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Schooled in International Relations


Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Ambassador Susan Rice joined a full room of students from Professor Alan Cafruny’s introductory International Relations classes, President David Wippman’s and Professor Charles Rostow’s International Law course, and other faculty and guests for a session in the Red Pit before their Common Ground/Great Names appearance on April 11.

Students asked an array of questions, demonstrating their own understanding of international affairs and systems. Questions covered the role of gender in international relations, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, legal justifications for military force, John Bolton’s role as the new National Security Advisor, the effects of American’s knowledge of foreign affairs on policy, the longevity of the United States’ involvement in wars, and China-U.S. trade relations.

 Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice addressed these questions with the benefit of their experience in international affairs. They applied their personal knowledge of specific actors and positions in the government; they compared policies from during their tenures in the executive branch to contemporary policies; and they demonstrated their nuanced and deep knowledge of U.S. security concerns and international law.

Discussions covered aspects of security concerns across the globe and diplomatic and military tools to address those concerns. Every question spurred long, back-and-forth discussion of the issues as the two added different perspectives and dimensions to the comments of the other, and each question was covered from multiple angles across time for minutes on end.

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Students were engaged and happy with the experience. Johnny Seabright ’20 said, “I came into the Q&A with pretty negative opinions of both speakers based on their political history. However, I was surprised by how thoughtful and rational both were. They had very bipartisan and pragmatic insight and advice about current international issues and helped me better understand the processes they would go through when making policy decisions.”

Rhudi Darko ’20 also appreciated the opportunity. “Ambassador Rice and Secretary Rice spoke on a wide range of international relations-oriented matters. It was an honor to attend a compelling and engaging Q&A session with two prominent figures in U.S. foreign policy.”

At the end of the session, students had the opportunity to take photos with Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice.

The event was a great experience for students studying foreign affairs to have unique access to two distinguished veterans of the American security system to pick their brains, advance their own learning, and ask questions specific to their interests that would not necessarily be addressed that night at Common Ground.

Author Marc Lincer ’20 is a sociology major and member of Professor Alan Cafruny’s Introduction to International Relations class.

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