look around, You think Okay, um, that actually worked. And now look at all these collateral things that never even occurred to me. I would get out of this. I'm kind of glossing hard parts, right? Like there's a lot of you know, the other thing about being on the front end is you don't know you anticipate bad things that you may not. That may not even happen. And you don't anticipate bad things that do happen or challenges that do happen. But even that once you're in it, once you've taken that leap, you're in the scrum and you learn about yourself. If you're lucky, you'll either figure it out. It will be someone around who has figured it out. Who can share that with you? And I think that's the other thing. As you get older and more experiences, it's less than you get a higher opinion of yourself than that. You just learn about your own resilience and also that it isn't just you write that you are a part of institutions and communities that are larger than you. And so you don't have to just go into facing a challenge and think, Can I do this? You can instead think, you know, can I, uh can I quickly find the people who are mission driven who will also not rest? Uh, you know, until we find at least a pathway to some impact, even if we can't find, like, a highway thio to the kind of major impact that we wish we could make. Yeah, it's It's like the goal isn't avoiding mistakes because mistakes are certain. It's really about error, recovery and adaptability and sort of you continually you're putting yourself in the space over and over. Um, one thing that struck me while you were talking there is, um, the concept of intuition, and I was wondering if you could share with me what role intuition has played in your career. Arc, um, you know, through the lens of your humanity through the lens of your career path through the lens of your professional ambition. Like what role has? I'm a fascinated by this concept and which is why I wanna ask it. It's a regular regular on the show, but roles that played for you, I think every one of those junctures that I've mentioned to you and now the one I find myself at I would have referred to it as my gut, right. It's it's. And I think I think it's the same thing. Um, just some kind of I think I used the word before magnetic pull in a certain direction. Now what I will say, though, is that I think that we can become that were the friends of our own pool of intuitions in this way in that, you know, in the periods where I have made time to read and and connect with other people, my intuitions get a hell of a lot sharper write in the times when I'm doom. Scrolling as I might have been for much of the last four years, uh, you know, your intuitions can lie a little bit fallow. You know, they Mayan my intuition evolves, um, in, um, or in a more pointed and directional way when I have when? When there are a number of inputs. Um and so you know, I even even as I've thought about the prospect of, you know, if I had the chance to serve again, um, you know, served this country be be out there in the world, Um, trying to harness the tools of the U. S. Government and promote American values and interests. If I had the chance, how would how would I wait? That decision against the feeling that my kids air just getting used to me being around and especially with Cove it, of course, more around more than they ever imagined. Um, you know, 11 and eight year old night and for, really, for the whole period that I've been not in government, I've been thinking, What will it be like? And I've really tried to stay in the present and just say this great expression don't borrow trouble from the future, right? And it is trouble, right? Because it's an actual you can. You can gloss it as best you can, but it's a trade offs involved in all big commitments in our lives. And but I've the reason I was able to actually largely with exceptions, but largely heed the don't borrow trouble from the future and don't imported dilemma before it is presented. E mean, you know, somebody different had to win the presidency. That new president had to actually calling me and be interested in me serving. That's that's two really big ifs. And but what I knew about myself was until the decision was before me, the set of variables and the kind of ecosystem in which I was sort of trying to listen to my God and trying to find my intuition. You can't make that up. And if you can't project what that's going to be in the future, you can't project what your mother is going to say to you and how it's gonna land. And and you know, the team of people that you might have the chance to work with. That you might have imagined if he won and it be the other, it could be better. It could be worse, and I think just that it's really hard to maintain that discipline it. It's certainly hard to know. Apart from the future, that's impossible, you know, for most of us to do. But the discipline of saying you know just that intuition is not static, and at the same time, you know just as we would if we were planting a garden. You know, you want to give it the sunlight, You want to give it the water. You wanna you wanna you wanna give it the care you wanna. You wanna make sure that that you're allowing just a set of what the right word is even like