The University of Delaware’s lifelong learning program in Lewes hosted a series of guest speakers presenting wide-ranging discussions on international issues currently facing the U.S.
Addressing hot-button topics such as terrorism, chemical weapons and U.S.-Russia relations, presenters included high-level U.S. foreign policy specialists and public servants with backgrounds in the U.S. Foreign Service, academia and the U.S. military. A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former U.S. ambassadors, a former CIA senior analyst, a former CNN world-affairs correspondent and more were among the who’s who of guest experts.
Instructors Sergei Boboshko of Lewes and Lee Stanford of Rehoboth Beach cited a lifelong interest in international affairs and a desire to inform as the inspiration for their Issues in U.S. Foreign Policy course at UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program in Lewes.
“It is generally an accepted view that Americans are not as well informed as they should be on matters of geopolitics that affect the U.S.,” said Boboshko. “Therefore, and as we state as the objectives for this course, we wish not only to inform but to allow Americans to make informed choices about what leaders to elect, what policies to support, and ultimately to have influence on what role the U.S. should play on the world stage. As such, this is an integral part of our democracy and of our democratic heritage.”
Asked about assembling the speaker roster, Boboshko explained, “Some of our speakers are already members of our OLLI Lewes community, whereas others have been referred to us by our students. We consistently ask our students to look at their personal rolodexes to see if any of their neighbors, former colleagues, college friends, etc., might have the professional background to be an interesting speaker on a foreign policy topic. Both Lee and I have done the same.”
One notable invitation grew out of a college friendship. OLLI member Michael Burkhart of Rehoboth, a physician and former Marine and Army National Guard helicopter pilot, nominated his friend and U.S. Naval Academy roommate, retired Adm. Michael Mullen. Mullen served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under two presidential administrations, and discussed with the OLLI class his insights about the decline of U.S. influence abroad.
“This is a great example of our ability at OLLI of ‘using the network’ to attract great speakers who might not otherwise be as readily available to us,” commented Boboshko.
OLLI member Joseph Wolzansky said he appreciated the course as a learning opportunity resulting from OLLI’s well-connected membership, saying, “Our local OLLI community includes members with personal ties to national figures who have been willing to bring their views to our classrooms.”
The series has been very well-attended, representatives said, with extensive Q&A sessions after the presentations. Boboshko added, “Attendance has been between 65 and 70 for each class this semester, and we never seem to have enough time for all the questions, despite the fact that we run for 90 minutes without a break.”
Across speakers and topics, Boboshko noted a few common themes that emerged, especially the decline of U.S. influence in world affairs at a time of increased risks and, as a result, an increased need for strong U.S. alliances abroad.
The complete list of featured speakers includes:
· Bard O’Neil, Distinguished Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College
· Eric Terzuolo, former U.S. permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
· C.J. Juhl, former senior military advisor to U.S. ambassadors to NATO
· Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
· John Tefft, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and Ukraine
· Lowell Fleischer, former U.S. foreign service officer and instructor at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute
· Dimitri Zarechnak, former senior Russian translator at the U.S. State Department
· Christopher Mark, former senior China analyst at the CIA
· Nancy Powell, former U.S. ambassador to India, Pakistan and Nepal, and director general of the U.S. Foreign Service
· Ralph Begleiter, former CNN world affairs correspondent and Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor Emeritus of Communication, University of Delaware.
OLLI members Peggy and Don Lewis of Rehoboth also attended the course, saying, “We both really enjoyed the class. The speakers were exceptional, and all the topics were timely. Whatever the subjects, we are looking forward to attending the next session.”
The OLLI program in Lewes is located at the Fred Thomas Building, 520 Dupont Ave. OLLI is organized as a learning cooperative for adults 50 or older to take and teach classes together, with no grades, exams or educational prerequisites. Last year, more than 900 courses were offered to more than 4,000 members in Lewes, Ocean View, Dover and Wilmington.
Registration is open now for OLLI summer courses, with classes starting June 3 in Lewes and July 8 in Dover. OLLI gift certificates are available for purchase year-round.
Prospective members can visit the programs, and register on the same day if they wish, during in-person registration on May 7 in Lewes (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), or May 8 in Dover (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).