Experts debate Syria at Fairbanks Symposium


Syria-32Even with a panel of top experts, no easy answers emerged during a discussion of U.S. options in Syria before a nearly full house in UIndy’s Ruth Lilly Performance Hall in October. “The Great Debate: Is Action in Syria America’s Least Bad Option?” was the opening event of the inaugural Richard M. Fairbanks Symposium on Civic Leadership, presented by UIndy’s Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives in partnership with Indiana Humanities.

Longtime Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, now director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, moderated the discussion among panelists Richard Lugar, former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and distinguished professor of political science and international relations at the University of Indianapolis; Doug Bandow, senior fellow, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C.; Joshua Landis, director, Center for Middle East Studies at Oklahoma University, and president, Syrian Studies Association; and Robert Zarate, policy director, Foreign Policy Initiative, Washington, D.C.

The annual Richard M. Fairbanks Symposium is supported by an endowment from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. More information on the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives is available at The second day of the symposium brought a series of discussions and presentations on issues facing local leaders, public opinion trends in Indiana, and the seemingly lost art of civility in political discourse.

Syria-21A keynote conversation between former Indianapolis Mayor Lugar and current South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (in Afghanistan since late March, fulfilling his duties with the U.S. Naval Reserve) marked Day 2. Other second-day highlights included:

—Young Guns Roundtable Discussion: Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson moderated a discussion with three Indiana mayors younger than 35: South Bend’s Buttigieg, LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo, and Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes.
—Debunking the Civility Myth: Historians James Fuller of UIndy and Ray Boomhower of the Indiana Historical Society explored the long legacy of incivility in U.S. politics.
—Behind the Scenes of City Government: Melina Kennedy moderated a conversation on how things get done in Indianapolis, featuring former deputy mayors Michael Huber, Mike O’Connor, Anne Shane, and David Frick.