This past April I represented Wake Forest University, on behalf of the Politics & International Affairs Department, at the annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in Annapolis, MD. Each year, the conference directors choose a current topic upon which to hold lectures, panels, and roundtable discussion groups. This year, we gathered around the topic of “Guarding Liberty in a World of Democratic Undoing,” which seemed particularly pertinent in today’s political atmosphere. Many of the lectures and panels focused on specific cases of democratic backsliding and growing authoritarianism, like those of Hungary, Poland, Russia, China, and even the United States. The conference also focused on identifying the common signs of democratic undoing. The beginning keynote address was delivered by Dr. Timothy Synder who spoke directly to this point as he based his remarks on his recent book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons for the Twentieth Century.
Because the conference is designed to create discussion between not only civilian and military attendees, but also domestic and international delegates, much attention was given to the roundtable discussion groups, which each focused on a different topic. My roundtable discussed the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe and how it has affected individual countries and the integrity of the EU as a whole—a topic that was very close to the research that I did for my senior thesis.
I have to admit that one of the most interesting aspects of the conference for me, outside of the topic itself, was the special access to the Naval Academy culture that every delegate receives. By getting to explore the campus, eating in King Hall with all of the 4000+ midshipmen, and asking endless questions, I felt that I had received a unique insight into this rather different world.
Overall, my experience at NAFAC provided a chance for enlightenment, academic growth, and the creation of new connections with both military and civilian delegates from other countries and all over the United States. I would like to express my gratitude to the Politics & International Affairs Department for granting me this opportunity!