Foreign policy leaders discuss state of the world in 2018


State of the World 2018

Peter Baker, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Elliot Abrams, Paula Dobriansky and Karen Donfried kick off the first panel of the State of the World 2018 conference.

From leaders of nationally renowned think tanks to former ambassadors and journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, some of the brightest minds from across the country came together at FIU for a day-long conference on global relations and U.S. foreign policy.

State of the World 2018, co-hosted by FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and The American Interest, featured panel discussions on some of the most pressing topics of the day, such as human rights, America’s standing in the world and current challenges in Cuba, Venezuela, the Middle East, China and Russia.

“As a public institution, we are intentionally focused on making a difference,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg during his opening remarks. “Dr. Martin Luther King guides us when he says that the time is always right to do what is right. And this gathering is right, for so many reasons.”

The conference is the first of its kind in Miami – and a milestone for the Green School. It marked the inauguration of the Dorothea Green Lecture Series, created with the goal of bringing leading minds together to discuss critical topics of global importance.

“This event underscores Florida International University’s deep commitment to international studies and to creating globally engaged citizens,” said John F. Stack Jr., founding dean of the Green School. “We are so honored that (the Greens’) generosity, passion and leadership will further our mission to create a just, peaceful and prosperous world.”

Green School Senior Fellow David Kramer was the lead organizer of the conference. Kramer comes to FIU with 24 years of experience working in Washington, D.C., including serving as president of Freedom House as well as assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor under President George W. Bush. He reached out to his extensive network and invited top names in foreign policy – successfully bringing together an impressive array of individuals to FIU for the event.

Foreign policy

One of the recurring themes of the conference was America’s role in the world and American identity – and how the foundational principles of universal human rights and liberty are not a burden for the United States, but the glue that brings the country together, effectively crossing party lines and differences of opinion.

“I believe the U.S. stands for something that all humans aspire to,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of New America. “[It] is a bedrock. That is a source of power.”

FIU experts also dazzled the stage. Brian Fonseca, director of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy, tackled multi-faceted issues in a panel about America’s standing in the world. Julie Zeng, associate professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, discussed the complexities of U.S.-China relations.

A lunch conversation on Cuba and Venezuela featured Frank Mora, director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center; Danielle Clealand, assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations; Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute; and Brian Latell, senior research associate at the Gordon Institute, with Fonseca moderating.

Student engagement

FIU students also shined during the event, asking thoughtful, engaging questions at the end of each panel, captivating many of the guest speakers.

“Our students were the stars of the show,’’ Kramer said. “I’m incredibly impressed, and I’m even more impressed today. You did the university proud today.”

Elisa Massimino, director of Human Rights First, thanked students for reassuring her that there are bright, future leaders in the making.

“For those of us in the trenches, working as activists, it’s great to hear the thoughtful engagement and the real intelligence of the next generation,’’ she said. “To know that there are fresh ideas and energy in the wings is very encouraging.”

William Inboden, professor at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas-Austin, had high praise for FIU students and for the event.

“The FIU students were some of the most thoughtful, engaging students I have encountered,’’ he said. “Considering that they will be among our next generation of leaders, they give me great hope for the future. The whole conference bears further witness to FIU’s growing stature as one of our nation’s leading universities in the realm of international policy.”

FIU College of Law students joined Slaughter at a separate event to discuss the future of legal education. The conversation was followed by a question and answer session on how educators can prepare students for the ever-changing landscape of the legal profession.

Anthony Francisco, a member of FIU’s Model UN team, said he thinks the conference will be helpful as he works toward a career in the intelligence community.

“I found the conference extremely beneficial, as I found myself among the key decision-makers in the careers to which I aspire,’’ he said. “The brain power exhibited by those who represent the intelligence community added to the allure. The State of the World 2018 was the perfect environment through which I was able to network with the people most likely able to point me in the right direction in all my future endeavors.”

The State of the World conference is available for viewing online. To view the morning panels, click here. To view the afternoon panels, click here.

For photos of the event, click here.

Amy Ellis and Gregory Miller contributed to this story.