The Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 8, 1999
Feb. 8, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 21


Foreign Affairs Symposium Begins

Cesar Gaviria, Shimon Peres among speakers in 1999 student-run series

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

One day last May undergraduates Jay Suresh and Hari Chandra found themselves at the entrance to the Organization of American States in Washington. The two had gone to the nation's capital not to sight-see but rather with a specific agenda: to recruit speakers for the 1999 Johns Hopkins University Symposium on Foreign Affairs. As co-directors of the symposium, Suresh and Chandra were on a mission to assemble a first-rate panel of former heads of state and experts on world affairs. Their quest this day was Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of OAS and former president of Colombia. They had come unannounced, and when they approached the entrance, they handed the security guard an invitation to the symposium, which they had brought with them. Both Suresh and Chandra thought that might be the end of the encounter, but to their surprise they were told to wait. Sometime later the guard told them that Gaviria's chief of staff had to make some phone calls and they would have to continue to be patient. Later still, a call came into the guard house. It seems their patience had paid off. "He told us that we were going to be allowed to speak to the chief of staff in person," Chandra says. "It was more than we had hoped for. Anytime you can get to meet with someone one-on-one in these situations, it's great. It's better than simply sending an invitation cold." That 30-minute audience with Gaviria's chief of staff was the clincher to lining up Gaviria himself, says Chandra, and the catalyst for acquiring the other speakers for the symposium. Since April 1998, Suresh, Chandra and the 12 members of the symposium's executive board have been hard at work organizing the second annual foreign affairs event, which begins tonight. The topic of this year's symposium is "Approaching the Millennium: The Changing Parameters of the International System." In addition to Gaviria, the prominent international figures coming to the Homewood campus include Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Israel, and Sonia Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress.

The Foreign Affairs Symposium, which brings to campus prominent speakers, is completely run by undergraduates. Among the 1999 staff are HaeLee Kim, Pooja Makhijani, Hari Chandra, Nathan Miller, Jay Suresh, Hope Lyons, Rumana Rahman and Michael Rossi.

The event will run from Feb. 8 to March 10 and will feature nine speakers, each of whom will address a topic related to his or her area of work. The symposium staff, comprised entirely of undergraduates, was responsible for selecting the topics, recruiting speakers, raising funds and publicizing the events. Formed in 1997 by members of the International Studies Forum, the Symposium on Foreign Affairs is intended to educate the community at large on issues of global importance. Suresh says there already existed on campus an interest in international affairs, but the symposium has provided a forum through which these issues can be addressed and debated. "It's a chance to look at the international structure. What are some of the new forces at hand, and how will they play a role in global affairs?" Suresh says. "We all have a vested interest in learning more about foreign affairs. In many ways, various social, economic and technological facets of life today are becoming more and more integrated on a global scale." Chandra adds that the symposium is not intended just for those who read the international section of the newspaper. "These are issues that everyone is going to contend with at some point," says Chandra, a junior studying biomedical engineering and history. "Everyone on the staff is committed to making this a community-wide event." The inaugural symposium, held last spring, was "Superpower or Supercop? The United States' Role in the New World Order" and featured 10 speakers, including Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.); Steven Chen, the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; and Eliahu Ben Elissar, the ambassador from Israel. The goals for this year's event were to bring in even more prominent speakers and to attract a larger and more diverse audience. Approximately 1,000 people attended last year's symposium. In comparison, Chandra says he expects at least that number for just Peres' Feb. 20 lecture. To choose this year's speakers, the symposium staff had brainstorming sessions in which they bounced around names of people they would like to attract. The students wanted to touch upon many aspects of international politics and bring in speakers from a variety of fields. "Our basic assumption was that there was nothing to stop us from getting speakers we were interested in," Chandra says. Getting Gaviria to accept early, and then Peres, helped them attract other officials, Chandra says, including a U.S. congressman, Korea's ambassador to the United States and the director general of the World Health Organization. Most of the speakers agreed to appear for free, which was vital, as the staff had to work within a $25,000 budget. Funding for the event came from the Student Council and 18 other university organizations plus outside supporters. Chandra says that for most of the students, putting together the event has been a yearlong project. In addition to raising money and luring the speakers, the staff had to deal with the logistics of when and where each of them would arrive and with promoting the event so that each lecture would be well-attended. "None of us had done anything on this type of scale before," Chandra says. "Everyone has put a lot of time into this. We feel this is quite an accomplishment." Steven David, associate dean for academic affairs for the School of Arts and Sciences, director of the International Studies Program and adviser to the symposium staff, says that an event of this size that is completely student-run and -organized is quite unique. "They've done a fantastic job," says David, who will participate during the symposium in a policy debate on weapons of mass destruction. "This is a first-class group of people that has gotten some very exciting speakers, who will be speaking to issues of central importance to international relations. My hat goes off to them. This is the kind of thing where Hopkins shines--students taking a lead role in organizing community events." The symposium hopes to attract all manner of students, faculty and staff to the lectures, which are free and open to the public. "Our biggest concern right now is getting the audience," Chandra says. "But we're feeling very good about the way things have turned out."
"Approaching the Millennium: The Changing Parameters of the International System"
All events are on the Homewood campus.

Monday, Feb. 8
8 p.m., Garrett Room, MSEL
Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States and former president of Colombia
"Regional Integration in the Americas"
Wednesday, Feb. 10
8 p.m., Shriver Hall
Lee Hong-koo, ambassador to the United States and former prime minister of the Republic of Korea
"East Asian Balance of Power"
Thursday, Feb. 11
8 p.m., Garrett Room, MSEL
His Royal Highness Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, ambassador to the United Nations, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
"Norms of Justice and the International System"
Saturday, Feb. 20
8 p.m., Shriver Hall
Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Israel
"Solutions to Ethnic and Religious Conflict"
Thursday, Feb. 25
8 p.m., Garrett Room, MSEL
Professors Steven David and Jonathan Schell
"Policy Debate: Weapons of Mass Destruction"
Monday, March 1
8 p.m., Garrett Room, MSEL
Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman, House of Representatives Committee on International Relations
"The United States Response to New World Order"
Wednesday, March 3
8 p.m., Shriver Hall
Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general, World Health Organization, and former prime minister of Norway
"Social Transformation in the Developing World"
Wednesday, March 10
8 p.m., Shriver Hall
Sonia Gandhi, president, Indian National Congress
"The Continuing Relevance of the Third World"
More about the 1999 JHU Symposium on Foreign Affairs and the speakers can be found on the Web at