inputs or set of voices instead of in commensurate kind of considerations to be part of that swirl, and for me, that requires not being on my phone and, you know, kind of allowing your intuition to breathe. But but not to think that it all has to be self generated. I think that is I talked to you is kind of a recurring theme, right? It's that when you're younger, you think everything is going to come from you that you're just gonna look in and you're gonna know, You know, that's the man I wanna marry, And that's the career I'm gonna want to pursue. But in fact, if you're just getting lots of exposures, you know, I mean, hopefully not not too many in the romantic domain, you know, toe to find the right guy. But maybe if that's what it takes. That's what it takes to I mean for me. That's what it took. You know it that that that you kind of ripened, you know, into that knowledge, right that in the end, when it's the right time to make the decision, if you've created that open space and, you know, solicited views that it all kind of turns inside you and then lo and behold, you have an intuition about what the right thing is and how toe balance things that on a checklist, it's just too in the head. It's too system to, you know, if this these air system one decisions and but it takes a discipline to create a space for them. Toe surface, I think. Yeah, this intuition develops through action, not through just intellect. You don't develop your intuition by sitting on the couch. You talked about adventure and going forward and experiencing connecting with others. I think that is a It's sort of like an unsaid, um, in our culture that that's part of how you develop your intuition and people. You know, I just having asked that question to so many, um, thank you for your answers. Pretty thoughtful, inspired Um, But you remember when we were younger, when when we were thinking about who are ideal romantic partner would be right. And it was like, these lists. I don't think there's my, like, most amazing marriage to cast on seeing the most amazing, original, credible person. I don't think one thing. Maybe he said he was on the list, but But you know what I mean. It's just and I think in our and I'm not saying it's not useful, you know? It's like when you flip a coin heads. Is this entails is that sometimes it takes, you know, you flip the coin to know what you actually want, right? Thio? Yeah. No, it turns out I wanted heads, and I wouldn't have known it with point. But so, too, like making the list. You know, it can have, you know, great collateral benefits, but it just in the end is gonna have to come from someplace deeper. Well, I have a couple of new ground I'd like to embark on in her conversation. Um, and you know, I think there's away from you. You from a child in Dublin to the streets of war torn Bosnia to the situation room like to say that that is, You know, crazy Arc is, um, is radical understatement. The youngest ambassador to to the u. N. How, um, how has your own creativity This is? You know, we talk a lot about creativity and entrepreneurship and being, um you know, utility and how how has have those characteristics because I'm hearing them. And everything you're saying is like experimenting and testing and pushing and have How have they contributed to that incredible arc your again? The youngest, um, ambassador to the U. N. How did you How had those characteristics of entrepreneurship, resilience, creativity. How did they come into play during that journey? Um, so I think that Theis sort of conception of mission driven nous, right? Let's call it that I think has led me. And it sounds kind of again to generic, but it's sort of like depending on what the problem is you're seeking to solve in a moment. My creativity, to the degree that I'm able to bring it to bear, is derivative. Do you know? I mean so I give you example. My first book, a problem from hell was a long is a long sadly, but a long book on American responses to genocide. Not something you would expect to be much of a page turner. And I knew I was an okay writer. I've been a journalist in Bosnia, and I just describe American response to the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Cambodia, etcetera, Rwanda. And as I what? I wanted to write this book that was kind of on on one level of manifesto. But but nobody nobody that I know has ever convinced by a manifesto right, were convinced by stories and people and connection and bridge is being built between experiential difference of giant, you know, proportions and eso. As I read the book that I was in the probably took me five years to write the book. But the early drafts of the book I read and they were they were like they read really good, like brisk moving nonfiction has like, No, who am I going to reach that isn't already interested in this question, right? And so and the only reason to write a book like this and spend all this time on it is in the hopes that maybe we could I could make it more of a thing that we don't do enough when genocide is perpetrated abroad and that it's not enough part of our consideration of off how whether we give assistance to a foreign government and we don't move energetically enough to the United Nations when, like in Rwanda, when people were getting