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Ambassador Ira Shapiro

Renowned International Trade Law and Policy Expert; Acclaimed Author, The Last Great Senate and Broken

Travels From:
Washington, DC
Fee Range:
Under $15,000

Featured Videos

After Words: Ira Shapiro, "Broken"

Ira Shapiro: The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesm ...

Athenaeum Symposia: Ira Shapiro

Speaker Resources

  • Ambassador Ira  Shapiro
  • Ambassador Ira  Shapiro

Bio

During a Washington career spanning more than 40 years, Ambassador Ira Shapiro has had a powerful impact in both the fields of American politics and government, and international trade. At a time of unprecedented uncertainty and danger in the United States, and potential turmoil in global trade, Mr. Shapiro’s experience, wisdom and insights---delivered with the “honesty and humor” once described as “his stock in trade”--will be meaningful to many audiences.

Mr. Shapiro is currently best known for his new book, “Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country?”, described by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, as “an unflinching account which describes how dysfunction in the Senate helped open the door to Donald Trump.” Publisher’s Weekly said: “Written to inform and exhort, Shapiro’s work is a fast-paced narrative that moderates will appreciate…It takes the impassioned tone of an anguished parent watching his beloved children fail to live up to their potential.” Mr. Shapiro’s initial speech about the book, delivered at the Brookings Institution, was entitled “The Other Threat to our Democracy: Mitch McConnell’s Senate.” In its first weeks, Broken has received immediate media and public attention. Mr. Shapiro has appeared on “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” and C=SPAN Book TV, in “After Words with Ira Shapiro,” a one-hour interview by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Broken is a sequel to Shapiro’s first book, The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis (2012), a critically-acclaimed narrative history of the Senate of the late 1970s. Reviewers called it “a tour de force” (Washington Post); “Profiles in Courage for this generation of leaders (Philadelphia Inquirer) and “a historically and politically artistic work of great brilliance” (Richard A. Baker, Senate Historian Emeritus.)

Shapiro’s love of politics and passion about government reflects his long Senate career serving some of the most distinguished senators of the era, including Gaylord Nelson, Abraham Ribicoff, Thomas Eagleton and Robert Byrd, before completing his Senate time as Jay Rockefeller’s first chief of staff. A veteran of several presidential campaigns, Shapiro served as Deputy Issues Coordinator when Walter Mondale sought the presidency, and later helped Bill Clinton and Al Gore select their vice -presidential running mates. In 2001-2002, he sought the Democratic nomination for Congress in what proved to be the most visible House contest in the country. Although ultimately falling short, Shapiro was praised in the local press for running a “great campaign” and providing “the antidote to cynicism” that he promised to deliver.

His international trade credentials are equally compelling. During the Clinton administration, Shapiro was one of the premier U.S. trade negotiators during what is generally regarded as the most productive period of American trade policy and negotiation. Serving as General Counsel to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), he helped complete the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round, the global trade agreement that created the World Trade Organization and established today’s global trade rules. Nominated by President Clinton for ambassadorial rank, and confirmed unanimously by the Senate, Shapiro went on to negotiate solutions to some of the most contentious bilateral trade disputes, including autos and auto parts, semiconductors, and insurance with Japan, and softwood lumber with China. After his departure from government, he played a key role in the successful negotiation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first global health treaty done under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO). From 2012-2017, Shapiro was chairman of the National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS).

Mr. Shapiro’s articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg Review, cnn.com, The Hill, Washington Monthly, Brandeis Magazine, Harvard Journal on Legislation, and several local newspapers. He has spoken all around the United States, including at four presidential libraries (Kennedy, Ford, Carter, and Clinton), as well in Tokyo, Geneva, and Beijing.

Speech Topics

Donald Trump and the fate of his presidency dominate public attention, but the crisis of American democracy began long before Trump became president. Our country has been failing in the fundamental test of governing itself for at least 25 or 30 years. We see the evidence everywhere: an increasingly tribal politics as the parties move further apart; elected officials who provide neither vision nor courage to deal with issues fundamental for our future; a political conversation made increasingly shrill by the 24/7 cable news and the pervasive impact of social media; and citizens who too fail to educate themselves, participate in politics, or even vote. And yet, we also see evidence of democratic resurgence, particularly as the younger generations refuse to accept the failed politics they have seen. Ira Shapiro, a former Senate staffer and Clinton administration trade ambassador, and the author of two books about the Senate, offers his views on the crisis we face and what our response should be.


China’s remarkable rise over the past 40 years has dramatically shifted the global balance of economic and political power. While China has risen, pursuing its unique model which mixes private enterprise and Communist rule, America has struggled to overcome political gridlock, rebuild our infrastructure, and remedy a stunning level of inequality. Optimism that China’s increased prosperity would produce economic and political liberalization has vanished over the past few years, and we now find China with a “president for life,” targeting and subsidizing the industries of the future, and building a surveillance state, on a scale never before seen. Ira Shapiro, a former Senate staffer and Clinton administration trade ambassador,  and the author of two books about the Senate, offers his views on a path forward to dealing with the challenge posed by China.


In an intensely serious time when it often seems impossible to remember anything before Donald Trump,  Ira Shapiro, a former Senate staffer and Clinton administration trade ambassador, and author of two books about the Senate, brings great insight, honesty and humor to a discussion of how Washington and American politics have changed over 50 years. A serious student of politics who could easily have been a satirist, Shapiro celebrates the great political leaders and reminds us why they were great, and he is unforgiving in profiling those who has been destructive. His faith in our democracy shines through; the role that each of us plays in rebuilding it is always a main theme of his remarks.


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