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Last Lecture: The Debasing of Our Political Rhetoric

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Jeannie Johnson ‘93 pioneered a new path in security studies called strategic culture, which examines how national and organizational cultures affect security policy and decision-making.

She witnessed the need for a new framework while serving as an analyst in the CIA and seeing how often decisions were made with incomplete information.

The assistant professor of political science at Utah State University flipped the model she co-designed “to look at our adversaries” and examined American culture for her doctoral studies. USU students nominated Johnson to deliver the annual Honors Last Lecture. She told the audience that the point of her research, like most scholars, is to point out missteps so decision makers can learn from past mistakes.

“Like you,” she said. “I have been observing with great concern our current practices with each other. The way we speak to each other, the devaluing and debasing of our political rhetoric and the way that we are tearing at the very fabric that holds us together as a nation. In so doing, we are doing more damage to ourselves than most any enemy could achieve.”

Johnson argued that we must critically examine our virtues as well as our flaws. “We have to name them. We have to recognize them. We have to acknowledge that they are there if we have any hope of preserving and growing them.”


Review overview