murdered, you know, 800,000 in 100 days, 800,000 people dying. And so so it was not that I started with this ability to kind of imagine the story that I wanted to tell it was that I realized I was ineffective, given the objective that I had for the book. And luckily, I I've read enough in my life, not not near as much as I wish I had read, but But, you know, I've been enough of a reader where I know what works, and I could bring a certain distance from my own writing. But also I hope I can retain the ability to bring distance to my diplomacy and my the way I functioning government. But this time it was more just being kind of an outsider to my own enterprise and just say, saying this isn't really cutting it, so it turns out in every one of the cases there were these remarkable characters who had tried to stop genocide, you know, from the Armenian genocide. Henry Morgan thought that our ambassador in Constantinople to Rwanda, Canadian General in that case, not American but Canadian on the ground and people within the State Department and every one of these cases, the reason credible characters. And so was I creative to then decide to build this story, that kind of dark story around these unbelievably inspiring tales. I guess that's kind of what it looks like because it reads. Now you really want to know about these people and then lo and behold, you learn this other thing. And lo and behold, you're mad when you put the book down and you want to do something about it. So it has had a galvanizing, shockingly galvanizing effect on some uh, but to me, it was so much about kind of It's like the currency. It's like, what does this need to be to be the best and most accessible version of itself? And when I was U N ambassador as well, you know where creativity comes in in negotiations is I'm sitting with my Russian counterpart and we're at loggerheads because Vladimir Putin runs Russia. By and large, that would be the main reason we were at loggerheads. I may not have been easy to deal with either, but for different reasons. And we have to find the only way we're gonna get this resolution through the Security Council's if we creatively put our heads together and actually get sort of some textual options out there and throw some spaghetti against the wall, making ourselves vulnerable to one another in his case, vulnerable to God knows what in his system. But fundamentally the Onley way, I could be the diplomat that I need to to bridge these gaps. They're gonna prevent potentially millions of Syrians from getting food is I actually have to walk in his shoes. Damn it, I do not wanna walk in the shoes of Vladimir Putin's representative to the United Nations, dammit! And yet how much I have to internalize on, at least to the degree that I have would amount to almost a literary imagination, right to be able to do. But I have to think about his constraints and I have thio creatively put, you know, take this. Imagine of Leap is we do in great theater. Is that right? Where you're every character is always right. Even the villain, right? That it the best theater would create some complexity and some nuance and who the villain is and where they come from. And and in this case, he wasn't the villain. But he was the person who was obstructing what I felt we needed to do for Let's say that this Syrian, the population, northern Syria and so that again was my mission was to get this resolution negotiated and to get Russian acquiescence, if not support because they have the veto. My means was on the fly to realize I have to get out of my own shoes and my own skin. And I have toe do a better job internalizing what he needs or we're just gonna be speaking at each other. And so I'm just offering these examples because it, you know, I don't think at any point that I would have self identified as a creative person. Um, you know, when I was writing a memoir and I was trying to think back to my days in the Pub in Ireland, in Dublin with my dad and you know, I there are people who, in writing memoirs, can just like they can. They can have shards of memory and then almost extrapolate because they're so creative. Like I had to go back to the pump. I had to fly to Ireland like Look at the pub like, you know, remember. And then, of course, the smells or listen to music from that time, and then it it can. Some of it can come back or go. Better yet for later years like look at my journals, which is the horrifying thing to do. I don't recommend it to anybody, even those writing my bars. It's too painful to terrible, but But that, like I don't have the creativity Thio. Just do it on my own. But then when I'm when I'm brought sort of into that space, I know enough to know that to bridge those distances to meet people where they are, you can't just give them what you want to say in the way that you know how to say it. You have to think of things from the standpoint of the rival diplomat or of the reader or of the podcast listener. I guess you know, just how do you, you know, how do you meet people where they are? And then the creativity can flow because it's It's so driven by that that need that one has toe to make that connection across great distances. Often, yeah, that is the creativity with Capital C not the subset of art and design, photography