Getting to know EMPA commencement speaker Julianne Smith

The former Deputy National Security Advisor to the US VP tells us about her upcoming fellowship in Berlin.

Julianne Smith, former Deputy National Security Advisor to the US Vice President will be this year’s speaker at the Hertie School Executive Master of Public Administration graduation ceremony on 7 September.  Smith recently arrived in Berlin to take up a place as a Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy. In an interview with the Hertie School communications department, Smith talks about her goals for the residency.


HERTIE SCHOOL:  You are currently a Weizsäcker Fellow at the Bosch Academy in Berlin – what are you working on during your residency?

JS:  I'm spending a year at the Bosch Academy to take a closer look at the future of the West from this side of the Atlantic. In Washington over the last 18 months, I have spent a considerable amount of time examining the liberal world order both with policymakers in Washington and everyday Americans outside the proverbial Beltway. In Europe, I want to speak with policymakers in Germany and other European countries about some of the same themes. Do they sense the order is under threat? If so, how could the West reinvigorate or save the order? How do specific relationships in Europe have an impact on the institutions that make up that order? For example, what will the future of the EU look like without the UK? What will the future of NATO look like with an American president who has genuine reservations about the Alliance? What will the future of the OSCE look like with a Russian partner that is actively undermining European unity? I'm also keen to ask everyday Europeans, particularly young people, some of these same questions. 


HERTIE SCHOOL:  Like you, many of our Executive MPA students are juggling family, work and study – how do you manage to make it all work?

JS:  There's a common saying in Washington that "you can have it all but you can't have it all at the same time." I think the important thing to keep in mind is that different stages in your life present different challenges. When I worked at the White House I enjoyed one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, but it came at a cost on the family front. Now that I'm out of government, I have much more time with my family, but the work isn't always as impactful or rewarding as working in government. I've learned to enjoy the positive sides of every type of experience and also understand that circumstances change.


HERTIE SCHOOL:  You will soon again be a resident of Berlin – what are you looking forward to the most?

JS:  I lived in Germany in the early and late 1990s. I'm looking forward to returning to Germany and discovering how the country has changed over the last 20+ years. I'm also looking forward to introducing my two young boys and my husband to the many things I love about Germany. I have only been here a few weeks and it already looks very different as a parent and not someone in her 20s. Who knew, for example, Germany had so many amazing playgrounds? I certainly didn't.


HERTIE SCHOOL:  What is your favourite German word? (mine is the compound noun Handschuhe (hand + shoes = gloves), never has a culture been summed up so wonderfully in one word!)

JS:  I love so many of Germany's compound words, and I love teaching my kids those words. But for some reason, I have always loved Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residency permit). Why? Perhaps I was so proud that I received one and learned how to pronounce that word on the exact same day? Maybe because it's just so darn long? I'll never know.


More about Julianne Smith

Julianne Smith is a former Senior Fellow and Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC. She serves as a contributing editor to Foreign Policy, where she coedits “Shadow Government.” From 2012–2013, she was the Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President of the United States. In addition to advising the Vice President on a wide range of foreign and defense policy issues, she represented him in Cabinet and Deputies level interagency meetings. During March and April of 2013, she was the Acting National Security Advisor to the Vice President. Before her post at the White House, she served for three years as the Principal Director for European and NATO Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. In that capacity, Smith acted as the principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs for matters pertaining to NATO and European policy. Her office managed the department’s bilateral relationships with 31 European countries. In January 2012, she was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service.


Find out more about the Hertie School EMPA Graduation Ceremony on 7 September.