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Rear Admiral John   Kirby, USN (Retired)

Rear Admiral John Kirby, USN (Retired)

CNN Diplomatic and Military Analyst & Former Assistant Secretary of State


From the White House Situation Room to The Situation Room on CNN, Admiral John Kirby has spent his career leading through national and international crises and analyzing fast breaking news for the press and public. His posts as spokesman at the highest levels of the Navy, Pentagon and State Department placed him at the center of events that included the Naval Yard Shootings, the Ebola Crisis, Haiti Earthquake Relief, the War in Afghanistan, efforts to end the civil war in Syria, the fight against ISIS and the raid on Osama bin Laden. Now retired, Admiral Kirby is a member of the adjunct faculty at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and a CNN military and diplomatic analyst. At CNN, he appears regularly on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and across the network’s programming, providing commentary and analysis on breaking news and national security issues related to the U.S. military, defense, world affairs and diplomacy. Read More >

Prior to CNN, Admiral Kirby served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. His 29-year career with the United States Navy included tours as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations, U.S. Navy's Chief of Information, and Pentagon Press Secretary, where he was the first uniformed officer to hold the position of chief spokesperson for the Department of Defense. Following his military career, Kirby returned to government to serve as the spokesperson for the U.S. State Department under John Kerry. He was appointed by to the position of Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Public Affairs, a title he held until the end of the Obama administration. At both the Pentagon and at the State Department, Admiral Kirby helped advise and articulate national security policy for some of the most historic issues of the day. Admiral Kirby’s other policy achievements include repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, changes to sexual harassment policy after devastating reports in the military, and  revamping diversity programs at both the Pentagon and State Department. A decorated naval officer, Admiral Kirby has been awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, as well as various campaign and service awards. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of South Florida, as well as an M.S. in International Relations from Troy State University and an M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.

Taking you into the Pentagon Operations Center, the White House Situation room and dangerous locales around the world, Admiral Kirby brings powerful stories—and exceptional storytelling—to the speaking stage. His talent for analyzing and interpreting up-to-the-minute events and world affairs creates valuable context for audiences ranging from students to CEOs. Whether he is imparting invaluable crisis leadership lessons, discussing hot topics like cyber security, or providing an overview of world events, Admiral Kirby’s talks take you behind the headlines and keep you ahead of the times. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos


Virtual Opening Remarks

Policies Over Politics

Leading Through Crisis

Speech Topics

Leading Through Crisis: Character, Collaboration & Communication

According to a recent McKinsey report, headlines with the word “crisis” and the name of one of the Forbes 100 has increased 80% over the past decade. Is your organization ready? Read More >

In this essential presentation, Admiral John Kirby shares lessons learned on the ground and in the room making and shaping leadership decisions at the center of major crises and catastrophic events. Sharing examples ranging from the raid on Osama bin Laden to the Ebola Crisis and Haitian Earthquake, Kirby outlines the key components of crisis leadership and response, including:

  • Making sound decisions that are rooted in character and values
  • Creating and working effectively as a crisis team
  • Collaborating broadly across the institution
  • Taking an aggressive, transparent approach
  • Effectively communicating intent to stakeholders and the public

There is no more difficult task than leading through a crisis — and no more important skill for any leader to possess. Admiral Kirby’s powerful storytelling takes you behind the headlines to the White House Situation Room, Pentagon Command Center and more, providing critical insights that will prepare your organization for whatever comes next. Read Less ^

Foreign Actors & Cybersecurity: The Battle for Your Brain

Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Chinese spying. Issues surrounding cybersecurity continue to dominate the headlines, and for good reason. Criminal networks, terrorist groups, foreign intelligence serves and hostile nation-states all employ the latest technology to steal our intellectual property, impact our trade decisions, disrupt our domestic politics and sow doubt in our own minds about the resilience of our own government. Read More >

As a two-star Navy admiral and press secretary for both the Pentagon and the State Department, John Kirby lived and worked daily at the very intersection of cyber threats and national security. It often fell to him to help make these threats make sense to the American people. Drawing from recent events and up-to-the-minute headlines, he examines cybersecurity on a geopolitical level, customizing for areas of concern to your audience. Read Less ^

Who Are We? America’s Place in the World

There really shouldn’t be anything foreign about foreign policy. Every decision America makes sends a message about what matters and should align with a larger sense of its place in the world. Read More >

Given the tectonic shifts in global economic disparity, climate change, military adventurism, sectarian and religious discrimination, the rise of nationalism and the persistent threat of violent extremism violence, now is the perfect time to reexamine the decisions America has made on the world stage. Speaking on behalf of the nation that he served for three decades, Admiral John Kirby asks, “What is America’s place in the world?” “Who are we? “And most importantly, where should America’s place be in an uncertain future.

Against the backdrop of breaking world news and his experiences at the Pentagon and State Department, CNN military and diplomatic analyst Admiral John Kirby takes audiences on a trip around the globe. Travel with him to world capitals and hotspots as he reveals the hidden and all-too-often, missed opportunities America possesses. These opportunities will not only improve the planet and the fates of other countries, but will increase peace and prosperity for Americans at home.

This talk can be customized for a range of audiences and areas of interest. Read Less ^

Moderator, Discussion Leader & Interviewer

In this role, Admiral Kirby brings his experience and presence as a high level spokesman and CNN analyst to lead discussions, moderate panels and interview key thought leaders. His vast knowledge of geopolitics, national security and diplomacy will stimulate conversation and help create an engaging and memorable event.