Tag Archives: Lecture circuit

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

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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’

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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

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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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