and filmmaking, but creativity with the capital. See where we're constantly co creating our environment, the world that we live in. And that was a fantastic example. Um, I remember a bit from the book. I just pull extra appearance from page 5 22 if anybody cares. Uh, any book that has 500 pages, you know, it's good 505 22. Um, and you're really invoking the concept of story telling as a mechanism to put yourself in other shoes and or and to bring a storyteller into the environment that you've in your world or parlance in the sort of the diplomatic relationship. And this is a woman named Nadia Murad, and you invited Nadia, a 21 year old Yazidi woman, to appear before the council and when she describes how Isis had executed her mother and six of her nine brothers and then forced her into sexual slavery. Her testimony drove home in a very visceral way, the savagery that the U. S. Led coalition was working to end. So is this a this storytelling component? I mean, we are social animals, right? We are connected whether we like it or not by a neurology history past, present. And it's just a guess that how do you think actively of storytelling? Whatever it seems like to me, whatever line of work you're in, we're gonna change the world or get funding for your startup. Or, you know, um, the role that storytelling plays it seems so powerful. I'm wondering if you invoke this consciously Or is this just a subtext in? You know what is obviously a very sophisticated set of tools that you've got to, you know, help be successful? Well, it's probably the biggest or the thickest through line in in every part of my life. So in Ireland, being a little girl in the pub and just hearing the stories, the tall tales being told upstairs, you know, with the stench of Guinness around me and or, you know, to try to get a word in edgewise at an Irish dinner table like you can't lose the plot, right? You gotta have the Ark characters have thio than to being an actual journalist. And to go from, you know, Bosnia where, as I said earlier in our discussion, just it's it's just not enough to describe the tragedy that's unfolding in front of you. You have to do it in a way that's that's really searching out details like the most precise little detail that is going to travel that is going to resonate. And that and that means not only getting caught up in as it happens in that instance, a conflict zone that you're living in but staying plugged into who your readers are and and and that there were occasions when I would lose that right, I'd be so in the place I was in that it would be my editor who would bring me back to Earth and just say, You know what people are dealing with here? You know what just happened or, um and so I think just that's really important to bear in mind, right? I mean, for lack of a better expression. It's like, know your audience, but that's that's too general. Its's really keeping current and keeping curious about what's motivating the people that you're trying to reach, which, of course, with newspapers or magazines. It's hard because it's abroad group and there's not one gestalt out there. But that was the storytelling I did as a writer and then go on to do longer magazine pieces, for example, about the genocide in Darfur. Where again? Trying to find what this is such a foreign phenomenon in this desert area in western Sudan and these tribal names that people are not gonna be familiar with. And so So what are the resonances that one confined? Well? Turns out the film Hotel Rwanda had come out and it was a big hit and people cared about one. Don Cheeto thought about things and and you know how How were their dimensions of that film, where their characters and people that I confined in this context that will resonate with with what filmgoers? I mean? I know it sounds crazy. It's like the tail wagging the dog, but just but just connections that that it's such these distances air so vast, and I think we're our own worst enemies. If we just think that again because something matters to me that it's necessarily gonna It may matter, but it just may not rise on the mattering map, among many other things that matter. So the question is like, How do you elevate things? And then in the job as you As you know, I would do a couple things. I mean, the first waas, shockingly, at the U. N. As ambassador, I learned e new kind of going in, but it was weird to experience it that that the kind of culture is one where people actually think that by reading prepared talking points about kind of what should be done, that that is going to change someone's mind. And it just isn't ever right. I mean, just because for me to say, you should do this and then they say, You should do this and then well, where the hell are we? So there. What I would do is is really try to track down individuals and often and, you know, had a speechwriter who was my partner, Nick Steinberg, in much of this, but often would entail actually reaching out to like a refugee camp or to the spouse of somebody who had been disappeared or you know where what you're presenting. It's not enough to just tell a story, right? It's It's if people feel that it's fresh or that's authentic. And when I traveled to bring into the Security Council this kind of anti septic