The McConnell Center and the University of Louisville welcomed United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power to the Miller IT Center’s Bigelow Hall on Jan. 12 to discuss United States foreign policy.

Power is the youngest US Ambassador to the United Nations in American history. Before she became a diplomat and member of President Obama’s Cabinet, Power was a war correspondent, college professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. She immigrated to the United States from Ireland at age 9.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced Power, calling attention to her passion for human rights.

When Power took the stage, she acknowledged the growing pessimism about partisanship in American politics.

“Amidst all of this apparent rancor and partisanship, you in the audience might be a bit surprised to see a member of President Obama’s Cabinet and Ambassador to the United Nations, no less, down here in Kentucky at the invitation of the new Republican Senate Majority Leader,” said Power.

“But I believe that Senator McConnell invited me because on the seminal issues of American foreign policy, we actually agree on a great deal.”

Power illustrated how, despite partisan politics, American leaders worked together during three foreign policy challenges of today: the deadly Ebola virus, violent extremist groups and the humanitarian crisis in Burma.

She also spoke about current events in US foreign policy, such as American relations with Cuba.

“It is important to acknowledge that, while there may be disagreements on the best way to get there, we share that common goal of advancing the rights of the Cuban people,” said Power.

“The reforms will make it easier for Americans – our best ambassadors – to visit Cuba.”

In addition, Power discussed the recent terror attacks in Paris and America’s role in fighting global terrorism.

“The targets these terrorists chose – a satirical newspaper, a kosher grocery store and police officers – represent some of the most sacred values in our pluralistic democracies: freedom of expression, religious diversity and public security.”

At the conclusion of her speech, Ambassador Power answered questions from the audience.

Monday’s event at the McConnell Center was the occasion for Senator McConnell’s first visit back to Kentucky and his alma mater as Senate Majority Leader.

Gary Gregg, director of the McConnell Scholars Program, noted that Ambassador Power is the McConnell Center’s 47th distinguished speaker and 3rd Pulitzer Prize winner to visit the university.

Photo courtesy of the McConnell Center