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Fall 2020 Seminar

Negotiation Lessons from American Secretaries of State

This course will be taught by Professor Robert Mnookin with the participation of Professor James Sebenius (HBS), Professor Nicholas Burns (HKS) and Dr. Torrey Taussig (HKS).

Prerequisite: A basic negotiation course or permission of the instructor is a prerequisite.

Exam Type: No Exam

This seminar, offered in conjunction with the American Secretaries of State project described below, will explore the approaches of nine American Secretaries of State to negotiation and diplomacy.

Seminar students will have access to original transcripts and videos of personal interviews with the various Secretaries that have been conducted by Professors Burns, Mnookin, Sebenius, and Dr. Taussig—including Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker III, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Rex Tillerson. These interviews focused on each Secretary’s most important negotiations; leadership of the State Department; management of key relationships within the U.S. government; and development and execution of strategy to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals.

Drawing on this and other biographical and contextual material, every seminar student, working either alone or as part of a small team, will normally be expected to write a term paper on a particular secretary that would normally include biographical information with memorable anecdotes, a précis of each of their main negotiations while in office (especially in the Middle East, with the Soviet Union/Russia, and China/Asia), and key insights into that Secretary’s approach to negotiation and diplomacy.

Formally launched in 2014, the American Secretaries of State Project is a joint initiative of the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School, the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, and Harvard Business School and is co-directed by Professor Nicholas Burns of Harvard Kennedy School, Professor James Sebenius of Harvard Business School, and Professor Robert Mnookin of Harvard Law School.