Tag Archives: Lecture circuit

‘Excellent Sheep’ Author Deresiewicz Discusses Admissions, Career Paths at Whig-Clio

William Deresiewicz’s New Republic article, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” an inflammatory critique of the Ivy League, went viral this summer and sparked national debate about the nation’s top schools and the culture they create.

Princeton students had a chance to fire back at Deresiewicz, who came to Whig Hall Sept. 25 after visiting several other Ivy League schools to promote his book, Excellent Sheep. The book, which expands on the article, argues that elite universities train students to become “excellent sheep” — individuals who excel at completing tasks for their own sake, at the expense of self-discovery and direction.

After a talk by Deresiewicz, who attended Columbia and taught at Yale for a decade, students criticized the author’s proposals for reforming the college admission process, which include reducing applications to timed essays and evaluating applicants solely by their GPA. Continue reading

Krugman Examines Lessons of European Economic Crisis

“Nobody actually successfully predicted this crisis,” Paul Krugman said in an Oct. 6 campus lecture about Europe’s recent economic crisis. “There were a few people who did predict it, but they also predicted 10 other crises that didn’t happen.”

Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics and New York Times columnist, opened this year’s Walter E. Edge Lecture Series, drawing a full house at McCosh 50 and two additional rooms, where the audience watched on closed-circuit TV. The renowned economist will be retiring from Princeton and joining the faculty of the City University of New York at the end of the academic year.

Krugman shared “three real lessons” to learn from Europe. Lesson number one: “Not having a currency of your own is a very dangerous thing.” He explained the benefits of having a national currency by comparing Spain and Florida. Comparing the two real-estate busts, Krugman pointed out that “without anyone saying let’s bail out Florida, Florida received what amounted to insurance against the downturn,” thanks to federal safety nets. Spain had none of those and its large budget deficits engendered concerns about the country running out of money. In contrast, the United States cannot run out of money, “at least in the normal stage of events,” since it has its own currency. Continue reading

Will *68: Campus Culture Needs ‘Small Groups With Good Arguments’

College campuses, with their homogeneous culture, “are in danger of becoming boring,” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will ’68 warned at a talk in McCosh Hall Sept. 29.

Will, speaking at an event sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, touted Princeton as an institution where the freedom of exchange of ideas is not an ideal but a reality.

Professor Robert George, director of the Madison Program, reflecting on his experiences teaching on other campuses, said he noticed that at Princeton “we don’t shut people down. Our students feel comfortable expressing their opinions on term papers, junior papers, senior thesis, even if they dissent from campus orthodoxies, in most cases even if they deviate from the point of view from the professors who will be grading the exams or papers.”

Both Will and George lauded Princeton for its intellectually heterogeneous culture, not allowing one point of view to dominate the intellectual discourse. George cited John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of seriously considering opposing points of view to enhance one’s understanding of the subject matter and one’s own position. Continue reading

Jackson *86 speaks about ‘unfinished business’ for the envionment

Ever have that nightmare where you still haven’t finished your thesis? Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson *86 has.

Returning to campus can counteract that “recurring nightmare,” Jackson said, addressing an audience of students, faculty, and community members in Dodds Auditorium April 9.

“I still have that nightmare that it’s the day before my master’s thesis defense. And I haven’t finished it, but I’m really stressed,” she said, the audience laughing. “But every time I’m here, it reinforces that I got the degree.”

Jackson, a chemical engineer who served as head of the EPA in the Obama administration from January 2009 until February of this year, recounted her personal story of how she came to define herself as environmentalist.

Noting that the word “environmentalist” has, in some circles, come to refer to environmental activism for political purposes, Jackson provided her own definition: An environmentalist is someone “who cares deeply about and prioritizes the environment — the environment, not as an outside concept, but more for its impact on our health, its impact on our well-being … and its impacts on our prosperity,” she said.

Jackson recalled learning about environmental issues during her undergraduate years at Tulane, when she first heard of the “soup of chemicals” in the Mississippi River causing problems downstream in New Orleans as well as the government’s inability to adequately respond to large-scale, hazardous environmental problems like the infamous Love Canal in upstate New York.

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Lawyer, activist Chen honored by Whig-Clio

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.

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Will Israeli election restart peace process? Experts are not optimistic

Many observers of the Israeli election Jan. 22 might think that the results boded well for restarting peace negotiations with the Palestinians. At a panel discussion March 11, two experts – Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel; and Yael Berda, an Israeli lawyer, social activist, and Princeton Ph.D. student in sociology – were decidedly less optimistic.

