International Women’s Day – A Conversation with Ambassador Paula Dobriansky

In honor of International Women’s Day, I was thrilled to be joined yesterday for a conversation in front of all of Rubicon with the great Ambassador Paula Dobriansky.

Ambassador Paula Dobriansky served for more than three decades in a variety of public policy positions in the United States government, including at the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House at the age of 24, one of the youngest serving staff members in history. She was already making history when most of us were still finishing our studies.  

At the NSC, she was Director of European and Soviet Affairs in the Ronald Reagan administration. In 1987, she was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, where she served under both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She served again at the State Department for President George W. Bush as Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, where she set up Global Issues Fora with China, India, and Brazil.  These official discussions addressed key issues including energy, environment, health, human rights, among other areas. Ambassador Dobriansky was also President Bush's Envoy to Northern Ireland from 2007-2009, in which role she oversaw the historic devolution of power in Belfast. For her significant contributions, she received the Secretary of State's highest recognition — the Distinguished Service Medal. 

Since leaving government service, Ambassador Dobriansky has served as the Head and Senior Vice President of the Washington D.C. Office of the Council on Foreign Relations and as a Distinguished National Security Chair at the United States Naval Academy. She is currently a member of Concordia's Leadership Council, Vice-Chair of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, and a Senior Fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is also the chair of Exim Bank's Chairman's Council on China Competition.

And, finally, Ambassador Dobriansky has traveled to all seven continents, including Antarctica, where she led a delegation to the South Pole and delivered a tribute to Sir Edmund Hilary, the renowned explorer.  She has also traveled to the Arctic Circle — to Svalbard, the northernmost human settlement.  

Ambassador Dobriansky has been called upon by folks on both sides of the aisle for her expertise in global affairs and how the United States is leading the world. She is one of the key thought leaders in our world today on foreign policy.

In addition to all of her own personal accomplishments, Ambassador Dobriansky has been a great mentor to me and given me great advice on how we run our business and on waste as a national security threat to the United States. 

We spoke on issues ranging from her impact serving in the White House, on the NSC, and in the State Department, to her advice for young women making their way in the world today. 

"My fundamental advice is be yourself and be confident. Really be confident. Look at what are your assets, what are your passions and consider how you want to proceed forward," she said. "Never get deterred. If you don’t try and step forward you’ll never know if you can advance. Never get deterred if you try and it doesn’t work, just try again. I have found that persistence is the foundation of success. Consider for yourselves the various ways forward. Time and again in my own career there have been moments of success and moments where I didn’t quite make it, but I would always consider how I can rebound and advance. Definitely be confident and definitely be prepared!"

Regarding her time in the White House, the Ambassador says her most cherished memory is of the first time she was called in to the Oval Office to brief President Reagan on Poland and was struck by the presence of such high-level government officials as James Baker, Edwin Meese and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. She told me one of her proudest accomplishments was her contribution to the historic devolution of power in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for which she received the Secretary of State's highest recognition, The Distinguished Service Medal.

The Ambassador also spoke to waste as a national security threat to the United States, praising Rubicon for the work we are doing to not only end waste, but in creating jobs and innovating through technology. 

"Rubicon is truly to be commended," she said. "Each and every one of you is doing your part ... in making the world a better place."

It was a great honor to present this interview to the Rubicon team, and to have the opportunity to speak with the Ambassador. I cannot thank her enough for her insight, candor, and grace. 

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