Stephen Kelly
Research Scholar

I’m a research scholar at the Sanford School of Public Policy here at Duke University.  Sanford has been my home since I retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2010, and it has given me a chance to think more deeply about the issues I worked for 28 years in postings as diverse as Jakarta, Brussels and Bamako.

In the last decade of my diplomatic career I focused on North American questions.  I served in Quebec City as the U.S. Consul General, in Ottawa as the Deputy Chief of Mission, and in Mexico City, again as DCM.  Problems with the U.S. border with Canada and Mexico occupied much of my time, leading me to visit dozens of land border crossings.  I also dealt with energy, immigration and trade issues:  Canada and Mexico are major oil suppliers to the U.S., and our No. 1 and No. 2 largest export markets.  Concerns about the drug trade and border security also loomed large.  This experience became the basis of courses I taught at Sanford on the U.S. border, energy security, and North American regional security.  As it has turned out, all these are still hot button issues, thanks in no small part to President Trump.  I tried to provide my students enough context and history so they could propose their own policy solutions to these complex problems.

Before joining the Foreign Service, I was a reporter for three U.S. newspapers, including the Charlotte Observer, for which I was the Raleigh and later the Washington correspondent.  I have gotten back to my journalistic roots in recent years by writing op-eds for various publications, mainly on borders, energy and immigration.  Starting this academic year, I have stepped out of the classroom to spend more time writing and researching these topics as a research scholar in the Sanford School.

I graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and hold a master’s degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College in Washington, D.C. I served in the Peace Corps in Zaire after college, and picked up a few foreign languages over the years, including French, Indonesian, Dutch and Spanish.  All but French are badly rusted.  I got to teach two semesters at Duke’s new campus in Kunshan, China, a country where energy, border and security issues are just as touchy as they are currently in the U.S.

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