Past Speakers

Gordon Adams

Monday, December13, 2021

Topic: A New Approach to Formulating Foreign Policy

Dr. Gordon Adams is Professor Emeritus of International Politics at the School of International Service, American University.  He is a non-resident fellow of Washington-based Quincy Institute and a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center.  He retired to Maine, after a long career in national security policy-making and budgeting.  In 1983 he founded the Defense Budget Project in Washington, which he directed for 10 years, and which later became the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.  In 1993 he became the Senior White House budget official for national security spending as Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget, where he spent five years overseeing the budgets and operations for intelligence, defense, diplomacy, and foreign assistance.  After a brief stint as Deputy Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, he taught national security policy, institutions, and budgeting at the Elliott School, George Washington University, and at the School of International Service, American University.   

He has written, co-written, or edited several books on national security, including Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays for Its Global Role and Safety at Home (Routledge, 2010) and Mission Creep: The Militarization of US Foreign Policy? (Georgetown, 2014). He writes and speaks regularly on national security and foreign policy issue and has appeared in or on the New York Times, Foreign Policy, Responsible Statecraft, Maine’s own Maine Calling, and many other publications and media outlets.

 In Maine, Dr. Adams has served on the Advisory Committee to Refugee and Immigration Services, Catholic Charities, and the Program Committee for the Camden Conference.  He is also an active thespian, with eight years of experience on stage in Washington, DC and now seven years in Maine theaters, including the Camden Shakespeare Festival.  He has played such roles as Friar Laurence (Camden), King Lear (Studio Theater, Bath), and Hamm in Endgame (Maryland Players, Silver Spring).  He lives in Brunswick where he actively writes poetry, acts, opines, gardens, and tends to his cat.

Richard J. Kessler

Monday, November 8, 2021

Topic: The Effect of Congressional Polarization on Foreign Affairs

Dr. Richard Kessler served in a variety of senior professional positions in Congress for 25 years, retiring in 2014 as staff director of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  He also served as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  He is one of the few people to have served in both the House and the Senate as a committee staff director.

As staff director of two major congressional committees, he managed a multi-million dollar administrative budget and directed legislative and oversight programs. In the Senate, this included oversight of the Homeland Security Department and all government agencies, including the Office of Personnel Management, and critical issues such as cybersecurity and counterterrorism.  The House Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight and legislation relating to foreign policy, foreign assistance, public diplomacy, and export controls. Under his guidance, the Committee passed a State Department Authorization bill and designed a major overhaul of foreign aid and export control legislation. He has negotiated with senior elected and appointed officials in the U.S. and foreign governments, and with private sector and civil society representatives.

Richard was also a subcommittee staff director on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee responsible for the Federal workforce and a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on the House International Relations Committee where he was responsible for East Asia, the Pacific, South Asia, and UN peacekeeping policy issues.  Before joining the Senate staff, he was a Senior Associate at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and co-directed an energy study at the Center for International and Strategic Studies.  While conducting his doctoral research, Richard was a research Associate at the University of the Philippines, and wrote on West African politics while living in Senegal.  Richard has published extensively in academic journals, in newspapers and books, and appeared as an expert commentator on numerous television and radio programs. He has been a consultant to a number of government and private organizations, including USAID.

Richard earned a MA, MALD and a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School, Tufts University, with a concentration on international development studies. He has a BA in French from Colgate University.  He served with the U.S.  Army in Vietnam as an Area Intelligence Specialist and received a Bronze Star and was an Instructor at the US Army Intelligence School in Fort Huachuca, AZ.  He has lived in Europe, Vietnam, Senegal, and the Philippines.

He serves on the Board of Internews and on the Maine Advisory Committee for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.  Richard lives in Bath, Maine with his wife where he is President of the local library and serves as Chair of the Sagadahoc Democratic Party.

Mitchell Zuckoff

Monday, October 11, 2021

Topic: Twenty Years after 9/11 - Lessons and Legacies of the Attack

Mitchell Zuckoff is the Sumner M. Redstone Professor of Narrative Studies at Boston University and the author of eight nonfiction books.

