< Distinguished speaker series

Robert Zoellick

Former President of the World Bank

Former Deputy Secretary of State

Former Special Trade Representative

American Foreign Policy and the Lessons of History

DATE: December 5, 2023 6:00 pm

LOCATION: World Trade Center Baltimore

Event information

Robert Zoellick is one of those rare foreign policy experts who’s viewed with awe across party lines. “One of the country’s pre-eminent statesmen,” is how CIA director William Burns describes him. The late Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called him “one of the country’s smartest and most capable foreign policy practitioners.” And James A. Baker III, also a former Secretary of State, says: “Few people understand statecraft or have practiced it as adroitly as Robert Zoellick.”

Among the posts Robert Zoellick held: President of the World Bank, Deputy Secretary of State, U.S. Trade Representative, Deputy White House Chief of Staff. It’s almost as many top posts as James Baker, though usually one step down the ladder.

Robert Zoellick will be our next speaker on December 5.

His topic is “American Foreign Policy and the Lessons of History,” and it draws from his recent book titled America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy.  This is a highly readable recounting of major turning points in American diplomacy, from Benjamin Franklin to George H.W. Bush.

General David Petraeus (ret.)  called it “a wonderful book to read, one that reflects the pragmatism of an experienced practitioner, the painstaking research of a serious scholar, the trained eye of a historian and the judiciousness of thinking that has distinguished the best episodes in America’s foreign policy.”

Zoellick turns up stories most of us haven’t heard before. Take the role of Will Clayton, the “forgotten titan” of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, who scoped out the economic basis for the Marshall Plan for European recovery after World War II. Clayton’s ideas, writes Zoellick, “would eventually become cornerstones of today’s European Union.”  Speaking of the Marshall Plan, did you know that Marshall, “in an amazing oversight,” never showed the president an advance draft of his historic speech?

Zoellick’s central theme is that American diplomacy at its best is practical and pragmatic.  Its biggest successes have been in opening trade with the world. He scorns Donald Trump’s disdain for NAFTA and his trade tariffs against China.

Future presidents can learn from these tales about “trying what works.”

Please join us December 5 for what is certain to be an enlightening discussion with Robert Zoellick.



President of the World Bank, 2007-12

Vice Chairman, international, Goldman Sachs Group, 2006-2007

Deputy Secretary of State, 2005-06

U.S. Trade Representative, 2001-05

Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae, 1993-97

White House Deputy Chief of Staff & Assistant to the President, 1992-1993

Undersecretary of State for Economic & Agricultural Affairs, 1989-1992

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Treasury Department, 1985-1988

Senior Fellow at Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

Board member of Temasek and Peterson Institute for International Economics

Chair of the Global Tiger Initiative

Member of the Global Leadership Council of Mercy Corps

J.D., Harvard Law School

MA in Public Policy, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

BA, Swarthmore College

Publications and Interviews:

America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, Robert B. Zoellick

Book review of America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy by Robert B. Zoellick – The Washington Post

A Review of “America in the World” by Robert B. Zoellick (foreignaffairs.com)

The Long Shadow of Iraq and Its Lessons Today – January 2023

Ex-World Bank head Robert Zoellick: “The world could look like 1900 again” – September 2020

The U.S. Doesn’t Need a New Cold War – May 2020

Impeachable or Not, Trump’s Foreign Policy is Reckless – December 2019

A Better Way to Deal with Beijing – May 2019

The Peril of Trump’s Populist Foreign Policy – November 2017


Alexander Hamilton Award of the Department of Treasury

Medal for Distinguished Public Service of the Department of Defense

Knight Commanders Cross, awarded for his achievements in the course of German unification

Aztec Eagle, awarded from the Mexican government

Order of Merit, awarded from the Chilean government