Prepare to Discuss the World!

Weekly In-Person

and Online Discussions

Thursdays, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Great Decisions, produced by the Foreign Policy Association (FPA), is America’s largest civic discussion program on world affairs. In each session, the group will cover a topic of great importance to Americans, view a short video, and discuss American policy. Attend the entire series of lectures or choose your favorite topics; no registration is required. 

A reference copy of the Great Decisions 2024 Briefing Book is on reserve for use and copying in the library, and another is available for short-term loan. You may purchase your own Briefing Book for $28 at the library or for $35 through the Foreign Policy Association website.

NEW! Get the Great Decisions FREE Briefing eBook through Libby.

Great Decisions at the Jefferson County Library has been facilitated since 2013 by Joyce Francis, Ph.D. Joyce taught International Relations at George Mason, Tulane, and American University before moving to the Olympic Peninsula. For further information about the Great Decisions 2023 program, contact Dr. Joyce Francis.

Great Decisions Discussion Topics

Great Decisions 2024 Overview

Thursday, February 15 – Mideast Realignment 

The United States and the Middle East are at a crossroads. Despite a reduced presence in the Middle East, the U.S. still has significant national interests there and the area is a key arena for global power politics. Can the U.S. continue to defend its interests in the Middle East and globally with a lower level of military and political involvement, or should it recommit to a leading role in the region? 

VIDEO: Fareed Zakaria, The Road to War in the Middle East, part 5

Thursday, February 22 – Climate Technology and Competition 

Will the United States and China, with other powerful countries following suit, approach current and future climate initiatives with an increased commitment to trade protectionism and nationalism, by various measures including trade restrictions? Or could a growing spirit of international accord develop to confront the “common enemy” of climate change? 

VIDEO: United Nations, What Happened at COP28?

Thursday, February 29 – Science Across Borders 

Scientific advances benefit from collaboration between researchers, but what happens when material, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is controversial and important to a nation’s national security? Is there a middle ground between sharing information and denying access? How can we regulate cooperation? 

Thursday, March 7 – US-China Trade Rivalry 

China’s economic rise and its current policies of increasing the role of the state in the economy have led some U.S. policymakers to seek to deny China access to U.S. technology and investment. This is seen as a necessary corrective to decades of predatory Chinese economic policies. Is this a wise strategy, and how effective can it be? 

VIDEO: Has China’s Belt & Road Initiative Been a Success? (10:52)

VIDEO: Freefall in U.S./China Relations (watch 9:55 – 13:06)

Thursday, March 14 – NATO’s Future 

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has come under increased scrutiny, not because NATO troops are involved in the conflict, but because of its role in relations between Russia and its neighbors. Will expanding membership in NATO protect countries, or will it further provoke Russia? 

VIDEO: The Myth of NATO Provocations (3:32, recommend having map handy)

VIDEO: Europe Goes Nuclear:  Is America Leaving NATO? (5:06)

Thursday, March 21 – Understanding Indonesia 

Tonight we will be joined by guest speaker Dr. Rebakah Daro Minarchek. Despite its large size, Indonesia remains virtually invisible to most Americans. But as one of the world’s largest democracies, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and as an economic driver of ASEAN, why does it fly below the radar? What are current issues in U.S.-Indonesian relations, and what role can the country play in Asia? 

Dr. Rebakah Daro Minarchek is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Integrated Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Washington. She was previously the Managing Director of the UW Southeast Asian Studies Center and the Associate Director of the American Institute for Indonesian Studies.  Currently, Dr. Minarchek serves on the Indonesia and Timor Leste Studies Committee with the Association of Asian Studies. She lives in Port Townsend with her husband and their children.

VIDEO: Place a hold on our Great Decisions Master Class 2024 video, or drop by the Library to watch it on one of the public computers.

Thursday, March 28 – High Seas Treaty 

Areas of the seas beyond national jurisdiction comprise the high seas, which are facing the degradation of ecosystems due to climate change and the increase in human activities, such as shipping, overfishing, pollution, and deep-sea mining. The recently negotiated High Seas Treaty, also known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty, will attempt to address these issues. How difficult will it be to convince nations to participate? 

VIDEO: Dr. Sive Thambisetty, LSE Law School, explains the UN High Seas Treaty