Event featured discussion on why Indiana needs to be connected to the world
There was little uncertainty about whether the U.S. and Indiana should be globally involved among panelists discussing that topic on Monday, August 28, in Indianapolis. Former U.S. Representative and School of Global and International Studies Distinguished Scholar Lee Hamilton provided an introduction for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s event “America’s Role in the World: Why Leading Globally Matters for Indiana.”
Indiana U.S. Senator Todd Young also spoke at the event at the Westin Hotel, before participating in a panel discussion with SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein and John Ellenberger, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes International Development. They focused on Indiana’s need to be globally connected, but also on the need for U.S. involvement abroad in general.
Hamilton set the stage by relating some of his experiences in helping craft foreign policy over more than 30 years in Congress. He recalled sitting in a White House meeting with President Lyndon Johnson and delivering a soliloquy on the U.S. role abroad. Hamilton said he’d never forget LBJ’s response.
“’Lee, that’s a nice fancy speech you just gave, but what do I do now?’” Hamilton recalled the president saying. “After then, I never went to the White House without preparing for that question.”
With that, Hamilton extended that necessity for preparation to the people in the room. “The operative question is how we exercise America’s leadership,” he said.
Sen. Young told the audience that it was in the U.S. interest to be involved globally, supporting the “three legs” of the national security “stool”: diplomacy, development, and defense. But he added that international involvement is not simply about security. The senator said U.S. involvement is “also about doing good.” While he agreed with the assessment that some countries needed to do more, he said that was not an excuse for the U.S. to do nothing. “That would be neglecting a moral imperative and it would be short-sighted,” he said.
Asked his perspective on the question of a declining American role overseas based on his experience as an ambassador and in other capacities at the Departments of State and Defense, Dean Feinstein agreed with Sen. Young’s assessment that the U.S. must show the way. “It’s not always that obvious,” Feinstein said, “but in the absence of American leadership, it’s very hard to make progress.” Feinstein pointed to some positive developments that he said are encouraging for how U.S. foreign policy is done. He noted that by the time he became U.S. ambassador to Poland, the traditional “stove piping” that kept the Departments of State and Defense apart had largely broken down. “I guess it’s the 9-11 generation but maybe also the post-Balkan generation who really understand that, of course, military force is essential to advancing our interests, but it’s only part of the picture,” he said.
And he noted the growth of SGIS, even in a time when some are calling for a pullback from international involvement. He said SGIS students tend to come as non-ideological pragmatists who are also somewhat idealistic. “They want to do the right thing,” Feinstein said. “And I think that’s a good combination.”
But more than anything, the dean said, those students know that not being globally involved isn’t an option.
“There’s no career now that isn’t global,” Feinstein said. “Whatever field you’re in, you need to feel comfortable in the world and working in different cultures and having skills. So our students are really motivated by that and they’re coming in larger numbers as a consequence.”
SGIS was an event partner for the USGLC program.