Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering had no difficulty in focusing his keynote address on the need for more international studies majors as he launched the three-day celebration of Peters Hall. His October 10th talk, "American Foreign Policy: The Challenges Ahead," swept 250 faculty, staff, and townspeople at Finney Hall along on a nuanced political tour of the major countries in the world.
The relevance of Oberlin's growing international studies curriculum was clearly evident--especially now, when "the United States is shouldering the role of world leadership," he noted. He said that being the sole superpower now will be no easier for the U.S. than it was during the Cold War era. "Remember," he cautioned, "there's no obligatory compliance."
A former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, and Jordan, Pickering's broad global expertise stems from his present rank as career ambassador, the highest rank in the United States Foreign Service, calling for him to advise the secretary of state and the president about the international scene. He is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Council on Foreign Relations, and speaks French, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, and Hebrew with great fluency.
Pickering believes that democracy in Russia will endure, but warned that "the U.S. cannot zig with every Russian zag. Patience is required; it may take decades to complete the regeneration." He predicted that NATO will expand; that China will soon begin to stabilize; that Pakistan and India will soon surpass China in population, supporting 25 percent of the world's population.
Ambassador Pickering urged Ober-lin College students to "engage actively, creatively, and with conviction" in foreign service, and reminded them that although only one percent of the national budget is presently scheduled [DEMO]plomacy, the most important resource in the field is people.