In a time of political turmoil and polarization, few individuals have stood taller than former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson who served from 2013 to 2017. On Sunday, December 2, Johnson spoke at UCSB’s Campbell Hall to discuss his experiences in office and the current national security threats the United States faces.
Johnson began his talk by hearkening back to the last few hours of the 1,124 days he spent in office, recalling the time he was named the designated survivor for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. As the only cabinet secretary who was part of the transition team, Johnson quipped that for 7 hours and 22 minutes, he was sole member of President Trump’s cabinet.
Johnson later outlined three national security challenges that his former department handled: counter-terrorism, cyber security, and immigration. However, each of these issues have evolved since the early 2000s, and Johnson urged American leaders to work together to find novel solutions. “I mourn the passing of our 45th President George H. W. Bush,” he said. “I hope and pray that his brand of leadership has not also died. We watch with despair as the standard of leadership and political behavior spiral downward.”
Yet, he remains hopeful for the future, firmly believing that voters are the impetus for change. “Change in a democracy has to begin at its source. Voters need to demand for change. …We are indeed a great nation,” he told the audience, “and we have never stopped being a great nation. Please remember that.”