By Zach Trichas (V)
The Foreign Affairs Club is new to Pingry this year, founded in the fall by Aditya Gollapudi (V), Jackson Lubke (V), Kevin Ma (V), and Varun Seetamraju (V). The club aims to educate students about foreign conflicts, issues, and developments that are covered less frequently in the news due to the fact that they do not necessarily concern the United States. Every week, the club has a member present on a topic relating to international affairs. Each presentation is followed by a discussion.
Lubke says that the structure of the Foreign Affairs Club was inspired by Journal Club. He co-founded the club in hopes of “involving students and reaching as many people as possible” in this subject matter. A tenet of Foreign Affairs Club is a strong focus on accuracy regarding the information being reported.
Two of the club’s leaders, Lubke and Seetamraju, were interviewed in further depth about the club:
How did you come up with the idea of the Foreign Affairs Club?
Lubke: The idea for the club came about when the four founders (Aditya Gollapudi, Kevin Ma, Varun Seetamraju, and myself) realized that many Pingry students were unaware of conflicts outside of the United States. We wanted to help people understand the basics of the world outside of their borders.
What makes for a good presentation in your club?
Seetamraju: A good presentation is essentially made up of two parts. Background information for the conflict or situation and then a deep analysis of the current situation, including where the presenter, in their own opinion, sees it going forward. I feel like this format of first explaining how we got to this point in a conflict is crucial as it gives you a sense of the geopolitical atmosphere. After that, we encourage the presenter to give their own analysis on the situation. It’s very easy for someone to do a Google search or read a Wikipedia article on a conflict, so we try to offer a different perspective on top of that to allow people to understand the situation more deeply. Nothing in foreign affairs is black and white. There is always nuance.
How does Foreign Affairs Club differ from other political clubs, such as Pingry Politics?
Lubke: This club is different from other clubs in that it encourages students to actively participate in discussions through a moderated conversation. We emphasize accuracy and correct information in our debates; we aim to be unbiased and ensure that every presentation has a variety of sources from all sides.
Tell us about one presentation you hosted this year that was particularly interesting.
Seetamraju: I think the most unique and, in my opinion, most interesting presentation we hosted this year was our last one, in which Jackson talked about possible conflicts that could erupt in 2018. Usually our presentations go in-depth on one specific topic, but in that presentation, Jackson covered many topics, many that were rather under the radar, and how those skirmishes could explode to a large scale conflicts. For example, I never knew about how weak Pakistan’s defenses were on their nuclear arsenal or how likely a terrorist organization, such as ISIS, could take over.