2017-2018 SPEAKERS


Date:            Wednesday May 9, 2018 

Speaker:      E. Wayne Merry

Topic:          “Russia: Friend or Foe?”

E. Wayne Merry, is Senior Fellow for Europe and Eurasia at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC.

He is widely published and a frequent speaker on topics relating to Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Balkans, European security and trans-Atlantic relations.

In twenty-six years in the United States Foreign Service, he worked as a diplomat and political analyst specializing in Soviet and post-Soviet political issues, including six years at the American Embassy in Moscow, where he was in charge of political analysis on the breakup of the Soviet Union and the early years of post-Soviet Russia. He also served at the embassies in Tunis, East Berlin, and Athens and at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York.

In Washington he served in the Treasury, State, and Defense Departments. In the Pentagon he served as the Regional Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia during the mid-Nineties. He also served at the Headquarters of the US Marine Corps and on Capitol Hill with the staff of the US Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

He was later a program director at the Atlantic Council of the United States.

He studied economics and political science at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), has an MPA from Princeton University’s Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and studied at the U.S. Army Russian Institute (Garmisch-Partenkirchen).


Date:            Tuesday April 3, 2018 

Speaker:      Amb. Sarah Mendelson

Topic:          Learning while Serving at USAID and the U.S. Mission to the U.N.:
                     Reflections of a Policy Entrepreneur

Sarah Mendelson, is a Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy and Head of Heinz College in Washington, DC.

Ambassador Sarah E. Mendelson served as the US Representative to the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations until January 20, 2017. Confirmed by the Senate in October 2015, she was the USUN lead on international development, human rights, and humanitarian affairs. There she oversaw campaigns to get country-specific resolutions passed in the General Assembly and to get NGOs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, accredited to the UN. She led efforts to elevate the issue of combating human trafficking and was senior lead for the President's Summit on Refugees. Prior to her appointment as Ambassador, she served as a Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID from 2010-2014 where she was the Agency lead on democracy, human rights, and governance.

A long time policy entrepreneur, she has spent over two decades working on development and human rights as a scholar and practitioner including in Moscow with the National Democratic Institute, on the faculty of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and over a decade as senior adviser and inaugural director of the Human Rights Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. There she also worked as a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program where she over saw focus groups, public opinion surveys, and social marketing campaigns in Russia on a range of issues.

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of over 70 scholarly and public policy publications, Ambassador Mendelson received her BA in History from Yale University and her PhD in political science from Columbia University.


Date:            Monday March 5, 2018 

Speaker:      Amanda Sloat

Topic:          How to Not Lose Turkey

Amanda Sloat, is a Robert Bosch senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. She is also a nonresident fellow in the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School. Her areas of expertise include Turkey and Southern Europe, British politics, the European Union’s foreign policy, and trans-Atlantic relations.

Sloat served in the U.S. government for nearly a decade. She was most recently deputy assistant secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Affairs at the State Department, where she was responsible for U.S. relations with Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey as well as for coordinating European engagement on Middle East issues. She also served as senior advisor to the White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf region and as senior advisor to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. She previously worked as senior professional staff on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, with responsibility for European policy.

Sloat holds a doctorate in politics from the University of Edinburgh and a bachelor's in political theory from James Madison College at Michigan State University. She has published a book, "Scotland in Europe: A Study of Multi-Level Governance" (Peter Lang Pub Inc, 2002). She has written widely on European politics in academic and foreign policy outlets.


Date:            Tuesday January 30, 2018 

Speaker:      Jean Lee

Topic:          Never-Ending Korean War: Inching Closer to Conflict with North Korea

Jean H. Lee, a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center, is a veteran foreign correspondent and expert on North Korea. Lee led the Associated Press news agency’s coverage of the Korean Peninsula as bureau chief from 2008 to 2013. In 2011, she became the first American reporter granted extensive access on the ground in North Korea, and in January 2012 opened AP’s Pyongyang bureau, the only Western text/photo news bureau based in the North Korean capital. She has made dozens of extended reporting trips to North Korea, visiting farms, factories, schools, military academies and homes in the course of her exclusive reporting across the country.

During Lee's tenure, AP’s coverage of Kim Jong Il’s 2011 death earned an honorable mention in the deadline reporting category of the 2012 Associated Press Media Editors awards for journalism in the United States and Canada. Lee also won an Online Journalism Award in 2013 for her role in using photography, video and social media in North Korea, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in feature reporting in 2013.

Lee is a native of Minneapolis. She has a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and English from Columbia University, and a master's degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She worked as a reporter for the Korea Herald in Seoul, South Korea, before being posted with AP to the news agency's bureaus in Baltimore; Fresno, Calif.; San Francisco; New York; London; Seoul and Pyongyang.

Lee was a fellow with the Alicia Patterson Foundation in 2014, and serves frequently as a guest speaker and commentator on North Korea-related topics.


