New York Times’ Thomas Friedman to open ‘Conversations’ series

Some of the nation’s top scholars will gather in the coming academic year at Washington University in St. Louis to have “Conversations” on such topics as: What kind of international borders will exist in the 21st century? What is the future of freedom? Who are “public intellectuals”? And what purpose do they serve? Where did modern humans come from?

Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman

Washington University is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2003-04, and in recognition of the sesquicentennial theme, “Treasuring the Past, Shaping the Future,” Arts & Sciences is hosting a series of four “Conversations” among scholars whose disciplines range from anthropology and biology to law and women’s studies. The “Conversations” are free and open to the public.

Thomas L. Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, best-selling author and foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, will participate in the first “Conversation,” to be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 17 in the university’s Graham Chapel.

Seyla Benhabib, the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, and Bruce Blair, president of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C., will join Friedman and three Washington University faculty as they discuss “What Kind of International Borders Will Exist in the 21st Century?”

James V. Wertsch, Ph.D., Washington University’s Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences, will moderate the first “Conversation,” and Leila N. Sadat, J.D., professor of law, and Satadru Sen, Ph.D., assistant professor of history in Arts & Sciences, will round out the panel.

“The idea of ‘Conversations’ is to gather some of the top minds in the country to reflect on key issues that will affect not only the future of the university and the community, but also the world,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor and dean of Arts & Sciences. “They will not be formal lectures, but more an opportunity for a mixture of scholars to discuss important questions that should lead to some exciting interactions.”

In selecting the first “Conversations” topic, Wertsch pointed out that international borders no longer control the flow of information, ideas, money or goods as they once did — suggesting that the nature of these borders may be changing.

“For some, this means that nation-states will disappear and their borders become irrelevant. Others see qualitatively new forms of borders emerging, borders such as those between civilizations or between rich and poor; still others assert that the current form and location of international borders will remain largely intact,” said Wertsch, who is director of Washington University’s International and Area Studies Program and professor of education in Arts & Sciences. “This ‘Conversation’ will focus on these issues and their implications for local and global relations in the century ahead.”

“Each ‘Conversation’ is designed to explore an issue that one would hope is of enduring importance, say 25 or 50 years from now,” said Iver Bernstein, Ph.D., professor of history and one of the organizers of the series. “The tone will be informal, without prepared papers, just a moderator and a set of questions to focus the conversation; each is designed to be easily understood by a lay or non-specialist audience.”

The three other “Conversations” topics, which will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in Graham Chapel, are: “The Future of Freedom,” Nov. 13; “Public Intellectuals,” Feb. 12; and “Modern Human Origins,” March 26.

For more information, call (314) 935-6820.