“The Diplomat”

Felician University has NGO status at the United Nations, and this evening I’ll be serving as the University’s representative to the UN at a screening of David Holbrooke’s new film, “The Diplomat,” a documentary on the life of his father, Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010). The screening begins with introductory remarks by Samantha Power, followed by a discussion moderated by David Holbrooke.

There’s an odd sense for me of the “road not taken” about this event, since I think I may well be one of the few philosophers there among all the diplomats. When I first went to college, I’d planned on joining the U.S. Foreign Service, majoring in Politics and minoring in Near East Studies. But I got distracted by philosophy in my junior year, and ended up (very hesitantly) applying to graduate school in philosophy my senior year–getting in to precisely one graduate program (Notre Dame), which I ended up attending.

Most days, I think it was the right decision, but some days I wonder about it (cf. Nicomachean Ethics X.7-8: not exactly a new “dilemma”). I can’t say that I’ve never looked back, but obviously, I haven’t gone back. Still, it’s a strange feeling to hang out with the club I once might have joined (or tried to join) while fleeing for another one.

December 9, 2015: The film screened in the UN’s Trusteeship Council Chamber to about 300 or so people, most of them (as far as I could make out) diplomats of one sort or another. Samantha Power had some interesting things to say, as did David Holbrooke, and Christina Gallach, the UN’s Undersecretary-General for Communications and Public Information.

I probably couldn’t summarize the film any better than Neil Genzlinger in The New York Times and Todd Purdum in Vanity Fair; I also happen to agree with both reviewers’ positive assessments. It’s a great film, but hard to access: unless you get to a screening, you’ll have to watch it via HBO Now, HBO Go, or HBO On Demand. But I’d highly recommend doing so, if only as an antidote to the venomous muck that constitutes the contemporary American political scene. I’ll have some comments on some of the broader philosophical and political implications of the film “soon.” (In PoT parlance, “soon” means “possibly within a year.”)

Thanks to Dr. Mary Norton for the opportunity.

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