Vanderbilt professor talks foreign policy to students

Vanderbilt professor Thomas Alan Schwartz used a historical survey of U.S. presidential elections to make the case to the Upper School student body that foreign policy issues matter, and that the current election "is unprecedented" for, among other reasons, offering a Republican candidate who advocates for a return to a "1930s type of neo-isolationism."
Schwartz, who spoke to students Oct. 13 in the Lewis Family Auditorium, is among a series of speakers on the Upper School campus who have offered commentary relevant to the 2016 presidential election. Upper School students previously listened to teacher Greg Cooper's 2012 TEDx talk ("Magic Words and the Death of American Debate"), and heard from Associate Head of School John A. King, Jr., on historic election issues.

Schwartz contended that foreign policy matters have played a significant role in nearly every election since 1956, when the emergence of television created a vehicle for campaign advertisements. Since the end of World War II, he said, Americans have displayed a spirit of internationalism and engagement.

"Pearl Harbor changed a lot of people's minds about where America should be in the world," Schwartz said. 

That fact, Schwartz said, flies in the face of the common perception that Americans don't care about foreign policy, and that elections are decided by domestic issues – namely, the economy.

He also noted the role reversal in having a Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, advocate for more U.S. engagement on various fronts than the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, who has said he rejects certain alliances, trade agreements and other international involvement.

If Trump is elected "we may soon encounter the consequences of such a retreat," Schwartz said. "Are we going to backward to a time of looking at the American president as largely a domestic leader?"

Added Schwartz: "The world is really focused on this... This is, in some ways in terms of America's international engagement, a pivotal election. If Trump were to win, I think it would have an extraordinary effect."
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.