From the Director Session Overview

September 2015
Robert Art
Director, Seminar XXI Program

Seminar XXI began its first year of operation in September 1986; and with the banquet held on September 10, 2015, at the National Press Club, the program began its thirtieth year of operation.

Seminar XXI is an educational program located within MIT’s Center for International Studies. It was devised in 1984 by three far-sighted individuals — Mitzi Wertheim, currently a professor of practice at the Naval Postgraduate School ; Suzanne Berger, professor of political science at MIT; and Captain Jake W. Stewart, US Navy (Ret.). Its mandate then — and its continuing mission — is to provide current and future leaders of the US national security and foreign policymaking communities with the broad perspectives and analytical skills required to evaluate and formulate effective policy options for the United States.

Designed as an experiment to broaden the perspectives of high-ranking military officers and to introduce new ways of understanding the world, Seminar XXI has become a valued educational program not only for the military, but also for all the important federal agencies and departments that interact with the military in the national security arena. With the current class, Seminar XXI has had a total of 2,105. Fellows participate in the program —1,151 military and 954 civilians. A significant percentage of the military officers were either flag rank when they entered the program or attained flag rank by retirement. Seminar XXI also counts a healthy representation of civilians among its alumni who are or were ambassadors, senior executive service, and senior intelligence service.

What accounts for the success of this program? We believe there are five key ingredients:

First, Seminar XXI offers an innovative approach to understanding foreign societies and the relations among them. It employs different paradigms and theories to understand the relations among politics, the economy, society, cultures, and the international environment. Seminar XXI teaches its Fellows to see problems and issues from the realist, liberal, cultural-historical, and economic-materialist perspectives.

Second, the program is aimed at a specific subset of senior military officers and government officials: those currently holding high-level decision-making positions, or those whom their organizations judge likely to hold such positions within the next three to five years. The program has been successful in this regard, counting among its number the Honorable Andrew S. Natsios, former administrator of USAID; General Lee Butler, USAF, former Commander, SAC; General George Casey, USA (Ret.), 36th Chief of Staff of the Army; General James Cartwright (ret.), USMC, former Vice Chairman of the JCS; General James Conway, USMC, (Ret.), 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps; Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon; General Montgomery Meigs, USA (Ret.), former Commander of the US Army, Europe; General Norton Schwartz, USAF,  19th Chief of Staff of the Air Force; Admiral James Stavridis (ret.), USN, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Admiral Robert F. Willard (ret.), USN, former Commander, Pacific Command.

Currently serving Seminar XXI alumni include:  General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army; Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations; General Mark Welch, Chief of Staff of the Air Force; General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Admiral Harry Harris, Commander, Pacific Command; and Robert Work, Deputy Secretary of Defense

Third, Seminar XXI draws world-renowned experts from the leading universities and research institutes in the United States and abroad. These experts are chosen for their functional, country, and regional expertise, and have included well-known figures such as Condoleezza Rice, Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington, Joseph Nye, Josef Joffe, Kenneth Waltz, Ambassador Koji Watanabe, Pierre Hassner, Walid Khalidi, Eliot Abrams, Aleksa Djilas, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Shashi Tharoor (former Under Secretary General of the United Nations); Ann-Marie Slaughter; Frank Fukuyama; Ambassador Thomas Pickering; and Ambassador James Dobbins.

Fourth, Seminar XXI has proved to have alumni who remain fiercely loyal to the program and who continue to be its best recruiters. It is a program that is made known mainly by word of mouth, and the positive experiences of its alumni remain its best publicity.

Fifth, Seminar XXI strives hard to remain current — to focus on those national security and foreign policy issues that currently occupy the time and energies of the country’s senior leadership — and to help these decision makers see those issues in the broad context required to deal successfully with them.

As the fifth director, it is my honor to be associated with unique program. With best wishes,

With best wishes,
Robert Art, Director, Seminar XXI
Christian A. Herter Professor of International Relations, Brandeis University, and Senior Associate, Security Studies Program, MIT

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