International Organization is a required course in the Global Governance and Human Security doctoral program at UMass Boston. In April 2019, the speakers in the class included four former US Secretaries of State – Madeleine Albright (1999-2001), Condoleeza Rice (2005-2009), Hillary Clinton (2009-2013), and John Kerry (2013-2017). Class was held at Yale University at the conference Challenges to Democracy at Home and Abroad hosted by John Kerry.
The conference began the discussion about democracy in the United States and how to engage people in the democratic process. Former Secretaries of Defense William Cohen (1997-2001), Leon Panetta (2011-2013), and Chuck Hagel (2013-2015) opened with a conversation about the importance of comprehensive foreign policy in conjunction with the military.
Stacey Abrams, former minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial election in Georgia in 2018, spoke with Secretary Kerry about the importance of access to voting. Both emphasized the importance of voter opportunity and turnout. Abrams launched the Fair Fight Action project to fight for “free and fair elections.” Get up to date information about this movement on Facebook and Twitter.
Day 2 started with a conversation among Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry. Secretary Albright just published her latest book, Fascism: A Warning on April 10, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. She implored people to engage the younger generations in meaningful democratic experiences and leadership. The importance of people feeling as part of the system was echoed by Secretary Rice who emphasized that grassroots engagement was necessary to see change. Secretary Clinton added the importance of the United States as a global leader with the need to reengage in designing the structures that support conflict resolution, negotiation, and diplomacy to find global solutions, stating, “building and sustaining democracy is not for the faint of heart.” Kerry added that engaging people in voting was of utmost importance, and that the United States needs to find ways to engage more of its voters. The Secretaries of States discussed several possible ideas, including making voting day a national holiday like it is in most countries around the world.
In response to the panel, Madhi Hasan, first year Global Governance and Human Security PhD student, highlighted the lack of US leadership in international politics which raised concern about the rise of fascism. While classmate and colleague, Uluc Karakas, noted major themes of the conversation including “the rise of authoritarianism, China’s reemergence on the world stage, immigration to the US and Europe, and the resurrection of nationalist sentiments all over the world.”
The day continued with two more sessions Fact, Truth, and the Press and Historical Perspectives. Bob Woodward, David Ignatius, and Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post along with Elise Jordan political analyst for NBC News, MSNBC, and a contributor to Time Magazine discussed the media, competing with social media outlets, and how to stay factual today. Jordan stated, “I think it was a huge mistake of the media to cover Trump’s live speeches when he was saying so many factually incorrect statements... You can’t give platforms if people are always lying.” Michael Beschloss, Dr. Douglas Brinkley, Dr. Beverly Gage, and Dr. Robert Kagan closed the day by offering historical perspectives and the social, economic, and political implications leading to where the United States stands today.
Balkissa Diallo, first year Global Governance and Human security PhD student enjoyed the historical richness of attending these panels at Yale. She stated, “listening to the former world leaders discuss contemporary US policies and their implications for global governance provided an indicator of the status quo in today's world politics.”
The students were joined by Sue Biniaz who served for over 30 years in the US State Department and the Legal Adviser’s Office and served as the Deputy Legal Adviser and the lead climate lawyer and negotiator from 1989-2017. She worked on some of the most well-known international environmental agreements including the Paris Agreement on climate change. She supervised the Treaty Office which included work on issues related to the law of the sea, Somali piracy, the Western Hemisphere, human rights, law enforcement, and private international law. Her knowledge and expertise made for engaging conversation after sessions.
This truly enriching experience proved to be a meaningful and dynamic learning experience in governance.