McCain Institute

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Group.png McCain Institute   Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Website YouTubeRdf-icon.png
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Headquarters1777 F Street NW
TypeInternational affairs think tank

The McCain Institute for International Leadership (MIIL), a Washington DC-based think tank, is part of Arizona State University whose mission is to "advance leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom, and human dignity, in the United States and around the world."[1] The MIIL was formed in 2012 and is named after US Senator and 2008 Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain from Arizona.

The Chair of the McCain Institute is Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, who formerly chaired the family’s eponymous investment bank, and its current executive director is Kurt Volker.


MIIL's work is focused on achieving immediate and long-range impact, through activities that improve the ability of leaders to make enlightened decisions in pursuit of the American and global interest. The work has four central themes:

  • Provide decision recommendations for leaders through open debate and rigorous analysis, by convening experts, publishing policy-relevant research, and holding decision-making exercises using advanced technology.
  • Identify and train new national security leaders, both American and foreign, in the public, private enterprise, and military spheres, including through fellowships and targeted training.
  • Play a unique role in a crowded intellectual space, including through the Sedona Forum and the McCain Debates and by serving as a Washington "decision tank".
  • Promote and preserve the McCain family spirit of character-driven leadership and national service, including hosting the McCain family archives.


Funding of MIIL comes from a variety of individuals, foundations, and corporations, including Walmart Stores, FedEx, Saudi Arabia,[2] and hedge fund owner Paul Singer. Some of the funders have business before Congress, but McCain's representative has said such actions would not affect his votes.[3]

Kissinger Fellowship

In January 2017, it was announced that Britain's former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is to take up an academic fellowship at the institution established by John McCain, the main Republican foe of Donald Trump, where the former chancellor will be asked to “build on his skills as a statesman and leader”. Osborne has become the first Kissinger Fellow at the McCain Institute for International Leadership but, while it is based in McCain’s home state of Arizona, Osborne will remain in the UK.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Osborne’s “principled leadership during his impressive career can be a model for the qualities promoted by the McCain Institute”. Senator McCain said:

“George has shown strong and thoughtful leadership throughout his career and proved incredibly able as chancellor. At a time when the great democracies of the world are facing challenges such as we have not seen for generations, we need strong, values-driven leaders like George Osborne.”

George Osborne said he was honoured to have been chosen by the McCain Institute:

“I look forward to using this opportunity to work with the McCain Institute to see how we best promote our western values and secure a stable world order in this time of change.”[4]


Sedona Forum

The Sedona Forum is MIIL’s annual high-level gathering of national and international leaders held each spring at the Enchantment Resort in the red-rock country of Sedona, Arizona. The forum convenes global leaders, decision-makers, high-level executives, activists, and diverse experts to discuss solutions to real-world problems—all from the starting assumption of character-driven leadership and core democratic values. Previous guests have included Vice President Joe Biden, Ben Affleck, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The McCain Institute publishes an “Agenda for Action” reflecting the ideas discussed during the forum.

Each year, the forum identifies a theme broad enough to incorporate a variety of views and produce practical recommendations. The 2013 forum focused on “How to Promote Freedom and Democracy Effectively.” Vice President Biden headlined the event, taking part in conversation with Senator McCain on national and international issues, from gun control to immigration to the global economy.

Debate and Decision Series

MIIL sponsors a series of debates. Among the issues debated include US policy on: Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, the defence budget, Egypt and the Arab Spring, drone warfare, and Russia. The debates are followed by a private, non-attribution discussion among the debaters and the senior policymakers present. This creates a “safe environment” for political leaders to discuss issues honestly and without fear of political vulnerability or backlash.

The debates have been expanded to other cities including Phoenix. Each debate brings in about 250 audience members and reaches thousands of people via live-streaming, television, and online viewers. The debates have featured speakers from the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, The New Republic, the Atlantic Monthly, CNN, Fox News, the Wilson Center, Pepperdine University, Human Rights Watch, the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the RAND Corporation.[5]

Leadership Voices

The McCain Institute regularly invites senior leaders from the United States and around the world to share personal insights. MIIL is creating a digital archive of these events, available online for students, journalists and scholars. Among the participants are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, President Bill Clinton, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks, former Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili, and former President of Colombia Álvaro Uribe.[6]

Washington Policy Design Studio

The Washington Policy Design Studio brings Arizona State University students to Washington DC for a semester of intensive class work on the art of foreign policy-making, combined with a DC internship.


  1. "Mission Statement". McCain Institute. Retrieved July 31, 2012.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "plain text").
  2. Allison, Bill. "McCain-Linked Nonprofit Received $1 Million From Saudi Arabia". Bloomberg. Bloomberg. Retrieved 28 February 2017.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "plain text").
  3. Schouten, Fredreka (March 28, 2014). "High-powered interests fund McCain Institute". USA Today.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "plain text").
  4. "George Osborne takes up academic job at McCain Institute"
  5. "McCain Debate Series"
  6. "Leadership voices"
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