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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2005 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

Remarks at the 50th Anniversary of School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna

Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Bologna, Italy
May 14, 2005

As Prepared for Delivery

Fifty years ago, Johns Hopkins University planted its flag here in this beautiful and historic city.

Fifty years later, we have come back to celebrate the many accomplishments of one of America’s greatest universities, and of the finest American graduate school in international affairs - - the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, of which I am a very proud graduate.

The thousands of Americans who came by boat and then plane to study here owe a large measure of thanks to the people of Bologna who have been such wonderful hosts for so many years.

They and we, want to thank, as well, Italy, for having been such a magnificent friend to our country and for giving us more -- historically, culturally, personally -- especially through the lives of millions of Italian immigrants to our own shores, than we can ever hope to repay.

All of us should celebrate and thank the American visionaries -- like Grover Haines and those who came a later: Robert Evans, Ambassador Steve Low, Simon Serfaty -- who had the audacious idea to create a school from the new world here in the heart of Europe next door to the oldest university on the continent. For all of you who are European, forgive that example of brash American romantic idealism. But, I think you will agree that it turned out okay for both of us, didn’t it!

We should also thank and celebrate on this lovely day all of the great professors and staff - - European and American - - who have taught here in a unique American –European academic joint venture.

And I want to pay particular tribute today to Johns Hopkins distinguished President, William Brody, to my friend, SAIS Dean Jessica Einhorn, our brilliant leader in Washington, and to our wonderful Dean, Ambassador Marisa Lino. The three of them have been wise and inspiring leaders of our school in our own time.

Most of all, we celebrate today the 5000 SAIS Bologna students from over 90 countries who first came here in 1955 and are coming still to form a half century human bridge linking America with Europe. They are the real reason we are together this weekend. From 1955 to our time, they created at this school and all the others which have imitated it since in Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Madrid, and other cities, the greatest European – American educational achievement of the post-war era -- How well we have come to know each other across the Atlantic through higher education. Because SAIS settled here in Bologna, Americans and European lived with each other – listened to each other, understood each other, sometimes argued with each other, but always respected each other in a way we had never achieved in the prior two centuries of our Trans Atlantic engagement.

These Hopkins students created a beautiful tapestry of cultural, intellectual and personal connections that lie at the heart of America’s relationship within Europe.

And, when they left Bologna to become bankers, professors and diplomats in their own lands, they spread the goodwill and understanding and tolerance for our differences that form the basis of our bi-continental friendship.

I am continually amazed to find wherever I go in Europe or the U.S., in foreign universities, press rooms and businesses, SAIS grads with exceptionally fond memories of their student days in Bologna and Washington. And, one of the best souvenirs of my own time in Europe was the pleasure of attending SAIS Bolognese reunions in Milan, Rome and Brussels.

The students and professors of Johns Hopkins planted the flag of friendship here in Bologna fifty years ago and it has made a world of difference in their personal lives. It also made a difference in the political, economic and social history of the last fifty years.

When students first came to the school’s few rooms, in a small red house in the university quarter, Europe, far from whole and free, was recovering still from the ravages of World War Two. Their generation fulfilled the noble vision of the Marshall Plan. They helped the United Nations to grow. They conceived the European Union and helped it to become today one of modern history’s most astounding and positive achievements. They framed the backbone of NATO, which held the line in Germany, and in Italy to defend freedom in Europe for five long decades against the Warsaw Pact.

They achieved the Italian economic miracle of the post-war years and overcame the old historic enmities with their European neighbors. They built a continent of wealth, justice and decency out of the ashes of World War Two.

In America, SAIS students and their contemporaries started the Civil Rights Movements that finally freed millions of African-American and redeemed our country from its original sin. Their generation invented rock music and went to the moon.

And, together, the Europeans and American graduates of SAIS and many other schools accomplished the most historic achievement of all - - they worked for and witnessed the liberation of Eastern Europe; they united Europe and made it whole, free and peaceful for the very first time in Europe’s long history.

If the Founders of SAIS Bologna had the vision and dream of a school that would help to create a new world in Europe and America, of justice, freedom security and peace - - well, their succeeded beyond their wildest imagination.

Fifty years after SAIS planted its flag in Bologna, the Berlin Wall is gone, the Warsaw Pact is in the ash heap of history. Russia is our partner; the Baltic States, brutally occupied in 1940, are now free and in NATO. Ukrainians have voted for a freedom they have never had before. The pace and breadth of this great European drive for freedom is astonishing. And, it occurred because new generations, among them the students here, dreamed of this changed, willed it, and achieved it.

So, what we are really celebrating today is fifty years of magnificent and astounding achievements of a great school and two great peoples in Europe and America.

But, as we celebrate today, we surely know that we cannot look only backwards and that we cannot take our repose satisfied in a rich and comfortable status quo. History has not ended as one of our SAIS Professors predicted at the Cold War’s finish, and the mission of SAIS Bologna and of our Trans Atlantic Alliance is not yet complete. SAIS students still need to dream new dreams, consider what new dragons to slay, fight for a better world to come.

What will they say fifty years from now in Bologna when this school celebrates its centennial?

