The Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture

"I am hopeful that this challenge may alleviate this sense of political helplessness and restore to many people a belief in the processes of American politics and of American government."
-Eugene J. McCarthy

The annual public lectureship carries McCarthy's deep commitment to the ideals and principles of democratic self-government. It seeks to inspire a new generation of young people to pursue fresh ideas, to challenge the status quo, to effect positive change in their communities and, like McCarthy himself, to lead with honesty, integrity, and courage.

The 13th Annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture

His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos

Interviewed by Valentín Sierra, 2010 SJU graduate  

The 13th Annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture will take place on Tuesday, February 4, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. in the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater at Saint John's University. 






The program will begin with a screening of the documentary Port of Destiny: Peace at 7:00 p.m. followed by the lecture by His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos and interview with Valentín Sierra, 2010 SJU graduate.

Port of Destiny: Peace tells the story of Colombia’s difficult path to peace from a 50-year old civil war to a recent peace deal orchestrated by President Santos. The film outlines the controversial and influential role of President Santos as Colombia’s Defense Minister and eight-year President.


President Santos began his public service career as Head of Colombia’s Delegation to the International Coffee Organization in London. He was the last Designee to the Presidency of the Republic (a position that was later folded into the office of Vice President), and the first Foreign Trade Minister, where he led the economic liberalization to modernize and enhance Colombia’s competitiveness in the world market. He chaired the Eighth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. President Santos also served as Finance and Public Credit Minister, where he handled the worst economic crisis in Colombia in the last 80 years. He was also National Defense Minister, where he led the fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, eventually leading them to the negotiating table.

On June 20, 2010, he was elected President of the Republic of Colombia where he obtained the highest number of votes in the country’s history. During his campaign, he offered to lead a Government of National Unity, to make the transition from Democratic Security to Democratic Prosperity and announced that he would seek peace with the FARC.

In June 2014, he was re-elected as President of Colombia for the constitutional period 2014 - 2018, with a political platform based on three pillars: Peace, Equity and Education. During his administration, Colombia became the region´s leader in economic growth, job creation, reduction of poverty and extreme poverty, and sustainable development. During his tenure, he also reduced the housing deficit by half and launched the most ambitious infrastructure plan in Colombia's history.

Due to his tenacity and determination to achieve peace and reconciliation in Colombia, in 2016 the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize "for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end."

Valentín Sierra is a native of Manizales, Colombia and a 2010 CSB/SJU graduate with majors in economics and political science. He is the forthcoming Secretary of Planning for the Governor of Caldas, Colombia.  Sierra recently earned a Master of Public Policy degree at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Master’s degree in International Economics and Finance from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. While at the Kennedy School of Government, he was a fellow at the Harvard Graduate School Leadership Institute and served as President of the Harvard Colombian Student Society.

As a student at CSB/SJU, Sierra served as the first student coordinator of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement while also leading CSB/SJU’s International Affairs Society and Model United Nations team. Sierra was the first CSB/SJU international student to earn academic distinction in Phi Beta Kappa.