If I were to sum up FPRI in a few sentences, I would say:
We teach teachers.
We train students.
We educate the public.
We provide the policy community with rigorous analysis and carefully thought through recommendations on the foreign policy challenges facing the United States.
Does it matter? Let me give you a few illustrations.
Last weekend, we held our 11th annual history institute for teachers on topics in American military history. Each one of these weekend conferences has been hosted by the First Division Museum in Wheaton, IL, and the director of that museum told me his hope is to host these conferences in perpetuity (presumably, so long as he is able). That’s how good they are, and the teachers’ evaluations confirm that sentiment. This particular weekend, we hosted 44 teachers from 23 states, which is the average for each conference. Our topic for this weekend was America and WWI – how and why we got into it, how we conducted our operations and postwar diplomacy, and how it impacted US foreign policy going forward.
We teach teachers.
Last week I received notice that Tina Kaidanow was named acting assistant Secretary of State for political-military affairs (having held various positions earlier, including first US Ambassador to Kosovo); before that, I learned that Eddie Fishman now serves on the policy planning staff of Secretary of State John Kerry, and for a long time now Emily Goldman has been strategic advisor to the commander of US cyber command. I mention these names because they are all former interns at FPRI, and there are many others like them. Their impact on policy is direct and immediate; our impact on them was perhaps years and years in the making.
We teach teachers. We train students.
This week after returning from a trip to Iraqi Kurdistan, our Robert Fox Fellow Sam Helfont briefed a group of FPRI members giving the story behind the story, and it was quite eye opening, painting a realistic rather than romantic picture of the Kurds, and thereby revealing what it will take to save Kurdistan. Both the audio and the write-up of his remarks were posted on the web and social media, as we do with all of our lectures and publications. Because of our presence on the web and in social media, we can honestly say we reach hundreds of thousands of people, spread over virtually every country in the world, nearly every day.
We teach teachers. We train students. We educate the public.
Earlier this month, another Robert Fox Fellow, Clint Watts, was asked to testify before the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security on the ramifications of the events in Paris and Brussels for the US homeland and for US citizens abroad, and to make recommendations for how best to contain these threats. Clint draws on years of experience as an FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force, as Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and on his post-FBI experience in tracking jihadis online. The Boston Globe recently described him as part of a new generation of jihadi hunters. In the months since the Paris attacks, he has been writing up a storm in various media and doing interviews with regional, national and international media while working directly with law enforcement in the United States. All this activity – and similar activity on the part of our other scholars – all shape the discourse within the policy community as to how best to advance our country’s national interest.
We teach teachers. We train students. We educate the public. We provide the policy community with rigorous analysis.
Does it matter? I think the question answers itself.