Event Recap: An Evening With Fiona Hill Benefitting Bridge to Access
Anna Hutto, Vice President of External Relations
It’s not every day that a world-renowned foreign policy expert shares a story about the time a mentor changed her life by taking her to discount retailer T.J. Maxx to buy her first suit…
But that was just one of many personal insights and stories shared by Fiona Hill as she discussed what she calls “the infrastructure of opportunity” and the critical role access to opportunity plays in strong democratic societies at Cultural Vistas’ recent event, Fiona Hill In Conversation With Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, at historic Harold Pratt House in New York City.
Our first in-person gathering in nearly three years, the evening benefitted Bridge to Access, a newly launched Cultural Vistas’ initiative aimed at significantly increasing access and equity in international exchange opportunities. Together, more than 150 alumni, friends, sponsors, and partners raised over $80,000 that will fund exchange program scholarships for young adults from historically excluded communities, amplify rural and small-town voices in international exchange, and expand programs and opportunities beyond traditional exchange destinations.
A coal miner’s daughter from England, Fiona Hill is a noted authority on Russian and European geopolitics and has worked for George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Currently, Hill is a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings and was recently named the next chancellor of Durham University. Her New York Times bestseller, There is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century, released in October 2021, is an urgent warning that America is on the brink of socioeconomic collapse and an authoritarian swing that could rival that of modern day Russia.
Joined by conversation partner and Cultural Vistas’ alumna, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a three-time New York Times bestselling author and adjunct senior fellow for women and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Hill took the stage for a warm — yet honest — discussion about her personal experiences and what it really takes to get ahead. In fact, in her book, Hill asserts that it is only by expanding opportunity that we can save our democracy.
Attendees were invited to consider how the seemingly small gestures that we often take for granted – like a trip to T.J. Maxx for the “right” clothes, a ride to a job interview, or a simple introduction — are actually incredibly significant in creating the infrastructure of opportunity. These are the moments that can make or break an individual’s ability to move from probability to possibility.
In addition to being both humorous and inspirational, Hill issued a call-to-action, challenging guests to pay it forward in creating opportunities for individuals from communities that get left behind, like the coal-mining town she grew up in — because we have all benefitted from these opportunities and we all have the power to create them for others.
“None of us succeed on our own…you can always help somebody else just to move a little bit along,” Hill said.
Following the discussion, Cultural Vistas recognized two outstanding alumni for their impact and leadership: Kaylon Paterson (2022 Alumni Impact Awardee) and Stella Jemna (2022 Distinguished Alumni Leadership Awardee).
Thank you to all who made this incredible and impactful night possible. From our generous Board of Directors and event sponsors, to our inspiring speakers and awardees, to the countless partners, friends, and colleagues around the world — like you! — whose dedication and support help make our mission a reality every single day.