The two spoke as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to try to form a government. Voting had left Netanyahu’s hawkish Likud party weaker, while a party focusing on secular economic interests – Yesh Atid (There is a Future) emerged as the second-largest party in parliament. After the election, many pundits argued that Yesh Atid’s strength heralded the rise of the moderate center that could get negotiations back on track.

Not so fast, the Princeton panelists said, noting that the peace process, and foreign policy in general, had largely been absent from the campaign. Almost seven weeks after the election, Netanyahu still was struggling to put together a government, and Yesh Atid had united with the pro-settler Jewish Home party in their coalition negotiations with Netanyahu. Meanwhile, the Likud party itself had moved to the right.

“It’s not likely that this coalition will make advances” toward peace with the Palestinians, Kurtzer said.

The panelists did identify two things that could change that, however. Berda suggested that a grassroots social-protest movement that developed in 2011 “changed politics on the ground,” and that the movement might reassert itself. Kurtzer looked for change beyond Israel’s border: “We don’t know if Washington will make it a priority,” he said.

Forbes ’70 advocates tax reform, return to gold standard

Steve Forbes ’70 said that the Federal Reserve has "flooded the engine" of the U.S. economy by supplying too much money. (Photo: Ellis Liang ’15)

To revitalize the economy, the U.S. needs to return to a gold standard and simplify the tax code, Steve Forbes ’70 said at a lecture in McCosh Hall March 10. 

Forbes, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media and a two-time Republican presidential candidate, returned to his alma mater for an event sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He told the audience that the recent economic decline was not the result of free market capitalism, but of flawed monetary and tax policy. 

“If the Federal Reserve does not supply enough money to meet the organic or natural needs of the marketplace, you’re going to stall the economy. If it prints too much money, you get the economic equivalence of flooding the engine,” Forbes said. With the right amount, he continued, you have the chance to grow. 

According to Forbes, the Federal Reserve in recent decades has “flooded the engine.” He added that an unstable currency also misdirects investment into illiquid assets such as land and buildings, which gave rise to the housing bubble. Furthermore, an unstable currency distorts market information, causes wages to stagnate, and undermines social trust, he said. 

What does Forbes think the U.S. should do? 

“The dollar will be re-linked to G-O-L-D,” he said. “Why gold? It’s the one thing in the world that keeps its intrinsic value better than anything else — like the North Star, Polaris, something you can fix off of.”

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Terrorism prosecutor Martins emphasizes ‘justice, rather than vengeance’

Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, visited Princeton Feb. 27. (Photo: Ellis Liang ’15)

Military commissions are necessary judicial institutions, Chief Prosecutor of U.S. Military Commissions Brig. Gen. Mark Martins said in a Feb. 27 lecture at the Woodrow Wilson School.

Martins, the chief prosecutor for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, emphasized that in contrast to civilian courts, military commissions have a different standard of evidence and jury composition, which are essential for dealing with cases related to armed conflict. However, Martins added that new forms of conflict, such as terrorism, blur the lines between civilian and war crimes.

“The nature of the threat is that something can be regarded both as a violation of the law of war — a war crime — and a violation of the domestic law. Those are not mutually exclusive categories, and that’s where the controversy of how you’re regarding this challenge comes in,” Martins said. 

Martins pointed out that one difference of military commissions is in allowing hearsay evidence, prompting Director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs Kim Lane Scheppele to ask what that implies for evidence gathered through coercion.

“The hearsay rule in Anglo-American jurisprudence is the way that we screen out torture,” Scheppele said, “so when the hearsay rule is relaxed, it’s hitting the front line in the American system or the English system, the barrier that keeps out evidence collected by torture or by coercion.”

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Cooper ’61 explores Woodrow Wilson’s presidency in campus talk

John Milton Cooper ’61 (Photo: John Cooper k’61)

Historians of early 20th century America are often drawn to one of the era’s two towering figures: Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson 1879. For John Milton Cooper ’61, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin, all signs seemed to point to the latter.

Cooper attended a Washington, D.C., high school named for Wilson. He then came to Princeton, where Wilson had studied, taught, and served as president. He even earned a graduate fellowship that bore Wilson’s name. But connecting those dots would be a “historiographical fallacy,” Cooper joked in a recent talk at Princeton. He chose Wilson primarily because of his scholarly interests in World War I and progressivism.

