The YWCA Bethlehem will present the 43rd Annual Great Decisions Foreign Policy Lecture Series for eight weeks beginning on February 1, 2017 through March 22. 2017. 

Lectures will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Kirkland Village Auditorium in Bethlehem.  Parking is behind the First Presbyterian Church on Center Street, Bethlehem.

The Great Decisions Lecture Series promotes citizen awareness about timely foreign policy issues.  The purpose of the series, which is sponsored by the YWCA of Bethlehem, is to educate members about important issues relating to American foreign policy and to enable the community to participate in the foreign policy process.  We partner with the private, non-partisan Foreign Policy Association (FPA) in New York City, the oldest and largest grassroots educational program on world affairs reaching 880 cities and 350,000 members.  The FPA selects eight topics each year and chooses experts to write for the 100-page Great Decisions Briefing Book.  This book is included with registration.

The Bethlehem Great Decisions group is the only Great Decision group in the Lehigh Valley.  Lectures run for eight Wednesdays in winter, at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Kirkland Village in Bethlehem, PA and feature local experts.  Following each lecture is a Q&A session.


1. The EU: By Andrew Moravcsik

The outcome of the United Kingdom referendum on EU membership sent shockwaves across the globe. It even caught British voters by surprise. The European Union has helped secure peace in Europe for the past 70 years. Now it faces an uncertain future. Amid a refugee crisis, lingering financial recession and the constant specter of terrorism, unity seems more imperative than ever. But the Brexit vote underscores the complexities of integrating an extremely diverse continent. What will post-Brexit Europe look like, and how can U.S. foreign policy adapt?

2. The Truth about Trade, Jobs and Politics: By Jeremy Haft

The U.S. political mood toward trade has gone sour. One need look no further than the 2016 presidential contest for the popular narrative: trade means that China wins, at America’s expense. But do the numbers support that conclusion? The metrics used to gauge economic strength—Gross Domestic Product and balance of trade—have not kept up with the realities of modern manufacturing. Obtaining an accurate picture of U.S. economic stature requires a critique of those numbers. Only then can the U.S. develop appropriate policy solutions for the challenges at hand.

3. Navies and Sovereignty: China and the United States in the South China Sea: By Bernard D. Cole

The South China Sea is a locus of competing territorial claims, and China its most vocal claimant. Beijing’s interest has intensified disputes with other countries in the region in recent years, especially since China has increased its naval presence. Despite rising international pressure, including an unfavorable ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, China staunchly defends its policies in the region. Preventing tensions from boiling over is a matter of careful diplomacy.

4. Saudi Arabia in Transition: By Lawrence G. Potter

As Saudi Arabia struggles to adjust to the drastic decline in oil revenue, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman attempts to boldly transform the country and shift more power to the younger generation. At the same time, many countries such as the U.S. point out the lack of democracy, women’s rights and human rights in Saudi Arabia, and blame its promotion of Wahhabism, an extremely conservative version of Islam, for creating jihadists. Bipartisan criticism of Saudi Arabia is rising in Congress. Both countries need each other, but they are at a crossroads in bilateral relations.

5. U.S. Foreign Policy and Petroleum: Jonathan Chanis

What is the effect of U.S. petroleum security on foreign policy? For 45 years, the country has alternated between periods of energy security and insecurity, sometimes able to wield petroleum as a useful instrument of foreign policy, sometimes not. Despite the so-called “energy revolution,” the U.S. today is by no means disentangled from foreign dependence and global trends. In order to be successful, policymakers must recognize both petroleum security circumstances and patterns in the relationship between petroleum and foreign policy.

6. A New Political Era in Latin America: From Ideology to Pragmatism? By Michael Shifter and Bruno Binetti

The pendulum of Latin American politics is swinging rightward once again. Yet as the “pink tide” recedes, the forces of change have more to do with socioeconomics than ideology. Dramatic economic and political crises have coincided in countries like Brazil and Venezuela. Still, the final result for Latin America may be the emergence of centrist, pragmatic modes of governance, and with them, opportunities for the U.S. to improve relations. The new administration must look beyond the neoliberal model of the 1990s, and develop an approach to relations fit for the 21st century.