As a SAIS alumnus and as an American who believes deeply in European – American partnership, I hope they will say that the 21st century SAIS graduates built on the achievements of their school’s first fifty years by dedicating themselves to a goal beyond the Trans-Atlantic peace we have achieved - - to a global peace and freedom fostered by European and American leadership.

That is a lofty and idealistic goal but it is worthy of an academic institution that exists after all to challenge us to think big thoughts, dream big dreams and to elevate the human condition.

Having planted the flag of freedom in Bologna in 1955, is it not right for SAIS grads of the future to plant their flag throughout the world? Shouldn’t the common European – American project of the future be a joint effort to extend our freedoms, our belief in democracy, our sense of justice to those people across the globe who have been denied those benefits?

If that is to occur, if the great humanistic tradition of Bologna, of Italy, of Johns Hopkins and America is to be extended beyond our continents, in SAIS’ next fifty years, then its European and American students must face two significant challenges.

First, we must overcome the divisions and mistrust between us generated by the tumultuous last two years and the debate over Iraq. As an American diplomat at NATO, I experienced first-hand many of the most difficult moments of these last years of Trans Atlantic discord.

I sense that those days are slowly slipping behind us. As Iraqis have now voted and established a new multi-ethnic government, our collective focus has shifted from debating the wisdom of war to preparing for the pressing need to support Iraqi unity, to end the violence and to build a peaceful future.

The tone and tenor of European-American relations is far better now than two years ago. We are working together in the Balkans, Afghanistan and even in Iraq in common cause. Our leaders have met with olive branches in hands extended to each other. We are returning to a more normal patter of Trans Atlantic discourse.

Our great challenge now is to rebuild NATO. The U.S.-European union relationship and a future of Trans-Atlantic unity that all of us know is the only way forward in our mutually dependent relationship.

We Americans and Europeans understand that ours is a Trans Atlantic marriage with no possibility of separation or divorce. We have our Trans Atlantic marital rows roughly once per decade - - think over the last fifty years of Suez, Vietnam, Pershing missiles, Bosnia, Iraq. As in any marriage, we fight and we sometimes say things we later regret. But, we understand that differences on important issues are normal in a democratic alliance like NATO that does not insist on the ideological conformity of the Warsaw Pact. No wonder then that our flexible, ever-changing liberal NATO Alliance has survived while the rigid, orthodox, ideologically bound Warsaw Pact is dead.

Here is our first great challenge for the next fifty years of SAIS Bologna and U.S. – European relations - - to maintain the unity and trust in each other that allowed us to build a democratic peace in Europe over the last fifty years. To sustain that peace and unity, Americans will need to dedicate ourselves to common cause with Europe in the great intellectual institutions that bind us, NATO, the United Nations and the EU. I know President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are determined to do just that.

Europe’s challenge will be to reject the call of those who say Europe should be built in opposition to the U.S. and that the EU should be a strategic counterweight to American power. That would be a colossal strategic error and would deny the foundation of sixty years of peace in Europe - - its alliance with America. These are the hurdles that America and Europe alike must vault to maintain our unity and partnership in the years ahead.

The second challenge is to ensure that Europeans and Americans dedicate ourselves to use our awesome wealth and political and military power to confront the dark side of globalization, the great transnational challenges of our time that flow under, over and through our national borders - - tyranny, trafficking in women and children, global climate change, international criminal and narcotics rings, global terrorism, the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear technology. These are by definition global challenges which no one nation can confront alone. We will require true international cooperation to overcome them in the next fifty years.

Ladies and gentlemen, may the young students who come here to Bologna in the future accept the challenge of defeating the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa; of ending the brutal civil wars in Sudan and Congo; of fighting disease and poverty throughout Africa. May they dream of, then work for, peace between Israel and the Palestinians; a new, stable and democratic Iraq and Afghanistan. May they help the Arab and Muslim people plant the flag of reform and democracy in the Broader Middle East.

SAIS Bologna students must decide how best we in America and Europe can work productively and peacefully with a rising communist China and a rising democratic India.

As Europe and America discuss our strategic aims in Asia, perhaps SAIS should draw closer links between our fifty-year effort in Bologna and our twenty-year old school in Nanjing.

They must convince Iran and North Korea to dismantle their nuclear weapons programs. They must open the door of cooperation in NATO and the EU to Russia and Ukraine, the states of the Caucasus and Central Asia. They should work to sustain the growth of democracy in Latin America, to cure disease, to end illiteracy.

As we celebrate fifty years of achievement at SAIS Bologna today, it is not too much to hope and is consistent with SAIS’s commitment to global peace and security, that our future graduates of the next fifty years might match in the future the great accomplishments of those we honor today – the graduates of the past fifty years.

There is a unity of themes and purpose in the past and future of Johns Hopkins’ European Center in Bologna. This school has helped to unite two continents, two peoples, two academic and political visions of the democratic way of life in Europe and America.

Having achieved so much in its first fifty years, we should all look forward with hope and anticipation to witness the achievements of Bologna’s future generations as they live and write the history of our great European – American Alliance in the years to come.

What a special privilege it is to be here with all of you today to honor Johns Hopkins, Italy, the United States, SAIS students past and present, and the people of Bologna, on this lovely and promising day. Thank you.


Released on May 19, 2005

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