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The National Conversation at The Wilson Center

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The National Conversation is a joint production of The Wilson Center and NPR. Together, we will provide a forum for deep dialogue and informed discussion. Non-partisan and civil, The National Conversation provides the level of discourse the nation deserves through a thoughtful and challenging exploration of the most significant problems facing the nation and the world.

Past Events

If It’s Not a Cold War, What Is It?

June 05, 2014 // 2:00pm — 3:15pm

Have we returned to the zero-sum game mentality from our Cold War past? Did we ever leave it? Or is this some kind of deep freeze with the Russians? And just how cold (or hot) is it going to get? Join us as three veteran analysts, practitioners, and scholars of Russia and the U.S.-Russian relationship discuss and debate these issues in this latest National Conversation.

Read more or watch the live webcast →

Public-Private Partnerships in Aid: A Tool For U.S. Policy

February 14, 2014 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

By partnering with U.S. corporations, USAID and other development agencies can help developing countries innovate new technologies, leapfrog infrastructure investment, and create new markets and sustainable livelihoods. Using technology and innovation to change the lives of millions around the world, these partnerships may also help shape a different view of America as a global power: smart and capable, focused on success and results, not ideology. However, these partnerships can be a challenge to develop and sustain. How can Congress work with the private sector and development agencies to enable these partnerships for success?

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U.S. Energy Independence: A New American Narrative?

February 7, 2014 // 1:30pm — 3:00pm

U.S. dependence on imported oil and gas has long been a source of controversy, as an economic, political and security issue. Yet now, with the widespread use of new technology allowing dramatic new sources of energy, things are changing. According to some experts, American energy independence is close, turning the tables on traditional suppliers. Is America about to free itself from dependence on foreign oil – or are there hidden risks in this new wealth?

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Governing in a Borderless World: Meeting the Challenge of Instability

December 5, 2013 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

A potent mixture of globalization, economic inequality and political conflict is shaking the foundations of global stability. The political structures that underpin many states are being questioned, as democratic awakenings eat away at ideologies and parties that have sustained power for generations. The growth of a global economic elite means a few profit greatly, but many are left disenfranchised. The result is that in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia, boundaries and political structures that were laid down a century ago are under pressure.

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AUMF: Reasserting the Role of Congress

July 11, 2013 // 12:00pm — 1:00pm

The law that authorized U.S. forces to act against terrorists after 9/11 is once again up for debate. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) is seen by many as no longer applicable to a conflict that has moved beyond those responsible for 9/11. The enemy and the nature of the conflict have changed: is it time for the U.S. to revise or repeal the AUMF?

It’s a provocative topic that touches foreign policy, defense, the Constitution and the law. This National Conversation includes expert commentators who have worked in many of the organizations most closely involved with the issue – Congress, the U.S. military and the CIA.

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Cybersecurity in Your Neighborhood: Why Public-Private Partnerships Matter

June 20, 2013 // 1:00pm — 2:30pm

The nation’s critical infrastructure is at risk. Communications systems, electrical power, transportation, even water supplies, face both physical and digital threats.

President Barack Obama has signed a Presidential Policy Directive and an Executive Order to establish a national policy to protect these systems. But government can’t act alone: the bulk of critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector. This National Conversation is part of a dialogue between government and the private sector, to help make policy more effective.

How can we protect our infrastructure, and make it more resilient against the many hazards that are part of the 21st Century?

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U.S. Special Operations 2020

May 2, 2013 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

Admiral William McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command will laid out his vision for Special Operations Forces and the Command. A panel of experts, including Admiral McRaven, discussed the vision from a number of different perspectives.

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Drug Policy: A 21st Century Approach to Reform

April 25, 2013 // 12:00pm — 1:30pm

The illegal drug problem has posed challenges to the United States and Latin America for many decades. While efforts to disrupt the cultivation, processing, and trafficking of drugs to the United States have shown mixed results, the drug trade continues to pose serious threats to citizen security, economic prosperity, environmental conservation, human rights, and democratic governance throughout the hemisphere.

How is the U.S. reforming its policies to address this problem and show sustainable results?

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The Rise & Fall of Iran in Arab and Muslim Eyes - A New Poll

March 5, 2013 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

Zogby Research Services released their latest poll of views on Iran and its policies from 20 Arab and Muslim nations – including the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula States, the Maghreb, Egypt and Sudan – and non-Arab Muslim neighbors of Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

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Allies at Odds: Obama, Netanyahu, and The State of US – Israeli Relations

January 30, 2013 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

Four years in, the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu remains a troubled one. What’s behind the tension, can it be alleviated and how will regional challenges such as Iran’s nuclear program or the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affect US-Israeli relations?

Read more or Watch the Event Video →

LIVE: NPR's Talk of the Nation Broadcasting from the Wilson Center

November 29, 2012 // 2:00pm — 4:00pm

Earlier this year, President Obama was caught on camera telling then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that a second term would give him more flexibility to negotiate on missile defense. If true, where else does this flexibility reach, how would he use it and where should he start?

