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Distinguished Global Lecture Series: ‘Preparing to Lead: Today’s Challenges for Tomorrow’s Leaders’

The first William J. Perry Lecture in association with Ewha GSIS Distinguished Lecture Series, invited prestigious guest speaker, Dr. Janet Napolitano to discuss: ‘Preparing to lead today’s challenges for tomorrow’s leaders.’ The lecture was held both offline and offline, with the recently lifted COVID restrictions, more students were able to participate offline. Following the lecture, the floor was open to students to ask questions that they felt were important in the current age and time.

The day’s event started off with Dean Howe, from Ewha GSIS, giving a brief introduction about the William Perry Lecture Series and a warm thank you to the Pacific Century Institute and founder Spencer Kim for allowing this event to happen.

Ewha President Eun Mee Kim, former professor at Ewha GSIS, introduced the event’s organization Pacific Century Institute and speaker. With profound words from President Kim, the tone was set, and many students anticipated the guest speaker’s lecture with eager ears to take in as much information from such a talented speaker as Dr. Napolitano.

A brief introduction on Dr. Napolitano. It is no surprise, but what makes Dr. Napolitano an iconic figure would be the fact that she has been the first in many roles; the first female to be attorney general, the first female governor, first female president of Homeland Security, and the first female president of the University of California. Dr. Napolitano did not rush through each phase, but rather she worked tirelessly to achieve her goals according to the given situation and blaze a path for future women leaders to come.

The lecture began with Dr. Napolitano’s statement, “how much and how quickly things change.” Of course, she was talking about how women were treated differently back in the 90s versus how women are treated now when it comes to positions that were once dominated by men. Though reporters have stopped asking female politicians running for office, how they plan to run for a specific position as a woman, Dr. Napolitano expressed how there is still a lot of work to be done.

Important Things to Consider

The roles Dr. Napolitano held were unusual for women to be leaders, but what helped her stand apart was the fact that she never benchmarked her gender; she simply viewed her jobs as jobs and how she had a responsibility to the public – focusing on the job would help her do the right thing for all people. Daunting as it might sound, because there will be instances in which gender might be used, what Dr. Napolitano emphasized was the importance of strong mentors. She learned, from her experience under Sandra Day O’Connor former associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was in order to overcome the gender gap strong mentors need to play a huge part. Young women need mentors to help them believe and find the confidence they need to run for president or become the first in something in their field.

In addition, young women need to learn how to plan. Dr. Napolitano stressed how important planning is for anyone wanting to get into political life. Planning and picking targets that are achievable while still being ambitious; though women might question their qualifications for the role, it is important to get out there and give it a try. Prior to being governor of Arizona, she was a U.S. attorney, so she did not have experience in politics, but the timing for her campaign was important. She understood that once she ran for governor once, she would not be able to run again, as a result, she set out to do the best she could for everyone in the state and that allowed her to gain the trust of the people and win the seat.

After being governor of Arizona, Dr. Napolitano was nominated by former President Barack Obama to become the president of Homeland Security. She went from governing a state to preventing security, and she had to learn how to preside over a workforce that has not progressed with the rest of the country. Luckily, support from friends and family and former President Obama allowed her to stay at the job and get the job done.


“Dream big, pick a goal and then aim higher, because you can do anything you set your mind to. Listen to yourself and what you want, find your passion, and then have the confidence to pursue it.”

Ewha students were fortunate enough to hear this lecture, as Dr. Napolitano repeated the importance of accepting mentorship, making timely and thoughtful decisions, and learning to know each one’s capabilities.


In terms of participating in politics, many say that women feel like it is not worthy, they feel like they cannot make a difference, lack of empowerment, how do you feel about urging young people?

I see this both in young women and men when they see politics, they can take a cynical view, they have other ways to devote their time, what I try to impress upon people is democracy.  Being able to effectuate change, at scale, requires participation in the political process and being in political office. It is important if we want to change, we need a plan, what are we going to do. Being involved in politics does not mean you have to run for politics, but you can have a very important staff position.

What entails good leadership?

What is it you want to achieve? To be able to persuade other people, to be part of that vision, the ability to multitask, a good sense of humor. In terms of preparation, really take this time to invest in yourself in your education, because you will carry it with you throughout your career, don’t slack off but really put energy, and invest in yourself because you develop the confidence.


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