chamber of the stories of the people that I've met and and doesn't change the world, but it puncture is this bubble which too many of us, you know, depending on the issue are able to inhabit. But the more important thing. And I think I hope, a legacy, uh, sort of step that we took when when I was U. N. Ambassador. That I think has lived on and maybe to a lesser extent, but I think can easily be revived is forget about me. Why am I the best storyteller in the example you gave is vivid testament to this. My job can be to use my platform and my leverage and the tentacles that the United States has with mixed metaphors, the capital Aries out in the world to connect with people who should be able to tell their own stories. And so, in the Ebola crisis, having a health worker was on the front lines in Liberia. Be the one to say to the Security Council. I had to turn away these families today. And when I turn away a family and they're carrying a child who they want, Thio get care here, they're gonna not only that child going to die, but that man that father has carried the child is going to bring the infection back into his house. And we can relate to this now in new ways because of cove it. But when you don't have enough beds, toe isolate people and to keep them in in quarantine and to treat them, it just means that it's just gonna spread exponentially in these ways. And for him to tell that story just by video conference for him. Thio offer this first person testimonial for Nadia to tell the story of what it meant for Isis to come to her village for her and her family. I mean, let me get out of the way right, And I think too often, especially if you represent a powerful country, you know, you think you have to mediate everything. But the greatest power I think is in is in those voices and eso I think to give, to use what influence we have to create those platforms. Um, that's how I think you could really create those human connections where it's, I mean, how could you? You know, Russia might be saying, Oh, that's fake news or that this or that. Then you have the doctor who's actually cared for chemical weapons survivors. I mean, you're gonna say to the doctor that it's fake news when he's just when he's choked up describing what it was like. Thio hold a child who had been gassed by the Assad regime. So it it could be very, very, uh, powerful. But you'd be surprised at how at how rarely it's done or how people think. I'm going to tell a story now, but it's a kind of recycled story, or it's you know, you know, even in meeting new people, when when someone is telling a story and it's coming from someplace deep within them versus okay, this is story 16 be, you know, like it's just different and I think people know the difference. We know the difference, right? So why do we expect other people are going to think that recycled stories air or compelling? I wanna be vulnerable and trying to humble brag at the same time? But in a world, the best that I could relate to your world is I had the good fortune of being a guest of the State Department. One time to Jamaica, and it was in connection. There's a trying to stimulate the economy there, Um, and there's a center for entrepreneurship. Branson had started and, um, I was prepared to go there to tell stories of entrepreneurship and thought that was my job as a representative of the United States to go and inspire and to tell stories and to, well, humble pie like my stories were nothing compared to the stories that I ended up being able to bring back about to share with people that were in my community about. But you've got it hard, you know, raising money, getting your start up off the ground, launching your photography business. Brilliance, right? You're like preaching. Let me talk to you and Jamaica about resilience, and they're like it was it was the most it was an amazing piece of humble pie, and, um and I can only imagine how much that affects you to be the sort of the the arbiter or the you know, that you're carrying these stories back to the people who are in a position to help or affect change just feels like a tremendous sense of responsibility. And so, as you know, that's my one little State Department story. But Thio connected. Active what? What What is your like that that job that you have seems so, so huge And so this is a thank you. Appreciate you for doing that on a daily basis. And I want to fast forward if we can, because you've you've hinted at it a couple times and I want to sort of crescendo our conversation today with a such as we could talk about the what appears to be an opportunity to next chapter for you. Having been a journalist, too, in many ways was critical of US foreign policy. And then you end up being in a position to make and shape and construct and be the, you know, on Usher if you will, um in in President Obama's Cabinet and can you share with us? Sort of. The recent news that you're you're looking at, um, in the next chapter? Yes. I mean thrillingly. Dauntingly, President Biden has asked me to be the administrator of US aid, which is the world's largest development agency. So it has responsibility for, for example, the public health, US support for public health responses in developing countries to the covert crisis. Now that economic