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Is the World More Dangerous 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis?

October 15, 2012 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

October marks the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world came closest to nuclear war. This NPR/Wilson Center National Conversation examined the Crisis and found leadership lessons for handling the looming nuclear crises of today.

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China’s New Leadership—Opportunity for the United States?

October 3, 2012 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

The upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will usher in a new generation of leaders to oversee the world’s second largest economy for the next decade. How will the incoming fifth generation of Chinese leaders affect party policy? As the U.S.-China relationship continues to grow, in size and complexity, what are the implications of this once-in-a-decade leadership transition, especially for bilateral interaction? Dr. Henry A. Kissinger was joined by former Ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy, former Fellow Dr. Cheng Li, and China scholar Dr. David M. Lampton to discuss the possible implications for U.S.-China relations of this once-in-a-decade power transition.

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Cyber Gridlock: Why the Public Should Care

October 1, 2012 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

As Washington fiddles, the vulnerability of U.S. infrastructure, private and public devices and networks grows. The U.S. has no clear, coordinated and effective policy to mitigate the complex threat. The public has no idea how vulnerable they are, and are left out of the debate.

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America’s Role in the World Post 9/11: A New Survey of Public Opinion

September 10, 2012 // 12:30pm — 2:00pm

The latest biennial survey of public opinion by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs revealed that Americans have become increasingly selective about how and where to engage in the world. “Ten years after 9/11, Americans are recalibrating their views on American engagement abroad and searching for equally effective but less costly ways to project positive U.S. influence and to protect American interests around the world,” said Council President Marshall Bouton in this panel discussion.

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Should the US Change, Contain, or Engage Nuclear “Outliers” — Iran and North Korea?

June 20, 2012 // 12:00pm — 1:15pm

In the Bush era Iran and North Korea were branded “rogue” states for their flouting of international norms, and changing their regimes was the administration’s goal. The Obama administration has chosen instead to call the countries nuclear “outliers” and has proposed means other than regime change to bring them back into “the community of nations.” What do the precedents set in Iraq and Libya teach us about how current outliers can be integrated into the international community? And perhaps most important, how should the United States respond if outlier regimes eschew integration as a threat to their survival and continue to augment their nuclear capabilities? Join us at the Wilson Center for The National Conversation on U.S. policy towards nuclear outliers Iran and North Korea.

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Russian Presidential Elections and US-Russian Relations

May 23, 2012

On May 7, Vladimir Putin began his third term as president of the Russian Federation. With the Russian political season over, and the American political season heating up, what are the implications of political transition for the important issues in the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship?

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The Islamists Are Coming

April 18, 2012

Robin Wright and a panel of experts discussed her latest book, which takes a serious look—country-by-country—at the history, culture, current status, and future prospects of 50 Islamist parties in a dozen countries—the most critical players in the Mideast’s future. The book launch coincides with the release of a special new website focused on the book.

Visit the website:

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Regaining America’s Competitive Edge

March 28, 2012

Once the world’s uncontested manufacturing and high-tech powerhouse, the United States must today contend with stiff international competition for markets, innovation, and talent. To regain its edge, America needs serious-minded and long-range reforms in K-12 education, the tax code, and immigration policies, an expert panel declared at this National Conversation.

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Still a Nation of Immigrants?
How Immigration is Shaping America in the 21st Century

February 6, 2012

Boosting GDP and keeping Social Security solvent depend on the economic activity of migrants—as workers, consumers, and taxpayers. The United States should do more to regularize both high-tech professionals and other workers, panelists said at a National Conversation hosted by the University of Miami.

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Is There a Regional End game?

November 1, 2011

Dr. Henry Kissinger acknowledged, “Extrication from a war like this is extremely difficult,” and advised, “The fundamental principles should be the same regardless of which party, namely to create a framework that can be sustained by some group that has an interest in preserving it....if you don’t create that framework,...the same frame work will be distilled, except at a higher cost. This seems to be a lesson humanity is incapable of learning.” The discussion which followed included:

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The Next Ten Years

September 12, 2011

To mark the tenth anniversary of September 11, the National Conversation looked at the national security landscape in the next ten years, and how US military and intelligence strategies should evolve to deal with it. The discussion, moderated by David Ignatius of The Washington Post and featured:

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US National Debt
Wilson Center Launches Budget Hero 2.0

July 13, 2011

The second Conversation on Capitol Hill involved lawmakers from both parties. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, and Senator Mark Udall
(D-Colo.) highlighted The Wilson Center’s popular game, Budget Hero, as a way to jump-start informed discussion about our national debt by the American public. The game allows anyone to create a mock budget, based on their budgetary priorities, and to see how their choices affect the budget well into the future.

Read more or Watch the Event Video →

US National Security

April 8, 2011

The inaugural National Conversation—A National Security Narrative—was moderated by
Thomas Friedman.

Read more or Watch the Event Video →