The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Danny Li '19 Attends the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at West Point

danni li mini grants

Danny Li '19 at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) hosted by the United States Miliary Academy at West point.

danny li mini grants

The topic of SCUSA 70 was "Cooperation Reimagined: American Influence in an Increasingly Complex World."

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Mini-Grant recipient, Danny Li '19 shares his experience attending the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) hosted by the United States Miliary Academy at West point.

From October 24-27, 2018, I represented Dartmouth at the 70th Annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) hosted by the United States Military Academy at West Point. The conference was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to engage with high-level policymakers, expand my breadth and depth of knowledge on U.S. foreign policy, and form relationships with exceptional student-leaders.

SCUSA began in 1948, and since then the United States Military Academy (USMA) has brought together scholars and policy practitioners to guide scholars from more than 120 colleges and universities in evaluating and addressing the most important U.S. foreign policy challenges. The topic of SCUSA 70 was "Cooperation Reimagined: American Influence in an Increasingly Complex World." In light of the rapid transformation of the international stage brought about by technological advances, economic growth, and political choice, there is an increasing need to rethink the post-World War II, rules based international order.

To reexamine the basic premises of U.S. foreign policy and reassess what the U.S. role in the world should be, all 200+ student delegates were placed into one of 15 roundtables. Each respective roundtable had a designated topic or area of concentration: Terrorism and Non-state Actors, Global Migration, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, etc. I participated in the China Roundtable.

Over the course of two days, my team assessed the many challenges that China currently poses to U.S. security and influence. After 12 hours of discussions, we came together to write a two page memo that recommended a U.S. response to China’s whole-of-society approach. Our strategy, the American Lattice Strategy, put forth an integrated, multilateral U.S. strategy that linked together security, economic, and cultural policy recommendations in order to minimize existing dangers and maximize opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and competition. The morning of the last day of the conference, all roundtable teams came together to present their memos and answer questions.

SCUSA was a worthwhile experience because I had the opportunity to engage directly with policy experts. Every roundtable had two senior policy practitioners or academic experts who served as moderators of the discussions and as reference points for questions. Besides the roundtables, delegates also heard from multiple panels of high-level policymakers. One such panel featured three ambassadors, a Washington Post reporter, and the second in command on the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS. The keynote speaker of this year was Ambassador Susan Rice, Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Ambassador Rice spoke elegantly about the changing landscape of international affairs and the need for future American leaders to be unafraid about challenging existing assumptions and to synthesize understanding across fields that include economics, politics, science, and technology.

Besides the proximity and access to high-level policy leaders, SCUSA’s greatest draw is its bringing together exceptional future leaders to learn from each other and form friendships. The unique environment provided by USMA allowed participants to analyze the framework of civilian-military relations and understand considerations actually went into U.S. security policy. Furthermore, it was enriching to listen to the views of international delegates whose home countries often have a different take on the motives and consequences of U.S. foreign policy.

I was impressed by the array of experiences and perspectives represented by my cohort and came away with many interesting insights from the conversations I had with other delegates. One of my most important takeaways was the importance of competition of ideas. As Ambassador Rice stressed in her speech, it is crucial that the U.S. continually auto-correct its course and switch lenses to reflect the changing world. As the U.S. moves forward, we must continually challenge our assumptions, seek out different viewpoints, and be bold in finding innovative solutions to current problems. Dare to dream, dare to believe, dare to do, and dare to be.

Submitted by Danny Li '19, Rockefeller Center Mini-Grant Recipient 

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.

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