Henry Kissinger Visits the Ashbrook Center

October 1, 1997

On September 11, 1997 at 9:30 P.M., Dr. Henry Kissinger left the podium where he delivered the keynote address at the Fourteenth Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner to a receptive audience of more than 500 patrons of the Ashbrook Center. Yet the evening for this former Secretary of State was only beginning — the most important event was yet to come.

Henry KissingerFollowing his speech, this living statesman was escorted into an adjoining room where 40 bright and intellectually curious students who hold Ashbrook Scholarships were waiting to begin a seminar on the great issues of foreign policy and world diplomacy. This seminar lasted well over an hour.

These students, the Ashbrook Scholars, were only doing what has become habit. All of the speakers who take the public podium at an Ashbrook event also attend a private off-the-record seminar with the Ashbrook Scholars. This private session is the real purpose for the visits of such notable individuals as Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, and Steve Forbes, to name but a few.

The Ashbrook Scholars study political science in a rigorous academic program embedded in the liberal arts tradition. In the classroom, the Ashbrook Scholars study the great works of Western Civilization and America, including the speeches and writings of our greatest statesmen. Outside the classroom, this education is supplemented by meetings with all of the Ashbrook Speakers, internships in a variety of businesses and government agencies, and attendance at a variety of conferences and seminars.

As the discussion with the students continued, questions were posed to the speaker dealing with morality and diplomacy. A young lady asked: "Are there moral principles that govern the foreign policy of nations? What role does principle play with nations that pursue interest-based foreign policies? " Kissinger’s intrigue with this question was still evident when he continued to wrestle with it two hours later on the trip to his next engagement. His concern whether his answer was clear enough and his hope that the answer was well received prompted him to ask that their discussion be continued in correspondence.

Bad weather delayed Kissinger’s arrival in Ashland by two-and-a-half hours, and it would have been easy for him to cancel his meeting with the Ashbrook Scholars. But Kissinger insisted on extending his stay in Ashland and keeping his commitment to meet privately with the Ashbrook Scholars. This seminar discussion was for him – as it is for us – a key part of his visit.

The intellectual engagement of these ambitious Ashbrook Scholars is what the Ashbrook Center is all about. The professors at Ashland University are charged with laying the intellectual foundations. The meetings with the Ashbrook speakers are where the Ashbrook Scholars examine the practical experience of these statesmen.

The education of the Ashbrook Scholars is grounded in principle and enlightened by the actions of our greatest statesmen. Through this education, the Ashbrook Scholars become responsible citizens and are prepared to become our next generation of leaders.