Regardless of the initial motivation, Cooper has made remarkable contributions to Wilson scholarship, including Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, which earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2010. With the 100th anniversary of Wilson’s presidential inauguration approaching, Cooper came to the Woodrow Wilson School Feb. 21 for a public conversation with professor and presidential historian Julian Zelizer.

In two terms as president, Wilson helped to shape important events — perhaps most notably by mobilizing the United States for its entry into World War I. But Cooper said that Wilson also “stands extremely tall” in terms of the skills that he brought to the office.

His first term, for example, brought the passage of an impressive legislative agenda, made possible by Wilson’s knack for influencing Congress.

“Woodrow Wilson went to speak before Congress more than any other president before him or any other president after him,” Cooper said. “This was his way to reach a national audience. … What Wilson was doing is what presidents do now when they go on TV. [Going to Congress] was a way of making sure that he got maximum coverage.”

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Social media expert boyd explores privacy, ethics in Wilson School talk

danah boyd (Photo: Courtesy danah boyd/danah.org)

Internet expert danah boyd studies the intersection of technology and society, particularly in the ways that young people use social media. “I’m an ethnographer,” she explained in a Feb. 18 talk at the Woodrow Wilson School.“I spend most of my time trying to understand everyday practices and how to map what is going on in our lives.”

A senior researcher at Microsoft Research, boyd (who legally changed her name to include only lowercase letters) described the four “affordances,” or functional qualities, that accompany new technology: persistence, replicability, searchability, and scalability. In other words, information generated online will stick and spread; people can be searched, and their words can be seen by millions.

“Part of the online environment is that we often don’t know what the context is, we’re negotiating it, and again it gets complicated when you think about persistence or when you think about things spreading,” boyd said.

The idea that young people do not care about online privacy is a myth, in boyd’s view. “The first thing to realize is that a lot of young people have chosen to be in a public, which is different from choosing to be public,” she said, noting that this distinction colors the way young people try to control their social situations when online.

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Rapelye, Times editor discuss admission challenges at elite colleges

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.

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Brooks: ‘Information cocoons,’ lack of compromise plague politics

David Brooks (Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia)
Eleven years after writing a widely circulated feature in The Atlantic magazine called “The Organization Kid,” New York Times opinion columnist David Brooks still sees a societal shift from a culture of self-effacement to one of self-advancement. He discussed how this shift has seeped into national politics in a talked titled “Politics and the Organization Kid” at McCosh Hall Nov. 26.
The ethos Brooks described in his 2001 column — a focus among elite college students on ambition and aspiration to the detriment of character development — has “only deepened with time,” he said. But Brooks noted that the meritocracy has only become more pure, and that the competition to get into colleges and find jobs is stricter than ever before. This has catalyzed a loss of public virtue as well as “a rise in self-esteem, self-confidence, and a tremendous rise in the desire for fame,” he said.
What this means for American politics is less self-restraint and compromise, Brooks explained. He noted that Americans are now more likely to be caught up in “information cocoons.”
“We’ve become more polarized. We’ve certainly tolerated more dishonesty from people who are supposed to be on our side,” he said. Adding to this bleak state of affairs is a demographic shift, most notably where white voters comprise an increasingly thin slice of the electorate and thus cause the Republican party to lost 1.5 percent of its voters every four years. Meanwhile, as the Republicans struggle with the “wrong” side of these demographic transitions, the Democratic Party is forced to govern a country that has lost some of its public virtue in a highly divided Congress.
While Brooks said he is a “political pessimist,” he is still an economic and national optimist. “While I rag on a culture for being too narcissistic, it is simultaneously true that people under 35 are leading this tremendous social revival,” he said.

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Bond on civil rights: Task ahead ‘equal to if not greater’ than gains made

The victories of the civil rights movement were extraordinary, but this work is far from done according to civil rights activist, politician, and writer Julian Bond.

Bond, who helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, served in the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate, and chaired the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), traced the history of the fight for racial equality at a Woodrow Wilson School lecture Nov. 20.

“It saw wrong and acted against it. It saw evil and brought it down,” said Bond of the civil rights movement. “But the task ahead is enormous, equal to if not greater than the job already done.”

Bond spoke of the evolution and organization of the SNCC, which encouraged the development of independent political parties, added foreign policy and economic concerns to the Black agenda, used grassroots organizational tactics to mobilize the rural South, and addressed the psychological barriers to Black political and social engagement.

