Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power condemned the Trump administration's lack of international cooperation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic at a virtual Perry World House event on Oct. 6.
Power highlighted the importance of international cooperation and diplomacy in the wake of the pandemic and the global leadership void left by President Donald Trump's isolationist foreign policy. Tuesday's event, moderated by CNN National Security Correspondent Vivian Salama and introduced by Penn President Amy Gutmann, was part of PWH's "The UN at 75: Coronavirus and Competition" event series commemorating the 75th anniversary of the U.N.
Power said that a recent source of global tension has been the power vacuum left by the Trump administration's rejection of international cooperation, which has spurred China to race to fill the void as the dominant global superpower. Power criticized Trump's tendency to put national interests above global interests, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation to eradicate issues like COVID-19 and terrorism.
In a widely criticized move, Trump pulled the United States out of the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency, in July, after accusing it of being under China's control without providing evidence for his allegations.
“One of the primary dividing lines in our country today is between those who just recognize that our fates are connected to the fates of people who live outside our borders, and those who believe that we can build walls,” Power said. “There’s just no way to get at any country’s national interest without having peripheral vision and investing in the kind of coordination that has been rejected in recent months and years by this president.”
For the U.S. to reclaim its position as a global leader, Power said that it must begin by remedying issues at home. To bolster global progress on democracy, racial injustice, and climate change, Power said it is urgent for the U.S. to first reverse the damage done domestically.
Bringing back talented diplomats who left public service work because of Trump's neglect of diplomacy is also imperative for the U.S. to repair its international relations, Power said.
Power highlighted two founding premises of the U.N. that are being neglected: saving future generations from war and holding sovereign states accountable to a set of higher principles. Power said global conflict today has reached its height since the end of the Cold War and established democracies like the U.S. and India have failed to uphold human rights.
But Power added that the U.N. has been instrumental in uplifting citizens to believe in their rights, which has ignited an unprecedented amount of protests globally in the past 2 years.
Power, who currently holds joint professorial appointments at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School, also served as U.N. Ambassador from 2013-2017 under President Barack Obama.
College junior Kelly MacGarrigle, who studies international relations and diplomatic history, attended the event. She expressed how important Power was for her to realize her own interest in diplomacy, and added that she appreciated hearing from one of her role models about today’s global issues.
“It was really interesting seeing her perspectives on the Trump administration and our role in international organizations,” MacGarrigle said. “It was particularly prescient coming from somebody who had done the work in establishing our soft power worldwide and establishing our diplomatic relations.”
Attendee Tiara Campbell, grants coordinator in the Weitzman School of Design and second-year graduate student in the Fels Institute of Government, said that she was interested in Power’s discussion of the rise and fall of the U.S. as a global leader and that she looks forward to future events on issues related to the U.N.
Power has been a vocal critic of Trump throughout his administration. She criticized Trump's refusal to admit refugees to the U.S. at a 2017 PWH event. Power is a recipient of an honorary degree from Penn and was the Commencement speaker for Penn’s Class of 2015.