Alumna speaks to history, journalism classes about political crises

Spencer Klink

Juliette Kayyem, Belfer Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and Former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, spoke to history and journalism classes about the nature of contemporary political crises March 19 and 20.

Kayyem said that there were four main national security threats that the United States should address, including pandemics, climate change, cyberattacks and terrorism.

In addition to explaining these specific threats, Kayyem also discussed the decision calculus that government officials use when approaching prioritizing certain issues, which entails a comparison between the magnitude and probability of certain issues.

“It just changes the way that we have thought about international security, especially through my childhood when it was state-centric,” Kayyem said. “The four major challenges [the current] generation faces are not state based. They’re borderless, so it’s going to take a lot of creative thinking and the disruptive thinking this generation has to solve those problems. That’s not to say states aren’t a threat, but those are the big threats.” 

Kayyem also said that the next generation should spend time in other countries in order to gain a wide variety of experiences to adapt to a changing world order and revise the role the United States plays internationally.

Blythe Berk ’19 said she felt inspired by Kayyem’s discussion.

“[Kayyem] is someone who I would want to be like when I grow up,” Blythe Berk said. “I thought it was really interesting how she talked about the different threats the United States is seeing and offered valuable insight into our world.”

Alongside discussing national security, Kayyem offered advice to students on how they should approach the process of building a career.

“I do think there’s interest in the substance of my career, but I also focused on how to build a career in general,” Kayyem said. “The only advice I can really give is to do what you love and be ready for surprises.”