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The stakes of that period – inevitable – felt incredibly high because they were.
But it was also a time when the challenges – and what to do about them – were pretty clear, and when the primary forces shaping our world were leaders of recognized states.
Great Britain and the refugee fighters who gathered here stood seemingly alone against perhaps the greatest evil the world has ever known. And shortly after the blitz, Labor Minister Ernest Bevin declared: Our bombers are growing in size and carrying capacity. But during the time when my father was a member of America’s Foreign Service, our family moved to Berlin, where I got a child’s-eye view of East-West tensions – especially when I rode my bicycle without permission into the Communist sector and was promptly grounded by my dad, who informed me that I could have been an international incident. Twenty-two when I joined the Navy and twenty-three when I deployed for my first tour in Vietnam.
Our science is developing more rapidly than theirs. Now, later, I was an 18-year-old freshman at Yale during the Cuban Missile Crisis. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I was in my forties and serving in the United States Senate, and the Cold War had significantly shaped my world view throughout those formative years.
Henry Kissinger, who wrote one of the greatest books, Diplomacy, called me once, told me not so long ago – a few months ago that he thought this was far more, much more difficult.
Non-state actors compete with national governments for influence and power.
(Laughter.) If I thought it would make you feel a little bit better, I’m happy to sing a few bars of “Shake It Off.” (Laughter.) But I (inaudible) put you through that; I didn’t come here to torture you.
Everybody here joins me in saying thank you for your many, many labors as the EU high representative. (Laughter.) But he wears a second hat as the State Department director of policy and planning. I had the privilege of serving as the president of the Yale Political Union, which is modeled on the Oxford Union, and it’s a great privilege for me to be able to be here and to stand here with so many speakers that stood before – distinguished speakers Robert Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, the woman who plays Crazy Eyes on the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black. (Laughter.) I know that some of you have also been waging a very energetic campaign, a creative campaign to bring another tall, thin American to this hall – (laughter) – so I apologize to anybody who was disappointed that I am not, in fact, Taylor Swift.
Disturbing images and outright lies can circle the globe in an instant.(Laughter.) But Oxford University, needless to say, and the Oxford Union are the real deal, and I’m delighted to be here, particularly because we meet at such a critical time. Consider that 75 years ago last night, under a full moon, more than 500 Nazi warplanes launched one of the most destructive air raids of the Second World War.Bombs tore through London’s residential neighborhoods, including, I might add, the apartment building in which my American grandmother lived – though she, thankfully, wasn’t home when they hit.The explosions rocked Westminster Abbey and Parliament and blew a hole in one of the most magnificent roofs in the world – the arches and the oaken beams of Westminster Hall. But as we all know too well, the joy and relief of V-E Day – whose anniversary we just celebrated a couple days ago – were soon tempered by the emergence of a new division in Europe, and the descent, in Churchill’s phrase, of an Iron Curtain that separated free from un-free, Soviet satellites from NATO allies.At the time, the Third Reich controlled virtually all of Europe. This was the bipolar world in which my generation grew up, came of age.
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Now, in America, we call that character – (laughter) – sort of like buying brand-new jeans that already have holes in the knees (inaudible).