7. Afghanistan and Pakistan: By Austin Long

Major internal conflict has plagued Afghanistan for four decades. The U.S., for its part, has conducted military operations in the country nearly continuously since 9/11. Today, war with the Taliban persists, and tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan have gradually deteriorated. As his time in office drew to a close, President Obama limited further withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The incoming administration has a choice: will it maintain the status quo, completely reverse the Obama administration drawdown or withdraw completely? Does the U.S. face a no win situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

8. Nuclear Security: By Todd Stephen Sechser

Nuclear nonproliferation was a top priority for the Obama administration. While the Iran Deal was a diplomatic victory toward this end, major threats persist from both state and non-state actors. Countries like North Korea, Russia, and India and Pakistan continue to challenge nonproliferation efforts. The possibility that terrorists will carry out an attack using a “dirty bomb,” made from captured nuclear materials, looks increasingly real. In a fractious world, which way forward for U.S. nuclear security policy?

*The order of the topics may change.

Fees for the Great Decisions Lecture Series are:

YWCA Members:
$60 with one book
$85 for Couple, with one book

Non-YWCA Members:
$85 with one book
$110 for Couple, with one book

Walk-in Single Lecture – $10, no book

Students – No charge with valid I.D.

For more information on the series please contact the YWCA of Bethlehem at   (610) 867-4669, ext. 101 or e-mail

Visit the Foreign Policy Association website for more information.

The Great Decisions Lecture series is held at Kirkland Village, located at 1 Kirkland Village Circle, Bethlehem, PA 18017. However, we ask that you park in the back of the First Presbyterian Church, located next door to Kirkland Village.

PLEASE follow these directions to the First Presbyterian Church on Center St., park in the back of their lot and walk through to Kirkland Village.   

From the south (e.g., Quakertown, Pa.) – Follow 309 north to 378 (Center Valley). Follow 378 over the top of a mountain and into Bethlehem. At the north end of the bridge that crosses the Lehigh River, turn right onto the ramp that leads to Main Street. Proceed seven blocks and turn right onto Union Boulevard. Proceed several blocks to Center Street. Turn left onto Center Street and proceed north to the church at 2344 Center Street. The church is on the right at the top of a hill. Turn right into the “Enter” driveway and follow signs to parking facilities.

From the west (e.g., Allentown, Pa.) – Follow 22 east until you reach the exit at 512, Center Street. (There is only one exit at 512 traveling east.) At the end of the exit ramp turn left onto Center Street. Follow Center Street southbound past traffic lights at Johnston Drive and Macada Road and proceed to the top of a hill. The church is on the left. Turn left into the “Enter” driveway and follow signs to parking facilities.

From the east (e.g., Easton, Pa.) – Follow 22 west until you reach the exit at 512, Center Street. (There is only one exit at 512 traveling west.) At the end of the exit ramp turn left onto Center Street. Follow Center Street southbound past traffic lights at Johnston Drive and Macada Road and proceed to the top of a hill. The church is on the left. Turn left into the “Enter” driveway and follow signs to parking facilities.

From the north (e.g., Stroudsburg, Pa.) – Follow 33 south until it intersects with 22. Proceed west on 22 and follow the directions that pertain to an approach from the east.

The 2016-2017 Great Decisions Committee Members are:

Beverly Eighmy, Chair
Retired Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State

Kiki (Vasiliki) Anastasakos, Ph.D.
Political Science Professor
Northampton Community College

Mary Pat Beebe
Retired, Teacher and Community Volunteer

William and Karen Norvig Berry
Retired and Community Volunteers

Dr. Tom Brandt
Retired and Community Volunteer

Bruce Denlinger
Retired and Community Volunteer

Ed Donley
Retired, CEO
Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

Stewart Early
Management Consulting Services

Thomas Eighmy, Ph.D.
Retired, Foreign Services Officer

Andrew Essig, Ph.D.
Political Science Professor
De Sales University

Brian Mello, Ph.D.
Political Science Associate Professor
Muhlenberg College

Elaine Molnar
Retired, Women’s Program Director

William Moran
Retired and Community Volunteer

Hannah Stewart-Gambino, Ph.D.
Government and Law-International Affairs Professor
Lafayette College

James West, Ph.D.
Moravian College

Roger Whitecomb, Ph.D.
Retired Processor

Mahboobeh Shekari, YWCA Staff Liaison
Director of Finance and Administration
YWCA of Bethlehem

For information on joining the Great Decisions Committee or for more information about the program, please contact the YWCA of Bethlehem at (610) 867-4669, ext. 101.