gains in so many countries have been set back maybe two decades because of co vid helping think through one of the jobs programs, how can we spur work together to spur economic growth in these places? It's the agency that contributes vast resource is to dealing with humanitarian emergencies like that in Ethiopia or Syria or Yemen or Venezuela. Just to take a few examples. It should be the agency, and I think is hopefully if I'm lucky enough to get into the job, I have to be confirmed by the Senate first. But, um, it should play a major role in working with our partners to build resilience to climate shocks, which of course, are going to be S o much more prevalent in the coming years and We know, for example, what California has dealt with in terms of forest fires. We know about flooding in Houston and Miami and and everywhere. You know what farmers are going through in our country in terms of droughts because of climate change. Imagine all of that on top of not having even basic health infrastructure Azaz many poor countries lack or if they had it now it's been shattered by what's happened over the course of the pandemic. So, um, the last thing I'd say about it which sort of graphs more onto my background in human rights is there every year is a little bit less freedom in the world, and we're seeing a lot of Democratic backsliding. We're most familiar with our own right attacks on the media and questions about the legitimacy of opposition politics and conspiracy theories and misinformation and how that can fuel, um, even extremism and violence. That's happening in many, many parts of the world. And so, working with the rest of the by administration to think through what? What's our answer? Um, particularly when China is very ambitious, opening its checkbook and, you know, providing tech surveillance tools that allow governments to be more repressive. What's our answer to the decline in human rights? Enjoyment around the world? Well in, apart from the humanitarian and the development needs? Fundamentally, if you can't hold your government accountable, it's hard to get the economic pieces right, right, And it's hard to deal with corruption and often would inhibits development. So it's a big team. It's about 10,000 people s O. There'll be many more management and leadership challenges and opportunities. And then I dealt with before. So this. So this conversation is actually really useful, right? Because you do learn that given how busy one gets and how band with Scarce band with becomes so quickly. Whatever your job is that it's the period before you leap. You know where you It kind of developed that intentionality and really think through, Um, you know how you're going to get the most out of learning from the team of amazing civil servants and foreign service officers who've been there for years, who have so much to learn from and then to bring. Also, though an outsider's perspective about what this moment of interlocking crises demands from us on day, part of it will be, you know, selling it to the private sector and entrepreneurs selling it to the American people and selling kind of sounds a little bit crude. But just enlisting and recognizing that given, you know, things weren't great before because of climate change and and some structural issues of the economy. But given what cove it and the economic fallout from Cove it have done, this is not gonna be one government agency or 20 government agencies. It's It's going to be all hands on deck if we're gonna crack the code here and and get people back on their feet and self reliant, which is what all of us want we want for ourselves and our families and and eso no, nobody wants US aid assistance per se. What they want is the ability to have agency over their own lives and to be able to enjoy basic rights and justice. So I maybe get to be a part of that, and it Z I think, you know, I use the term when in some of my prior work bystander, you know, like sometimes in the last four years, I a Z, I've noted I have felt like there are these displacement, crisis, the climate crisis, the democracy crisis, the racial injustice, crisis, so many things and and to have the opportunity potentially to harness more than just my own thoughts and and and toe work with the team at USA. But the broader team of public servants who've gone back in and to find ways to even again broaden the conception of who the team is to bring in outside actors and citizens and so forth. I you know, it feels like the right time, um, Thio to salute and show up and serve. And I just feel really lucky that I got the call. Your, um speaking of getting the call I love how in your book you opened up with being in a crowded cafe and received a call from President then President Obama as a lovely story. You know, there's both the actual call. Then there's the metaphorical call, Um, and use your a fantastic storyteller. And, um, again, I had encouraged folks to pick up the paperback comes out e think it's, you know, right about when we're trying to drop this on the education of annoy idealist, a memoir and I will say my, um, just there is a thread of just something that's as Bigas government, even in a big, big as a company, an apple or a Google. Or, you know, it's just how do you trust something