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The Zbigniew Brzezinski Initiative

The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and its Foreign Policy Institute are pleased to introduce The Brzezinski Initiative, in honor of Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s legacy.

President Carter talking with colleague

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski (left) with President Carter.

To recognize Dr. Brzezinski’s legacy, Johns Hopkins SAIS and its Foreign Policy Institute have established a unique set of academic programs that build on the school’s strengths as a leading center for training graduate students in international policy and relevant academic research. This recognition comprises both immediate programming and longer-term plans, which together will equip a new generation of policy experts capable of the authoritative analysis, strategic vision, and active diplomacy that were hallmarks of Dr. Brzezinski’s role as a scholar, policy advisor, and statesman.

The Brzezinski Initiative celebrates his legacy by launching:

  • The Brzezinski Lecture Series
  • The Brzezinski Current Issues Seminar
  • The Brzezinski Fellowship
  • The Brzezinski Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Foreign Policy

We look forward to sharing updates on these initiatives and highlighting the many positive ways Dr. Brzezinski impacted his colleagues, research assistants, and students while a member of our faculty.

"It is such an honor to be part of this celebration of a man SAIS knew as “Professor Brzezinski,” but whom we knew as “Dad.” Intellectualism and scholarship were at our Dad’s core: they were his essence. That’s why SAIS had such special significance for him."


The Brzezinski Lecture Series

Dr. Brzezinski’s life spanned momentous international changes, from devastating international conflict to a post-Cold War period in which US global leadership became increasingly tested. Revered for his strategic vision, Dr. Brzezinski always kept a keen eye on the future direction of US policy toward the world.

As a statesman, Dr. Brzezinski argued that US foreign policy must derive its inspiration from a commitment to its liberal democratic ideals. His policies sought the greater good when freedom and human rights were at stake, while also seeking to leverage American power and influence on behalf of global peace and stability.

Brzezinksi Lecture Series Image

The Brzezinski Lecture Series will bring the world’s most preeminent thinkers to our campuses to reflect on the application of statecraft and to address the growing international challenges of our time.

The series will serve as an annual, high-profile lecture in Washington, DC and will give students, faculty and the broader foreign policy community an opportunity to explore critical international challenges together and consider how the United States should address them. This lecture series comes at a crucial moment in international politics as new globally-capable state and non-state actors create a more complex and challenging geopolitical landscape. The lecture series will enable preeminent political, academic and business leaders to explore how the United States and the democratic community of nations can most effectively leverage, to use Brzezinski’s phrase, their power and principles.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) has generously supported the Brzezinski Lecture Series.

One of the most enduring legacies of Dr. Brzezinski’s tenure were his highly regarded and intellectually challenging current issues seminars. He chaired these trenchant discussions, or more often, incisive debates, on the issues of critical importance to American foreign policy two or three times a semester.

In order to maximize the outcomes of the Brzezinski Lecture and to connect the topics discussed more directly and deeply with faculty and select students, this effort will relaunch the Brzezinski Current Issues Seminar with a series of focused discussions on the most pressing questions of the day.

A degree from Johns Hopkins SAIS provides a unique combination of an intellectually rigorous academic and an exceptional breadth of professional experiences and interactions with practitioners.

The Brzezinski Fellowship will attract the world’s most promising scholars with a commitment to public service to study international and security policy in the two-year Master of Arts degree program at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Recipients will engage with experts affiliated with the Foreign Policy Institute and will deliver a lecture on a key international topic during their second year of study. Recipients will also be required to participate in and support the Brzezinski Lecture Series.

Dr. Brzezinski was a brilliant lecturer and a dedicated teacher who challenged and encouraged students to strive for the intellectual acuity and analytical precision for which he himself was renowned. The Brzezinski Postdoctoral Fellowship will enable an exceptionally promising scholar who has completed his or her PhD on a topic related to foreign and security policy to spend a year affiliated with the school’s Foreign Policy Institute. The selected postdoctoral fellow is expected to be at the stage of preparing their dissertation for publication as a book and to contribute to the intellectual life of the Foreign Policy Institute and Johns Hopkins SAIS more broadly. He or she would be invited to participate in the Brzezinski Roundtables.

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski Portrait Image

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski played an incomparable role in providing strategic vision to American foreign and security policy throughout his long and remarkable professional life. As a statesman, he advocated and practiced an active diplomacy for the United States, which he once described as a “carrier of human hope.” He was the architect of policies that used American capabilities to promote global stability, human rights and the American interest. As a scholar and policy expert, he was known for both the depth and breadth of his analysis. In government, his creativity and incisiveness made him a driver of policy.

Dr. Brzezinski’s service in government included a role in the Policy Planning Council of the Department of State from 1966 to 1968; co-founding and leading the Trilateral Commission from 1973 to 1976 and serving as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. In 1981, in recognition of his part in the normalization of US-China relations, as well as his contributions to the human rights and national security policies of the United States, Brzezinski was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dr. Brzezinski also served as a member of the President’s Chemical Warfare Commission (1985), the National Security Council-Defense Department Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy (1987–1988), and the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1987–1989). In 1988, he co-chaired the Bush National Security Advisory Task Force, and in 2004, he co-chaired the Council on Foreign Relations’ task force that produced the study, Iran: Time for a New Approach.

As professor of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins SAIS from 1989 to 1998, he continued to engage in influential research and teaching on American security policy and statecraft that had distinguished his early career. After stepping away from a full-time faculty role, he retained appointments as Senior Research Professor and Senior Fellow at the school’s Foreign Policy Institute. Dr. Brzezinski hosted a “Current Issues Seminar” on world affairs for faculty and other Washington foreign policy luminaries, and delivered an annual lecture on foreign policy to students through the last year of his life.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Dr. Brzezinski’s family moved to Canada when his father was appointed the Polish ambassador to Canada in 1938. When Soviet-backed communists took over the Polish government in 1945, the family remained in Canada. Dr. Brzezinski studied economics and political science at McGill University (BA, 1948) and political science at McGill (MA, 1950) and at Harvard University (PhD, 1953).

Contact Us

If you are interested in supporting the Brzezinski Initiative or if you would like to learn more about the lecture series or fellowships, please contact us.