Introducing The Rostrum
The Forum’s New Home for Student Publications
December 11, 2017
These are interesting times to be a graduate student in international affairs. As we attempt, in the words of the diplomatic historian James T. Shotwell, to “read the riddle of the present hour,” it might be tempting to conclude, as he did, that “Few times, indeed, have experienced more widespread dissatisfaction with existing types of institutions or have witnessed more serious threats to national security and international comity.”
Today, roiling populism, resurgent nationalism, and rancorous anti-elitism are widely held to be straining or eroding existing institutions and once-broad consensuses—yet none of these trends are adequately understood. Over the course of the fall 2017 semester, these “dueling narratives” have been The Forum’s thematic line of inquiry, and we have been proud to present analytical essays and insightful interviews with experts, scholars, and politicians addressing and assessing the riddles, dissatisfactions, and threats of the present hour as they experience them.
Established experts are hardly the only people confronting these challenges, however. Evaluating dueling narratives, choosing which to believe in, and ultimately determining what to do on that basis is at least as much the province of current graduate students preparing to chart the course of our careers in a world in flux as it is of those currently navigating the shifting winds and waves of world events and intellectual currents.
For that reason, we are proud to launch a new section on The Forum’s website, in which—for the first time in our 40–year history—we will publish students’ perspectives on world affairs. Provisionally called Tʜᴇ Rosᴛʀᴜᴍ, it will, as the name suggests, provide a platform for our peers to add their own voices to the important conversations of the day, and to develop their own narratives as they “read the riddle of the present hour.”
Lest we write off that riddle as too difficult to solve (“wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” in Churchill’s famous phrase), let us return to Shotwell, who concluded on the basis of the dueling narratives of his day that “Such chaos in thought and uncertainty in action arising from the working of imperfectly understood forces combine to make the present moment peculiarly opportune for instruction in the fundamentals of world affairs.”
Since he spoke them over the first 21 Fletcher students at the opening convocation of The Fletcher School in October 1933, Shotwell’s words have continued to embody the raison of a Fletcher education. Eighty-five years later, perfect understanding continues to elude us; every hour presents its own instructional opportunities and riddles to be solved.
Like Shotwell, we believe it is “not without risk”—but no less essential—“to discern, if possible, what lies behind the screen of the stage of history today.” Like Dean Stavridis, we believe that it is important to “read, think, write, and publish” as history and our understanding of it unfold—during our time in graduate school and beyond.
Welcome, once more, to Tʜᴇ Rosᴛʀᴜᴍ. We look forward to reading what our peers write, publishing their perspectives, and hearing what you think.
Maria Selde, Editor-in-Chief, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs
Colin Steele, Managing Editor, Digital and External Affairs
Pulkit Aggrwal, Managing Director, Digital and External Affairs
Zareera Bukhari, Managing Editor, Print
Tom Carugatti, Managing Director, Business Operations
 James T. Shotwell, “The Task of Diplomacy Today” (1933)
Image courtesy Pulkit Aggrwal