15:01 PM

The 2019 Signature Event: A Conversation With Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, covered a lot of ground during her October 2 keynote appearance at Bellevue University’s 11th annual Signature Event held October 2 at the Holland Center in downtown Omaha.

The former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador, shared her perspective on some of the world’s geopolitical hot spots and the state of the American Dream with an audience of more than 700 University supporters and community members.

Some of the highlights of her informal one-hour conversation with moderator Michael Cassling, University Board of Directors Chairman, include:

The United Nations“The (U.N.) concept was a good one: Put someone from every country in a room together and good things can happen. But what you find is that all countries don’t think the same or have the same values, so it doesn’t always work the way you thought… Some nations are very resentful of the U.S., but even though they resent us, they all want to be us. They want us to lead, and they look to us as the moral authority… But they (U.N.) have to be willing to talk about the tough things. If they don’t, they’re not going to be relevant themselves.”

Israel “The United States puts its embassy in the capital of every country. Tel Aviv is not the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is the capital. Israel is the one bright spot in a really bad neighborhood, the Middle East… If we support them, it will remind other countries of what they could be.”

China “I think it’s the biggest long-term threat to our economy. The U.S. helped them get into the World Trade Organization because we thought they would be friendly with the West. We literally lose billions of dollars a year in trade with them… They steal intellectual property. We have to hold them accountable and call them out on protests like Hong Kong.”

North Korea “We initiated three strong sanctions packages to slow down their nuclear weapons. We knew that any revenue going there was going into their weapons program, not to feed their people. They make a lot of money from their foreign laborer program. We stopped that. And that eventually brought them to the negotiating table to talk about denuclearization… It remains to be seen, but the fact that we continue talking gives me hope.”

Russia “We can never trust Russia. They meddled in our elections. It’s what they do. We all need to be aware of what Russia did in that last (2016) election. Americans actually showed up for rallies (that) the Russians created and used to create divides on race and religion. They aren’t a wealthy country with the biggest military. Their thing is to cause chaos or hold hands with the worst people in the world. But at the same time, they’re like China. You have to talk to them.” 

Iran “The problem with Iran is that it’s not just a country, it’s a cause, and it’s a cause with surrogates. I believe the Obama Administration had good intentions when they did the Iran deal. The problem is, they gave them a plane-full of money that is now funding terrorism throughout the region. So the deal actually created a bigger problem. I think the President was right to get out of it.”

Venezuela “You have to look at Venezuela and what the Maduro regime has done to that country. It was such a successful country and now the perfect example of what corrupt socialism can do to a country. To see people eating out of trash cans and killing zoo animals for food. That’s what happening, and something has to give.”

The Military“We need to continue to make the military more efficient and technologically advanced. We have to have a strong military, and there’s a way to strengthen it without the waste… Cyber is the new form of warfare, because it’s cheap. North Korea, Russia, and Iran all can do it, so we have to be really in front of the game.”

Immigration“I am the proud daughter of Indian parents who came here and reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country. They came here the right way. They put in the time and followed the rules. The second we give up being a country of laws, we give up everything this country was founded on. But the fabric of immigration is what has made America so great…The debate is not about whether you want people coming into this country, it’s about knowing the background of the people who are coming.”

Government Debt“It burdens my soul that we have a $22 billion-dollar debt. Think about it. When you’ve got a good economy and you’ve got a growing debt, something is terribly wrong… This is not sustainable. Eventually, it will affect Social Security, Medicare and other mandated entitlements.”

Partisanship“We have to remember to be grateful. Right now we have members of both (political) parties calling the other side ‘evil.’ That hits a nerve with me, because I’ve been to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they use slaves as a weapon of war. In South Sudan, I’ve talked to women whose babies were taken from their arms and thrown into fires. What we have to remember is that on our worst day, we are blessed to be Americans. We are the best and most beautiful experiment ever. The idea that America is the envy of the world, the idea that we have survived what we have survived and continued to come out of it is amazing, but we have to protect it.”

Higher Education’s Role“Higher education has obviously gotten very expensive. Bellevue University is teaching students why our country is great and why to be grateful. It is taking people who are already facing challenges and being flexible, so they can make a better life. I applaud what you are doing.”

The Signature Event is an extension of Bellevue University’s required Signature Series courses, which emphasize active, involved citizenship. More than 38,000 undergraduates have completed the Signature Series since it was introduced two decades ago.