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Building a Multilateral Future

IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette Sayeh (F80, F85) calls on Fletcher students to look outward to solve global challenges at annual Convocation ceremony.

“The challenges facing the world today transcend national borders. Whether it is dealing with the global pandemic, managing the digital revolution and its implications for jobs and social protection, promoting fair international trade and tax systems, or fighting climate change – all of these issues can only be tackled through countries working together,” said Fletcher alumna and current Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Antoinette Sayeh (F80, F85) in her keynote address at The Fletcher’s School’s virtual academic convocation.

Sayeh addressed the Fletcher audience from her home office in Washington, D.C., and took the moment to acknowledge the gravity of the current moment while adamantly advocating for the importance of a multilateral approach to solving the world’s most pressing issues today and in the future.

“There is no better time than now to be pursuing a Fletcher education,” Sayeh said. Reflecting on her own experience as a double-Fletcher grad, she credited Fletcher with preparing her well to pursue a path that would cover policymaking and reform, focusing on results – even in the most complex of environments, like her home country of Liberia. Those skills are sorely needed still today.

The call for a globalist outlook was a recurring theme throughout the convocation ceremony. Fletcher Professor of Management, Alnoor Ebrahim, who was honored with this year’s Faculty Research Prize also implored the new and returning Fletcher students to reflect on the core values of the school, evident from its very inception and ever-more relevant today.

“The [Fletcher] School was founded during the Great Depression, during a time of rising fascism, increasing inequality, not long after the 1918 flu pandemic. And of course, the First World War. It was a time when nation states were looking inwards, closing borders and fearful of others,” Ebrahim said, before recalling the prescient words of Fletcher’s first convocation speaker in a speech delivered in the fall of 1933 by international historian, James Shotwell.

“Here's what Shotwell said, abbreviated for zoom, at the launching of Fletcher,” said Ebrahim. “‘The opening of the school takes place in the midst of one of the greatest crises in the history of diplomacy. A crisis which also may affect fundamentally the history and development of law. Ever since the World War, the chief problem of statesmanship has been the creation of a new world order.

‘Instead of international anarchy, there should be international cooperation. Instead of the arbitrament of arms, agreement by conference and judgment by a court. Instead of the strategy of war, the strategy of peace.’”

“Shotwell's remarks sound eerily really relevant and familiar, don't they,” asked Ebrahim in his virtual address. “The values that this school was founded upon, global cooperation, multilateralism, rule of law, diplomacy, are still very much at its core and they still need to be strengthened and redesigned for today.”

It’s a mantra that Fletcher School Dean Rachel Kyte has consistently, persistently repeated since she stepped into the role one year ago. But she emphasizes the need to be able to flex and adapt, reiterating that this skill, too, is one that students will develop and exercise while at The Fletcher School.

“Real-time problem solving, teamwork, agility, reaching out and across. That is what makes this community important in the wider university community and in the wider world,” Kyte said.

Dean Kyte wrapped up the annual, official kick-off to the semester by giving students a few sage words of advice. “Make full use of your time at Fletcher. Study hard, push yourselves, learn from one another. Study the past and plan for the future,” she said, before closing with some insights from former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Seventy-five years ago Eleanor Roosevelt, who played a critical role in the founding of the U.N. became the first U.S. delegate to the general assembly and chaired the drafting committee for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was very clear on what it takes to build a better world,” Kyte said. “‘It isn’t enough to talk about peace, one must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it,’” Kyte quoted Roosevelt.

“We all have much work to do.”

Watch below for the full 2020 Fletcher School Academic Convocation ceremony, including the annual awarding of The Alfred P. Rubin Prize in International Law to rising second year Fletcher MALD student Dillon Kim and the remarks on behalf of the student body by rising second-year MALD Salaam Kako.

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