Class invites candidates to UK to speak on foreign policy

By Juliann Vachon

A graduate class sent open invitations yesterday to the three remaining presidential candidates to put aside their balloons and signs for a night and have a serious discussion on foreign policy at UK.

Generally when Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama speak to crowds, the focus is on atmosphere and lines to get the crowd excited, said Carey Cavanaugh, director of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and former U.S. ambassador.

“A lot of students have been dismayed that the campaigns’ focus has been on such minor things,” Cavanaugh said. “They want to know about the big issues.”

The invitation is not for a debate; instead candidates would visit UK separately and stick to topics of foreign affairs, such as the Iraq War, trade policies and the decreasing value of the U.S. dollar.

“In 50 years, we’ve never had a situation where foreign policy is so important for the American people,” Cavanaugh said.

The events would be open only to Patterson school students and faculty, and would likely be televised locally and nationally, Cavanaugh said.

Lauren Hines, a student in Cavanaugh’s mediation and conflict resolution class, which sent the invitations, said she wants to know about mounting tensions in Iran, Kosovo’s recent independence and the United States’ relationship with North Korea. How the presidential candidates would approach potentially volatile situations is also high on her list of questions.

“Are they more inclined to use diplomatic measures or force as exemplified by the current administration,” Hines said. “That’s a big question I have for them.”

Kentucky has an unusually important role in this year’s tight Democratic primary election. The close race between Clinton and Obama has kept political conversations on campus and throughout the state more active than they have ever been before, Cavanaugh said.

Jason McNabb, another student in Cavanaugh’s class, said the desire for change among students should make them especially interested in international issues affecting America.

“There’s a heightened awareness of how critical our foreign policy is right now, both in regards to American safety and maintaining relationships with other countries,” he said. “I think it would be incredible to have (the candidates) come to UK and share their views on the issues.”