Date:            Wednesday January 10, 2018 

Speaker:      Amb. David Shinn

Topic:          China in Africa

David Shinn received his BA (1963), MA (1964), and PhD (1980) from George Washington University. He has a certificate in African studies from Northwestern University. He served for thirty-seven years in the US Foreign Service with assignments at embassies in Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritania, Cameroon, Sudan and as ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. He has been teaching in the Elliott School since 2001 and serves on a number of boards of nongovernmental organizations.

An expert on the Horn of Africa, Dr. Shinn speaks at events around the world. He is the coauthor of China and Africa: A Century of Engagement, the Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, and has authored numerous articles and book chapters. His research interests include China-Africa relations, East Africa and the Horn, terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, conflict situations, U.S. policy in Africa, and the African brain drain.


Date:            Tuesday December 5, 2017

Speaker:      Amb. Omar Samad

Topic:          Afghanistan: Lessons & Prospects About the Longest War

Omar Samad is currently CEO of Silkroad Consulting LLC, based in Virginia. He is also teaching an Honors Seminar on “Radicalism Within Islam, Drivers and Policy Options” at the University of Maryland.

Amb. Samad resigned as Afghan Ambassador-designate to Belgium, the EU and NATO in April 2016 before taking up his post. Prior, from December 2014 to January 2016, he worked as Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy to the Chief Executive of Afghanistan in Kabul.

Previously, he was Senior Central Asia Fellow at New America Foundation (2013-14). He was Senior Afghan Expert at the United States Institute of Peace (2012-2013), during which he conducted and published a survey of views and perceptions of Afghan political elites on the 2014 transition period in Afghanistan. Prior, he was Afghan Ambassador to France (2009-2011) and to Canada (2004-2009), after serving as the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001-2004).

He was active and advocated for freedom and democracy in Afghanistan since 1979. In 1996 he managed the Afghanistan Information Center, and was Executive Producer of Azadi Afghan Radio. Omar Samad is a regular contributor and commentator to international and Afghan media, and is a frequent speaker and writer on Afghan and regional issues.

He earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School (2006), and has a B.A. in Communications from the American University in Washington, DC (1991).


Date:            Wednesday Movember, 8, 2017

Speaker:      Consul General Andrew Whittaker

Topic:          Brexit

Andrew Whittaker has been HM Consul General to San Francisco since August 2016.

Prior to his role as Consul General, Andrew spent three years as Deputy Director at CERT-UK – the UK’s national cyber security team - focusing on supporting and developing engagement on cyber security issues between government and industry, and with international partners.

Before this Andrew was Deputy Head of the Crisis Management Department in the Foreign Office, handling the UK response to incidents ranging from conflict in the Middle East, the sinking of the Costa Concordia, and hostage taking in Algeria. Andrew’s Foreign Office career, which began in 1998, also includes postings in Madrid, Jerusalem and Basra.

Andrew holds a MA (Hons) degree in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge (Magdalene College). Though his playing days are now over, Andrew is a rugby enthusiast and plans to spend lots of time outdoors on family adventures across the US.

Andrew is married to his wife Alex, and they have two boys.


Date:            Tuesday October, 3, 2017

Speaker:      Daniel Benaim

Topic:          "The Trump Administration and the Middle East"

Daniel Benaim is a senior fellow at American Progress, researching U.S. policy in the Middle East, as well as a visiting lecturer at New York University. Previously, he served as a Middle East policy adviser and foreign policy speechwriter at the White House, the Department of State, and the U.S. Senate. He was also an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Until June 2015, he was foreign policy speechwriter and Middle East adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, traveling with the vice president to 25 countries. Before that, he wrote speeches for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Deputy Secretaries Bill Burns and Tom Nides and served as a member of Secretary Clinton’s policy planning staff covering Egypt. Benaim also has been a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chief speechwriter to former Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), and a detailee to the National Security Council staff. Additionally, he designed and taught a graduate speechwriting course at George Washington University.

Benaim’s writings on behalf of government officials have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs. Publications under his own name include the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The American Prospect. He received his M.A. in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School and his B.A. in English literature from Yale University. He is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations.


Date:            Monday September, 11, 2017

Speaker:      Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh

Topic:          "The Strained State of U.S.-Russian Relations"

Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh is professor of diplomacy at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. Previously he served for 22 years with the U.S. State Department where he worked on arms control, German reunification, and defense cooperation. He led the team that established the American Embassy in the Republic of Georgia; worked on conflicts in the Caucasus and Cyprus; and served as Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Switzerland.

In 2000, he served as Ambassador/Special Negotiator for Eurasia and U.S. Co-Chairman of the Minsk Group that culminated in peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He also was political advisor to Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations.

Since leaving government service, he has undertaken special projects for the State Department and served as trustee of London-based NGO Conciliation Resources. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

He is a graduate of the University of Florida, Notre Dame University, and the U.S. Army Russian Institute.