Fletcher Day Features Current and Former U.S. Ambassadors to China

Ambassadors Nicholas Burns and Winston Lord will hold conversation on U.S.-China ties
Ambassadors Nicholas Burns and Winston Lord

On October 27th, 2023, The Fletcher School will celebrate Fletcher Day, signifying the 90th anniversary of the school’s very first day of classes in 1933. Fletcher is pleased to announce that two United States Ambassadors to the People’s Republic of China will join the celebratory events, current ambassador Nicholas Burns and former ambassador Winston Lord, F60, H87. 

At 9:00 a.m. on Fletcher Day, Ambassadors Burns and Lord will join Dean Kelly Sims Gallagher and Professor Sulmaan Khan for a live, hybrid discussion in the ASEAN Auditorium. Titled U.S.-China Relations, Then and Now, the conversation will explore the history of this crucial bilateral relationship and assess its current challenges. The program is free to attend and will include an audience Q&A opportunity. Attendees are requested to register on the Fletcher Day webpage

Ambassador Nicholas Burns
Ambassador Nicholas Burns

Ambassador Nicholas Burns was sworn into office on December 21, 2021.   Burns’ long record in American diplomacy includes service under six Presidents and nine Secretaries of State. 

Burns began his U.S. Foreign Service career in the Middle East, serving at the U.S. Embassies in Mauritania and Egypt before taking a post at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, where he coordinated economic assistance to Palestinians on the West Bank. He served as President George H.W. Bush’s Director for Soviet Affairs during the collapse of the U.S.S.R., advising the president on relations with the newly independent states. Under President Bill Clinton, Burns was Senior Director for Russia and Ukraine affairs before becoming State Department Spokesperson in 1995. 

Burns served his first ambassadorship under President Clinton, who nominated him as U.S. Ambassador to Greece in 1997. Burns became U.S. Ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush, leading U.S. efforts in the alliance after the 9/11 attacks. He later served the Bush administration as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, leading numerous negotiations, including on the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Deal and a long-term military assistance agreement with Israel.  

Burns retired from the Foreign Service in 2008 serving as Goodman Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, where he founded the Future of Diplomacy Project. He also served on the Foreign Policy Advisory Board of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during this period. In 2021, Burns was nominated by President Joe Biden as Ambassador to China, taking office after Senate confirmation. He leads a team from forty-seven U.S. government agencies and sub-agencies at the embassy in Beijing and at consulates in four cities. 

Raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Burns is a graduate of Boston College (BA78) and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (MA80). He has received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Distinguished Service Award.

Ambassador Winston Lord
Ambassador Winston Lord

Winston Lord was U.S. Ambassador to China from 1985 to 1989. He has played a key role in U.S.-China diplomacy for over half a century.

From 1969 to 1973, Lord was Special Assistant to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. He was part of the U.S. delegation during President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, the first visit by a U.S. President to the People’s Republic and a landmark event in the normalization of relations between the two countries. Lord accompanied President Nixon, President Gerald Ford, and Henry Kissinger on all of their nine trips to China in the 1970s. Lord also advised Kissinger on Vietnam issues, accompanying Kissinger at the Paris peace negotiations that ended U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Lord served as the State Department's Director of Policy Planning throughout the Ford presidency. He then became President of the Council on Foreign Relations, serving this role from 1977 to 1985. Lord was nominated by President Ronald Reagan as U.S. Ambassador to China in 1985 and held the role for the duration of Reagan’s second term.

After leaving the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Lord led non-governmental organizations. He served in the 1990s as co-Chairman of the International Rescue Committee, Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, and Chairman of the Carnegie Endowment National Commission on America and the New World. Lord returned to government service when he was chosen by President Bill Clinton as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. This was Lord’s final government position, after which he has held roles on several non-profit boards and provided public commentary on global affairs. His book Kissinger on Kissinger, a series of interviews with the former Secretary of State, was published by MacMillan Publishers in 2019.

A native of New York City, Lord comes from a family of civic leaders. He earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1959 and an M.A. from the Fletcher School in 1960, graduating first in his class. Among his many awards and honors, Ambassador Lord received an honorary doctorate from Tufts University in 1987.