“I just wanted to reach out and personally thank you again for hosting the WaPoNS program this summer. It was truly a truly first-rate and outstanding program and it had a profound impact on me. Furthermore, the WAPONS program was vastly beneficial to complete prior to starting graduate school. I use the knowledge that I acquired during those weeks in DC (knowledge that I do believe would have taken years to gain otherwise) daily. By speaking with so many who have devoted their lives to the safety and security of our nation, I do feel as though I have the absolute closest thing possible to my own real life experience to be the root of my graduate study. In fact, I do believe my roommates are sick of hearing of my stories about the amazing people and things that I learned ‘during my program in DC this summer.’ Furthermore, while I have not yet written any papers I do hope to cite the materials that I was able to obtain this summer, especially The Art of Peace.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. I know that you work very, very hard to make the program a reality and I want you to know what a profound impact that it had on me. I am blessed to have been able to attend the program and even mores to have had you as an instructor.
-Nik S. Fisher, Master of International Affairs Candidate, The Bush School of Government and Public Service
“It would be very hard for me to pick a few favorites from the all the amazing speakers we had this week. They were all incredible and clearly were very passionate about the work that they are doing and have done in the past. I would say the speakers that I enjoyed listening to the most would be Dakota Wood, Col. Maxwell, and Ilan Berman. Dakota was great. He was able to answer such a wide range of questions and give us insight on so many different topics. He was also a very nice guy and had a good sense of humor which made the session not only informative, but also very fun. Col. Maxwell was also very fun to interact with. He was able to shed light on one of the most mysterious places in our world today, North Korea, while also making it fun and interactive. Similarly, Ilan was able to do the same with the greater middle east, mainly Iran. His ability to communicate his knowledge of the subject was very impressive. Although I probably could’ve described just about every speaker here in that manner, those three stood out to me and will surely be some of my most memorable experiences in the program.
-A. P., Princeton University, 2018
“I must say I have learned and from every speaker we had and am very grateful to all that have taken the time to meet with us. I enjoyed listening to Dakota Wood because he was forthright, very knowledgeable (as everyone has been), and made complex concepts accessible. I also was grateful to have the opportunity to ask him about the situation in Afghanistan because it has been a small pet project of mine to follow developments there.
I enjoyed hearing from Eric Brown and Eric Hannis because they both were widely traveled and had a great breadth of experience to draw from as they answered questions. I am also interested, at a personal level, in Mr. Brown’s study into ideologies. Mr. Hannis’ insight into work on the Hill was excellent and very relevant for where I am now trying to go.
I think I speak for everyone when I say Jack Dziak’s stories were of great interest, at times amusing and at times sobering. Dr. R[oger]. Pilon and Dr. Spadling were wonderful as well.”
-J. W., Villanova University
“I would like to just start off by stating how thankful I am to be a part of this program. . . . One of the most compelling storytellers was Dr. Jack Dziak. He told some of the most fascinating stories about the KGB–even more impressive was the fact that many of them were personal experiences. Never before have I heard such an up-close and personal, first-hand account of the activities of the KGB. I especially enjoyed hearing the museum story; it is amusing how paradoxical the KGB–or Kremlin–can be. I found it interesting how intricately the Russians and former KGB agents integrated themselves into foreign societies. I wish I could take a glimpse of that magnificent library you praised so highly.
On one last note, 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. I have enjoyed getting to know them–and you, Dr. Pilon– throughout this program. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It truly means a lot to me for you to speak so openly about your experiences and to share family photos with us. I admire how brave and resilient your family was during such an uncertain time. I wish I could have met your parents; they sound wonderful.”
-B. C., University of West Georgia
“My favorite has to be the lecture by Dr. Tom Merrill on Free Speech. This topic has been increasingly touchy recently but Dr. Merrill approached it with the intent to try to understand why it has become a difficult subject. His talk was organized into three main points, seeking to get a better handle of the subject. 1)The need to have a community standard in communication, 2) the Conservative responses to political correctness is often as corrupt and counter-productive as the political correctness, 3) if Free Speech isn’t the problem, what is? Through the first point Dr. Merrill emphasized the fact that there has been a deterioration in communication between peoples within the same country (let alone internationally) to the point that the United States has fallen back on political correctness as a sort of defense. Dr. Merrill pointed out that political correctness was not always either bad nor good, it is a tool that often gets corrupted and misused. His second point showed that neither the Right nor Left were free of blame in making Free Speech a controversial subject. Both sides overreact to each other and need to come to the realization that a rational conversation is the only way to reach a productive outcome. Finally Dr. Merrill’s third point is especially important because it brings to a head the other two points. It shows that there is some other, deeper problem in the United States, one that. He proposed a number of different possibilities: the fact that we think of Free Speech as a rights issue rather than an ethos issue, that we are culturally cowards, and that we define ourselves by those around us. He posed each of these as questions, but I think the important underlying theme is that Americans have departed from many of the Founding Principles. It seems that Dr. Merrill was hinting at a deterioration (or at least partial deterioration) of American culture that came with the departure from the American Founding Principles. This begs the question: how can the United States hope to maintain its National Security, and further its interests abroad, if it is unable to maintain its principles at home?”