Ben Rhodes served as United States Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications to Barack Obama between 2009 and 2017. Currently, he is co-chair of National Security Action, a political NGO and a regular contributor to NBC News and MSNBC. Rhodes is co-host of the foreign policy podcast Pod Save the World.
Rhodes joined a small group of students, staff, faculty, and guests from the World Affairs Council to discuss some of his experiences. Discussion revolved around US foreign policy in Syria.
Soka’s International Studies Concentration was excited to help sponsor two events related to foreign policy in October. On the 16th, Ambassador Mohammad Reza Amirkhizi spoke about the Iran Nuclear Deal. As a high-level Iranian diplomat working on
this issue, the SUA community learned more about the conflicts and prospects for peace through non-proliferation. He argued that the United States should pursue a nuclear-free Middle East through multilateral negotiations.
On the 22nd, US policy in the Middle East was one of the many topics addressed by former Obama speechwriter and senior foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes. Soka’s Performing Arts Center provided a beautiful backdrop for the moderated conversation between Ben Rhodes and the World Affairs Council’s Nando Guerra. Rhodes argued that a crucial element of US foreign policy and patriotism should include an openness to our global interconnectedness. He shared insider stories abouthis work with President Obama, including details about his role working towards normalizing relations with Cuba. The event closed with Ray Charles version of “America the Beautiful” and a call to adapt this song as the American National Anthem. It was the first event to be sponsored in partnership with the World Affairs Council of Orange County.
Haley Saffarina, Aiden Gross, and Swann Jin, all class of 2020 provided inspiring introductions and helped moderate audience discussion for these events.
Amb Amirkhizi and Ben Rhodes
With an $800 funding grant from INTS, Victoria Huynh traveled to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She reports: “As a result of my conversations with Khmer women activists, queer activists, diasporas, Khmer-Exiled Americans and anti-carceral activists, I was able to manifest a letters project entitled ‘Decolonizing Khmer Women’s Resistance’ which recorded the sentiments and letters of Khmer women both in Cambodia and in the diaspora in resistance to institutions of power that uphold colonialist and imperialist legacies. The series of letters, themselves, made up the ‘decolonial’ act of reconciling the words of diasporas/individuals of Khmer descent around the world– written to one another, for one another, while addressing the global audience, thus breaking down borders imposed on us by our colonizers. At the CKS Center in Siem Reap, I was able to present my project to an audience of Khmer scholars and locals. I aim to continue the project through the meaningful relationships and conversations I was able to engage with there, as well as the Khmer diaspora I’ve been able to meet through my peers in the CKS program.
“At the IAGS Conference, in my own presentation entitled ‘Locating the Cambodian American Woman’s Voice’, I was able to present on the pressing concerns of the criminalization of Cambodian American women and their experiences’ intersections with the U.S.-sanctioned deportations of Cambodian Americans. As an undergraduate in a graduate-level space, I was humbled and empowered to be able to say what I needed to say, in a space where my critique of U.S. empire and the racialized and gendered processes migrants endure may be heard.”
“A meaningful bonus, I was able to connect with former SUA Alumni Socheth Sok (℅ 2006) and was able to meet with prospective SUA students from Cambodia. Ultimately, because of all of the above opportunities, I was able to challenge my discursive knowledge by learning from the anti-capitalist activism of Khmer women, survivors, and diasporas. I am determined even more so to challenge institutions of power, as I am even more so inspired by the activism of our local communities centered on their lived experiences.”
On September 11, Dr. Jeannie Shinozuka discussed her forthcoming book From a Contagious to a Poisonous Yellow Peril: Japanese and Japanese Americans in Public Health and Agriculture, 1890s-1950. “In the early twentieth century, government officers and the mass media demonized mutually constitutive Japanese beetles and bodies as deadly yellow perils. The Japanese beetle, second-generation Japanese Americans, and the Asiatic farmer transformed anti-Asian and anti-immigration policies during the early twentieth century. The metaphor of Japanese immigrants as invaders formed the central vehicle that dehumanized them and persuaded the larger American public that these foreigners ought to be eradicated. Their increasing presence occurred as the United States grappled with the problem of dealing with those aliens inside its borders. The story of Japanese insect, plant, and human immigrants is not simply one of inclusion–exclusion or even colonizer–colonized.” (“Deadly Perils: Japanese Beetles and the Pestilential Immigrant, 1920 – 1930,” American Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 4 (Winter 2013): 521-542.)
Victoria Huynh (class of 2021) attended the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Women’s Lead #ImReady Conference in Berkeley on November 3rd. She reported:
“I found myself amidst self-identified AAPI women and girls having traversed the nation to be within a space that we’ve rarely had before. Through my internship with Reappropriate.com under activist Dr. Jenn Fang, I worked with AAPI Women Lead’s Communications Associate’s & Youth Leader Celine Jusuf, co-founders Dr. Connie Wun and Jenny Wun, and my editor Dr. Fang to promote through social media for the conference while taking notes and engaging with speakers and participants as to construct an article for the conference and the #ImReady movement itself. Remembering the efforts of queer, disabled women of color, particularly Tarana Burke who began the #MeToo movement, #ImReady is more than a single event, but the iterative (re)Centering of Asian American and Pacific Islander women everywhere and the violence they face, so as to engage in solidarity with misrepresented and underrepresented communities.
It was more than humbling, it was self-enabling; We were claiming cultural sovereignty and owning our womxnhood… ”
Read the rest of Victoria’s story here
On Oct 31, Jessica Graham, Assistant Professor at the University of California San Diego, visited Soka University to present “Black Internationalism in Brazil in the 1930s.” Speaking to a packed room, Dr. Graham explored striking contrasts and continuities with contemporary Brazil and thus was particularly engaging only a week after the election Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s controversial President-elect. One fascinating continuity is the way that politics and race frame the other. In the 1930s, the battle between the (fascist) integralistas and communists helped reconfigure conceptions of race and build international bridges. Likewise, race played an important role in recent Bolsonaro’s election, with most Brazilians who identify as “black” voting against Bolsonaro. Five Brazilian undergraduate and graduate students attended, all wearing the yellow and green of Brazil’s flag. Dr. Graham’s last slide was of Marielle Franco, a Rio de Janeiro Councilperson who was assassinated in 2014. Franco was vocal advocate of Brazil’s own “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Sada Sud attended and presented a research [poster at the Western Political Science Association Conference in San Francisco on March 29-31, 2018. She reported:
“The academic value gained [through the conference] was immense. I was able to talk to other academics and undergraduate students interested in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Questions and inquiries raised by them served as a helpful insight into what more could be added to the draft of my capstone as well as what I need to focus on and clarify in the revision process. (…) After my poster presentation, I attended another panel on political discourses, which had a variety of papers being discussed, including the impact of voice pitch on political perception. (…) Overall, my capstone writing experience and research skills acquired at SUA prepared me well to make the most of this conference.”
Sada’s participation at the conference was partially supported by INTS funding.