Grand Strategy Program to hold new public event series on ‘The Big Picture’

James Forman
James Forman

The Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy will launch a new public events series, “The Big Picture,” in early February. The moderated conversations will be modeled after what is often done in the Grand Strategy classroom — pairing an academic with an outside practitioner in conversation about a major issue of current public interest. The first event, on Feb. 4, will bring Yale law professor James Forman into conversation with Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, on the subject of “Democracy, Race, and Justice in the 21st Century.”

Beverly Gage, director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, who will serve as the moderator for the discussions, says that the question the series poses is: What is the big picture?

The impulse for this series is that we are in a moment when the news cycle is moving very fast and people are especially tuned into it,” says Gage. “What happened last week seems like it was something radically different from the events of this week. There aren’t many opportunities in the middle of that to step back and ask the big questions: Where do we really stand in thinking about, for instance, race, justice, and democracy? Where do we stand in the context of the last century or two? Where do we want to be in 30 or 40 years, and how do we get there?”

Gage adds: “‘Where do we want to be?’ and ‘How do we get there?’ are questions of strategy. Having these conversations is an opportunity to answer those questions and not simply be mired in the news cycle.”

The Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy was founded in 2000 by Yale professors John Lewis Gaddis, Paul Kennedy, and Charles Hill and received an endowment to continue in 2006 from Yale alumni Nicholas F. Brady and Charles B. Johnson. The program addresses large-scale, long-term strategic challenges of statecraft and politics — and was recently expanded by Gage to consider questions about social change and democratic institutions. The program aims to encourage historical understanding of contemporary challenges and develop students’ capacity for strategic thinking and effective leadership in the arena of public service, broadly conceived.

Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta

There are a surprising number of overlaps between the issues that military strategists and national security strategists talk about and the issues that social change strategists talk about. The class now is putting all of these things together, and our new public conversation series is the public facing aspect of that,” Gage says.

Gage says what she is most looking forward to about the series is the opportunity be in “dynamic” conversations with the practitioners and to help to facilitate that conversation for the talk’s attendees. “It’s also a chance to break out of my own discipline and out of the particular mindset that comes with, in my case, being a history professor, and engage with people who are thinking about the same issues but from very different perspectives.”

Another aim of the series is to enable those who have attended the events to have the ability to converse with each other — sometimes coming from different perspectives, different disciplines, and different ways of thinking about the world — and try to think about what’s valuable in each of these approaches.

I hope people take away the ability to think in bigger historical terms. Right now, we are driven by a sense of crisis that has a lot of people asking me as a historian: ‘Has it ever been this bad; is there any hope?’ I’m trying to bring a little perspective to bear on where we actually stand in history,” says Gage.

There are three scheduled events for this semester covering a range of political perspectives and expertise, says Gage. The visitors will join Grand Strategy students for continued conversation over dinner after the public events.

Democracy, Race, and Justice in the 21st Century,’ with Vanita Gupta and James Forman

Gupta is president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Educational Fund. She served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2014 to 2017. Prior to her work at the Justice Department, she was the deputy legal director at the ACLU and assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Forman is a professor of law at Yale Law School. His book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America” received the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction, among other awards. After attending Brown University and Yale Law School, he worked as a law clerk for Judge William Norris of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented both juveniles and adults charged with crimes. Forman taught at Georgetown Law School from 2003 to 2011, when he joined the Yale faculty.

American Conservatism: Past, Present, and Future,” with Max Boot and Kimberly Phillips-Fein

Boot is a historian, best-selling author, and foreign-policy analyst who has been called one of the “world’s leading authorities on armed conflict” by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a columnist for The Washington Post, and a global affairs analyst for CNN. Boot’s latest book is “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.”

Phillips-Fein is a historian of 20th-century American politics at New York University. She teaches courses in American political, business, and labor history. Her book “Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics,” was a finalist for a 2018 Pulitzer Prize in History. She is also the author of “Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan.” Phillips-Fein has written widely for such publications as The Nation, Harper’s, The New Republic, The London Review of Books, and New Labor Forum.

The End of American Hegemony? U.S. National Security Strategy in an Age of Instability,’ with H.R. McMaster and John Lewis Gaddis

McMaster was the 26th assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. He served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army for 34 years before retiring as a lieutenant general in 2018. McMaster led or co-led strategic assessments including the revision of the United States’ Iraq strategy during the “surge” of 2007 and efforts to develop security forces and governmental institutions in post-war Iraq. McMaster, who holds a Ph.D. in military history from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was an assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy from 1994 to 1996, where he taught undergraduate courses in military history and history of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He is author of the award-winning book “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam.” He is currently the Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale, and a founder of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy. In the past decade, Gaddis has published “Surprise, Security, and the American Experience,” an updated edition of “Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War,” and “The Cold War: A New History.” He has won two teaching awards at Yale, the Phi Beta Kappa William Clyde DeVane Award (2003) and the Harwood Byrnes-Richard Sewall Prize (2008). Gaddis’ book “George F. Kennan: An American Life” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. His most recent work, “On Grand Strategy,” was published in 2018.

Media Contact

Bess Connolly: elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu, 203-432-1324