that's so sort of big And and, um, I you know, I think it's fair for that. There's a disconnect between the individual and this sort of trust and, you know, talking to you reading your book, I confess I also had have had the opportunity on a few occasions to be a guest to the White House. And so many of the smartest, most articulate, heartfelt, earnest people have been in these roles that are, you know, as civil servants. And just that part gives me so much hope. Uh, and when you think of government with a capital G and here I am standing in on my fuzzy rug on, you know, in front of a computer screen in Seattle, you know, it's just it's hard toe capture that, but thank you for for providing a human, humane human, um, riel, heartfelt, earnest look into the people that are working on our behalf on the biggest, most challenging problems of our times. And so to that end into the end of the point of your humanity, Historically, I wouldn't ask this question because, um if, um it's about your motherhood. And, um, you know, if if you were one of the reasons I wouldn't ask this is because if you were a male, I think it's historically that wouldn't be like, how is fatherhood in your And so I wouldn't I wouldn't historically go here. But I was drawn to a piece in the Atlantic where you spoke so overtly about your motherhood and the role it played in shaping and, you know, just, um, the value that have brought to the lens that you have on your job and your life. And I'm wondering if you could just talk a little bit about the role that your motherhood has played in this problem. My motherhood is, uh, has come back into play, you know? I mean interview love. I'll come find you. That's that's what motherhood looks like. Excellent. I love it. Very well timed. It's the timing. There is impeccable ASL. Long is a modern miracle, but so So what I would say is that you know, I think hopefully, just by virtue of the experiences out in the world. You know, before I got to these big institutions, I was able to identify, I hope I hope I was able to identify, for example, with the people I was interviewing in Bosnia back in the day or in Darfur. Um, but to the degree that there were any limits to my imagination, I do think being a mother of two, um, young kids now 11 and eight. But when I was in my prior job, you know, they were much, much younger. I had both of them while I was working at the White House and Obama's first term. But it does make you just say to yourself, Gosh, what would it be like to not be able to and then fill in the blank, right? Teoh not be able to assure your child at night that they were gonna make it through the night given chemical weapons attacks or to not be able to tell them that they would have, um, a meal the next day. And I don't mean to be melodramatic about it, but it just it gets to the point that we've made a couple of times about just feeling privileged and lucky and knowing how blessed I am. I think it's very motivating rightto have kids and thio to just that the duty of care that we feel and that we feel so privileged to be ableto deliver on when we can. But Thio imagine what will be like Thio to feel all that same love and then not be ableto provide the kind of security across the board that kids. I mean, when you have kids, you just there. That's the word, you know, whatever, whether it means a blankie or a teddy or just when you're coming home. Mom Security, broadly defined, is what they long for. And eso I think in that sense being able to be in a position Thio enhance that potentially, you know, drawing on on the pool of incredibly talented people already doing the work in the U. S. Government in the U. N and beyond. But personally, it's also, as I grappled with, and you're kind of you ask the question gently, but it has been this question of of, you know, going into a big job like this requires being, you know, less of a Little League coach, Andre Less of a soccer coach for my daughter and and that's it. That's a loss for them. And it's a loss, a big loss for me at the same time. To be able to come home at night and say, You know, this is what we're doing on climate change This is actually what we're doing. Is it enough? No. Is it going to stop the kinds of things that you're seeing? And is it gonna address the plight of the polar bear, which my daughter asked me about about once a week? No, it's not. Not in the short term, but, um, but toe have an answer. And to and to be able to say, this is how I spent my day on the things that are gonna matter most for you and your generation and your kids and grandkids, as well as for those people who live far away. So that's how I've I've thought about going back in is bringing them into into the conversation, hoping to make them feel like they're part of this team effort, this all hands on deck effort because they're the ones who sacrifice in a way more than I will. Um, and if I could just maybe end with something you said about the flesh and blood, like who government officials actually are. I mean, this was one reason, you know, I was you in the Senate and I was maybe many of your listeners where I was the outsider who went in. And then you've described, like having various guests, guests on who've been in public service in different