Great Decisions 2016

Established in 1918, the Foreign Policy Association is a non-profit education organization and sponsor of the Great Decisions program. Great Decisions is a national civic-education program that encourages participants to:

  • Learn about U.S. foreign policy and global issues
  • Discuss multiple viewpoints in a group setting
  • Take part in a national opinion survey

 Spring 2016 Topics:

Migration – Leyla Keogh on April 1


As a record number of migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea to find refuge in Europe, the continent is struggling to come up with an adequate response. Although Europe’s refugees are largely fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and parts of Africa, their struggle is hardly unique. Today, with the number of displaced people is at an all-time high, a number of world powers find themselves facing a difficult question: How can they balance border security with humanitarian concerns? More importantly, what can they do to resolve these crises so as to limit the number of displaced persons?

Leyla Keogh is a cultural anthropologist who has worked on behalf of cultural diversity, migrant and women’s rights, and social justice in
Turkey, Moldova, and the United States. These efforts have taken place though her research and writing, within college classrooms and in public forums. Her research and teaching span many topics: from Islamist veiling and undocumented migration in Turkey to trafficking in women in Eastern Europe.

Climate Change – Ray Bradley on April 8

Barack Obama

In the past few years, the American public has become more aware of the damage wrought by climate change. From droughts in the West to extreme weather in the East, a rapidly changing climate has already made its footprint in the United States. Now, it’s expected that the presidential election in 2016 will be one of the first ever to place an emphasis on these environmental changes. What can the next president do to stymie this environmental crisis? And is it too late for these efforts to be effective?

Ray Bradley is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences and Director of the Climate System Research Center at the
University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He did his undergraduate work at Southampton University (U.K.) and his post-graduate studies (M.S., Ph.D.) at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder. He also earned a D.Sc. from Southampton University, for his contributions in paleoclimatology.

Middle East: From the Arab Spring to the Rise of ISIS – Phillip Khoury on April 15


Since the Arab Spring, a number of ongoing conflicts have shaken the traditional alliances in the Middle East to their core. As alliances between state and non-state actors in the region are constantly shifting, the U.S. has found itself between a rock and a hard place. Added to the already complex situation, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has burst onto the international stage and has seized control of a number of critical strongholds. What can the U.S. do to secure its interests in the region and determine a consistent strategy toward ISIS without causing further damage?

Philip S. Khoury is Ford International Professor of History and Associate Provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author and editor of five books, including Syria and the French Mandate and Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism. His current research is on the Middle East during World War II. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut and of former Chairman of the World Peace Foundation. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and a B.A. from Trinity College.

Cuba and the U.S. – Javier Corrales on April 22

A man wears a T-shirt with the American flag as he passes a tourist in a Che Guevara T-shirt in Havana.

After decades of isolation, the U.S. announced in December 2014 that it has begun taking major steps to normalize relations with Cuba. The announcement marks a dramatic shift away from a policy that has its roots in one of the darkest moments of the Cold War — the Cuban missile crisis. Although the U.S. trade embargo is unlikely to end any time soon, American and Cuban leaders today are trying to bring a relationship, once defined by antithetical ideologies, into the 21st century.

Javier Corrales is Dwight W. Morrow 1895 professor of Political Science at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He obtained his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. Corrales’s research focuses on democratization and political economy of development. His work on Latin America has focused on presidential powers, political parties, economic reforms, international relations, and sexuality. He has published extensively on Venezuela, Cuba, and Argentina.

The United Nations – Laura Reed on April 29

The flag lined approach to the entrance to the United Nations' Headquarters in Geneva.

United Nations stands at a crossroads. This year marks a halfway point in the organization’s global effort to eradicate poverty, hunger and discrimination, as well as ensure justice and dignity for all peoples. But as the UN’s 193 member states look back at the success of the millennium development goals, they also must assess their needs for its sustainable development goals — a new series of benchmarks, which are set to expire in 2030. With the appointment of the ninth secretary-general in the near future as well, the next U.S. president is bound to have quite a lot on his or her plate going into office.

Laura Reed, Visiting Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She holds a B.A. degree from Harvard University and received her Ph.D. in Political Science from MIT, where she specialized in international security.

All events will take place on Friday mornings between 9:30 am and noon at the Northampton Senior Center, 67 Conz Street, Northampton , MA.

Ticket Prices and Registration

5CLIR members: $12 per individual discussion or $40 for the full series
Public admission: $15 per individual discussion or $50 for the full series

You may purchase tickets at the door or on line.

  • There are no refunds on series purchases.
  • Sessions will be canceled if schools are closed for inclement weather.
  • Parking is available at the Senior Center. Overflow parking must park across Conz Street at the World War II Club parking lot. Please keep fire lanes free.

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