Recap: September 2019, Community Partnership Program and Gordon Chang

Dear Members,

The 2019-2020 Season got off to a great start on September 12th with a reading by local author Sydney Williams from his new book, Dear Mary: Letters Home from the 10th Mountain Division, 1944-1945.  The book comprises letters written between his parents as his father trudged north through Italy in the push to drive the Nazis out of Italy, and his mother waited anxiously at home in Connecticut.  The book documents the sacrifices on both sides of the Atlantic, and tells us something of the times in which they were written and the day-to-day lives that unfolded against the backdrop of monumental events in Europe.  SECWAC will donate a copy of the book to each of the Essex and New London Public Libraries.

This program was the first in our new collaboration with Essex Meadows Life Care and Retirement Community, and is part of the SECWAC Community Partnership Program.  We look forward to working with Susan Carpenter who organizes cultural events at Essex Meadows, including the Great Decisions Program.  Watch out for future Great Decisions programs in association with Essex Meadows.

On September 17th we kicked off our regular monthly meetings with a return visit by Gordon Chang, who spoke on “America’s Grandest Wager:  China.”  This was Gordon’s third update to SECWAC on US-China relations, and, as always, was full of fascinating insights on policy and strategy, all set in historical context, and with no little amount of concern for the future of this relationship.  Gordon started by expressing his concern that China and the US are headed for decades of conflict, and perhaps even a new Cold War (also discussed recently in The Economist issue of May 18-24, 2019).  He highlighted a gap in perceptions between policymakers in both countries, and especially Americans’ misunderstanding of China’s “arc of history” and the idea of Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis when the (first?) Cold War ended in 1989.  China did not follow the expected/hoped-for path to liberal democratic capitalism, and, indeed, has become more repressive under President Xi.  Chang emphasized Xi’s predicament:  he must make his system of government work in China or risk great personal loss (and maybe worse).  Gordon signed copies of his books, The Coming Collapse of China and Losing South Korea, which were bought by SECWAC for donation to the Old Lyme and New London Public Libraries.

We hope to see you at the next SECWAC meeting on October 10th at the Old Lyme Country Club, when Emma Sky, Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program and a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, will speak on her new book In a Time of Monsters: A Middle East in Revolt. This is our first Quarterly Colloquium, a bonus program SECWAC will host each season.

Paul Nugent
Executive Director & Program Committee Chair
Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council


Mission Statement

The mission of the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) is to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs by study, debate, and educational programming, primarily through a Speakers Series of 8 to 10 monthly meetings.