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Los Angeles Times on Warren Christopher's UCLA Class

Los Angeles Times on Warren Christopher's UCLA Class

"Perhaps, the young UCLA student inquired of her eminent professor, he might tell the class just a little more about his life and experiences?"

Leslie Evans Email LeslieEvans

The March 19 Los Angeles Times carries an article on the undergraduate Honors Collegium being taught at UCLA for former Secretary of State Warren Christopher. The class is sponsored in part by the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations andthe UCLA International Institute. The Times article, by Times staff writer Rebecca Trounson, is headed "Students Get an Insider's View of Foreign Policy." A link to the Times website follows. A free registration with the Times website is required to see the article there.,1,696728.story

Students, the Times reporter said, asked Christopher about his own participation in the events of his country's foreign affairs: "How about the time, for instance, that he helped negotiate the deal that won the freedom of the Iranian hostages? Or the time he had to persuade a suddenly recalcitrant Yasser Arafat to sign a crucial 1994 agreement with Israel? Or the time he emerged, shaken, from a violent demonstration in Taipei?"

Warren Christopher, the reporter added, "responded graciously to the student's suggestion. Of course, he told 19-year-old Katherine Collins, he could offer a bit more of his personal insights."

"But he said he wants to hear what we think, too," Collins is quoted as saying.

The Times described Christopher as "dignified, careful and as self-effacing as ever" and said that his course "could hardly be more timely, focusing on such international flashpoints as Iraq, North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

There are 20 students in the seminar, 10 women and 10 men, selected by Warren Christopher from among 130 applicants. He made his choices on the basis of a one-page essay each applicant was asked to submit. This is Warren Christopher's first experience teaching a college class.

He has chosen not to give lectures. "Instead," the Times writer says, "his students for the most part educate one another on topics they are assigned to research, with Christopher's guidance and gentle interjections." He opened a discussion of the AIDS crisis in Africa by describing his meetings with Nelson Mandela and his successor Thabo Mbeki. "He was impressed with Mbeki," the Times recounts, "with one exception -- the South African's position on AIDS. 'He was convinced that AIDS in Africa was somehow different, that it was caused somehow by poverty,' and not by the HIV virus."

The students, after a few sessions, became relaxed with their famous professor. "At the beginning, we were all kind of dealing with the 'wow factor,'" the Times quoted Michael Falcone, a senior majoring in political science and English. "You're dealing with this man who's negotiated the Iranian hostage crisis and is a friend of presidents and prime ministers. It's pretty daunting, but there's also something about his manner that's so welcoming, it really facilitates a good discussion."

Christopher has lived in Los Angeles most of his life. After his long government service he was served as a senior partner at the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers. The Times recounted how Christopher happened to accept the assignment at UCLA: "Talked into trying teaching by a friend, UCLA Vice Provost Geoffrey Garrett, Christopher said he found it 'very exciting to be around people who are this young and this able.' He said he hopes several might pursue foreign policy careers. But Christopher, who taught the class gratis, said he would 'wait for the reviews' before deciding whether to teach again. 'I want to see if the format accomplished what I wanted it to, getting students to understand the real complexity of foreign policy issues,' he said."

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