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Music can help topple regimes, promote international cooperation, or bridge cultural divides, but its strength as a diplomatic tool has not received its due attention in global policy circles. At this event, we’ll speak to two distinguished diplomats who once played punk rock with Tommy Ramone, and a former climate diplomat who also happens to be a talented jazz singer, about how music shapes international relations, how countries instrumentalize their musicians as part of their cultural diplomacy, and how music can promote greater international understanding.
Join Perry World House for this edition of Global Lens, our cultural affairs program, to join a conversation on these issues with Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, former Deputy Secretary General of NATO, and drummer for the rock band Coalition of the Willing; Ambassador András Simonyi, distinguished Hungarian diplomat and guitarist for Coalition of the Willing; and Lolita Jackson, the former climate diplomat for New York City and a jazz singer.
Lolita Jackson is Executive Director of Communications & Sustainable Cities at Sustainable Development Capital LLC and a Visiting Fellow at Perry World House. She was previously the Special Advisor for Climate Policy & Programs in the NYC Mayor’s Office, serving as the climate diplomat for NYC, and as lead for the administration regarding global work on divestment and climate finance. Prior to her appointment to this role, she held numerous positions within the NYC Mayor’s Office over the past 14 years, including the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, lead for operational city agencies on Second Avenue Subway, and Manhattan Director of Community Affairs. Prior to her tenure in the NYC Mayor’s Office, Jackson worked for Morgan Stanley Investment Management for 12 years. She is a 1989 alumna of the Penn School of Engineering and Applied Science, majoring in Applied Science with a concentration in Chemical Engineering, is co-President of the Penn Class of 1989, and is a 2007 winner of the Penn Alumni Award of Merit.
Ambassador András Simonyi is a former Hungarian ambassador now living and working in Washington, D.C. He was the managing director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS Johns Hopkins University (2012-2018), presently working with the George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science. Prior to moving to the United States, he was Hungary’s ambassador to the U.S. (2002-2007). He was the first Hungarian ambassador to NATO, becoming the first permanent representative of Hungary, after the country’s accession to the Alliance. His prior assignments include deputy chief of mission of Hungary to the European Union (later European Commission). Ambassador Simonyi is a trained transportation economist, with a Ph.D. in International Affairs. In his academic work he specializes in transatlantic relations, transatlantic energy, and the Nordic countries. He publishes frequently in The Hill, The Huffington Post, and other media outlets.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow is a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center on Strategy and Security in Washington, D.C. and Wolk Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Perry World House. He was Deputy Secretary General of NATO from 2012 to 2016, the first American to hold that position. A career diplomat since 1977, Vershbow served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (2009-2012), U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2005-2008), U.S. Ambassador to Russia (2001-2005) and U.S. Ambassador to NATO (1998-2001). He also held numerous senior positions in Washington, including Special Assistant to the President for European Affairs at the National Security Council (1994-97) and State Department Director of Soviet Union Affairs (1988-91).