Former Sen. Jeff Flake assures BYU audience US still plays world leadership role

Sen. Jeff Flake speaks at a podium Wednesday, Sept. 29 in the Alice Louise Reynolds Auditorium. He assured BYU students that the United States’ time for leadership in the world has not passed. (Melissa Collado)

Former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake told a BYU audience Wednesday that despite questions raised about the United States’ leadership after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the nation still holds a world leadership role.

Flake, a BYU alumnus from Mesa, Arizona, said the world is experiencing a lot of disorder, but the U.S.’ time for leadership has not passed. Flake represented Arizona in Congress from 2013 to 2019.

“The world is a better place because America has, particularly over the past 70 years, consistently looked abroad,” Flake said in his lecture sponsored by the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies. He said the world still wants American values and leadership.

Flake provided examples of how the U.S. has looked abroad, helping different countries, particularly in Africa, to become a part of the free world. He described how the U.S. played a role in Namibia gaining independence from South Africa.

“The world that was enslaved by totalitarianism was throwing off its shackles,” Flake said.

Soft diplomacy, economic assistance, humanitarian aid and promoting free markets have also helped lead to a freer and more prosperous world, Flake said. “It’s not just our American military might that has changed the world.”

Flake explained how Communist leaders thought America was weakened forever after its retreat from Vietnam, but that changed when the Berlin Wall fell 15 years later. “Life comes at you fast,” he said.

Flake said he trusts that America will continue to be a “shining city on the hill” long into the future.

Immediately following his lecture, Flake answered questions from students. One asked what BYU students can do to help heal the political divide.

Flake said healing the political divide is more difficult now than it was in the past. Social media platforms are useful tools that allow people to respond to government leaders immediately and broadly.

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