65th SCUSA continues to engage students in complex dialogue
(Updated Nov. 7, 2013, 7:50 AM)
By Kathy Eastwood
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Nov. 6, 2013) — West Point hosted the 65th annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs Oct. 30-Nov. 2, an annual four-day conference led by cadets and attended by undergraduate student delegates from the U.S. and abroad. Students explore, discuss and listen to experts about the challenges the United States faces in this increasingly global society.
Student delegates and cadets attended roundtable and panel discussions on 15 subjects, including Muslim Migration and the Rebirth of the EU; Brazil’s Rise and South America’s Future; Women and Wealth: Role of Gender in Global Development; and the African Century: Demography and the Prospect of Development.
At the conclusion of the conference, students submit policy recommendations to their peers where the best are published in the Undergraduate Journal of Social Sciences.
Many cadets held leadership roles and facilitated the discussions with the student delegates along with faculty and co-chairs who are experts in a particular roundtable discussion.
“My role as (cadet commander of the SCUSA conference) is an operational one as well as a public one,” Class of 2014 Cadet Christopher Kelly, American Politics and Russian major, said. “I ran my staff, which was in excess of 100 personnel and took part in all of the formal events as a public speaker and master of ceremonies. My staff is the real all-stars as they consistently impressed me with the great new and innovative ideas they brought to the conference.”
Kelly said he has participated in two other SCUSA conferences, both on the academic and operational sides.
“Last year, I was the Cadet point of contact for the cyber warfare table,” Kelly said. “As a sophomore, I was a member of the security staff.”
SCUSA Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Class of 2014 Cadet Michal Cantrell said she was inspired by Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates’ speech at the 2011 Thayer Award Dinner.
“I heard Gates admonish the Corps to address a ‘growing disconnect’ between military and society, not by average Americans,” Cantrell said. “He encouraged us to recognize that throughout our careers, as cadets and eventually as officers, we help bridge that disconnect by pushing ourselves to be better connected to an American society of which we are an integral part. That exhortation has stuck with me since plebe year.”
Cantrell was also impressed by the student delegates coming into the conference, which included 200 students from 135 universities and five continents, who were hand-selected by their respective institutions to attend the conference.
The theme for the conference was “Navigating Demographic Trends,” with retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a former National Security Advisor who served under both presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, as keynote speaker Nov. 1. Kathy Eastwood/PV
Groups of delegates gathered throughout Jefferson Hall to discuss their particular topics during the four-day Student Conference for U.S. Affairs Oct. 30-Nov. 2.
SCUSA 65 photos on Flickr
"So, as much as we emphasize that SCUSA is an opportunity for our civilian peers to interact,” Cantrell said. “It is just as golden an opportunity for us cadets to connect with the world outside of West Point’s gates. Through SCUSA, both cadet and civilian delegates critically engage some of the United States’ most high-profile global concerns as captured through our theme of demographic trends.
“I definitely count myself lucky to have had my position because I got to facilitate the billeting of delegates in the cadet barracks. While that may sound ho-hum, delegates’ ability to stay in the barracks is critical in accomplishing SCUSA’s mission,” she added. “Our civilian peers will get a unique opportunity to see what it is like to live in the barracks, and their cadet hosts will get a glimpse of life at a civilian university and the caliber of our civilian peers.”
The theme for the conference was “Navigating Demographic Trends,” with keynote speaker retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a former National Security Advisor who served under both presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, the only individual in U.S. history appointed to the position under two different presidents.
“Countries try to influence population,” Scowcroft said. “It is a tactical solution, but a questionable strategy with serious and strategic aspects. China and India are two of the more populace countries in the world and deals with population in different ways. China adopted a one-child policy, and they enforce it quite dramatically. This is something a state can impose and it can be serious. India has not taken any such steps on population control and facing increasing difficulties. What will the future look like?”
Scowcroft said China is facing a situation that they are just entering into now, as fewer children translate into only one child to take care of two adults. Since the one child policy was rigidly enforced, there happens to be a strong preference in China for males.
“The population is now being skewed badly because of abortions and such and when you can have only one child, you want to make sure it is what you want,” Scowcroft said. “That can have a profound effect politically as well as psychologically inside of China. In India, the effect is quite the opposite.
“Population control is hard to do directly,” he said. “Other measures can be taken to mitigate the effect of population. One of the most important, for me, is climate control. Climate control or climate change could affect our food, water and oceans, and has a huge affect on every aspect of our lives. As we look at this, it is off in the future somewhere. We are only casually looking at policy around the edges of doing something to control something that can have an enormous impact.”
(Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misidentified the name of the SCUSA command sergeant major. Her name is Class of 2014 Cadet Michal Cantrell.)
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