Discussion of Citizenship and Military Service at Columbia University

with Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer, co-authors of AWOL: the Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service—and How It Hurts Our Country

Event advertisement: "In contrast to previous generations, American elites now have little personal connection to the military forces that bear the burdens of  national defense. This gap creates misunderstandings and raises significant questions about political responsibility, social equity, and institutional leadership. Should something be done to close the gap? What consequences follow, whether or not the gap is addressed? The authors, a Democrat and a Republican, explore the issue and offer proposals for resolving it."

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS BUILDING, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY – On October 11th, 2006, the Salzman Institute for War and Peace Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs hosted a discussion of citizenship and military service with the authors of AWOL: the Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service—and How It Hurts Our Country, Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer. The event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University (MilVets), Hamilton Society, Columbia University Democrats, and Columbia University College Republicans. Columbia sociology professor Allan Silver was the primary organizer. Salzman Institute director Prof. Richard Betts served as the moderator. Elyse Ross representing the College Democrats and Matt Sanchez representing the College Republicans were commentators. The discussion was recorded by Columbia University Television.

Leaders and members of MilVets, Hamilton Society, and the Columbia Alliance for ROTC were in the audience. Lt Col John Wilkinson and other officers from the Air Force ROTC program at Manhattan College were present, as well as a large contingent of midshipmen, in uniform, from the Navy ROTC program at SUNY Maritime.

The meeting's sponsorship by the Salzman Institute for War and Peace Studies signified that issues of citizenship and military service have a place on the university's intellectual agenda. A significant number of undergraduates were in attendance, many coming out of curiosity about the subject rather than prior commitments. The room was totally filled, and very few left before the full 90 minutes of the occasion was finished, suggesting a high level of attentive engagement. The speakers had been counseled to put aside the autobiographical aspects of their approaches to the question in favor of the policy issues. Happily, they ignored that advice, obviously sticking with their standard presentation, an account of their converging commitment to the issues from the perspectives of a liberal Democratic and conservative Republican perspectives. Their urgency successfully engaged the audience and led to a good discussion of the policy issues and a vigorous discussion of the policy issues that continued, informally, after the meeting ended.

Account by Eric Chen. Editing and content provided by Prof. Allan Silver. Photos by Matt Mireles (www.mattmireles.com).  Click photos below for more detail.

Authors Roth-Douquet
Audience Silver
Democrat Republican

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