Bond noted that these efforts continue in varying forms, and he cited the long lines of voters in Florida two weeks ago as evidence of their legacy: “ordinary men and women proving they could accomplish extraordinary tasks in the pursuit of freedom.”

Grafton honors veterans, urges better support of the military

History professor Tony Grafton, speaking at Princeton’s annual Veterans Day Service Nov. 12, called on the University to provide more support for those who have served in the military.

“Probably Princeton will never again have its own field artillery unit, with 70 horses and hundreds of members, as it did in the 1920s, or a course on ‘hippology’ in its curriculum,” Grafton said to about 125 people in the University Chapel. “But we can, and should, do a great deal more than we have.”

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgGrafton, who has written on the importance of the academy understanding the role of the armed forces, said that Veterans Day provides an opportunity to acknowledge the debt that Americans owe to its veterans.

“As professors, students, and members of the Princeton University community, we should demand that our university support the military in every way that is consistent with its own larger enterprise, and that it offer opportunities to as many veterans as possible, as it did in the years just after World War II,” Grafton said.

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Admiral-turned-professor Mullen addresses the ‘strategic ecology’ of global interdependence

With an American flag pin on his lapel and no need for podium or microphone, Adm. Mike Mullen looked and sounded every inch the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff when he spoke at the Scholars in the Nations Service Initiative (SINSI) annual event Oct. 18.
Professor Mike Mullen, pictured in his former role as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in 2007. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Mullen, currently the Charles and Marie Robertson Visiting Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School, described the “strategic ecology” of global interdependence, in which states must cooperate in the long term with each other and also with global “neighborhoods” in solving transnational problems such as joblessness, rising urbanization, extremism, and climate change.
Starting with China and the Asia Pacific region and promising to “walk around the world,” Mullen outlined the local and global problems he observed. He moved fluidly from discussing China’s hunger for resources to North Korea’s young, untested leader to a nuclear Pakistan and Syrian sectarian violence.
“We have moved from a time of control, which is what the Cold War was, to, I think, a time of influence,” he said, emphasizing the necessity for multilateral diplomacy. “It’s a time where we can’t do this alone.”

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@jack comes to Princeton to talk Twitter, Square


Editor’s note: On Sept. 25 Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square, visited campus at the invitation of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club to speak about his experiences as a tech entrepreneur. As an homage to Twitter, PAW blog contributor Gavin Schlissel ’13 covered the event in a series of 140-characters-or-less observations and quotations.


Walking in the door, 15 minutes to showtime. Greeter thrusts brand new, free “Square” into my hand

10 minutes to showtime: “hello! im @jack” on the projector, “Beautiful day” on the surround sound

The event is hosted by @princetoneclub — the group also hosts hackathons on campus & leads trips to Silicon Valley

Are we here to see him or vice versa? @Square marketing team showed up in force

Dorsey ( @jack ) steps out into wing, gray sport coat with one button buttoned … He looks like he’s done this before

.@jack panders to @Princeton “one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen” #true

Completely packed house — I’ve never seen McCosh 10 this full or this quiet. Dean Dunne, President Tilghman on hand

Setting the context for the talk: it’s going to be about “how do we change something that affects every single person on earth?” >>

<< @jack has done this twice >>

<< First by untethering people from mass media (Twitter) then by delivering merchants from archaic credit-card policies (Square).

.@jack : creativity is an ongoing process. Projector shows an unfinished painting—a heavy-handed metaphor but fitting and well-received

.@jack : “An idea that changes the course of the company can come from anywhere.” Companies should embrace new ideas.

Dorsey borrows Steve Jobs’ phrase about the culture of continuing innovation: “It has to be built into the DNA of the company”

Motivation for square: credit card payment should be easier: “The industry that created it has not innovated at all” in 60+ years.

