“America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” warned John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, in 1821.
Drawing on this mentality, the non-partisan national organization John Quincy Adams Society was born, focusing on the US foreign policy with a vision of restraint. Two Cornell students, Sydney Eisenberg ’21 and Keenan Ashbrook ’20, founded the Cornell chapter of the national organization this semester.
With this newly founded club, Eisenberg and Ashbrook they hope to encourage more students to engage in discussions about U.S. foreign policies by equipping them with sufficient knowledge and skills to properly engage in these discussions.
“Over the past 30 years or so, and particularly since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been involved in a lot of costly conflicts that haven’t had [many] benefits to the U.S. interests abroad, or here, or [many] benefits to U.S. security either. So we try to really focus on this model of less war, more strategy,” Eisenberg told The Sun.
During the fall semester of her sophomore year, Eisenberg got to know the John Quincy Adams Society through Prof. Sarah Kreps, government, who teaches GOVT 1817: Making Sense of World Politics. Ashbrook came into contact with the society during his experiences in Eurasia Group Foundation while working on a project called Independent America.
Though they discovered the John Quincy Adams Society through different routes, Eisenberg and Ashbrook are both devoted to bringing to campus conversations about how the U.S. interacts with the rest of the world. Specifically, they want to focus on conversations about how to change the direction of current U.S. foreign policy.
“I think a lot of the times we got trapped in this U.S. bubble — what’s going on within the U.S. today and we sort of forget that the U.S. also interacts with other countries,” said Eisenberg. Ashbrook jokingly echoed this sentiment commenting that “foreign policy is usually the forgotten stepchild in U.S. political conversations.”
“It feels very inaccessible, people feel like only experts can discuss [foreign policy]. And we want to push back against this. We want to push back against that idea.” Asbhrook said, describing debates about foreign policy in political forums as “very academic, very wonky, and a very inaccessible bubble.”
Since most students at Cornell are young adults of voting age and might go on to participate in the actual U.S. political realm, it is imperative that they are constantly aware how the U.S. deals with the rest of the world, according to Ashbrook.
“Everyone will one day feel the impact of a foreign policy decision,” Ashbrook said.
In addition, “our international students have a huge stake on how the U.S. interacts with their home countries,” Ashbrook continued. “So we are trying to appeal to everyone, whether you are from the U.S. or not, whether you study international affairs or not.”
Another focus of the club is to introduce the idea of “change” and “moving on” to the current foreign policy discussions.
“We just specifically want to bring a perspective on foreign policy that has not had a singular advocate on campus,” Ashbrook said.
For this semester, the club plans to hold events that could bring their ideas out to the Cornell community and the Ithaca community at large, without confining themselves to just discussing issues during their meetings. In addition, they plan to bring prominent guest speakers on foreign policy, some of whom are connected with the national John Quincy Adams Society, to campus.
They also expressed interest in working with Cornell’s distinguished faculty on foreign policy. Collaboration with existing clubs such as Cornell Political Union and the Cornell International Affairs Society is also on their minds, which the club hopes might result in campus-wide student debates or student panels.
The next club meeting is on Tuesday, Oct. 1 in Rockefeller Hall 122.