One of the most lauded initiatives of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) is its Annual Washington Program on National Security (WAPONS). Directed by AHI Senior Fellow, Dr. Juliana Geran Pilon, the program concluded its third year on June 30 with an impressive group of students from across the country, bringing with them a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.
Participants hailed from University of Hawaii, Princeton, Colgate, American, East Georgia State, Baylor, Villanova, as well as Hamilton, Hillsdale, and Trinity College. They discussed and debated relevant issues with a distinguished group of guest lecturers and with each other. As one grateful student wrote, “I would like to mention how insightful not only the speakers are, but also how insightful the other students here are. I have learned so much from them–events and names and places that I never even knew. For that alone, I am grateful to be a part of this program. It is not often that you find such studious people your own age who manage to push you to learn more and think harder.”
Students praised the depth of the speakers’ knowledge but also their humility and personal warmth. Everyone regretted that the two-week program had to come to an end. This sentiment despite a grueling schedule that left the students—and even their spirited director—exhausted at the end of the day. Conversely, guest lecturers praised the quality of the students and the “energy and hope” they promised for dealing with the problems of the next generation.
During the program, students engaged scholars from Georgetown University, National Defense University, Hillsdale College, American University, the American Foreign Policy Council, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute; specialists from democracy-support organizations such as the Center for International Private Enterprise, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Center for Human Rights in North Korea, the Victims of Communism Foundation, and The Market Project; and senior staff from the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Transportation Security Agency, and the U.S. Senate.
Guided tours of the Library of Congress, Voice of America, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum—the last given by Radu Ioanid, Director of its International Archival Program and one of the Museum’s original creators—rounded out the program. Some experts spoke at American University, where the students were housed and where classrooms were provided courtesy of the Political Theory Institute. Speakers included General Mike Eastman, film producer Gina Pack, Afghan-American historian Hamid Naweed, State Department advisor Fawzia Etemadi, Bahraini journalist Omran Salman, Russian disinformation expert Todd Leventhal, and former Pentagon official Steve Bryen. [For a full list of experts, see https://www.ahi-wapons.org/experts]
One student, for whom WAPONS had been the first such program outside his home environment, admits that it “has set the bar almost impossibly high for any future programs I might be in. The experts [were] mind-blowing, I was constantly having to revise my opinions on the various subjects they touched on to take into account what they were telling us ….. I am [now] highly motivated to read more on the current situation throughout the USA, and world in general.” Another said simply: “An incredible two weeks.” And so they were.
“Dr. Juliana Pilon has created a crown jewel among the riches of AHI programming,” observed AHI Executive Director Robert Paquette. Several WAPONS graduates have already achieved jobs in security or related fields and are part of a growing alumni network revolving around Dr. Pilon. AHI could not be more pleased with this endeavor and is deeply grateful to the Bradley Foundation for supporting the program since its inception. It is money truly well spent.”