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'Age of Discovery': A Must Read to Understand Today’s World

February 23, 2017

It was in October 2016 I was fortunate to meet Chris Kutarna, co-author of an incredible new book Age of Discovery. Chris wandered into the coffee shop in the District of Columbia where my morning coffee group meets every day. An eclectic group of D.C. denizens including a former Solicitor General in the Clinton Administration, two former congressmen, professors, environmentalists, foreign service officers, non-profit executives, congressional staffers, columnists, local politicos and a sprinkling of students either in law-school or political science and international government majors. We informally debate the news each morning and were all excited to hear Chris’s insights on the political situation around the world. This was about a month before the Presidential election and while we welcomed Chris we vehemently disagreed with his prediction Hillary Clinton would lose the election.

 

He shared with us a column he had written for Time in August 2016 titled Hillary Clinton Is America’s Machiavelli. Both he and his co-author Ian Goldin were some of the very few to predict correctly both the Brexit vote and the Trump win.

 

In his Time column he wrote “Though the epic presidential battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may feel unique, these same personalities have clashed before. More than 500 years ago, the prophet Savonarola enthralled Renaissance Europe while Machiavelli, chief policy wonk of the age, scorned the showman’s demagoguery. Trump and Clinton are replaying those parts—and will leave similar marks on history.” While I don’t agree with his view suggesting “Trump is a prophet” I do agree with the final sentence of his column; “This election cycle has been full of surprises, but how history will remember its chief protagonists is already becoming clear. Trump’s legacy will be how he whipped up the tensions of his time. Clinton’s will be how she spent her life trying to make America stronger.” After November 8, 2016 my respect for Chris’s thoughts and insights increased dramatically. I now urge everyone I meet to read the book.

 

The Age of Discovery is an important book because it takes us on a tour of history through the lens of political scientists in an effort to explain what is happening in the world today. While not a scholar I can fully appreciate how the authors decided to frame their thoughts as the world facing a ‘new renaissance’ and how we must look at history to determine the risks we face today and determine how we will move forward in this difficult time.

 

Chris terms himself a political scientist. But what adds to the credibility of the book is both he and his co-author have real world experience. At times when reading the book one thinks of them as philosophers and historians. It is only one of those fields with a definitive realty and that is history. Even with history one can only be pretty certain of what has happened but not be sure of exactly what led to its happening or what direct impact it had on the future.

 

I am a political scientist who has used my knowledge in the field of public administration which to me includes both government and the non-profit sector. Age of Discovery is one of the few books written by political scientists which I found both enlightening and a compelling read. It manages to keep your interest page after page and leads you to turn everything you were so sure you understood over again in your mind and view it from a new angle. What you were sure you had the answer to doesn’t always seem so definitive after reading the book. While it may not change your mind it surely makes you think and that is more than enough to make this an important read.

 

Chris Kutarna is “a two-time Governor General’s Medalist, a Sauvé Fellow and Commonwealth Scholar, and a Fellow of the Oxford Martin School with a doctorate in Chinese politics from the University of Oxford. A former consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, then entrepreneur, Chris lived in China for several years, speaks Mandarin, and remains a regular op-ed contributor to one of China’s top-ranked news magazines. (He lived in Australia and New Zealand for several years, and still cannot surf.) Born on the Canadian Prairies, Chris is, rather incongruously, an avid and accomplished rower and rowing coach. He divides his time between Oxford, Beijing and Regina.” Chris is active on twitter @ChrisKutarna.

 

His co-author Ian Goldin is “Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professor of Globalization and Development at the University of Oxford. He was Vice President of the World Bank and prior to that the Bank’s Director of Development Policy. From 1996 to 2001 he was Chief Executive and Managing Director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and also served as an advisor to President Nelson Mandela. He has been knighted by the French government and is an acclaimed author of 20 books.”

 

Together they have authored a book that every government official at all levels in the United States should read; especially those persons who have any intention of running for office in this ‘new renaissance’. The book is available on Amazon at Age of Discovery.

 


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King Charles III at Harman Hall

February 15, 2017

Today millions of people around the world have followed the foibles of the British Royal family. Some think it plays out like the E Entertainment show The Royals, others have a more realistic view.

Queen Elizabeth II just celebrated her 65th year on the throne and her 90th birthday. So it is quite possible sometime in our lifetime there will be a new Monarch. That could be Prince Charles who is now 68 years old; or as some have speculated it could be the younger and more popular Prince William.  The soap opera lives of the royal family over the years are well known and the playwright assumes we know them because it helps when trying to get the humor in the play. That includes Charles divorcing Diana and her following death (both Charles and William see her ghost during the play). One would have followed Charles’ love affair and marriage to Camilla; Prince Harry’s wild escapades; and the wedding of Prince William to the beautiful Kate Middleton and the birth of their son Prince George. Many of us go into the theater having imagined Prince Charles must have thought about what he would do were he to become King.

