William J. Burns President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Author, The Back Channel
William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. Burns retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a 33-year diplomatic career. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become deputy secretary of state. He is the author of The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal.
Prior to his tenure as deputy secretary, Burns served from 2008 to 2011 as under secretary for political affairs. He was ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from 2001 to 2005, and ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001. His other posts in the Foreign Service include: executive secretary of the State Department and special assistant to former secretaries of state Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright; and minister-counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Moscow; among other posts.
Burns has been the recipient of three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and numerous Department of State awards, including three Secretary’s Distinguished Service Awards, two Distinguished Honor Awards, the 2006 Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Ambassadorial Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development, and the 2005 Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking.
Burns earned a bachelor’s in history from LaSalle University and master’s and doctoral degrees in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.
(Note: This biography was up-to-date as of the date of the lecture. Biographies are not updated over time.)