Stanley Harsha: Indonesia: Progressive Islam and Liberal Democracy
 versus Intolerance and Authoritarianism

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 Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim majority nation and third largest democracy. It’s tolerant nature was shaped by thousands of years of religious syncretism in this archipelago of over 300 ethnic groups. Today, its vibrant free democracy under reformist President “Jokowi” is fending off dark forces which want to bring back authoritarianism. These former generals and greedy politicians are teaming with the rising tide of Muslim extremists, nurtured by Arab Wahabism. Stanley was witness to the transition from dictatorship to democracy. His work encompassed reaching out to Muslim youth, defending human rights and religious freedom, countering terrorism and combatting trafficking in persons.

Stanley is a former U.S. diplomat, with over 30 years of experience in Asian affairs. During his 28-year Foreign Service career, some of his postings included: U.S. Consul General for Sumatra; Democracy Unit Chief in Jakarta; interim Chief of Mission in Timor-Leste; Cultural Affairs Officer in Beijing; and Public Affairs Officer in Namibia. He also served as Executive Director of the Fulbright Scholarship Board and was a senior education and cultural affairs advisor for East Asia under Secretary Clinton.  

His critically acclaimed book, Like the Moon and the Sun, published in 2015, compares Indonesian and American societies, with analysis of culture, politics, religion and human rights, based on three decades connected to Indonesia. He also occasionally publishes essays and opinion pieces related to Indonesia. 

He now divides his time between the United States and Asia, dedicating his time to writing, advancing international educational exchanges, and promoting international tolerance and understanding. The Pueblo, Colorado native is on the advisory council for University of Colorado-Boulder’s Center for Asian Studies, and represents Colorado State University-Fort Collins in Indonesia. He is a Colorado Foothills World Affairs Council board member.

Stan and his wife Henny, an Indonesian, have a daughter, Annisa, who lives in Brooklyn and was proposed to on a Bali beach, and a son, Sean, who is an editor at the Jakarta Post.


Wendy Pearlman: We Crossed the Bridge and it trembled.

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Dr. Pearlman, Professor of Middle East Studies at Northwestern University is the author of “We Crossed the Bridge and It Trembled”. Her book is the result of personal interviews with over 300 displaced Syrians across the Middle East, Europe and the United States. It chronicles the Syrian war from its origins in peaceful protest to its present horror, solely through the words of ordinary people transformed by its unfolding. Through the voices of children, parents, students, teachers, web designers, artists, playwrights, doctors, engineers and many others, we can better learn of the heart-wrenching toll of this tragic war.

“Many of these voices are unforgettable…Pearlman shapes her subjects’ narratives, winnowing interview down to stirring examples of human adaptation. Essential reading” 

 --New York Times Book Review

Ambassador Joseph Yun: Trump and Kim Jong Un: What Next?

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 Ambassador Joseph Yun is senior advisor to the Asia Program at USIP and Global Affairs Analyst for CNN.  As former US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, he is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on relations with North Korea, as well as on broader US-East Asian policy. His 33-year diplomatic career has been marked by his commitment to face-to-face engagement as the best avenue for resolving conflict and advancing cross-border cooperation.

As Special Envoy on North Korea from 2016 to 2018, Ambassador Yun led the State Department’s efforts to align regional powers behind a united policy to denuclearize North Korea. He was instrumental in reopening the “New York channel,” a direct communication line with officials from Pyongyang, through which he was able to secure the release of the American student, Otto Warmbier, who had been held in captivity for 15 months.

From 2013 to 2016 he served as US Ambassador to Malaysia, actively forwarding the administration’s goal of elevating relations with Southeast Asia. During his tenure, Ambassador Yun hosted two visits to Malaysia by President Obama—the first by any US President since 1966—resulting in the signing of the US-Malaysian Comprehensive Partnership Agreement, pledging closer cooperation on security, trade, education, technology, energy, the environment, and  people-to-people ties.

As Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2011-2013), he led efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Myanmar, traveling to Rangoon as the first US-based government official to meet with Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi following her release from house arrest. He also worked to lay the foundation for official participation by the President of the United States in the annual East Asian Summit, starting from 2011.


Barbara Finamore: Will China save the planet?

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In a recent book by the same title (available for purchase at the event), author Barbara Finamore proposes that with President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, the US has defaulted as the world leader on climate change. The logical successor to assume that mantle is China. Is that possible?

Barbara Finamore has nearly four decades of experience in environmental law and energy policy. In 1996 she founded the NRDC’s China Program, the first clean energy program to be launched by an NGO. She also served as President and Chair of the Professional Association for China’s Environment (PACE) and is the founder and President of the China-US Energy Innovation Alliance.  In 2017 Barbara was named a member of Foreign Policy’s “The US-China 50” a group of 50 individuals who are powering the world’s most complex and consequential relationship. She holds a J.D. degree with honors from the Harvard Law School.