Ambassador Series Offers Students a Global Perspective

Russian ambassador meets with students

When Sir Peter Westmacott, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States, speaks at the University of Virginia on Friday morning, it will mark the most recent expression of what former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill famously labeled as a “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain.

The ambassador’s discussion with University Professor Larry Sabato, to be held at 11:45 a.m. in Jefferson Hall, also will represent the latest in an ongoing series of visits by top foreign dignitaries participating in the Center for Politics’ Ambassador Speaker Series.

“There are no formal documents that define the ‘special relationship’ between the U.S. and Great Britain,” said Daman Irby, director of global initiatives at the Center for Politics, “and I suspect that if such a text had existed, the dynamic and constantly evolving nature of international relations and global politics would likely have rendered it obsolete long ago.

“Still, no one would deny that it exists, and I’m sure Ambassador Westmacott will agree that the success and preservation of democratic institutions in each of our respective countries depends on our continued mutual support of one another.”

Inspired by UVA founder Thomas Jefferson’s service as ambassador to France, the Center for Politics launched its Ambassador Series, which sponsors visits by international diplomats on Grounds each year, to encourage and foster civic dialogue and to focus attention on issues of global concern. The series is part of the center’s larger international programming, “Global Perspectives on Democracy,” which Sabato, the center’s director, launched in 2006 by hosting a 300-member delegation of visiting students from 46 states and 22 international countries.          

Westmacott’s visit follows other recent and timely presentations by Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, who spoke on the heightened tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, as well as Ambassadors Hans Peter Manz of Austria and Cecilia Nahón of Argentina.  

“The Center for Politics typically spends years laying the groundwork for each ambassador’s visit and we’re frequently called on by Washington’s diplomatic corps for presentations on American politics and government in preparation for such visits,” Irby said. “Obviously, these are very busy people, so it’s a special privilege when they come and are so generous with their time.”

The Center for Politics offers a broad range of international programming annually, including State Department-sponsored visits to Grounds by professionals and students – most recently hosting delegations from Afghanistan, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, India, Peru, Sri Lanka and many other countries.

Westmacott’s presentation is co-sponsored by the International Residential College. The event is free and open to the public, but only standing room remains. Advanced registration is required.

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