By Paola Martinez, Colin Powell Leadership Fellow
In his visit to City College, NATO Secretary General Ander Fogh Rasmussen talked about what has been the main role of this organization and its contribution to the world. But before addressing the audience in Shepard Hall’s Great Hall, Mr. Rasmussen met with fellows from the Colin Powell Center, who engaged him in an interesting conversation about leadership and the importance of service. He said one of the most important leadership skills he has developed as secretary-general of NATO is patience. This has allowed him to work together with all members of the organization to accomplish the organization’s objectives and pursue their main goal. But what is NATO’s goal, one may ask. And what is the purpose its existence? As Secretary General Rasmussen stated to the lively audience that filled the Great Hall to listen to his speech, NATO’s legacy and continuing goal can be stated in one word: freedom. To protect and defend world freedom is the organization’s goal, and to fight for it while observing the values that shape the organization, which are: liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Secretary General Rasmussen expressed that “in such a complex, unpredictable and interconnected world” that we live in, we need to protect each other. He acknowledged that we need to realize the many opportunities we have in our society today, while acknowledging the new threats and challenges that come with them. Based on this, the organization itself is reinventing its strategy to meet these challenges. For meeting economic challenges by redesigning their defense strategy to better use their resources in time of economic crisis. NATO is implementing a process of a smart defense to combat terrorism and protect human rights. States that comprise NATO are helping each other and transitioning from national solutions to international solutions by creating common projects and sharing resources. For example, countries are sharing technology and resources to make aircraft transportation less expensive.
City College’s President, Ms. Lisa Coico, thanked Secretary General Rasmussen for his visit to City College and for making this a town hall meeting, thereby giving students the opportunity to drive the conversation and contribute questions. Students from City College profited greatly from this time to ask difficult questions in a very respectful way. The secretary general on several occasions acknowledged the relevance of the students’ questions and in a way that, I would say, reflected his honesty about the topics been discussed, while fulfilling his role as a diplomat. He gave honest answers even to the most difficult questions that had to deal Syria, Libya, and NATO’s relationship with the UN. Students questioned possible interventions in the future and criticized about why NATO moved quickly to intervene in oil-rich Libya, while there’s been no serious discussion of such action in Syria.
In conclusion, Secretary General Rasmussen’s visit to City College was very enlightening. It gave students the opportunity to talk about important and current topics in foreign policy, and to express their ideas and concerns. It also gave me the opportunity to learn more about this organization. I can say that in such difficult times, with an economic crisis going on in Europe and instability in the balance of power in different regions of the world, the actions that the nations that comprise NATO decide to take can have have a strong impact on the future of the world. Therefore, close study of their actions is fundamental for any student interested in leadership and world politics.
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