The National Security Election

Aug 15, 2016 · 4 min read

by Jill DiSanto

Universities play a critical role in election years by facilitating conversations about issues of vital importance to America and the world.

As the United States heads full throttle into the presidential campaign, experts gathered yesterday at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House, a research center that aims to advance interdisciplinary, policy-relevant approaches on the world’s most urgent global affairs challenges, to look at “The National Security Election: What’s at Stake in 2016 and Beyond.”

National security leaders at Penn’s Perry World House

The panel was welcomed by Penn President Amy Gutmann who stressed the important role of educational diplomacy in today’s global context.

“In welcoming you today,” she said, “I want to invite you to think of us always as willing partners in the supremely important task of promoting understanding here at home, and all across the globe.

“When we talk about national security today, the subject matter is challenges such as ISIS or pandemic disease and global climate change. The solutions are no longer measured in tanks or long-range bombers. They are found in ideas and knowledge and discovery and understanding.”

The panel discussion featured Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state; Leon Panetta, former secretary of defense; U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs; Tom Donilon, former national security advisor to the Obama Administration; and Penn alumnus Rajiv Shah, former USAID administrator who graduated from the Perelman School of Medicine and Wharton School.

Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State

In addition, the panel included William Burke-White, inaugural director of Perry World House and professor of law; Julie Smith, senior fellow and director of the Center for a New American Security; and Jake Sullivan, senior policy advisor for Hillary for America.

Tom Wright from the Brookings Institution introduced the panelists, and Vikram Singh from the Center for American Progress moderated.

Burke-White said this is one example of how Perry World House will assemble academics, thought leaders and policymakers to address some of the most pressing global policy challenges, bringing the knowledge of Penn’s 12 schools together and making Penn a global agenda-setter.

“This panel highlights the ability of Perry World House to convene the country’s leading foreign policy thinkers and practitioners, as we look ahead to America’s role in the world after the 2016 election,” Burke-White said. “This is exactly the kind of programming we look forward to bringing to Penn’s campus in the years ahead.”

Michael C. Horowitz, associate director of Perry World House and associate professor of political science in the School of Arts and Sciences, said Perry World House bridges the gap between Penn’s tradition of academic excellence and the policy world, particularly when it comes to global affairs.

“Especially in an election year, one of the most important things academic institutions such as Penn can do is facilitate conversations in areas vital to America and the world,” he said. “We look forward to our grand opening in September, which will further demonstrate Penn’s commitment to engagement on critical global topics with relevance for both scholarship and the policy world.”

Photos and video of the event are available.

About Perry World House

Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania (PWH) is a global policy research center that aims to advance interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research on the world’s most urgent global affairs challenges. At a time of increasing ideological division and the politicization of policymaking, PWH will draw on the wide range of expertise found across Penn’s 12 Schools, connecting Penn with policymakers, practitioners, and researchers from around the world to develop and advance innovative policy proposals. Housed at the new, state-of-the-art building at the center of Penn’s campus, PWH is uniquely positioned to convene world leaders, cutting-edge practitioners, and top intellectuals engaged on these vital topics. Our high-level workshops, conferences, engagements, and publications link Penn to the global policy community so that the best ideas have impact now when they are needed most. Read more about the vision for Perry World House at

Jill DiSanto is a news officer at Penn’s Office of University Communications.


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The University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest universities in America and one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.