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Confronting the Major Challenges Facing the West

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Event Details

Friday, May 17, 2024 

6:00 PM CET - Reception
6:30 PM CET - Dinner

Château D'Hauteville
Saint-Légier-La Chiésaz, Switzerland


For more information about this event, please email sppevents@pepperdine.edu, or call 310.506.7490

Like few times in world history, the future of our major public institutions appears to be uncertain. From declining levels of trust in government and education systems to questions about the future of the West, many wonder what our world will look like in the coming decade.

In this provocative dinner conversation between two of the world's leading diplomats, Ambassadors Robert O'Brien and Jacques Pitteloud, will explore three major issue areas in turn: 

1. The state of higher education in preparing public leaders
2. The challenges and opportunities seen in the application of new technology
3. Possible threats from the geopolitical sphere

Hosted at the majestic Château D'Hauteville, Pepperdine University's newest campus nestled just above the shores of Lake Geneva, the evening promises to be both enlightening and inspiring.

Seating for this event is limited. Please register as soon as possible to reserve your seat.


Event Speakers:

Robert C. O’Brien

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Robert C. O'Brien currently serves as a distinguished senior fellow at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy.  O’Brien was the 27th United States National Security Advisor from 2019 – 2021 and served as the President’s principal advisor in all aspects of American foreign policy and national security affairs. He is the co-founder and Chairman of American Global Strategies, LLC, a Washington, DC-based strategic advisory firm.

O’Brien brought a renewed focus to defense and industrial base issues to the NSC. A long-time advocate of a sea power and a 355 ship Navy, O’Brien visited leading shipyards during his tenure. He also spent time at defense plants and with our troops at bases around the world.

During O’Brien’s time as national security advisor, the United States orchestrated the historic Abraham Accords in the Middle East, brokered economic normalization between Serbia and Kosovo, achieved significant defense spending increases among our NATO allies and increased cooperation with America’s allies across the Indo-Pacific.

Prior to serving as NSA, O’Brien was the special presidential envoy for Hostage Affairs with the personal rank of ambassador. He was directly involved in the return of over 25 detainees and hostages to the United States. O’Brien previously served as co-chairman of the US Department of State Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan under both Secretaries of State Rice and Clinton.

O’Brien was also a presidentially-appointed member of the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee from 2008-2011. In 2005, O’Brien was nominated by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to serve as a US Representative to the 60th session of the UN General Assembly. Earlier in his career, O’Brien served as a senior legal officer for the UN Security Council commission that decided claims against Iraq arising out of the first Gulf War. He was a Major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the US Army Reserve.

O’Brien is partner emeritus at Larson LLP in Los Angeles, a nationally recognized litigation boutique that he co-founded in 2016. Over his career, he has served as counsel and arbitrator in dozens of International proceedings.

O’Brien is the recipient of the National Security Medal, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the National Defense Medal, the Legion d’honneur (chevalier) and the Kosovo Presidential Medal of Merits.

The National Museum of the Surface Navy named O’Brien the recipient of the 2021 Freedom of the Seas Award. That same year, O’Brien and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were awarded the Richard Nixon Foundation’s Architect of Peace Award for their work on the Abraham Accords and other initiatives while in office.  Following the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, a tree was planted on behalf of the State of Israel at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest in the Hills of Jerusalem in honor of O’Brien. In 2019, O’Brien received the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Award for the Defense of America and Israel. The UC Berkeley School of Law presented O’Brien with the Stefan A. Riesenfeld Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the field of international law in 2011.

In July 2022, O’Brien was elected as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Richard Nixon Foundation. He also serves as co-chair with Secretary Pompeo of The Nixon Seminar on Conservative Realism and National Security.

O’Brien holds a JD from the UC Berkeley School of Law. He received his BA degree in political science, cum laude, from UCLA.


Jacques Pitteloud

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Ambassador Pitteloud was born on November 12, 1962, in Zurich, Switzerland. Pitteloud earned a master’s degree and a doctorate from the Faculty of Law at the University of Zurich (Master’s 1986, PhD 1987). Following an assignment in the Middle East, he also graduated from the International Training Course in Security Policy (ITC) at Geneva University. He speaks French, English, German, Swiss German, Italian and Spanish fluently, and has a basic knowledge of a few other languages. 

Ambassador Pitteloud joined the Swiss Foreign Service in 1987, first serving as advisor to the foreign minister. From 1988 to 1989, he was a commercial attaché at the Swiss Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. From 1990 to 1995, he worked in the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service. Following this, he served as personal advisor to two successive defense ministers until 1999. From 1999 to 2000, he led a study group tasked with redeveloping the structure of the Swiss Armed Forces. 

Pitteloud then served as the Swiss government’s first intelligence coordinator from 2000 to 2005, after which he was appointed director for Arms Control, Disarmament, Security Policy and Intelligence at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bern. 

From 2010 to 2015, Jacques Pitteloud was ambassador of Switzerland to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, and the Seychelles. Following this assignment, he took up the position of resources director of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in September 2015. 

On September 16, 2019, Jacques Pitteloud was accredited as Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States of America. 


Event Venue:

Pepperdine Switzerland CampusLocated in the hills above Vevey, Switzerland, with unparalleled views of Lake Geneva and the Alps, the historic Château d'Hauteville is Pepperdine's newest international campus and a dynamic expansion of Pepperdine's global impact.

PLEASE NOTE: The Chateau d'Hauteville can be reached directly via the branch train line from Vevey. Parking is limited at the Chateau and public transportation is strongly encouraged.