Professor Maurice East will use his political connections to offer a foreign policy class with former President George Bush as a guest lecturer one last time next semester.
The class, taught in conjunction with a class at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University over the internet, will be offered for the last time next semester after a successful debut last spring. Students in the Elliot School of International Affairs Honors Program and master’s program can take it.
East said it is too difficult to arrange the same well-known speakers every semester but is interested in changing the focus of the class to involve different participants like foreign policy makers from the Bush or Clinton administrations in the future.
The focus of the class is post-Cold War foreign policy in the first Bush administration. Thirty-two students, half from GW and half from Texas A&M, conduct interviews with 11 different authorities on the Cold War. Previous guest speakers include former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former CIA Director Robert Gates.
East created the class in spring 2000 with a colleague at Texas A&M, Charles Hermann. They spent nine months preparing to teach the class, overcoming many scheduling difficulties in the process.
“The past election and the recounts in Florida made it very difficult to schedule people (to speak to) the class,” East said.
He also said although Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell had agreed to participate in the class, the then-pending election results made them unavailable.
“As for Bush, he told us to not even talk to him about the class during his son’s campaign because all of his time and resources were focused on helping his son,” East said. After the results of the election were declared final, Bush cooperated.
“The Bush School of Government and Public Service (at A&M) had access to Bush, and GW was an ideal location, and GWTV was eager to produce the program,” East said. He said it was not as difficult to get others involved once Bush agreed to participate.
The 700-level class meets once a week. Most classes include a student summary of the time period which the speaker will be addressing, followed by a student introduction of the speaker. When Bush spoke to the class in Texas, the two classes were connected through the internet, and GW students in an on-campus television studio asked questions.
Bush primarily described his first meeting with Mikhail Gorbechev, president of Russia at the time. The class studied the dynamics of U.S. relations with Gorbechev, given his controversial standing leading to his removal from office.
“Personally it is the hardest I have ever worked preparing for a course,” East said. “The technology is available, but it is not user-friendly at this point.”
East also cited logistical problems as a roadblock to further installments of the course.
“If you were to go out and buy these services that (GW) used on the street, such as the cameras and the studio time, your costs will easily run in upwards of $30,000,” he said.
East said limited enrollment is also a consideration. If GW expanded the amount of students in the course, it would sacrifice student interviews and questions.
Last semester the class was evenly split between undergraduate and graduate students. It is listed for next spring as a Political Science Honors class in the Elliott School.