.@jack breaks down credit cards: merchants pay 3-7% on transactions to cover credit card fees that just fund reward programs 

Square philosophy: buying things should be really easy: “It feels like stealing… it feels really great. Not that stealing is great…”

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Former ambassadors speak on ongoing violence in Middle East

In response to the recent anti-American violence in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, two Woodrow Wilson School professors and former U.S. ambassadors addressed the Princeton community Sept. 19. Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel, and Barbara Bodine, former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, spoke before a packed audience of students and community members in Dodds Auditorium.
Kurtzer suggested that the displays of violence, which he called “horrific” and “terroristic,” demand a reassessment of the way Americans view the Middle East and its people. Such violence, he said, “happens against a backdrop of a certain way of thinking which we as Americans need to understand.”
Describing American embassies in these countries as “large and convenient targets,” Kurtzer recommended rethinking “the American footprint in the Middle East” and how the U.S. conducts diplomacy. Having had a staff of over 2,200 people in his own embassy, Kurtzer offered that a “leaner and meaner presence” may better serve U.S. interests in this region in the future.
Bodine similarly suggested that the events posed a “legitimate question about how we present ourselves in the Middle East” and a corresponding need to reconsider the size and structure of American embassies.

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Olmert discusses territorial issues, nuclear Iran in campus speech

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert during his March 28 lecture on campus. (Photo: Sameer A. Khan/Courtesy Woodrow Wilson School)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke about his country’s future to a packed audience in McCosh 50 on March 28. Olmert discussed the necessity of Israeli territorial concessions, encouraged American and international efforts to stop Iranian nuclear development, and answered some controversial questions from the audience.
President Tilghman introduced Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009 and the mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, as well as in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for nine terms beginning in the 1970s. A former head of the liberal centrist Kadima party, he resigned from his position in 2009 while under investigation for corruption.
Olmert began his talk with humor, saying, “It’s always amazing to see how sexy is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in almost every corner of the world.”
He discussed the intense difficulty of making decisions “in a position where you are the last stop,” adding, “It is more difficult to be the mayor of Jerusalem than the prime minister of Israel.”
To the Jewish people, he explained, Israel’s territorial possessions, particularly its historic and religious capital of Jerusalem, are “indelibly linked” to their history and experiences. However, according to Olmert, holding some disputed territories has butted against has butted against Israel’s core liberal values of equality and democracy.

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Planned Parenthood president urges better preventive care, sex ed

Cecile Richards’ speech on politics and women’s health drew a capacity audience to Dodds Auditorium March 28. (Photo: Sameer A. Khan/Courtesy Woodrow Wilson School)
In a talk that ended with a standing ovation by a capacity crowd in Dodds Auditorium of Robertson Hall March 28, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards defended health care rights for women, lauded the work done by her organization, and touted technology as the key to disseminating information.
“In the past year, there has been an unrelenting attack on young women going to Planned Parenthood,” said Richards, whose lecture, “Keeping Politics Out of Women’s Health,” was part of the Woodrow Wilson School’s Leadership and Governance Program that brings prominent policy makers to campus. “Partisan politics is driving sex education in this country,” she said. “We literally now are fighting to keep preventive care in this country.”
Since becoming head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 2006, Richards, daughter of the late Texas governor Ann Richards, has created a significant online presence for the organization. Last year, Planned Parenthood’s website had 33 million visitors and she hopes technology is “a way around barriers to accessing health care. Despite all we have been able to do in this country — we invented the iPad — we are one of the most backward when it comes to reproductive access.”

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Ellsberg expresses empathy for Manning, WikiLeaks

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgPolitical secrets that could lead to illegal or catastrophic actions must be revealed, no matter the personal cost, Daniel Ellsberg told a capacity audience in Dodds Auditorium March 8.

Ellsberg, who in 1971 released the top-secret Pentagon Papers detailing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, was interviewed by Bart Gellman ’82, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a visiting lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School. Together, they discussed the implications of leaking political secrets and the parallels between the Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks.

“I identify very much with Bradley Manning,” said Ellsberg of the Army intelligence analyst who faces a court-martial on charges of obtaining secret war logs and State Department cables about Afghanistan and Iraq that subsequently were released by WikiLeaks. “Despite the stress of his position, he did the right thing.”

Ellsberg emphasized the importance of public employees leaking such information, highlighting situations in which it is necessary, such as government misrepresentations of the truth.

“[If] the effect of the lies is to get us into not just a war but a disastrous, unjust war,” he said, “that’s when they should consider giving up their job, clearance, career, and perhaps their marriage and their children’s education.”

