The Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 14, 2000
February 14, 2000
VOL. 29, NO. 22


Spotlight On Global Issues

Noted speakers will look at economics, culture, diplomacy, technology

By Glenn Small

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The 2000 Johns Hopkins Symposium on Foreign Affairs kicks off next Monday, Feb. 21, with an impressive lineup of six speakers who will touch on a broad number of topics, all related to the theme of globalization.

Economics, culture, business, diplomacy and technology are among the areas to be covered.

"We wanted the symposium to be equally as attractive to an IR major as it would be to the engineering student or the econ major," says Aparna Saraf, a junior international relations major and a co-director of the symposium. "We wanted it to be kind of appealing to everyone, because it's something that affects all of our lives."

Foreign Affairs Symposium co-chairs Aparna Saraf and Michael Rossi have lined up Secretary of Commerce William Daley, former Sen. George Mitchell and linguist Noam Chomsky, among others.

First up will be Rubens Antonio Barbosa, the ambassador from Brazil, who will talk about the changing dynamics of global finance and development. His speech begins at 8 p.m. on Feb. 21 in the Garrett Room of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Homewood campus.

Other speakers include Noam Chomsky, a linguistics professor at MIT, who will talk about U.S. foreign policy in a global world, and former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine), who, after having brokered the peace accord in Northern Ireland, will discuss solutions to religious and ethnic conflict.

Noam Chomsky

Also scheduled to speak are William Daley, U.S. secretary of commerce, and the ambassadors from Germany and South Africa. (Complete details below.)

All lectures are free and open to the public.

For Saraf and her co-director, Michael Rossi, also a junior international relations major, the journey that led to this year's symposium began three years ago, when both were freshmen. They each volunteered to work on that inaugural 1998 Symposium on Foreign Affairs.

They enjoyed it and in 1999 did more for the symposium. Last spring, as that symposium ended, the two of them, along with others, applied to be directors. Applications were submitted, interviews undergone. Finally, they were selected.

Being seasoned veterans of two symposia, the pair felt they had a good idea of the amount of time and effort it would take to put together a first-class speaker series from scratch.

They both were wrong.

"Oh, man, I couldn't guess at this point, but a lot more than I ever anticipated," Rossi responds when asked how many hours he's put into the symposium since being named co-chair last spring. "It just never ends. You think there'd be a lull at some point, but it never happens. There's always something that comes up."

Having been selected in May, they quickly settled on the topic of globalism and recruited a staff of volunteers to help them in their efforts.

At first, it seemed like they had plenty of time.

But they had to set up an office, order stationery, raise more than $20,000, generate a list of speaker candidates and begin recruiting them.

Saraf, who is from Morristown, N.J, and Rossi, who is from Newton, Mass., decided to stay in Baltimore last June to work on the symposium full time. They developed a "wish list" of 50 or so speakers, everyone from Steve Case, now CEO of America Online/Time Warner, to the ambassador from China.

They worked the phones, identifying key staff members of the prominent speakers they wanted to reach. They tried to develop a rapport with staff members before they sent out formal invitations. They began inviting people to speak.

Months began to trickle by, and Rossi remembers it as being sort of a frustrating paradox.

"Initially, they tell you, 'It's too early to tell,'" Rossi says. "So then, you invite them almost every month, eventually week to week. But at a certain point, it seems like they'd go from 'it's too early to tell' to 'sorry, they're booked.' "

But they kept plugging away, and eventually all the "negs," as Saraf calls them, gave way to several "yeses."

Still, with only two weeks to go until their first event, the students found themselves nervously preparing the symposium brochure and poster--but without knowing for sure if some key speakers would actually come through. So on a Friday afternoon, Saraf, Rossi and their staff assembled around a Mac computer to go over the poster. George Mitchell's name was typed there, but he was not yet confirmed.

Rossi said, "I hope I'm not jinxing us by putting him on here."

A nervous weekend wait was followed by the good news: Mitchell's staff confirmed he would make the appearance on March 15. There was still a problem with getting the room the students wanted on campus, but Rossi was confident they could work it out.

They've come a long way in the last 10 months.

Says Saraf now, "It's probably my best experience at Hopkins. It's an incredible experience. It's very stressful at times and very frustrating, but right now, we're at the stage where we're looking back at everything we've done, and it all seems like it's finally pulling together."

The 2000 Johns Hopkins Symposium on Foreign Affairs

All lectures will be held at 8 p.m. and followed by a question-and-answer period. They are free and open to the public.

Mon., Feb. 21, Garrett Room, MSEL
Rubens Antonio Barbosa, ambassador from Brazil
"The Changing Dynamics of Global Finance and Development"

Wed., March 1, Garrett Room, MSEL
Sheila Sisulu, ambassador from South Africa
"Political Stability and Economic Growth in the Global Village"

Mon., March 13, Shriver Hall
Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT
"U.S. Foreign Policy in a Globalized World"

Wed., March 15, Shriver Hall
George Mitchell, former senator (D-Maine)
"Solutions to Religious and Ethnic Conflict"

Mon., April 17, Garrett Room, MSEL
Jurgen Chrobog, ambassador from Germany
"The Developing Role of Multilateral Institutions"

Date and location TBA
William Daley, secretary of commerce
"Business, Technology and the Tools of Globalization"