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Lecture series begins with Mideast talk
Victoria Hightower speaks to the crowd Thursday during the Great Decisions lecture. - photo by Jennifer Sami


This year’s Great Decisions lecture series is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday nights at the Cumming library branch, 585 Dahlonega Road.


• Feb. 2:



• Feb. 9:



• Feb. 16:



• Feb. 23:



• March 1:



• March 8:



• March 15:



Energy geopolitics with Anna Rulska, assistant professor of political science
State of the oceans with Nancy Dalman, chair of the biology department
Mexico with Tamara Spike, associate professor of history
Indonesia with J.T. Kwon, assistant professor of political science
Exit from Afghanistan and Iraq with Chris Jespersen, dean of the arts and letters school
Promoting democracy with Jonathan Miner, assistant professor of political science
Cyber security with Bryson Payne, professor of computer science and North Georgia’s chief information officer

When it comes to unrest in the Middle East, Victoria Hightower suggests taking a wait-and-see approach.

"This is not maybe what everyone wants to hear, but it is the best course of action currently," said Hightower, an assistant professor of history at North Georgia College & State University.

"Because revolutions take time to develop and even after new governments are formed, they can still be sites of serious contestation."

Hightower talked about Middle Eastern realignment Thursday at the Cumming Library.

Her presentation was the first of eight topics in the third annual Great Decisions weekly lecture series presented by the college.

"This is the biggest crowd we’ve had," said Jon McDaniel, director of the Forsyth County library system. "I think the word is getting out. Probably the people that went before talked to their neighbors, but it’s also a central location."

About 80 people attended the lecture Thursday, including Troy University graduate student Jarrett Cross. The "political science junkie" was grateful for the opportunity.

"This is something they’d have at either a graduate or undergraduate program and you’d usually have to pay for something like this," he said. "I think this kind of gives, in a layman’s standpoint, everybody a little overall synopsis of what’s going on in the world.

"It’s nice to get that insight … it’s nice that they do this to educate and bring people up to speed."

Despite the broad topic, Hightower touched on several uprisings around the Middle East, including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.

She talked about the revolutions and the individual movements, as well as what to look for as these countries work to create stability.

But that status is not going to happen soon, she said, particularly when divided populations can’t reach a consensus on how to rule or who should be in power.

"The future of Libya is uncertain and it will be unstable for a good long while," she said. "Many countries are going to devolve into a much longer struggle than we would like, certainly into civil war, and we’re seeing that happen already in Libya. And it will happen in Yemen, I have no doubt. And it’s pretty close to happening in Syria.

"All this will result in a ripple effect throughout the region."

She talked about the growing role and impact of women, which she said is "cause for cautious optimism."

Hightower’s lecture was based on topics set by the Foreign Policy Association, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring the American public to learn more about the world. Attendees were able to purchase booklets that accompany the lecture material.

For Vernon Kuehn, Thursday’s lecture was a continuation of last year’s Great Decisions. The lectures offer in-depth information without undisclosed bias.

"When you leave here, you feel like you’ve got the kind of picture of a part of the world that if you can go there yourself and study it for a while, you’d come home with the same idea that they share with you here," he said.

The series will continue Feb. 2 with the topic of cyber security.