Just a week before the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump got underway, students at FIU got a glimpse into how some of today’s top journalists view the fate of America’s chief executive - and how it might affect upcoming elections and U.S. relationships around the globe.
"I have yet to meet a single person in this country whose mind has changed about Donald Trump as a result of the impeachment process," said Politico Editor Matt Kaminski. "I’m picking up a lot of buyer's regret on impeachment. The (Democratic) candidates would love to move on from it. It’s been a pretty dull show because it’s so predictable."
With Americans potentially distracted by impeachment, added Foreign Policy editor-in-chief Jonathan Tepperman, “We may see adversaries like China and Russia feeling even less constrained in what they can do because of the perception that the Trump administration isn’t paying attention. All of this I think leads up to a much more dangerous world.”
At a time when revelations continued to unfold about the presidency and the U.S. faced threat of retaliation for the killing of an Iranian general, FIU’s State of the World 2020 brought an insider's view from more than 40 top experts on global affairs to Miami.
“It’s not a hard sell to get you to come to Miami in January,’’ said Kaminski, who joined State of the World for the first time last year. “More than that, (FIU) has assembled such an amazing group of people here, it’s become the first conference of the new year about security and it’s become this sort of meeting place early in the year.’’
Co-hosted by the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University and The American Interest, the two-day event is now in its third year at FIU.
“This is my third (State of the World) and it just gets better every year,’’ said Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America. “We’re really developing a community both among the speakers and (students). It’s a delight to be at FIU and a particular shout-out to the fabulous students who’ve been a part of the conversation.”
Organized by Green School Senior Fellow David Kramer, a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, the conference tackled everything from immigration and human trafficking to challenges in Cuba and Venezuela and threats from China, Russia and North Korea.
There was even a message from a special guest who could not attend.
“Greetings to those gathered for the State of the World conference at Florida International University,’’ said former President George W. Bush via video. “I salute your efforts to address today’s foreign policy challenges and the role of American leadership in the world. What happens abroad and how people live elsewhere affects us here at home.”
President Bush’s remarks opened a panel on democracy and human rights led by Lindsay Lloyd, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute.
Cindy McCain, widow of the late Sen. John McCain, led a conversation on human trafficking, in which she implored students to “make their voices heard” on the issue.
“Five years ago, I could clear a room in a nano-second if people knew I was going to be talking about human trafficking,’’ said McCain, who chairs the board of trustees of the McCain Institute. “But now people are talking about it at the dinner table, they’re talking about it at clubs and Rotary and things. It’s part of the community conversation, as it should be.”
In opening the second day of the conference, President Mark B. Rosenberg said he saw the event as a “stake in the ground for what’s right with our democracy.”
“It’s fashionable to be pessimistic these days but truthfully we choose another approach,’’ he said. “For those who are looking for good news and positive things to hold on to these days, it’s here. Despite the messiness of world affairs … despite the emergence of a post-truth era … our community seeks a moderate course that builds bridges rather than walls. I view this as a great opportunity. Hopefully when you leave here today you’ll be enabled to have an even louder voice.’’
Professor Eric Lob led a panel on turmoil in the Middle East just days after the strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. He said conversations like those held at State of the World have raised the profile of FIU and the Green School as a "prominent center for high-level and substantive engagement and interaction on public policy and international affairs."
Media from around the region crowded into the Graham Center for panels on Cuba and Venezuela that included the U.S. Special Representative to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, former U.S. Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, former Bolivian Defense Minister José Carlos Sánchez Berzain, along with FIU's experts Astrid Arraras, Brian Fonseca, Frank Mora, Martin Palous and former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis.
John F. Stack, founding dean of the Green School, addressed his remarks to Ambassador Steven J. Green, his wife Dorothea Green and daughter Kimberly Green, seated in the front row for a session on immigration moderated by former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker.
“Ambassador Green, your steadfast vision and support has made this extraordinary event possible,’’ Stack said. “When you made the Green School - your legacy, one of many at FIU - you moved the needle in a significant way. I am so grateful.’’