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Dr. Oz addresses mental and physical health in campus talk

Dr. Mehmet Oz, shown here in 2011, visited Princeton during Mental Health Awareness Week March 8. (Photo: Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for Scholastic)
In a candid and entertaining talk focused on college students and stress, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the talk-show host, surgeon, and author, addressed a packed McCosh 50 on March 8 as part of the student-organized Mental Health Awareness Week on campus.
Saying he “knows what Princeton life is like” because he is a Princeton parent (daughter Daphne graduated in 2008) and has a niece who is currently a junior, Dr. Oz added a rock-star quality to the event. Using video clips, slides, and demonstrations to illustrate his points (instructing the audience in deep-breathing techniques, for example), he rapidly touched on many aspects of mental and physical health.
We are living in a society in which we are disconnected from each other, Oz said, insisting that we need to recreate connections in our daily lives. “When good people see bad things happen and do nothing, that’s when societies dissolve,” he added.
“The best example of mental illness in this country,” according to Dr. Oz, is our “weight issue,” which he connected to chronic stress. Calling obesity the “main health care cost we can change,” he explained how a person’s waist-to-height ratio is the best indicator of a weight problem, pulling down his belt and puffing out his belly to create a big gut.

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Garfield: Media giants are the toaster ovens of digital age

Bob Garfield, co-host of the syndicated public radio show On the Media, compared his professional role to that of a toaster oven in a March 5 speech at the Woodrow Wilson School: “useful, but largely obsoleted by technology” in an era where every blogger can wear the hat of media critic. But Garfield added that he has company. Major media institutions like NBC, The Washington Post, and the radio giant Clear Channel are beginning to take on the same a toaster-oven quality, he said.

The digital revolution has fragmented media and trivialized the barriers to entry, Garfield said. A costly network of affiliates used to be an advantage for broadcast television channels because it kept competitors out of the business, but as the costs of production and distribution have dropped, being big has become a significant burden.

Garfield, who also writes a column for Advertising Age, pinned a large part of the blame on the disintegrating relationship between media and marketing, once the “yin and yang” that made TV and newspapers profitable.

“For more than three centuries, consumers have put up with ads as part of the deal, the quid pro quo, the unspoken contract that provided us all with free or subsidized content in exchange for having to sit through 20 years of Mr. Whipple fondling toilet paper,” he said. “To most people, all advertising is spam.”

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Nye ’58 lectures focus on presidential styles, objectives, and ethics

Scholar and international affairs expert Joseph S. Nye Jr. ’58 spoke to packed audiences in Robertson Hall Feb. 21 and 22, discussing American presidential leadership in foreign policy as part of the 2012 Richard Ullman Lecture Series.
Nye, a former dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, worked with collaborator (and current Princeton professor) Robert Keohane to develop the theory of neoliberalism in their 1977 book Power and Interdependence. He also has held posts that included chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 1993-94 and assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton administration.
Nye’s first lecture focused on the efficacy of seven presidents who presided over what Nye called the “American era.” He separated the definition of leadership into two categories — style and objectives — with two subtypes each. Leaders, he said, can have inspirational or transactional styles and transformational or incremental objectives.
According to Nye, the differences between broadly transformational and transactional leadership can also be described in terms of “soft power” and “hard power,” with the ideal mix of the two being “smart power,” which uses “contextual IQ” to combine resources and understand the situation.

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Former ambassador, experts discuss developments in Syria

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgFormer U.S. Ambassador to Syria Richard Murphy headlined a Feb. 7 panel discussion on political developments in Syria that drew a standing-room-only audience at Robertson Hall. Woodrow Wilson School visiting lecturer Marwa Daoudy and graduate student Karam Nachar, a Syrian grassroots organizer, joined Murphy on the panel.

Murphy, whom Wilson School professor Daniel Kurtzer introduced as “one of the great practitioners of the art of diplomacy,” opened the discussion of the ongoing Syrian revolution against President Bashar Assad’s regime, which has escalated in brutality since the revolution’s inception last March during the Arab Spring.

As a young consulate aide in Syria in the 1960s and later as the U.S. ambassador in the 1970s, Murphy witnessed the rise to power of Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, and the “iron hand” with which his regime governed.

Murphy recounted some of his early experiences to highlight Syria’s present-day situation. He described one consulate party where a skit portraying the king of Jordan as a “dancing monkey on the leash of Western imperialism” caused the Syrian officials to shout with laughter. “Syria has always been a destroyer,” Murphy said, referencing the country’s nearly three decades of occupying Lebanon and its history of cooperating with Iran, Hezbollah, and terrorist groups.

He particularly excoriated Bashar Assad for his nearsightedness and pride. According to Murphy, Assad “did not foresee that the Arab Spring would sweep into his country” and “takes pride in standing alone,” despite being vilified for his use of force against his own people.

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