Great Decisions

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

REGISTER HERE for 2017 Great Decisions

 Spring 2017 Topics:

*****The March 31 event has been cancelled due to bad weather******
a new date will be published when available

March 31:  Latin America’s Political Pendulum with Javier Corrales
March 31: Latin America’s Political Pendulum with Javier Corrales

The pendulum of Latin American politics is swinging rightward once again. Yet as the “pink tide” recedes, the forces of change have more to do with socioeconomics than ideology. Dramatic economic and political crises have coincided in countries like Brazil and Venezuela. Still, the final result for Latin America may be the emergence of centrist, pragmatic modes of governance, and with them, opportunities for the U.S. to improve relations. The new administration must look beyond the neoliberal model of the 1990s, and develop an approach to relations fit for the 21st century.

Javier Corrales is Dwight W. Morrow 1895 Professor of Political Science at Amherst College.  He obtained his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.Corrales’s research focuses on democratization and the 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. He is the author of Presidents Without Parties: the Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s.  Among many books he has co-authored, his most recent, with Michael Penford, is “Dragon in the Tropics: Venezuela and the Legacy of Hugo Chavez”. His research has been published in many academic journals such as Comparative Politics, World Development, Political Science Quarterly, International Studies Quarterly, World Policy Journal, Latin American Politics and Society, Journal of Democratic and Latin American Research Review. He is also working on a book manuscript on constitutional reforms in Latin America.  He has also been a consultant for the World Bank, the United Nations, the Center for Global Development, Freedom House, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


April 7:  Conflict in the South China Sea with Michael T. Klare
April 7: Conflict in the South China Sea with Michael T. Klare





The South China Sea is a locus of competing territorial claims, and China is its most vocal claimant. Beijing’s interest has intensified disputes with other countries in the region in recent years, especially since China has increased its naval presence. Despite rising international pressure, including an unfavorable ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, China staunchly defends its policies in the region. Preventing tensions from boiling over is a matter of careful diplomacy.

Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, a joint appointment at Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Professor Klare has written widely on U.S. defense policy, international security affairs, and global resource politics. Klare is the author of many books, including, most recently, The Race for What’s Left (2012), Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet (2008), Blood and Oil (2004), and Resource Wars (2001).  He is also the defense correspondent of The Nation magazine and a contributing editor of Current History.  In addition to these journals, he has contributed articles to Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Harper’s, Newsweek, and Scientific American. Professor Klare has also worked with many non-governmental organizations in the peace and security field, and currently serves on the board of directors of the Arms Control Association.


April 14:  Saudi Arabia in Transition with Steven Simon
April 14: Saudi Arabia in Transition with Steven Simon





As Saudi Arabia struggles to adjust to the drastic decline in oil revenue, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman attempts to boldly transform the country and shift more power to the younger generation. At the same time, many countries such as the U.S. point out the lack of democracy, women’s rights and human rights in Saudi Arabia, and blame its promotion of Wahhabism, an extremely conservative version of Islam, for creating jihadists. Bipartisan criticism of Saudi Arabia is rising in Congress. Both countries need each other, but they are at a crossroads in bilateral relations.

Steven Simon is John J. McCloy 2016 Visiting Professor of History at Amherst College.  From 2014-2016 he was a visiting Dickey Center Fellow and lecturer at Dartmouth College. Prior to this, he was Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies – US and Corresponding Director of International Institute for Strategic Studies ( IISS) for the Middle East.   From early 2011 through the end of 2012 he served on the National Security Council staff at the White House, where he was the senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs.  Prior to reentering government service, he was principal and senior advisor to Good Harbor Consulting, LLC in Abu Dhabi, which advises the Court of the Crown Prince and key agencies on security matters, as well as adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Goldman Sachs Visiting Professor at Princeton University. He has served as the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies, following research at the RAND Corporation on Middle East-related security challenges.  He was also the deputy director of IISS and Carol Deane senior fellow in U.S. security studies.


April 21:  Trade, Jobs and Politics with Vincent Ferraro
April 21: Trade, Jobs and Politics with Vincent Ferraro





The U.S. political mood toward trade has gone sour. One need look no further than the 2016 presidential contest for the popular narrative: trade means that China wins, at America’s expense. But do the numbers support that conclusion? The metrics used to gauge economic strength—Gross Domestic Product and balance of trade—have not kept up with the realities of modern manufacturing. Obtaining an accurate picture of U.S. economic stature requires a critique of those numbers. Only then can the U.S. develop appropriate policy solutions for the challenges at hand.

Vincent Ferraro is Professor Emeritus of Politics at Mount Holyoke College and specializes in changes in international relations since the end of the Cold War.  He has a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.A. from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Ferraro has served as an academic consultant for the United Nations Association of the United States and consulted for the U.N.’s development program during the late 1980s. He served on the Pew Charitable Trusts faculty fellowship board, as a member from 1989 to 1995.  He is the recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon faculty grant for his research on political economy.Ferraro’s scholarly work in the field of international relations includes global poverty, third world development, and global debt in such journals as the World Policy Journal, the International Journal of Social Economics, and the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Currently, he is Mount Holyoke’s lead faculty member on a project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which is integrating World Wide Web material into the international relations curriculum.  He teaches courses on World Politics, American Foreign Policy and International Political Economy and is completing a college textbook that will cover such topics as imperialism, balance of power, global poverty and global environmental problems. He teaches courses in World Politics, American Foreign Policy and International Political Economy.


April 28:  The Future of Europe with Eric Einhorn
April 28: The Future of Europe with Eric Einhorn





The outcome of the United Kingdom referendum on EU membership sent shockwaves across the globe. It even caught British voters by surprise. The European Union has helped secure peace in Europe for the past 70 years. Now it faces an uncertain future. Amid a refugee crisis, lingering financial recession and the constant specter of terrorism, unity seems more imperative than ever. But the Brexit vote underscores the complexities of integrating an extremely diverse continent. What will post-Brexit Europe look like, and how can U.S. foreign policy adapt?

Eric Einhorn has been a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts from 1971 until his retirement in 2009, including 6 years as department chair. He has an undergraduate degree in international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his Ph.D. in political science at Harvard University. He has traveled and studied extensively throughout Western Europe, especially the Nordic regions. His teaching and research bridge the comparative and foreign policy fields with a focus on Western Europe, the United States, and the Nordic region.He is the author of “Liberalism and Social Democracy in Western Europe” in Comparative Democracy and Democratization edited by H. Wiarda and an expanded and updated version of Modern Welfare States; Scandinavian Politics and Policy in the Global Age co-authored with Professor John Logue of Kent State University. His many articles have appeared in the publications Political Science Quarterly and Europe Today, including “Can Welfare States Be Sustained in a Global Economy? Lessons from Scandinavia” and “Scandinavia: Still the Middle Way?”. Currently, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Massachusetts and he continues his research and area studies activities, including assisting with the “Scandinavian Impulses” program at UMass.

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 online (available Feb.20).

  • 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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