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Educating for World Leadership

May 24, 2017

President Ronald Reagan’s first major international meeting in June 1982 at the 8th G7 Summit  held in Versailles, France revealed that the President was ignorant of world affairs, foreign policy and international politics. Fortunately, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher intervened to protect that President from embarrassment and a strong and important relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was the result.

Unfortunately, American politicians who succeed to high office know very little about the world beyond our borders. Few private sector occupations prepare Americans for international relations and the wonks who study foreign policy at university do not aspire to elective office.

It is unfortunate, therefore, that there is no program that prepares aspiring politicians for world leadership. All American politics is local and a politician who lets it be known that he is interested in foreign policy and international politics is likely to lose elective office. Seats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or the House Foreign Affairs Committee are usually assigned to Members of Congress from safe districts or hold secure Senate seats.

How then can we better prepare the nation for world leadership?

Military service tends to give opportunity to foreign travel, as do some executive positions in major corporations. But, survival in those positions usually requires strong ties at HQ or the Home Office, and many are those who are terminated because “out of sight out of mind.”

During the Reagan Administration a group of conservatives were appointed to what was then called USICA, formerly known as USIA that now resides at the Department of State in the office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Unfortunately, Reagan’s appointee to head USICA, Charles Z. Wick, terminated their employment and the Reagan Administration’s contribution of a cohort of knowledgeable, conservative, foreign policy experts was a big fat “zero.”

Can we plan the development of a corps of international experts, politically astute and philosophically sound, to guide Republican Presidents through the minefields of foreign diplomacy?


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