The 62nd Conference of World Affairs lives up to the theme of “Free Thinking” with topics spanning from indigenous values and globalization to hip-hop and Jersey Shore.
This year’s CWA is a “commitment to conversation,” said Jim Palmer, the director of CWA.
“We need to be ready to listen and debate and to be ready to expand or even change our minds,” Palmer said in his opening remarks at the keynote presentation Monday morning.
The keynote presentation included panelist Lieutenant Colonel-Promotable Ike Wilson on “Rethinking American Power.”
After an introduction by CU President Bruce Benson, Wilson addressed a full Macky Auditorium on the issues of the American definition of “power.”
“My aim here is to get us to think not only outside the box, but beyond boxes all together and we will do that by re-thinking American power,” Wilson said in his speech.
He said the current condition of America is described as the “misinterpretation of force for power.”
“We have unfortunately taken it upon ourselves that force is to equal power,” Wilson said in his speech. “Frankly, the curse of power is because we’ve had so much of it and we’ve enjoyed being an ordinance of force.”
The American experience has a split personality, Wilson said.
“On the one hand we are inspiring and we are the birth of democratization,” Wilson said. “On the other hand, with force, we are trying to maintain stability, often times in a hypocritical way.”
Wilson used the war/peace paradox of Iraq as an example of America’s split personality. He said the paradox represents a crisis of law, ethics, and intervention.
“For me, I think the way we intervened was unjust,” Wilson said in his speech. “We have been driven by military force and did not have the patience to look to our moral traditions.”
Wilson said he thinks it is vital for America to restore its traditional definition of power and return to a position of balance and legitimacy, rather than force.
He concluded his presentation with a return to CWA’s theme of “Free Thinking.”
“That’s just some food for free thought,” Wilson said in his closing.
Marian Hail, a 21-year-old junior international affairs and humanities major, said she appreciated Wilson’s perspective.
“I thought [Wilson’s] speech on military force was a very interesting viewpoint especially for Boulder,” Hail said.
Monday’s CWA lectures continued with a session titled “Goodbye to the Decade From Hell” in the UMC West Ballroom. Panelists David Bender, Val Koromzay, and Michael Stoff discussed issues of the past decade.
After introductions from Cathy Hazouri, a CWA moderator, Bender was the first to deliver his speech.
According to the CWA Web site, Bender is a political activist with more than 30 years of experience in politics, government, and entertainment.
“For me, the decade from hell began when Bill Clinton was impeached for something that had nothing to do with his presidency and continued with an election that was decided by the Supreme Court and continued through the eight years of George Bush,” Bender said in his opening remarks. “Hell froze over and ended in Chicago in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected.”
Bender said America is currently in a decade of hope: a period with the potential for extraordinary change if citizens are prepared to take part in that change.
“For eight years many of us in this room railed against Washington…the arrogance of power,” Bender said in his speech. “Well, you know what? You get what you allow to happen.”
Obama’s election was also a result of what people “allowed to happen,” he said.
Stoff, a historian of the modern United States, followed Bender’s remarks of the past decade with a comparison to the 1940’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
“It began, of course, with a terrible sneak attack that killed Americans,” Stoff said in his speech. “It also marked a generation with a horrific movement of uninvited death that followed a terrible war and in the aftermath, a war without end.”
Stoff said although Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11 suggest similar resemblances, understandings of the past change all the time.
“Historical health is in the eye of the beholder,” Stoff said.
Following Stoff’s remarks, Koromzay, a retired director for country studies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s economics department, addressed Sept. 11 as an event that colored the past decade.
“I’m still a bit puzzled,” Koromzay said in his speech. “Two thousand people dying is terrible but on the scale of people dying, this is not Armageddon,” Koromzay said.
The impact of Sept. 11 unleashed a politics of fear that dominated the decade, Stoff said.
“The overreaction of how people reacted to saving their lives-we’ll give away anything to be saved,” Koromzay said.
Ariel Hansen, a 19-year-old sophomore communication and anthropology major, said she plans on attending this week’s CWA sessions.
“There’s so many of them,” Hansen said. “I’m just trying to find out which ones fit into my schedule.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Kylie Horner at Kylie.firstname.lastname@example.org.