“You are an inspiration to us all,” Power said in acknowledging Harris, who last summer – while she was in Sierra Leone caring for her father – worked with health care clinics for women and children to help curb the spread of the disease. The ambassador also thanked soldiers from Fort Campbell and members of the Kentucky Air National Guard for their work transporting medical personnel and supplies in the region as part of the U.S. response to the health crisis.
Power, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, spoke to students, faculty, administrators and members of the public in Bigelow Hall in the Miller Information Technology Center. She is the first member of the President Barack Obama’s administration to appear with McConnell since he became majority leader last week. In addition to Monday’s speech, on Sunday she met with UofL students and also had a private dinner with McConnell and his wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.
In the ambassador’s 45-minute speech on bipartisanship and U.S. foreign policy, she said the U.S. government’s ability to fight Ebola, confront violent extremism and advance democracy in Burma are three examples of areas where uniting behind a common goal has changed lives throughout the world. In addition to praising McConnell for his bipartisan work – especially regarding Burma – Power said longtime U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky’s 5th District, worked closely with Democratic U.S. Rep. Nita Lowy of New York on measures to help with the international fight against Islamist extremists.
She cited Cuba and Iran as two countries in which there is bipartisan support for goals but disagreement over the best way to achieve those goals. The ambassador concluded by quoting Henry Clay, the former Kentucky senator and famed orator whose portrait hangs above McConnell’s desk in Washington. In the 1850s, Clay said politicians would one day be asked: “How have you left your country?”
“Clay’s question is more pressing today than ever before, she said. “It is more than Americans asking us to tackle these great questions, it is the world.”
Afterward, the ambassador answered several questions posed by McConnell Scholar and Fulbright winner Meagan Floyd. UofL President James Ramsey closed the event, thanking Power and shaking her hand.
Power has been in her U.N. role since August 2013. She previously served as special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the White House National Security Council staff.
The nonpartisan McConnell Center, created at UofL in 1991, prepares Kentucky’s top college undergraduate students to become leaders and offers civic education programs for teachers, students and the general public.