The United States and International Law during the Obama Administration: Executive and Legislative Perspectives

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This plenary session was convened at 5:15 p.m., Thursday, March 26, by its moderator, Alexander Aleinikoff of the Georgetown University Law Center, who introduced the panelists: David Abramowitz of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Joan Donoghue of the U.S. Department of State; Former U.S. Senator Charles Hagel of Georgetown University; and Anne-Marie Slaughter of the U.S. Department of State.


Welcome to this plenary on the United States and International Law during the Obama Administration: Executive and Legislative Perspectives. I'm Alex Aleinikoff, the Dean at Georgetown Law School, and Georgetown is pleased and proud to sponsor this terrific panel. I will just say a few words about each of the speakers, who probably need no introduction to you, and we'll get right to their presentations. First, to my immediate right: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning at Department of State. My guess is she is somewhat well known to this association, having been its president, of course. Before going to the State Department, she was the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University. Why someone would leave a deanship to go to the State Department .... She's also, as I mentioned, a former president of ASIL and her most recent book is The Idea That is America: Keeping Faith with our Values in a Dangerous World.

Sitting to Anne-Marie's right is Joan Donoghue, Principal Deputy Legal Adviser at the Department of State--a position she has held since 2007--she's actually currently Acting Legal Adviser at State. She' s had a variety of other positions in the Office of Legal Adviser and has served as Deputy General Counsel of the Department of the Treasury and General Counsel at Freddie Mac.

Next to her is David Abramowitz, Chief Counsel of the House International Relations Committee. He's responsible for advising the Committee on constitutional questions and international law issues. He's worked on issues such as the Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, legislation on U.S.-India nuclear cooperation, and implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Before joining the Committee staff, he worked for ten years at the Office of Legal Adviser in the State Department.

And sitting next to David: Senator Chuck Hagel, who is currently a Distinguished Professor at Georgetown University and at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He serves on a number of corporate boards and is also chairman of the Atlantic Council. As you all know, he served for two terms in the United States Senate from 1997 until just this year, representing the state of Nebraska. Senator Hagel is the author of the recently published book, America: Our Next Chapter. And I did want to note in the front row of our audience here, in high listening mode, is Dean Harold Koh who has just been nominated to take the position of Legal Adviser in the State Department. Each panelist will speak for ten minutes. I will be relentless in keeping time and then we'll have plenty of time for questions. Anne-Marie.

* Dean, Georgetown University Law Chapter


Some things do change. In my experience, this audience gets larger and larger and more and more diverse, both of which are very good things. Some things don't change. Every panel I have ever been on or attended at the American Society of International Law started with "we're going to speak briefly and leave time for questions." We'll see if this panel can change what typically then happens.

I want to talk broadly about international law and the Obama administration. I'm going to talk in broad contours. If you just think about what the administration has done to date, I think you can take comfort in two things. First of all, President Obama has often talked a great deal about responsibility, beginning with his inaugural address and often since. …


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