The ISD Distinguished Practitioner Series featured a lively discussion on April 19, 2016, on the negotiations to chart a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba. ISD Rusk Fellow and White House Senior Advisor Bernadette Meehan and National Security Council Director for the Caribbean & Central America Siobhan Sheils spoke with Georgetown students about their experiences working on the U.S. government team negotiating the details of President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in March 2016.
This was the first Cuba visit by a sitting U.S. president in almost 90 years. Meehan, a member of the National Security Council team that worked on the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with Cuba announced in 2014, was brought back to the White House to help coordinate the March 2016 trip. She and Sheils worked with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and NSC Senior Mark Feierstein in 2016 to conduct negotiations with the Cuban government on political and economic deliverables for the March trip, and to organize the President and First Lady's schedules in Havana.
Both Sheils and Meehan highlighted the White House's extensive outreach to the Cuban American community in advance of the trip; the close coordination with a bipartisan Congressional delegation that accompanied the President to Cuba; and efforts to expand people-to-people ties between the American and Cuban people. They shared stories about the President's historic speech from the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso; bilateral meetings with Cuban President Raúl Castro; an entrepreneurship event designed to highlight the contributions to Cuba's economy of cuentapropistas, or self-employed; meetings with Cuban civil society; and the planning that went into the Major League Baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team.
The ISD Distinguished Practitioners series brings senior practitioners and experts to the Georgetown campus to meet with students in an informal setting to discuss issues of current interest.