University of Denver Students Sound Off About Foreign Policy in the Upcoming Election

By Megan Sehr on October 13, 2012

As the U.S. draws closer to the presidential elections in November, candidates Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are feeling the pressure to win over the majority of undecided voters. Opinion polls are predicting a tight race for the presidency, and American citizens are paying attention to policy statements about the domestic economy and the rising debt. For undergraduate students at DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, foreign policy can be the deciding factor in choosing the next president.

University of Denver campus, photo from by great degree

“With regards to voting, I lean more conservative on most issues,” said junior David Lunde. “But, foreign policy is so important that I’m still undecided.”

Korbel students are closely following the foreign policy statements of the candidates on the campaign trail, and they’re looking for a president that can best represent U.S. interests abroad. Lexi Dienstbier, a sophomore at the Korbel School, believes that a diplomatic and cooperative leader could improve the U.S.’s image with other countries.

“I feel like the world doesn’t have a great view of the U.S.,” said Dienstbier. “I think we need to focus on working with other countries rather than trying to be in charge of them. I think other countries are less willing to work with us or help us when we try to be the policeman.”

Will Trout, a sophomore at Korbel, agrees that the U.S.’s credibility overseas needs to be restored and strengthened.

“In the upcoming foreign policy debates, I really want to see the candidates answer the question, ‘How would you promote and restore American power and influence in the world?’” said Trout. “I think that’s the most revealing question for them to answer.”

Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been a big source of debate and it’s receiving heavy amounts of media coverage during this year’s campaign trail.  Both Dienstbier and Lunde expressed their concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, citing it as one of the biggest foreign policy issues facing the next president.  Trout, breaking from his counterparts, stated that promoting democracy in the Middle East is one of the most significant foreign policy decisions for the future president.

“I think we need to consolidate any gains made during the Arab Spring,” said Trout. “It’s very important that we capitalize on the spirit in the Middle East, and help these countries transition. We shouldn’t use a heavy hand, but we should promote democracy and good governance in the region.”

All three students mentioned the rise of Chinese hegemony in Southeast Asia, and believed that the U.S. will increasingly have to grapple with China’s rising political, economic, and military power.  Although they didn’t want to see a policy shift from the Middle East to Pacific Asia, they thought it was more important to reassure allies in the region and find ways to cooperate with the Chinese.

The students expressed a desire for a cautious, pragmatic leader abroad.  They said that the next president should analyze all the possible outcomes of a scenario before rushing into an engagement abroad.

“History’s power is inescapable,” said Lunde.  “Other people in the world don’t have such short memories like we do in the U.S.”

Trout agreed.

“I think the president needs to have someone in his inner-circle thinking about the things that could go wrong with his plans, so he can prepare for it,” said Trout.  “I don’t think a lot of people do that.”


Megan Sehr is a sophomore at the University of Denver, and she is majoring in International Studies and Journalism Studies with minors in History and Hebrew. She wants to go into international journalism, and is interested in Middle Eastern politics and culture. She loves writing, reading, poetry, Mad Men, and good discussions.

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