PCFR speakers for new season


Here’s the speaker lineup for the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations for its 2019-2020 season. A list of speakers in the just-completed 2018-2019 season is at the bottom.

For information about the organization, including on how to join, please send queries to:


The dinners are held at the Hope Club, in Providence.

The first speaker, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, will be Mackubin Thomas Owens, who will discuss America’s current military and geo-strategic posture in the world. A retired Marine Corps colonel and combat veteran of the Vietnam War, he’s editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, of which he is a senior fellow, and is a former dean of academics for the Institute of World Politics, in Washington.

Dr. Owens is also a former editor-in-chief of the defense journal Strategic Review.

He has served as the associate dean of academics for electives and directed research, and professor of strategy and force planning, at the U.S. Naval War College, as an adjunct professor of international relations at Boston University and as a contributing editor to National Review, among his many other academic and journalistic activities.


The next speaker comes Wednesday, Oct, 2, with Jonathan Gage, who will talk about how coverage of such international economic stories as trade wars has changed over the years, in part because of new technology, and how that coverage itself changes events.

Mr. Gage has had a very distinguished career in publishing and international journalism. He has served as publisher and CEO of Institutional Investor magazine, as publisher of strategy+business magazine, as a director at Booz Allen Hamilton and Booz & Company, as enterprise editor for Bloomberg News and finance editor of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (of sainted memory) and as a senior writer for the Boston Consulting Group.

He is a trustee, and former vice chairman, of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

He has written or edited for such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and Psychology Today magazine.


On Wednesday, Oct. 23, comes Ambassador Patrick Duddy, who will talk about Venezuelan internal political and economic conditions and relations with the U.S., Cuba, Russia and other nations. Mr. Duddy, currently director of Duke University’s center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, served as American ambassador to Venezuela in 2007-2008, during the George W. Bush administration. The late President Hugo Chavez expelled him but eight months later he returned as ambassador in the Obama administration. He finished that assignment in 2010.

Before his ambassadorships, Mr. Duddy served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) for the Western Hemisphere, responsible for the Office of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination, which included the hemispheric energy portfolio, as well for the Offices of Brazil/ Southern Cone Affairs and of Caribbean Affairs. During his tenure as DAS, he played a lead role in coordinating U.S. support for the restoration of democracy in Haiti.


On Wednesday, Nov. 6, comes Tweed Roosevelt, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and great-grandson of that president. He’ll talk about how TR’s foreign policy, which was developed as the U.S. became truly a world power, affected subsequent presidents’ foreign policies. Mr., Roosevelt is also chairman of Roosevelt China Investments, a Boston firm.

In 1992, Mr. Roosevelt rafted down the 1,000-mile Rio Roosevelt in Brazil—a river previously explored by his great-grandfather in 1914 in the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition and then called the Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt. The former president almost died on that legendary and dangerous trip.


On Thursday, Dec. 5, the PCFR welcomes Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, who directs the Initiative on Religion, Law, and Diplomacy, and is visiting associate professor of conflict resolution, at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She titles her talk "God, Soft Power, and Geopolitics: Religion as a Tool for Conflict Prevention/Generation".

Dr. Prodromou is also a non-resident senior fellow and co-chair of the Working Group on Christians and Religious Pluralism, at the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, and is also non-resident fellow at The Hedayah International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, based in Abu Dhabi.

Dr. Prodromou is former vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and was a member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Religion & Foreign Policy Working Group. Her research focuses on geopolitics and religion, with particular focus on the intersection of religion, democracy, and security in the Middle East and Southeastern Europe. Her current research project focus on Orthodox Christianity and geopolitics, as well as on religion and migration in Greece.


On Wednesday, Jan. 8, comes Michael Fine, M.D., who will talk about his novel Abundance, set in West Africa, and the challenges of providing health care in the Developing World. He will speak on: “Plagues and Pestilence: What we learned (or didn't) from Ebola about Foreign Policy and International Collaboration in the face of epidemics and outbreaks’’


On Wednesday, Feb. 5, comes Cornelia Dean, book author, science writer and former science editor of The New York and internationally known expert on coastal conditions. She’ll talk how rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and what they can do about it.


On Wednesday, March 18, comes Stephen Wellmeier, managing director of Poseidon Expeditions. He’ll talk about the future of adventure travel and especially about Antarctica, and its strange legal status.


On Wednesday, April 29, comes Trita Parsi, a native of Iran and founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Treacherous Alliance and A Single Roll of the Dice. He regularly writes articles and appears on TV to comment on foreign policy. He of course has a lot to say about U.S. Iranian relations.


On Wednesday, May 6, comes Serenella Sferza, a political scientist and co-director of the program on Italy at MIT’s Center for International Studies, who will talk about the rise of right-wing populism and other developments in her native land.

She has taught at several U.S. and European universities, and published numerous articles on European politics. Serenella's an affiliate at the Harvard De Gunzburg Center for European Studies and holds the title of Cavaliere of the Ordine della Stella d'Italia conferred by decree of the President of the Republic for the preservation and promotion of national prestige abroad.

June: Keeping open for now but perhaps about China.

Speakers in the 2018-2019 season of the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations included:

Miguel Head, who spent the past decade as a senior adviser to the British Royal Family, on what it was like.

James Nealon, the former U.S. ambassador to Honduras and former assistant secretary of state, on the migrant crisis.

Walter A. Berbrick, founding director of the Arctic Studies Group at the U.S. Naval War College, on “An Arctic Policy for the Ages: Strengthening American Interests at Home and Abroad’’.

Phillip Martin, senior investigative reporter for WGBH News and a contributing reporter to Public Radio International’s The World, a co-production of WGBH, the BBC and PRI -- a program that he helped develop as a senior producer in 1995 on the Indian caste system, there & here.

Paulo Sotero, the director of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute on the outlook for that nation.

Historian Fred Zilian on the “Real Thucydides Trap,”—an alternate to Graham Allison’s—which threatens America’s leadership of the free world.

Dr. Teresa Chahine on international social entrepreneurship.

London-based Journalist and broadcaster Michael Goldfarb on Brexit.

Sarah C.M. Paine of the U.S. Naval War College on the "Geopolitics underlying U.S. foreign policy''.

Douglas Hsu, senior Taiwan diplomat, on tensions with Mainland and ties with the U.S.

Prof. James Green, former president of the Brazilian Studies Association, on Brazil's new right-wing populist president.