Video: John Phillips ’66, U.S. ambassador to Italy, on the many benefits of the liberal arts

September 08, 2016Todd Boruff

“A liberal arts education gives you really good foundation,” said John Phillips ’66, a College of Arts and Letters alumnus who majored in government and international studies.

Phillips is currently the United States ambassador to Italy. After Notre Dame, he attended law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and has spent his career practicing public interest law. He has played a significant role in helping individuals bring cases against companies that defraud the government, representing whistleblowers through his law firm, Phillips and Cohen LLP, as well as through his work developing the amended False Claims Act, signed into law in 1986.

President Barack Obama appointed him ambassador to Italy in 2013. Phillips is the president’s personal representative in Italy and is responsible for managing a wide range of diplomatic issues, including military, commerce, immigration, and foreign policy matters.

“It’s a busy, demanding job—but a very fulfilling one,” Phillips said. “This will be a tremendous experience for me, both in terms of what I learned and, hopefully, what I contributed.”

Phillips found that his broad undergraduate education in Arts and Letters was an essential basis for his law education.

“That time in school as an undergraduate is the time to explore all different pursuits and areas,” he said, “whether you’ll be a doctor or a lawyer, engineer or architect.

“Those were times of thinking, of debating, of discussing, and you forge very intense personal relationships that last a lifetime.”

Originally published by Todd Boruff at on August 29, 2016.