Great Decisions

our answer to "Fake News"

Great Decisions Global Discussion Series

The World Affairs Council brings in experts who have the real scoop: diplomats; policy makers and practitioners; think tank specialists; and others...

Thank you for supporting our 2017 Series!

Missed a discussion? Check out the archives of our speakers in the Media Library


Monday, Feb. 6th: “Rx: Prescription for Global Health”

Jason Beaubien, Global Health/Development Correspondent, NPR

Jason Beaubien spent four years based in Mexico City covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. He’s driven the length of the U.S./Mexico border from the Pacific to the Gulf, chronicling along the way the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier. He filed stories on Mexico’s brutal drug war; politics in Cuba; the 2010 Haitian earthquake; elections in El Salvador; and Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men.

Now, in his role as Global Health and Development Correspondent, Beaubien reports on health issues across the world. He’s part of a team at NPR that won a Peabody Award in 2015 for their coverage of the West Africa Ebola outbreak. Join Mr. Beaubien as he diagnoses global health issues, including those in Latin America.

Topic Sponsor: Spectrum 

Monday, Feb. 13th:  “Choke Points: Global Water, Food, and Energy Crises”

Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue and Liz Kirkwood, FLOW (For Love of Water)

Water outlines Michigan’s geography and culture. And, with climate change and national water scarcity, it could define a much greater share of our economy. Mr. Schneider reports on the mega trends influencing global water supply and use. Demand for energy and food in an era of diminishing fresh water reserves has weakened national economies, destabilized governments, touched off civic rebellions, and put pressure on the world’s biggest financial institutions.

Executive Director of FLOW (a water law and policy center), and an environmental lawyer, Ms. Kirkwood highlights water, energy, and environmental governance issues. She was the leading force in shaping the “Oil & Water Don’t Mix” campaign to address the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Both hailing from Traverse City, our panelists illustrate the challenges posed by significant water risks here in Michigan and beyond.

Topic Sponsor: PADNOS

Monday, Feb. 20th: “Nuclear Proliferation: New Worries”

Jack Segal, National Security Council Director for Nonproliferation (former)

Nuclear security is a topic no one wants to discuss. And we don’t want to worry about it, though worst-case scenarios are terrifying.  With thousands of nuclear warheads deployed and in storage around the world, it seems inevitable that terrorists will eventually get their hands on a warhead, or will gain access to dangerously radioactive materials for a “dirty bomb.”  Yet in the seventy-five years of the nuclear era, this hasn’t happened. Why?

A combination of sensible control regimes, careful monitoring and good luck have kept us safe from nuclear terror – so far.  Will our good fortune continue?

Topic Sponsor: SoundOff Signal


Monday, Feb. 27th: “South China Sea: Clash of Strategies”

John Adams, Brigadier General United States Army (retired)

It often seems that the U.S. and China don’t understand each other, creating policies that risk conflict. Complicating matters, the economic and security policy of the US towards China is interlinked, presenting unintended strategic challenges and sometimes constraining our courses of action in the region. Is a clash with China inevitable? General Adams provides a roadmap for how the US should deal with this growing world power.

Topic Sponsor: GNS

​Monday, Mar. 13th: “Afghanistan: Fight . . . or Run?”

Amb. Ronald E. Neumann, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (former)  

An Afghan minister asked to explain Afghanistan in one or two words replied, “One word, good.  Two words, bad.”  The complexity of Afghanistan is very much like this!  America went to war because 3000 people died in an attack launched from Afghanistan.  Sixteen years later, what is the continued relevance of this country?  Why are 26 NATO nations and forty other donors still willing to invest people and money in Afghanistan?  Is it still worth fighting?  Are the Afghans doing their share?  What are the consequences of withdrawal?  What are the costs of staying and what does staying require of us? 

Amb. Neumann continues to make frequent trips to the region, most recently in October 2016.  

Topic Sponsor: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation


Monday, Mar. 20th: “Is it all Politics?: Trade and U.S. Jobs”

Jeremy R. Haft, Georgetown University and CEO, SafeSource Trading

The U.S. political mood toward trade has gone sour. One need look no further than the 2016 presidential contest for the popular narrative: trade means that China wins, at America’s expense. But do the numbers support that conclusion? Obtaining an accurate picture of the impact of trade on jobs and the U.S. economy requires a critique of those numbers. Only then can the U.S. develop appropriate policy solutions for the challenges at hand.  Business leader and professor at Georgetown University Jeremy Haft does just that when he assesses the rhetoric vs. the reality of global trade and U.S. jobs.

Topic Sponsor: Amway


Monday, Mar. 27th: “The EU: An Uncertain Future”

Dr. John McCormick, Professor of European Union Politics, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Brexit, the Eurozone crisis, and Syrian migration have strained the European Union. Can the EU survive in light of the many problems it has recently faced? Dr. McCormick assesses the future of this union, and places his analysis in the context of rising populism around the world as well as growing criticism of immigration and globalization. He also assesses how the new president of the United States will respond to the EU and the uncertainty it faces.

Topic Sponsor: PriceWalgren: a division of George Koch Sons, LLC


Monday, Apr. 3rd: “Shifts in the Sand: U.S.-Saudi Relations”

Simon Henderson, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, DC

Since the terror attacks on the U.S. on 9/11, Washington and Riyadh have been struggling to re-establish a harmonious relationship.  Under President Obama, tension heightened because of Saudi suspicions about the Iran nuclear deal.  Complicating matters, the kingdom is a key part of the world economy because of its oil exports and a huge market for U.S. exports, particularly military equipment.  What will be the future of US-Saudi relations under President Trump?  Will tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to be a major element? What is the future of contacts between Saudi Arabia and Israel?  And what are the plans of Muhammad bin Salman, King Salman’s favorite son and likely successor?

Topic Sponsor: NUCRAFT

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Great Decisions Expands to the Holland area!

Hope College will host 6 of our 8 topics.

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