A Career in Defending Democracy
Anyone wondering about the marketability of a Sarah Lawrence degree would do well to look at Clifford D. May ’73. The jobs on his resume include foreign correspondent for The New York Times, director of communications for the Republican National Committee and president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a nonprofit organization he helped found after September 11. May returned to the College on April 14 to deliver this year’s Bozeman Lecture, an annual event honoring late SLC political science faculty member Adda Bozeman.
May drew on his experience in international affairs and foreign policy to speak about terrorism, radical Islam and the war in Iraq—all issues of prime concern to FDD, which he described as a bipartisan think tank working to understand terrorism. Well-known figures like Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich and Gary Bauer work with the Foundation.
May compared the current world situation to that of Europe in the 1930’s. Europe tried to appease Hitler’s hunger for land, he says, and the result was World War II. Today, May claimed, instead of Nazis it is radical Muslims who want to take over the world, and their battle strategy is worldwide terrorism. Unfortunately, May said, Europe doesn’t seem to have learned what the U.S. did from the ’30s: Appeasement doesn’t work.
“Churchill was called a warmonger for wanting to fight Hitler,” May reminded his audience. George W. Bush, he said, is the “Churchill of our times” for recognizing that war with Iraq could preempt potential terrorist acts, as well as depose a dictator. May maintained that displays of military might are the most effective way to stop terrorists, because terrorists understand only strength. In addition, the use of force frightens states that harbor terrorists into reconsidering their positions. “Every country in the world should understand that it’s not okay to let terrorists flourish on their soil,” May concluded. “This war is not over.”
Jefferson Adams, the history faculty member who holds the Adda Bozeman Chair in International Relations, reported that students responded positively to the lecture. “Students appreciated hearing a different point of view—one that often isn’t expressed on this campus,” he said. “And it’s always good for them to hear successful alums speak. May’s career shows that there is no predetermined path to success, and the experimentation and risk-taking Sarah Lawrence encourages can lead to great things.”