The Lehigh-United Nations Partnership held its annual faculty panel in reaction to President Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations on Sep. 22.
Due to the pandemic, the panel was held virtually with over 70 students and faculty members in attendance.
The event was sponsored by the Lehigh-U.N. Partnership, Lehigh’s Student Political Action Committee and, for the first time, co-sponsored by the Lehigh University College Democrats and College Republicans. The Lehigh-U.N. Partnership was solidified in 2004, when Lehigh became one of six universities at the time to be recognized as a U.N.-accredited non-governmental organization.
Four professors from departments across the university sat on this year’s panel: Mary Anne Madeira, in international relations; Vera Fennell, in political science; Hyunok Choi, in the College of Health; and Frank Gunter, in economics. These professors were chosen based on their knowledge of global issues and were not asked about their political affiliations
Trump’s speech did not last long and primarily placed blame on China for the COVID-19 pandemic and its contribution to the global rise in carbon emissions.
“His chief target in this speech was China,” Fennell said.
While Fennell believes China was delayed in warning the global community of the coronavirus, she said Trump’s attack on China was aggressive and unnecessary. Instead, Fennell maintains that China’s delay had nothing to do with trying to harm the rest of the world.
“It had to do with the internal dynamics of the Chinese Communist Party and their reaction to SARS 17 years ago,” Fennell said.
Gunter had a similar reaction to Trump’s rhetoric against China.
“The opposite of love is not hate,” he said. “The opposite of love is indifference.”
Gunter pointed to how Trump is failing to be proactive in mending relations with China and pushing forward a global agenda.
Madeira had a different approach to dissecting Trump’s speech. She said every September at the U.N. General Assembly, the current U.S. president, as the host of the gathering, gives the first speech in order to take stock of the world’s most pressing issues and set the agenda for the rest of the conference.
Madeira believes this year’s speech was a “missed opportunity” for Trump to show a sense of global leadership.
“He neglects to lay out any kind of an agenda for specific initiatives that he would like to spearhead in these areas,” Madeira said. “This administration’s ignorance of why we would want to cooperate with the rest of the world on issues we care about is one of the most concerning elements of this presidency … This was a time to set America as a leader, and that was absent.”
The panel continued cycling through each professor’s reaction before shifting to the audience for a Q&A session..
Kevin Simons, ‘24, attended the event and asked about the president’s rhetoric. Simons noticed that Trump failed to acknowledge attacks on democracy nationwide, and he wanted to know if Trump was implying that countries don’t need to hold each other accountable.
The panel’s general reaction was that Trump is an escalator rather than a de-escalator.
“If Trump is re-elected, we’re in for a lot of global changes,” Madeira said.