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The Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service

Spring 2024

Use the key word search function  at the left of this page to find specific events

Politics and the trickster 

April 18  

On Thursday, April 18th, The Foley Institute, along with the WSU Political Science Club, hosted author and activist Shepard Siegal as he spoke broadly about the Trickster character type. The trickster is a universal folktale archetype that commonly challenges societal values and beliefs. During his talk, Siegal spoke about how the Trickster can be applied to our politics.  

Siegal started the presentation by discussing local indigenous depictions of the trickster.  He then discussed the various trickster archetypes, from hero, to jester, to creator. Several examples across cultures were provided, including the white raven from indigenous culture and Bugs Bunny in American culture.  

Siegal went on to talk about ten character attributes of the trickster. A primary attribute of any trickster is that they are morally indeterminate, as they challenge established norms and live by their own compass—their main goal is to simply have fun and enjoy themselves. Tricksters also tend to transcend time, as it allows for a more objective view of the story. 

Applying the archetype to politics, Siegal spoke about how tricksters may not make the best leaders due to their boundary pushing nature. Additionally, because of their moral ambiguity, they have a difficult time taking strong ethical stances.  Historically, the political manifestation of the trickster came in the form of the court jester, as they could still play their trickster role, yet exert political influence on leadership. Tricksters are also effective at leading anti-establishment movements, as they tend to challenge the status quo and bring light to societal issues.  

Ethical Obligations to the Land: Perspectives from Aldo Leopold 

March 28

On Thursday, March 18th, the Foley Institute hosted Roberta Millstein, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Davis. Millstein spoke about Aldo Leopold’s concept of land health and its implications for our ethical duties towards the environment. She began by discussing Leopold’s background in ecology and conservation, defining land ethic as the preservation and enhancement of land communities’ ability to self-renew. Millstein then elaborated on her interpretation of Leopold’s ideas, focusing on his consistency argument, which suggests that just as we recognize the importance of ethical behavior between individuals, we should extend similar considerations to our interactions with the land. 

Millstein also highlighted the importance of interdependence, which encompasses both competition and connection among all living and nonliving elements within a community. She argued that even interactions labeled as “negative” or “positive” are crucial for the overall health of the ecosystem. She underscored the reciprocal relationship between humans and the land, highlighting how humans and their environment mutually shape each other. She concluded by stressing the interconnectedness between animals, plants, and humans, arguing for a deeper reflection on our ethical responsibilities towards the land. 

AI and the Courts

March 27

On March 27, 2024, the Foley Institute hosted Washington State Supreme Court Justice Debra Stephens who discussed how AI is impacting our legal system and our court system. 

Justice Stephens began the discussion by defining AI and addressing how it is currently used in the law. She cited some of the most prevalent mechanisms of AI use in the courts including drafting documents/emails, developing litigation strategies, and researching issues. She then touched on the executive order put into place by the Biden Administration which largely mirrored the EU in its efforts to try to categorize types of AI uses and the risks associated. 

Justice Stephens concluded by indicating the biggest concern in the courts right now is evidence being admitted that we don’t have adequate authentication for. She discussed that authentication is a step the courts will likely begin to require in terms of admitting such digital evidence. This will result in several consequences, one of which being the increasing cost of litigation.  

Man in the Middle

March 27

On Wednesday, March 27, the Foley Institute hosted Kenton Bird and John Pierce to speak about their new book, Tom Foley: The Man in the Middle. The authors discussed how Speaker Foley’s deep commitment to bipartisanship and institution building compares to today’s polarized and angry politics.

Kenton and Bird began their talk by discussing the story of how Tom Foley became a strong and driven leader in Congress. Throughout the years leading up to his election, Bird described Foley as a “terrific intellect” who spoke well and was charismatic. They demonstrated his commitment to bipartisanship by touching on several occasions where Foley conversed with individuals on both sides of the political spectrum. Speaker Foley’s involvement with Congress did not begin when he was elected as Speaker of the House. He was elected to the House in 1964, maintaining such positions as Chair of the Agricultural committee, House Democratic Whip, and House Majority Leader up until he was elected speaker in 1989. Foley was narrowly defeated for the 16th term in 1994.

Kenton and Bird continued by indicating the thesis of the book was to describe Speaker Foley’s qualities as a conciliatory leader. They said, “Foley was an institutionalist in that believed in Congress as a supreme, lawmaking body.” The authors concluded the talk by highlighting their 3 biggest takeaways in writing this book about Tom Foley’s career: (1) Foley is still highly respected by former colleagues, (2) the 5th District has become more conservative, and (3) partisan sorting makes it harder to be a moderate in Congress.

Lessons (Un)learned: The roots of Middle East violence

February 29

On Thursday, February 29, Dr. Lawrence Pintak from Washington State University, led a talk about the intricate dynamics of the ongoing violence in the Middle East. Drawing from his firsthand experience during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Dr. Pintak shed light on the broader implications and historical context surrounding the region’s turmoil.  

