The Santa Fe World Affairs Forum aims to broaden and deepen understanding of world affairs through small, interactive, professionally led sessions on international issues for a membership of informed individuals.

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Our Woman in Havana: Past Experiences and Future Assessments

 June 7, 2018

 Vicki Huddleston

Miguel Díaz-Canel is the president of Cuba. For the first time in almost 60 years a Castro does not lead the country. Raul Castro, however, remains the first secretary of the Communist party and the power behind Díaz-Canel. What does this mean for the future of US-Cuban relations?

In her recent book Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle with Castro’s Cuba Vicki Huddleston, one of America’s top Cuba-hands and Chief of the US Interests Section in Havana from 2000-2002 who later served as Ambassador to Madagascar and Mali, discusses her experiences as America’s de facto Ambassador to the island nation during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W Bush and assesses the changes she has witnessed over the past 18 years in the island’s history, economics and politics as well as the continuing troubled relationships between Washington and this island only 90 miles off the US coast.

Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, a Santa Fe resident and SFWAF Board Member, is an American diplomat with lengthy expertise in foreign, defense, and development policy. She was a senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense and led American diplomatic missions in Mali, Madagascar, Cuba and Ethiopia. In Haiti she was Chief of Party for a USAID Value Chain project. She was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and as a Congressional Fellow worked on the staff of former Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Vicki’s opinion pieces on Cuba, Mali, and Ethiopia have appeared in The New York Times, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post. Before Our Woman in Havana, she co-authored Learning to Salsa – New Steps in Cuban Relations. She has recently spoken at the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC, the Miami Book Fair, DACOR-Washington, DC and the American Foreign Service Association. Autographed copies of her book are available at Collected Works, 202 Gallisteo Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501.

This program will be in the Santa Fe Community College Board Room (room #223).

Past Event

Annual Symposium 2018

April 9 – 10, 2018

Values, Myths and Interests: Debating American Foreign Policy in an Unstable World

American foreign policy since World War II has relied upon soft power – the ability to influence others based on key human values. Since World War II, the US goal has been to project its image as a nation that is not only strong, but also “good,” drawing on the idea of American Exceptionalism to persuade others that the country is the “shining city on the hill” and a democratic “beacon of freedom” in a troubled world.

Yet U.S. foreign policy has also been guided by national self-interest. This pursuit has at times conflicted with our aspirations and led to less than admirable policies implemented through counter-productive means that diminished America’s standing in the world.

Today a debate over fundamental values rages within the U.S. and abroad. The world’s view of America is no longer favorable. Forty-nine percent of the globe views the United States and President Trump’s “America First” slogan unfavorably. Yet Americans themselves are still admired by fifty-nine percent according to that same Pew “gold standard” poll of international opinion. Can we change this increasingly negative view of our country overall, or if not, will it spread to individual Americans? What can we do to regain the world’s trust?

Barack Obama’s 2008 election was a source of hope at home and overseas. While his administration fell short of expectations, the U.S. did regain and retain much of the international community’s respect. But in the past year, many question if the United States’ foreign policy is guided by its aspirational values.

Are there fundamental human values that all nations and cultures can agree upon or are they idiosyncratic? How are such values interpreted in U.N. documents and organizations of which the U.S. was an instrumental drafter?

Many American aspirational values are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Do democracy, human rights, the rejection of tyranny, equality for all, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, constitutional government, freedom of the press and worship continue to call for respect domestically and internationally? How can we maintain a free media but deal with concerted efforts to undermine this bedrock of democracy? What about the value and importance of scientific inquiry, which has underpinned economic, health, national security, educational, social and technological foundations of the American success story since before the founding of the Republic?

Finally, can America still be influential on the international stage, or have we yielded that role to others through an “America First” form of isolationism that has diminished US stature with allies to the delight of our competitors and adversaries? What options do we have to navigate today’s unstable world?

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