Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Engines of the Center

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Engines of the Center

Article excerpt

AS I WAS CHAIRING A MEETING OF THE WILSON Center's Board of Trustees recently, a hubbub erupted in the hall outside as dozens of people poured out of a conference on "aid for trade" in the auditorium next door. It was just another day at the Wilson Center, where it is not unusual to have four or five events stretching into the evening. But in fact there is nothing ordinary about what the Center does, I thought at that moment, and especially about the staff that makes it happen.

Lee Hamilton, the Center's president and director, rightly serves as its chief public face. But the team that works under him includes people of great and diverse talents. The aid for trade conference was put together in cooperation with other institutions by Kent Hughes, who came to the Center after a varied career in public service capped by a stint as associate deputy secretary of commerce. Kent, who holds a Ph.D. in economies, heads the Center's Program on Science, Technology, America, and the Global Economy, and his particular accomplishment in this conference was to get scholars, senior figures from corporations and international institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, and top trade officials from developing countries together to find ways to help those countries build the infrastructure needed to liberalize their trade.

As this impressive throng jammed the hall outside, another Wilson Center program director addressed the board. Historian Christian Ostermann has overseen the Center's History and Public Policy Program for nine years, spearheading its work to secure and make available to scholars and the public the archives of formerly communist states and other countries, and to analyze the new materials. (These materials are available at the Center's website, www.wilsoncenter.org.) This is foundational scholarly work of the first order, with fruits that you read about in your daily newspaper. It has spurred a complete reinterpretation of Cold War history--as reflected in The Cold War: A New History (2005), by Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis, who chairs the program's advisory board--and has prompted policymakers to reconsider what they thought were settled lessons of history. …

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