Ryan Crocker *85, career ambassador with the U.S. Foreign Service, cautioned against a shift towards “neo-isolationism” at the Woodrow Wilson School’s annual colloquium May 4.
Ryan Crocker *85 (Photo: U.S. Department of State)
“I worry about the increasing mood in the administration of ‘pull back, fix our own problems, and if we’re going to do something, pivot to Asia,’” said Crocker. “If you pivot to Asia, you expose a very important part of your anatomy to the Middle East, which is probably going to bite it very hard.”
This year’s colloquium, on “Challenges to U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” drew 175 graduate alumni and their guests and featured several prominent speakers, including former Sen. George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace from 2009-11, who delivered Friday’s keynote. Crocker, who spent four decades in the Foreign Service and served as ambassador throughout the Middle East, most recently in Afghanistan, spoke during the Saturday keynote address.
Crocker said that his experience left him with two lessons: Be careful what you get into, but be just as careful of what you get out of. “Disengagement can have consequences as great and grave as getting in in the first place,” Crocker said.
The greatest challenge facing the current administration is Pakistan, he argued, with nuclear weapons, instability, and a government willing to support the Taliban “as a hedge against U.S. withdrawal.”
The struggle to strengthen human rights in China is far from over, dissident lawyer and rights activist Chen Guangcheng told a Princeton audience March 28, and we all have a responsibility to do more.
“In this global society, everything that takes place is closely connected to our lives, and this demands every one of us to take more responsibility, especially when faced with the imperfections and injustices of this world,” Chen said.
Chen, who spoke to more than 200 students, was this year’s recipient of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society’s James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service, the collegiate debating society’s highest honor.
A blind, self-taught lawyer, Chen has spent decades working to expose human rights violations in China — most famously battling aggressive enforcement of the country’s one-child policy. He organized a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of women forcibly sterilized by family planning officials before he was imprisoned on what supporters say were trumped-up charges in 2006. He drew international attention when he escaped house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April 2012.
A Princeton education comes with advantages – not only in the classroom, but the “very generous” loan-free financial aid – as well as responsibilities, said Jacques Steinberg, director of The New York Times’ college admissions blog, The Choice, during a discussion with Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye at Whig Hall Nov. 29.
“How can we make sure more students have the opportunities you’re having here?” Steinberg asked.
Rapelye said that Princeton tries to make that experience available to as wide a range of students as possible.
“We try very hard, as we read, to take into account differences in the settings students are coming from,” she said. “Princeton looks very different now than it did 30 years ago. And that wasn’t by accident.”
The admission office actively reaches out to students who might not already have Princeton on their radar, Rapelye explained, or assume it’s out of reach academically or financially.
“We want to make sure we leave no stone unturned,” Rapelye said. “If that means five more kids on this campus from low-income backgrounds or from a school without good college counseling, I’m willing to do that.”
But a bigger, more diverse applicant pool also drives Princeton’s already low acceptance rate even lower.
From left, Sarah Bluher ’13, Eric Penalver ’13 and Rachelle Simon listen to White House beekeeper Charlie Brandts. View more photos in the slide show below. (Photo: Lauren Zumbach ’13)
Most D.C. tourists come to the White House hoping for a glimpse of the president. But for Princeton students who visited 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. April 13, bees were the main attraction.
The BEE Team, a group of student beekeepers who look after two beehives at the West Windsor Fields, was invited on a private tour of the hives and the White House Kitchen Garden with White House beekeeper Charlie Brandts and executive pastry chef Bill Yosses.
“My favorite part was listening to Charlie speak to us as one beekeeper to another,” said Eric Penalver ’13. “He was really informative, fun to listen to, and passionate about what he does.”
BEE Team sponsor Rocky Semmes ’79 organized the trip after hearing that First Lady Michelle Obama ’85 included a beehive in the White House Kitchen Garden. “Since she’s an alum, I thought it might work and would be a great opportunity for the club,” Semmes said.
Students were particularly eager to pick Brandts’ brain after learning the White House bees produced 225 pounds of honey last year – more than four times the amount the BEE Team typically extracts from its two hives. That’s partly because the White House gardens have some bee-friendly vegetation not found near the Princeton hives, and partly because the BEE Team students, most of whom had never tried beekeeping before joining, are conservative about how often they harvest.
During the keynote discussion kicking off the Woodrow Wilson School’s 10th annual colloquium April 13, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., likened the past year’s action in Congress to a game of chicken.
“At least part of the car went off the cliff last summer when the bond rating was downgraded,” Holt said.
With hotly contested elections coming up this fall, combined with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and mandatory spending cuts that risk another government shutdown, Holt and fellow keynote speaker Rep. Leonard Lance *82, R-N.J., said the game isn’t over.
This year’s colloquium, “The State of the States,” brought together more than 150 Wilson School graduate alumni and faculty. The gathering focused on state policymaking because most of the action in domestic policy is at the state level. In two days of panel discussions, participants covered education, health care, energy, and economic development, offering a chance to step back and consider both the challenges and opportunities facing policymakers in the months and years ahead.
“It’s an extraordinary moment of political uncertainty, but an opportune time for discussion about the future,” Princeton history professor Keith Wailoo said during the panel on health care.
With a wide range of stakeholders fighting over a shrinking pot, the challenges states face in providing health care and implementing reforms aren’t going away, said Heather Howard, a lecturer in public affairs and director of the State Health Reform Assistance Network.