“America’s Role in the Changing World” with General Petraeus

On Thursday, November 6th, General David H. Petraeus once again visited the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study as part of his bi-annual visit to campus as a Judge Widney Professor in the Sol Price School of Public Policy.

General Petraeus sat down with about twenty-five Harman Academy students to discuss “America’s Role in the Changing World” with moderator University Professor and Harman Academy Advisory Board member Geoffrey Cowan.

Professor Cowan, who was one of the three initial planning members of the Harman Academy along with founder Sidney Harman and the late Professor Warren Bennis, elaborated on how having the General here at the Academy was a perfect fit for Sidney Harman’s vision. Cowan revealed that in the Academy’s early planning stages, Harman often cited General Petraeus as an exemplary polymath that he wanted to have speak with students.

General Petraeus explained to students the value of being a polymath in today’s changing world, especially on a political or diplomatic stage. He shared stories of his efforts as a General in Northern Iraq and stated that the situation there required polymathic problem solvers. He knew that it was necessary to think big to rebuild and rewire things in Iraq, so he was grateful to have the essential interdisciplinary background and a polymathic team to get the job done.

General Petraeus also went on to praise USC for being an inherently polymathic university, particularly amongst its leadership. He reflected on how “USC gets the big ideas right,” calling attention to the university’s strategic leadership, which focused on big ideas and salesmanship and then overseeing implementation and integration throughout the university.

Petraeus went on to take questions from the students in attendance, addressing a wide range of issues. The discussion ranged from the General’s thoughts on ISIL to issues of cybersecurity to questions of climate change and the results of the recent mid-term elections.

General Petraeus asserted that he doesn’t believe it to be in America’s best interest to be isolationist and his belief that acting against ISIL is necessary. He also reflected on America’s need to invest in education, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and immigration reform to remain a leader on the world stage. He is optimistic about the current energy revolution’s enhancement of our national power.

The Harman Academy and the invited students were honored to welcome the General and Professor Geoffrey Cowan for this special event. More photos from the event can be found on our flickr page “uscharmanacademy.”