Ambassador Chase Untermeyer Provides 10th Annual Levinson Lecture
Posted September 29, 2012
Ambassador Chase Untermeyer ascended the Engelhard Hall stage on Friday night to thunderous applause after a beautiful introduction from his friend David Levinson '53 P'05. Levinson endowed the annual lecture to bring international figures in history, politics, economics or related social science fields to campus each year and he 10th Anniversary of the lecture brought with it a particularly celebratory atmosphere not lost on the Ambassador. "If it weren't enough of an honor to have a chance to be here at beautiful St. Andrew's and also to have a chance to talk to you this evening on the subject I've chosen," began Ambassador Untermeyer in his opening remarks, "how much greater an honor it is to give the 10th Levinson Lecture in History. To me, that is the real charm and the joy of this occasion."
Ambassador Unteremeyer went on to outline his case for the intensive and purposeful study of history. Only through such study, Untermeyer explained, can a society evolve and improve through each iteration in time. His own study of public servants through biography has made a deep impact on Untermeyer’s own commitment to public service and informed many of his most difficult decisions. He offered President Truman’s words that, "the only thing new in the world is history you don't know." He pointed to world leaders of the past and present like Churchill, Truman, Kennedy and Obama — historians to various degrees in their own right — as examples of how important it is to read and study history.
In one particularly powerful example, Untermeyer detailed how then President John F. Kennedy had finished Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August about the beginnings of World War I only months before he faced the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy's greatest lesson from Tuchman's work was the speed in which statesmen can lose control in a crisis. He reportedly told his advisors that he would not follow a course that allowed anyone to write a book entitled, "The Missiles of October". Many credit the prudence and caution Kennedy showed at that time — traits that were sorely missing after the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand — for avoiding another world war.
Afterwards, students fired questions at the ambassador ranging from the calculation that goes into U.S. intervention in foreign countries to his views on the Arab spring and the recent assassination of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi. Middle Eastern Studies students had an additional opportunity to ask questions of the ambassador during their Saturday morning class.
"I have been overwhelmed by the beauty and special spirit of this place where you all are so lucky to attend," noted Untermeyer before traveling back to his home state of Texas.
You can listen to and download the 10th Annual Levinson Lecture on our podcast channel.
More about Ambassador Untermeyer:
U.S. Ambassador Chase Untermeyer studied government at Harvard College before serving as an officer in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. Upon his return from Vietnam, he began work as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, where he worked for three years before embarking on a career of public service.
After representing western Houston in the Texas legislature for three years, Ambassador Untermeyer moved to Washington, DC to serve as executive assistant to then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. The many government posts he has held include Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs under President Reagan and Director of Presidential Personnel under the first President Bush. He also served as director of Voice for America, the overseas broadcasting arm of the U.S. government, from 1991–1993.
In 1993, Untermeyer returned to Houston to serve as director of public affairs at Compaq Computer Corporation, which was the second-largest computer company in the nation at that time. At Compaq, he spent three years managing a $50.5 million corporate giving program.
In 2002, Untermeyer left Compaq to serve as executive vice president and professor of public policy at The University of Texas Health Science Center–Houston, where he managed all local, state, federal, and international government relations for UTHSC before his 2004 nomination to serve as United States Ambassador to Qatar by President George W. Bush, a position he held until 2007.
Ambassador Untermeyer is a member of the Texas Ethics Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a member of the boards of the St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities and of Harris County Precinct 1 Street Olympics. In previous part-time public service, he has been member and chairman of the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy, a commissioner of the Port of Houston, president of the Houston READ Commission, a member of the board of National Public Radio, member of the Defense Health Board, and chairman of the State Board of Education, appointed by then-Governor George W. Bush.