Seven weeks before a new administration enters the White House, the Hamilton Lugar School’s sixth conference on America’s Role in the World® brought together a diverse range of experts and activists under the theme “Foreign Policy Begins at Home.” The two-day event also honored Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, one of the School’s namesakes, to wish him a happy early 90th birthday. A video tribute to the Congressman featured colleagues, foreign policy experts he mentored, and members of the IU community.
Some 2,000 people watched #ARW6 live on the School’s website and social media, and the sessions are available to stream on YouTube below.
- In Session 1 (watch), Rep. Hamilton interviewed former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes: “Politics and foreign policy is a human endeavor,” said Rhodes, who was an aide to the Congressman on the 9/11 Commission. “It can seem like this massive machinery that runs on its own. It doesn’t. If you get involved, you can make a difference.”
- In Session 2 (watch), Amb. Lee Feinstein interviewed Wai Wai Nu, the Burmese Rohingya activist and former political prisoner, shortly after the Burmese parliamentary election, which excluded hundreds of thousands of Rohingya voters and disqualified Rohingya and other ethnic minority candidates. “We cannot make democracy work on the bones and the blood of Rohingyas,” said Nu, who is a fellow of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, where Amb. Feinstein is a trustee. For her courage and support of democracy she was presented with the Hamilton Lugar School Global Voices for Change Award.
- In Session 3 (watch), the National Endowment for Democracy co-sponsored “From Global Democratic Recession to Anti-Democratic Wave: What the United States Can & Should Do About It.” Stanford’s Larry Diamond delivered the day’s most sobering statistic: For the first time since 1991, the majority of states over one million in population are no longer democracies.
- In Session 4 (watch), The New Yorker’s Robin Wright moderated an extraordinary panel with officials who either held positions created by the 9/11 Commission, helped to enact these reforms in Congress, or took part on the Commission, which Rep. Hamilton co-led with Governor Tom Kean. On the panel were former Directors of National Intelligence, Senator Dan Coats and Lt. Gen. James Clapper; 9/11 Commission member Amb. Tim Roemer; the Harvard Kennedy School’s Juliette Kayyem; and former Rep. Jane Harman, President of the Wilson Center.
- In Session 5 (watch), Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, joined former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley in a conversation moderated by PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff on the big foreign policy challenges for the next administration. International Studies major Kayla Behforouz asked how the US should balance differing generations’ approaches to military intervention around the world. Hadley said there is a growing convergence “between the instincts of my generation and the aspirations and standards that young people have today. It’s moving in their direction, and that’s probably a good thing.”
- In Session 6 (watch), former EPA official Janet McCabe discussed climate activism with 2020 MacArthur Fellow Catherine Coleman Flowers, Katie Eder of the Future Coalition, and Kiera O’Brien from Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends. “Oftentimes the people that are not at the [decision-making] table are the ones who are [most] impacted by the decisions of the folks who are making the policy and also lobbying,” said Coleman Flowers, calling for marginalized people and frontline communities to shape climate and environmental policy.
- In Session 7 (watch), veteran journalist Elaine Monaghan of the IU Media School moderated a panel on trust and authenticity in social media. The question of how we can be better digital citizens shifted quickly to a more pressing question: How social media giants can improve their abysmal citizenship record. In their discussion on misinformation and online hate, panelists brought up Myanmar as an example of the violence that can take place when lies about a group of people are disseminated, recalling Amb. Feinstein’s earlier conversation with Wai Wai Nu.
The importance of democratic values—including diverse voices, accommodating different points of view, protecting the rights of minority groups, and supporting a robust free press—emerged as a connecting line between panels, and many argued that supporting these values both at home and abroad was a crucial role for the US and the Biden administration.
From social media, to relations with China and Russia, to climate change, to democratic vibrancy, to relations with the US’s allies, the country’s premier nonpartisan foreign affairs conference considered many of the most important themes facing the US in the next four years.