Joseph J. Sisco Memorial Forum
Joseph J. Sisco was the Chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy from 1999-2004. When he passed away in the fall of 2004, he requested that gifts in his honor be made to the Academy. The Academy decided that the best use of the generous donations made by his friends and family was to stimulate public discussion on the foreign policy themes to which Dr. Sisco dedicated his career.
With the help of his daughter Carol, the Sisco Family Fund, and gifts from Academy members, the Academy created the Sisco Memorial Forum: a periodic series of events dedicated to discussion of pertinent themes in US foreign policy.
Dr. Sisco was born in Chicago, the son of Italian immigrants. After service in World War II he received a doctorate specializing in Soviet affairs from the University of Chicago. He became a Central Intelligence Agency officer in 1950 and joined the Department of State the next year.
Dr. Sisco held a series of senior foreign policy positions in the Ford, Nixon, Johnson, and Kennedy Administrations. He played a major role in Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East and was a key deputy for Dr. Kissinger first as Assistant Secretary for Middle Eastern Affairs and later as Undersecretary for Political Affairs, the third-ranking official in the State Department. As a State Department negotiator, he was involved in diplomatic hot spots that included Syria’s invasion of Jordan in 1970, the India-Pakistan war in 1971, Egypt and Israel’s peace negotiations in 1974, and crises with Greece and Cyprus where he served concurrently as the senior negotiator.
After retiring from the Foreign Service, Dr. Sisco served four years as President of American University in Washington, DC. In 1981, he launched what he called his “third career,” becoming a partner of Sisco Associates. Dr. Sisco specialized in political and economic risk analysis for US and foreign companies. He also wrote op-ed pieces and journal articles, made TV appearances, and lectured. He continued to speak out on foreign policy issues until a few weeks before his death.
As Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, and as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Dr. Sisco often played a leading role in American involvement in the work of the United Nations. The first Sisco Forum event, held in 2005, continued that effort by generating awareness of and discussion on the problems that the United Nations faces today with distinguished speakers including Ivo Daalder, later ambassador to NATO, Ambassador James Dobbins, and former Undersecretary of State and seven-time ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. Subsequent programs have explored the under-reported subject of diplomacy in Iraq (Ambassadors Negroponte, Crocker, and Neumann), and the difficult issue of whether diplomacy and development are really partners or competitors (speakers included academics, diplomats and the Deputy Administrator of USAID).