His most recent book is the New York Times bestselling Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11. Zuckoff’s previous book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller and the basis of the movie 13 Hours from Paramount Pictures. His books Frozen in Time and Lost in Shangri-La also were New York Times bestsellers. Lost In Shangri-La received the Winship/PEN New England Award for Nonfiction. He has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and numerous other publications.

As a member of The Boston Globe Spotlight Team, Zuckoff was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. As a national special projects reporter, he wrote the lead news story for the Globe on 9/11 and led a team of journalists who wrote about the attacks, the victims, and the perpetrators. His honors include the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award, the Livingston Award for International Reporting, and the Heywood Broun Award. He shared the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Award for Public Service.

Sean McFate

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Topic: The Future of War

Dr. Sean McFate
is a strategist and expert on international relations. He is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington DC think tank, and a professor at: Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, and the National Defense University. He is an Advisor to Oxford University’s Centre for Technology and Global Affairs.

McFate is one of the world’s leading expert on mercenaries. He is a regular consultant to the Pentagon, CIA, and Hollywood, and has appeared on all major news networks.

His career began as a paratrooper and officer in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He served under Stan McChrystal and David Petraeus, and graduated from elite training programs, such as Jungle Warfare School in Panama. He was also a Jump Master.

McFate then became a private military contractor and paramilitary. Among his many experiences, he dealt with African warlords, raised armies for U.S. interest, rode with armed groups in the Sahara, conducted strategic reconnaissance for the extractive industry, transacted arms deals in Eastern Europe, and helped prevent an impending genocide in central Africa.

In the world of international business, McFate was a Vice President at TD International, a boutique political risk consulting firm with offices in Washington, Houston, Singapore and Zurich. Additionally, he was a program manager at DynCorp International, a consultant at BearingPoint (now Deloitte Consulting), and an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton.

McFate authored The New Rules of War: How America Can Win—Against Russia, China, and Other Threats (Morrow), hailed as the “The Freakonomics of modern warfare.” It was named a “Book of the Year” by The Economist and is included on West Point’s “Commandant’s Reading List.” Admiral Jim Stavridis, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, said: “Sean McFate is a new Sun Tzu.” The book has been translated into several languages, and in the U.K is titled: Goliath: Why the West Doesn’t Win Wars. And What We Need to Do About It (Penguin).

McFate also authored The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (Oxford Univ Press), which Foreign
Affairs called “essential reading.” McFate is also a successful novelist, and his fiction has been translated into multiple languages. The Tom Locke Series is based on his own military experiences, and #1 New York Times bestselling author James Patterson said: “Sean McFate just might be the next Tom Clancy, only I think he’s even better.” Additionally, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Hill, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Politico, Daily Beast, Vice Magazine, War on the Rocks, Military Review and African Affairs. He has appeared on CNN’s Amanpour, Morning Joe, Fox and Friends, MSNBC, Fox, CBS, Sky News, NPR, BBC, WSJ, FT, Economist, Vice/HBO, The Discovery Channel, and The History Channel. As a scholar, he has published 18 academic articles, and two monographs for the U.S. Department of Defense.

At age 18, McFate backpacked around the world solo for a year with only $400, learning things they don’t teach at school. McFate holds a BA from Brown University, MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics (LSE). He was also a Fellow at Oxford. McFate lives in Washington, DC. For more information, see


Upcoming Speakers

  • May 6, 2024
    Matt Goodwin
    Topic: Brexit, Trump, Le Pen and the Rise of National Populism
  • May 20, 2024
    Robert Einhorn
    Topic: Are We Heading Toward a World with Many Nuclear-armed States?
  • June 10, 2024
    Jack Goldsmith
    Topic: The Pros and Cons of Proposed Changes to the Israeli Court System
  • July 29, 2024
    Dr. Elizabeth Cameron
    Topic: Global Health and Pandemics
  • September 9, 2024
    John Lee
    Topic: Indo-Pacific Security

Past Speakers