Where did State's Policy Planning Staff get its "avoid trivia" slogan?

We noticed something odd as we settled in for today's event: The seal for the State Department's Policy Planning Staff includes the slogan, "Avoid Trivia." What gives?

Apparently the phrase originated with former Secretary of State George Marshall, who instructed George Kennan to "avoid trivia" when he asked Kennan to create the Policy Planning Staff in 1947.

What Kennan meant was that the strategic arm of the State Department should see the big picture and not get bogged down in day-to-day minutia. This morning, Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan referenced the slogan but added that former Secretary of State Dean Acheson also summed up Policy Planning's mission well: "To look ahead, not into the distant future, but beyond the vision of the operating officers caught in the smoke and crises of current battle; far enough ahead to see the emerging form of things to come and outline what should be done to meet or anticipate them."

A compelling perspective as we kick off today's Transformational Trends" discussion. 


Liveblogging FP's big day

We're taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you live coverage of two major events FP is hosting in Washington today.

Starting in a few minutes at the Newsweum, the FP Group is cohosting a day-long strategic forum with the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, titled, “Transformational Trends 2013 and Beyond."

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will deliver opening remarks. Director of Policy Planning  Jake Sullivan, and his predecessors David Gordon, Morton Halperin, Dennis Ross, and Jim Steinberg will discuss transformational trends and the biggest challenges facing U.S. foreign policy from a historical perspective.

U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will deliver the lunchtime keynote address, entitled “U.S. National Security Priorities in a Transforming World." Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, two of FP's 2012 Global Thinkers, will also be in attendance.

Other speakers will include Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Robert Hormats, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual, and acting Under Secretary of Energy  and Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs David Sandalow. The day's discussions will include "Beyond The Arab Spring...Living in an Era of Upheaval," "Changing Global Resource Realities," and "The New Economic Sources of Power."

We're also thrilled to announce that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver a keynote address at 5 p.m.

My colleague Uri Friedman and I will be here throughout the day, bringing you the highlights from the discussions and speeches. Then, at 6 p.m., we'll head across the Mall for the third annual FP Global Thinkers Gala. More than 40 of the thinkers from our list will be in attendance, hosted this year at the Hirshhorn Museum, which is also currently featuring an exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (No. 26). We'll have more coverage of the gala later in the day, including live discussions by the thinkers themselves and a special video message from Ai himself. You can also follow the event on Twitter at #FPGlobalThinkers.

Stay tuned!