ways. I had done that interviewing from the outside, some of it, but going in and looking around and saying This isn't what people think government is right. This'd isn't it, doesn't it? Like even in the movies, Right? Maybe Westway and gave you some romantic sense of it. But but just the sort of It's not that the outcomes air always greater. That the judgments or even always great but the sort of integrity of purpose and the level of expertise, you know, whether the Environmental Protection Agency or the Defense Department or the language expertise that I drew on when I was U N Ambassador. So I thought, if we can, But also the humor, the black humor sometimes, but But you know, the that sense of exhilaration that can come when you feel that people are kind of growing in the same direction, or that you are making the difference that you've sought a t least a fraction of the difference that you sought to me. I mean, it is it's not what people think about and to be honest now we have to rebuild a lot of these institutions because there's been a lot of attrition. There are major kind of morale issues, and we need to draw from untraditional pools of people we need to recruit to come into government, whether in political appointments or in civil service appointments. People gonna actually shift from having maybe invented something out there to being willing to bring that entrepreneurial and creative spirit you know into bureaucracies, like Who wants to join the bureaucracy? Well, I think that actually, bureaucracy isn't what it's reputed to be. I mean, at least again if you have the kind of leadership that wants to harness the talents of the individuals within it, which I think we really do going forward. And so it's almost a plug, you know, for people who have never have always thought that creation has to come outside large institutions, but that I've just seen firsthand that when you marry that outsider perspective with some of that expertise and experience that has lived within these institutions like pretty electric and very much impactful things can happen. So, um, you know, I just hope we could bring Mawr people into the fold and demystify a little bit. What? What it is that goes on there? Yeah, that the my time in Jamaica under the Ambassador Louise Marina. He gotta speak at length with him, and he was one of the people who is on his way out because he couldn't stomach the The experience was happening within the department and our need to sort of re fuel across so many different differently, as Biden says, Build back better, right? So it's like what is had we just kept going. We would have been tweaking here and incremental this and that. And now there is an opportunity to just really brought in the conversation of off who belongs and what the identity of these institutions is. I think it's I mean, it's like many crises, right? We find opportunity in it, but there's a big one e I like I grew up taking pictures of me and my friends skateboarding. Why am I in What am I doing in the White house here? But that's the inclusive. That's part of the story that I was hoping would come out of our conversation today. The and thank you so much for sharing eso maney insights. Your journey from a, um Aziz, you said that the Irish pub, um to, you know, the halls of to the journalism to the halls of government And now, in the role that you're excitedly stepping into I wish you all all the best Thank you for your storytelling, your heartfelt your humanity. Um, helping us see that that this is something that we can believe in and how you use your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit, your belief in yourself on others. So thank you for being on this show. Super Super grateful. And there's anything I could ever do to help the help. Just I'm a text away. Thank you so much for being on this show. Anything else? I can do it. Do you want to sign up? What's the best place? In addition to just buying the book because it's it is truly fantastic, and it's a it really is. I'm not not trying to suck up here, but the education of idealist of an idealist, a memoir again. Ambassador Samantha Power. Anything? Where can people find you if they wanna, you know what's the best place. In addition to buying the book, they want to know more. Or I'm on Twitter, um, or of ah tweeter than a than a facebooker on bond. So, Twitter, we'll have government accounts soon. But I have a personal account there where I sound off on various issues and have a website for women. But that's more for when I'm out of government and touring and speaking and engaging young people again. I can't wait to do that, and I hope to do more of it from from Aid. So I don't know if you can also follow when I'm confirmed that you could take nothing for granted in this political environment chase so we can't get ahead of ourselves. But if in fact, I get to become U. S a administrator, follow the agency. It's doing such amazing work around the world. Thank you. There's so many people interested in social justice in, um, climate change in, uh, so many of the issues that you've spoken about today. Thank you. And godspeed. All the best and grateful for your time today. Thanks so much. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah.
Ratings and Reviews