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Commencement Speaker

Harold H. Saunders, Ph.D.

Director of International Affairs, the Kettering Foundation

Harold Saunders, Ph.DHarold H. Saunders is director of international affairs at the Kettering Foundation, founder and president of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD), and former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs.

As director of international affairs at the Kettering Foundation—an independent, nonpartisan organization that conducts research, from the perspective of citizens, on what people collectively can do to address problems affecting their lives, their community and their nation—Saunders has played a key role in such research programs as the Dartmouth Conferences, the U.S./China dialogue and the International Civil Society Exchange.

Saunders is also the architect of Sustained Dialogue, “a public peace process” designed to change relationships among those in deep-rooted human conflicts. As chairman and president of the IISD, he conducted peacemaking and peace-building dialogues during and following the civil war in Tajikistan, a three-year dialogue to improve relationships between the Muslim Arab heartland and the West, and a dialogue on national reconciliation with participants from across the political spectrum in Iraq. IISD is the institutional base for the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network now operating on some 15 college campuses, including Susquehanna University’s.

Saunders’ career as one of the world’s most respected and knowledgeable diplomats on Middle Eastern affairs began in 1961 when he joined the National Security Council staff, where he served as a resource to three U.S. presidents. In 1974, he was appointed deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. In 1974 and 1975, he flew on the Kissinger shuttles and was a member of the small team, along with the secretary of state, that mediated three Arab-Israeli disengagement agreements after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. In 1978, President Carter appointed him assistant secretary of state for the region, giving Saunders a central role in some of the era’s most significant developments in the Middle East, including the Camp David Accords and the 1979 hostage crisis involving U.S. embassy officials in Tehran, Iran.

Previously, he was a lecturer at George Washington University, an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

After leaving government in 1981, he was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute until1986 and at the Brookings Institution until 1991. He has also been a visiting professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and George Mason University's Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Saunders received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1952 and a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1956. He has served as a trustee at Princeton.

Saunders is the author of Politics Is About Relationship: A Blueprint for the Citizens’ Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts (St. Martin’s Press, 1999). Among awards he has received are the 2010 Walter and Leonore Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy from the American Academy of Diplomacy and the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award from Search for Common Ground, which honors outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, community building and peacemaking.

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