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Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Priviledge

I am studying, as I mentioned before, at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (at the Bologna, Italy campus for the first year; DC for the second year). Five years ago, a recent graduate of Cedarville University, I was advised by a former professor/life mentor and good friend, Dr. Frank Jenista, to read the Foreign Affairs Journal to keep up with current events and the policy ideas floating around the international affairs arena. I took his advise to heart, and attempted to digest the bi-monthly journals. Often, at the bottom of the article, the by-line would read: Professor so-and-so from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. I decided that this was where I wanted complete my Masters degree. I was not at all certain if this decision would actually meet the reality of my little life in Cincinnati, but somehow, by God's blessing and direction, it has. The fact that I'm here is still incredible to me.

Yesterday, I sat in our first Macroeconomics course, under Dr. Anthony Elson. What better time to be studying macroeconomics, than when we can see the world tumbling into a financial crisis in real time? Not to be nonchalant about what is happening... the front-page news is rather horrifying. It is also a bit overwhelming to try to grasp all the nuances of how exchange-traded derivatives, or how the long-term effects of current US and European bank bail-outs are changing our modern financial markets. Taking a class under a senior consultant to the New Rules for Global Finance Coalition offers a little window into macroeconomic decisions that are being made. I just sat in class trying to soak up his every comment.

Sitting under the teaching here, is to sit under many of the great minds that are shaping American economic and foreign policy, or developing the current theories of international relations. Reading our first assigned articles this week, I kept discovering that the author is either a SAIS professor such as Francis Fukuyama (who famously declared the "End of History"after the fall of the Soviet Union) or Fouad Ajami (a great mind on US-Middle East relations) or that the author "just happens to be visiting from Harvard next week", as in the case of Stanley Hoffman, a prominent writer in the political sciences. One of our orientation presentations was by a Senior SAIS Fellow, John McLaughlin, the former Deputy Director and Acting Director of the CIA. He gave us big thoughts about what the next "age" of the world should be called. He shared tidbits about how decades ago the CIA used to fly rockets with cameras around the earth, taking thousands of pictures, and then trying to coordinate those photos being dropped in a box onto a passing aircraft... naturally failing dozens (or was it hundreds?) of times, before successfully recovering one of the little boxes of film. These are the little pieces of reality we glean from our teachers. Men and women who have shared in policy creation or the administration of U.S. Presidents.

To partake in this academic experience is fascinating; it is humbling. It is a priviledge. Sometimes I have to pinch myself, when I'm reading those same Foreign Affairs Journal articles as class assignments.

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