Dr. Pintak discussed the U.S. involvement throughout pivotal events, such as the invasion of Lebanon, and the subsequent ramifications of international and American accountability for the resulting atrocities. This has been echoed throughout modern history in the Middle East.  He continued to address Israeli objectives during the invasion, highlighting the dismantling of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), the expulsion of the Syrian forces from Lebanon, and the establishments of a pro-peace Lebanese government.

Dr. Pintak further discussed his encounters with violence in the Middle East by reflecting on the Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing of 1983, which he deemed was the birth of modern anti-American terrorism. Illuminating the human toll of such conflicts and violence, Dr.Pintak shared a personal story about his friend who was kidnapped and held hostage for 7 years. He concluded the talk by discussing the current state of Gaza, arguing that persistent exposure to violence fosters radicalization, potentially breeding a generation of terrorists. 

Election integrity 

February 23

On February 23rd, the Foley Institute held an Election Integrity Symposium at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. Secretary of State Steve Hobbs facilitated a discussion panel featuring Liz Howard from the Brennan Center for Justice and John Keller from the Department of Justice.  

The discussion addressed several critical issues surrounding election integrity as the nation nears the 2024 presidential election in November. Attention was drawn to a challenge faced by elected officials across the country highlighted the alarming trend of harassment and threats directed towards these officials, their families and their well-beings. Threats have been through mail, phone calls, and voicemails. Liz Howard emphasized the urgent need to address this issue and support the nation’s elected officials. She stressed that such behavior undermined the very foundation of democracy.  

Another key point of discussion revolved around the lack of public awareness regarding the intricacies of the election process in many states across the nation, but more specifically in Washington State. Many citizens remain unaware of the rigorous procedures and safeguards in place to ensure fair and transparent elections such as ballot counting, re-counting, and auditing.   John Keller emphasized the importance of educating the public about the correct processes, advocating for greater transparency and outreach efforts, and rejecting false claims about voting procedures such as voting via social media.  

Throughout the discussion, a recurring theme was the crucial role of civic engagement in safeguarding election integrity. Both speakers emphasized the importance of volunteering with election officials and actively participating in the democratic processes. 

Israel and Palestine: Understanding the conflict 

February 1

On Thursday February 1, Jacob Lewis of Washington State University facilitated a Q&A discussion panel with Dana El Kurd of University of Richmond and Avishay Ben-Sasson-Gordis, of Hebrew University. The discussion was regarding the recent events in Gaza. 

El Kurd, a scholar of Palestinian politics and the Middle East, discussed the relationship between Palestinians, Hamas, and Gaza. She emphasized that the perception many Palestinians hold of the October 7 attacks are feelings of a crushed civil society and a prevailing sense of disempowerment. Detailing the effects of the attacks on Palestine, as well as the history of Israel-Palestine relations, El Kurd focuses attention on the fear that the October 7 attacks were the beginning of what might happen in West Bank and Jerusalem.  

Sasson-Gordis, a scholar of Israeli politics and civil military relations, discussed Israeli interpretation of the conflict, as well as how it informs their response to attack. He spoke from a Jewish majority point of view, emphasizing the state of insecurity and rage they experienced following October 7. He also discussed Israel’s feelings of justification in terms of where Hamas has taken control and chosen to pursue this war.  

Rural Access to Justice 

January 25

On January 25, the Foley Institute hosted president of the Washington State Bar Association, Hunter Abell, and attorney with Carpenter, McGuire and DeWulf law firm, Rusty McGuire. They spoke about practicing law in rural areas of Washington State and how to improve access to legal services.  

Abell began by discussing the challenges of encouraging more lawyers to practice law in rural areas of the state. In particular, Washington State is home to several vibrant and industrial areas, where the appeal of practicing law is much stronger. Consequently, rural areas tend to have minimal attorneys, often as low as one per county. He emphasized that this results in a higher workload for such attorneys, as all cases in the area are delegated to them. 

McGuire continued the conversation by shedding light on the myriad benefits associated with practicing law in rural areas. He highlighted that many prospective attorneys overlook the financial and lifestyle advantages present in rural practices. The cost of living in rural regions is significantly more affordable than urban areas. Attorneys are also able to negotiate more competitive salaries as their practice is highly needed. Lastly, McGuire and Abell emphasized the invaluable aspect of connection with the community the attorneys serve. There becomes a deeper relationship with clients and a heighted sense of fulfillment in one’s practice.  

Bipartisan electoral reform and the 2024 election

January 22

On Monday January 22, the Foley Institute hosted former Washington Secretary of State, Kim Wyman. Wyman began her talk by acknowledging that going into the 2024 election, the United States is living in one of the most politically polarized times in the nation’s history. She addressed the importance of our democracy depending on an honest, secure, and transparent election process. This, however, is at risk due to such polarization. 

Wyman continued her talk by discussing the necessity of a seamless voting process. Emphasizing this point, she mentions early voting as a means for more individuals to cast their ballot despite their busy schedules. This will allow for a greater portion of individuals to participate in the 2024 election. She concluded by touching on the bipartisan support for voter ID laws so long as they are accessible to everyone financially and otherwise.