By BRIAN A. HOWEY

BLOOMINGTON  — U.S. Sen. Todd Young gave the first Richard G. Lugar Lecture at Indiana University last Friday, calling for “three bold actions” with an America “leading with its values,” including a bolstering of the nation’s diplomatic capabilities. 

But the day before, former ambassador William J. Burns told the conference that of 28 State Department assistant secretary positions in the Trump administration, only one is filled, and there has been a 40% drop in Foreign Service applications. And later the day of Young’s speech, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, received the Lugar Award and made an appeal for “maintaining our principles” and “moral traditions.”

The late Sen. Lugar, in a video before her speech at I.U. Auditorium, added, “I would say the best advice I could retrieve is to be honest, maintain your integrity.”

Young was one of 53 Republican senators who blocked Yovanovitch’s testimony at the Senate trial that ended in President Trump’s impeachment acquittal in February that stemmed, in part, from her dismissal last summer as Trump tried to shake down Ukraine President Zelensky for political dirt on Joe Biden.

Hamilton Lugar School Dean Lee Feinstein asked Yovanovitch what it was like to be in the spotlight during Trump’s impeachment hearings last fall. Yovanovitch responded, “It is important to tell the truth and then hand it over to political leaders who take their own actions. We are in this together, and we need to find the solution together. We can never forget that our foreign policy needs to be American foreign policy.”

Sen. Young said at the Hamilton Lugar America’s Role in the World Conference, “America has no choice but to lead with our values. Without the steady hand of American support and reassurance, new leaders will emerge. And those new leaders will seek to remake the world in line with their interests, not to defend democracy or market capitalism, nor to advance the universal human rights on which this nation was founded.” 

Young added, “Fortunately, America is leading. I commend President Trump and my colleagues in Congress for enacting new tax and regulatory policies. Increasing investment in the skills required to fuel our 21st century workforce. And implementing new bipartisan free trade agreements. Collectively, these policies are the table stakes required to continue growing our economy, and thereby, as Paul Kennedy reminds us, to strengthen America’s global economic position, expand and enhance our sphere of influence, and preserve our system of government and capitalism as the source of both our shared prosperity and our national security.” 

Young said that “our work is far from over” and said that American leadership will require bold action on three additional fronts. “First, in strategic technological investment,” Young said. “Second, in smart, flexible nuclear modernization. And third, in ensuring China remains the top priority of our military and our diplomats.” 

On Thursday, Burns told the conference that in addition to 27 under secretary posts going unfilled, there are now a “record number of political ambassadors.” Burns called President Trump’s diplomacy “as an exercise in narcissism” saying it “hollows out”  the Foreign Service.

Asked about Trump’s view that the Foreign Service is akin to the “deep state,” Burns responded, “That’s a crock.”

Burns pointed to President Trump’s 2018 press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Putin where Trump “essentially threw the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies under the bus.” He said that Putin was trained as a KGB agent and added, “If there had been a quote balloon” it would have Putin saying of Trump, “What an easy mark.”

In accepting the Richard G. Lugar Award, Yovanovitch said, “We also need to set an example. Sen Lugar beliefs in America’s moral traditions, rule of law, human rights, the Bill of Rights including freedom of the press, are all a source of our international power. He believed that excerting authority in the present age requires outreach and the ability to build coalitions. The U.S. maintains respect that derives from moral traditions. Maintaining our principles is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.”

She added in the age of pandemic, “We need a strong and resilient Department of State that is fully funded, fully staffed and fully empowered to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”

“So what do we need to do to reinvigorate the State Department?” she asked. “I believe we need to recommit to our principles, our rule of law, generosity of spirit and understanding that we are stronger together, both internally and externally ... to make the world more democratic and more prosperous. We need to be principled, consistent and trustworthy.”

“We need to re-empower diplomats to do their jobs. Government officials should not be afraid to challenge assumptions or share their expertise and experience. Working on the basis of fact and rigorous analysis is not the work of the deep state, it is the work of the deeply dedicated state,” she added, acknowledging a quote from former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul.