Britton Bouchard recently found himself grappling with weighty questions surrounding diversity, representation and effectiveness in America’s armed services when he participated in the 67th Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
A political science major from Elbridge, N.Y., Bouchard is the third Le Moyne student to attend the prestigious conference in as many years. The theme of this year’s event was “Confronting Inequality: Wealth, Rights and Power.” Its aim was to facilitate a constructive dialogue between civilian student delegates and West Point cadets in order to better understand the challenges the nation faces in an increasingly interconnected world. The participants broke up into small groups to address a variety of issues, including global economic inequality, climate change, and democratization, and to consider how inequality, in all its forms, impacts U.S. foreign policy. The students and cadets then drafted a paper with specific policy suggestions related to their area of focus, which they presented to leaders at West Point.
The event was also representative of the increased profile of international relations within the department of Political Science. In addition to sending students to attend the conference at West Point, the Department has also brought several students to the Netherlands to learn firsthand about international justice at the Hague.
A Marine Corps veteran who was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Bouchard was assigned to the group that reflected on civil-military relations. Overall in their paper they found that the current U.S. military is not representative of society, either demographically or geographically. However, they concluded that “as more attention is paid to the budget and size of America’s military, and the employment of America’s military abroad is scrutinized, Americans can decide the composition and fate of the military, and what civil-military relations becomes in the next era.” There is an opportunity for civilian and military officials “to bridge any civil- military gaps that exist now or may emerge in the near future.
“Trust comes from transparency and moral, ethical behavior,” Bouchard said. “One of the things that we talked about is the importance of civilian oversight of the military. It’s important, in any profession, to have a second set of eyes. It promotes both communication and understanding.”
Throughout the four-day conference, Bouchard said that he was struck by the sheer history of the 213-year-old institution, whose graduates include Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas McArthur, and Ulysses S. Grant. As a veteran, he had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (shown with Bouchard above), who delivered the keynote address on civic engagement. Bouchard recalled that in their conversation Secretary Albright noted the particularly important role the Marines play is U.S. foreign policy as they provide the security for America’s embassies.
Bouchard said that he would carry the lessons he learned during the conference, particularly as they relate to equality and power, with him throughout his professional life. After he graduates from Le Moyne, Bouchard plans to become an attorney and to specialize in advocating for abused children.
“Unfortunately, people most in need of legal protection are those who receive it the least,’ he said.
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