| Willy Brandt School of Public Policy

"Meet the Ambassador:" Ambassador Amy Gutmann discusses Democracy, Diplomacy, and Civic Engagement with Students

On May 14, 2024, the Brandt School, in cooperation with the U.S. Consulate General in Leipzig, organized “Meet the Ambassador,” an interactive session featuring Professor Amy Gutmann, Ambassador of the United States of America to Germany for students at the Brandt School and other University of Erfurt programs to discuss democracy, diplomacy and civic engagement.


Democracy is at risk, as all the virtues that democracy offers, be it fundamental human rights or freedom of speech, are being taken for granted nowadays. Similarly, assaults on civic participation and the deprivation of citizens’ fundamental right to choose further derails democratic processes. During the event, Ambassador Professor Amy Gutmann shed light on a number of factors impeding the growth of democracy and underscored the importance of informed debate, evidence-based policy making, and active participation needed to ensure the bright future of democracy.

The year 2024 is going be decisive in democracy’s journey, as more than two billion voters around the globe will be making their choices in elections held in 60 countries. This includes the United States of America and the European Union Parliament elections. The ambassador spoke highly about an individual’s right of making his or her own choice and termed voting an “amazing right.” Moreover, while addressing the students about this critical moment for democracy, she remarked “The question is, will this year be a milestone in the right direction?”

Civic engagement, especially youth participation, is immensely significant for a prosperous democracy. Diverse opinions and dissenting voices water the flower of democracy. The more actively citizens participate in democratic processes, the more democracy blooms. However, such civic participation is under threat; there are many assaults against civic participation around the world. People are discriminated against and deprived of their right to participate in democratic processes owing to their identities, ideologies, and beliefs. Pinpointing these unfortunate barriers in democracy’s march, Professor Gutmann devised a path for democracy by summing up several key ideas in one acronym: SAID (Support each other, Advance alliance, Innovate inclusively, Defend democracy).   

In addition to that, the Ambassador stressed the importance of public policy in both democratic processes and global affairs in general. She said, “Studying public policy equips you with the analytical ability and knowledge to make a difference.” According to her, evidence-based policy making and informed citizenry are indispensable for democracy. She addressed Brandt School students by pinning hope on their worthy future contributions to the globe saying, “I welcome you all as future policy makers, I hope you all will join for the good of democracy, as an informed and active citizenry is the only true bulwark against tyranny.” 

During the question-and-answer session, the Ambassador addressed questions related to a number of key issues like artificial intelligence, the denial of voting rights, immigration, Russia’s war on Ukraine, the situation in Gaza, and inflation in Germany. While addressing a question on artificial intelligence as a threat to democracy, Professor Gutmann remarked “AI should be under the control of ethical human beings.” When asked for a comment on the situation in Gaza, she said, “I am as torn apart by this conflict as anybody is.” Lastly, she answered a question related to inflation and immigration in Germany by saying, “the biggest challenge to Germany is workforce, if you open to immigration and provide education to children, you will have more prosperous towns and cities. We need to cultivate prosperity across all divides.” 

The Ambassador concluded the session by emphasizing the significance of education for the masses in the following words: “Education opens opportunities; the most empowering of all resources is education.”