Christopher McLinden as Prince William and Allison Jean White as Kate (Photo by: Kevin Berne) Christopher McLinden as Prince William and Allison Jean White as Kate

Mike Bartlett, the award winning playwright of King Charles III, tried to imagine this as well. As the play opens “The Queen is dead. After a lifetime of waiting, Prince Charles ascends the throne with Camilla by his side. As William, Kate and Harry look on, Charles prepares for the future of power that lies before him…but how to rule? Written primarily in Shakespearean blank verse, this modern history play explores the people underneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of Britain’s democracy and the conscience of its most famous family.” The first production of the play opened to rave reviews in London in 2014. It has since traveled around the world earning rave reviews including five Tony nominations for its New York run.

David Muse (Photo by: Courtesy Shakespeare Theatre) David Muse

The production at the Shakespeare Theatre is directed by the very talented David Muse, currently Artistic Director at the Studio Theater. The cast is nearly uniformly superb with Robert Joy as King Charles III carrying most of the burden of selling the premise. He is in nearly every scene and really makes you think about what could happen if Prince Charles were to try to make up for being King-in-waiting for all these years. The basis of the play is Charles challenging the Parliament which has just passed a law curbing the Press. The Prime Minister has come to ask for his signature on the bill, a formality during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Yet despite the Royal family having suffered from the pen of an open press for decades Charles believes curbing them hurts democracy. In today’s world, particularly with Donald Trump’s Presidency and his administration’s use of ‘Alternative Facts’ this resonates for all of us. Charles just ends up going a little overboard in his fight with Parliament. 

Christopher McLinden as Prince William, Ian Merrill Peakes as Prime Minister Evans and Allison Jean White as Kate (Photo by: Kevin Berne) Christopher McLinden as Prince William, Ian Merrill Peakes as Prime Minister Evans and Allison Jean White as Kate

Camilla is played to perfection by Jeanne Paulsen and if one has followed Camilla in real life you appreciate her portrayal all the more. Harry Smith is a great Prince Harry and Michelle Beck is wonderful as his Republican Girlfriend Jessica. Allison Jean White has the beauty and style of the real Kate and is the spokesperson for the women’s rights movement in the play. She choreographs Charles downfall and William’s ascendency to the throne and her own to Queen. While watching the show the weakest link in the cast seemed to be Christopher Mclinden as Prince William. But upon reflection that may have been what his role called for as he does portray what many think William is; a decent, quite young man who needs a little push from his wife to get his courage up. 

The set design by Daniel Ostling is simple and perfect and the costumes designed by Jennifer Moeller run the gamut from every day simplicity to full beribboned uniforms and beautiful coronation outfits for William and Kate

King Charles III will be at the Shakespeare Theatre Harman Hall through March 12th.


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Metropolitan Police Department Earns Kudos

January 25, 2017

Too often the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) gets only negative comments and I for one want to compliment them on the work they did during the inaugural weekend. Acting Chief of Police Peter Newsham and the entire force deserve much credit for the peaceful weekend when close to one million people came to celebrate. Some for Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, and even more to march demanding equality and women’s rights in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. 

Muriel Bowser (Photo by: wikipedia.com) Muriel Bowser

The only violence was on Friday around Franklin Square and the MPD acted quickly and appropriately to disburse the rioters and arrest those who committed crimes such as breaking windows, setting a fire in the street and attacking a limousine in the area.  In their effort to speak out on Trump and his policies these few anarchists, and that is what they are, destroyed the limousine, the property of a Muslim business man, and sent the driver an immigrant to the hospital with injuries. While I am a believer in civil disobedience when it is called for, random violence that produces no result and merely hurts the innocent should not be tolerated. Anyone who thinks it is appropriate and acceptable to attack innocent people in DC whose residents voted 93% against Donald Trump needs to rethink what they are doing.

D.C. has a complicated system of interrelated public safety agencies. On normal days there are a minimum of the MPD, the Capitol Hill Police, the Secret Service and the Park Police on our streets. For weekends like the last these agencies are reinforced with National Guard members from around the nation and homeland security among other agencies.  The coordination of all this falls heavily on the Mayor and the Police Chief. As we can see by the end result both Mayor Bowser and Chief of Police Newsham did a great job.  

We also have to give credit to the Fire Department and EMT’s who staffed and monitored the events over the weekend and handled any and all emergencies quickly and efficiently. 

As a side note I know a friend recently needed to call 911 after having a serious fall in her home and breaking numerous bones. She said she couldn’t have asked for a faster or better response than she got from the first responders in the District including the MPD and Fire and EMS services who came to her aid. While they don’t always get it right most of the time they do and we owe much to the men and women first responders in the District who often risk their lives to keep us safe.

 


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