2017-2018 SPEAKERS


Date:            Wednesday January 10, 2018 

Speaker:      Amb. David Shinn

Topic:          China in Africa

David Shinn received his BA (1963), MA (1964), and PhD (1980) from George Washington University. He has a certificate in African studies from Northwestern University. He served for thirty-seven years in the US Foreign Service with assignments at embassies in Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritania, Cameroon, Sudan and as ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. He has been teaching in the Elliott School since 2001 and serves on a number of boards of nongovernmental organizations.

An expert on the Horn of Africa, Dr. Shinn speaks at events around the world. He is the coauthor of China and Africa: A Century of Engagement, the Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, and has authored numerous articles and book chapters. His research interests include China-Africa relations, East Africa and the Horn, terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, conflict situations, U.S. policy in Africa, and the African brain drain.


Date:            Tuesday December 5, 2017

Speaker:      Amb. Omar Samad

Topic:          Afghanistan: Lessons & Prospects About the Longest War

Omar Samad is currently CEO of Silkroad Consulting LLC, based in Virginia. He is also teaching an Honors Seminar on “Radicalism Within Islam, Drivers and Policy Options” at the University of Maryland.

Amb. Samad resigned as Afghan Ambassador-designate to Belgium, the EU and NATO in April 2016 before taking up his post. Prior, from December 2014 to January 2016, he worked as Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy to the Chief Executive of Afghanistan in Kabul.

Previously, he was Senior Central Asia Fellow at New America Foundation (2013-14). He was Senior Afghan Expert at the United States Institute of Peace (2012-2013), during which he conducted and published a survey of views and perceptions of Afghan political elites on the 2014 transition period in Afghanistan. Prior, he was Afghan Ambassador to France (2009-2011) and to Canada (2004-2009), after serving as the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001-2004).

He was active and advocated for freedom and democracy in Afghanistan since 1979. In 1996 he managed the Afghanistan Information Center, and was Executive Producer of Azadi Afghan Radio. Omar Samad is a regular contributor and commentator to international and Afghan media, and is a frequent speaker and writer on Afghan and regional issues.

He earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School (2006), and has a B.A. in Communications from the American University in Washington, DC (1991).


Date:            Wednesday Movember, 8, 2017

Speaker:      Consul General Andrew Whittaker

Topic:          Brexit

Andrew Whittaker has been HM Consul General to San Francisco since August 2016.

Prior to his role as Consul General, Andrew spent three years as Deputy Director at CERT-UK – the UK’s national cyber security team - focusing on supporting and developing engagement on cyber security issues between government and industry, and with international partners.

Before this Andrew was Deputy Head of the Crisis Management Department in the Foreign Office, handling the UK response to incidents ranging from conflict in the Middle East, the sinking of the Costa Concordia, and hostage taking in Algeria. Andrew’s Foreign Office career, which began in 1998, also includes postings in Madrid, Jerusalem and Basra.

Andrew holds a MA (Hons) degree in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge (Magdalene College). Though his playing days are now over, Andrew is a rugby enthusiast and plans to spend lots of time outdoors on family adventures across the US.

Andrew is married to his wife Alex, and they have two boys.


Date:            Tuesday October, 3, 2017

Speaker:      Daniel Benaim

Topic:          "The Trump Administration and the Middle East"

Daniel Benaim is a senior fellow at American Progress, researching U.S. policy in the Middle East, as well as a visiting lecturer at New York University. Previously, he served as a Middle East policy adviser and foreign policy speechwriter at the White House, the Department of State, and the U.S. Senate. He was also an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Until June 2015, he was foreign policy speechwriter and Middle East adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, traveling with the vice president to 25 countries. Before that, he wrote speeches for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Deputy Secretaries Bill Burns and Tom Nides and served as a member of Secretary Clinton’s policy planning staff covering Egypt. Benaim also has been a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chief speechwriter to former Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), and a detailee to the National Security Council staff. Additionally, he designed and taught a graduate speechwriting course at George Washington University.

Benaim’s writings on behalf of government officials have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs. Publications under his own name include the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The American Prospect. He received his M.A. in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School and his B.A. in English literature from Yale University. He is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations.


Date:            Monday September, 11, 2017

Speaker:      Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh

Topic:          "The Strained State of U.S.-Russian Relations"

Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh is professor of diplomacy at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. Previously he served for 22 years with the U.S. State Department where he worked on arms control, German reunification, and defense cooperation. He led the team that established the American Embassy in the Republic of Georgia; worked on conflicts in the Caucasus and Cyprus; and served as Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Switzerland.

In 2000, he served as Ambassador/Special Negotiator for Eurasia and U.S. Co-Chairman of the Minsk Group that culminated in peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He also was political advisor to Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations.

Since leaving government service, he has undertaken special projects for the State Department and served as trustee of London-based NGO Conciliation Resources. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

He is a graduate of the University of Florida, Notre Dame University, and the U.S. Army Russian Institute.