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A World Policy Legacy

by Walter Eberstadt

I have a theory that whether we know it or not, all our life we work for our obituary. Should any one bother to write mine, I would hope my involvement, as chair of the Advisory Board of the World Policy Institute from to 1995-2006 will get an honorable, or even prominent mention.

In 1991 Jonathan Fanton, then President of the New School, and Archibald Gillies, long term president of the WPI and president of the Andy Warhol Foundation, negotiated for the New School to acquire the WPI. Fanton saw a major opportunity for the New School. The WPI had a distinguished history as an internationally oriented think tank and its work would compliment the activities of the Graduate Faculty, the intellectual center of the New School, and its reputation and high profile would redound to the prestige of the New School. For Arch Gillies it meant well-earned relief from financial and workload pressure.

When Jonathan Fanton asked me to chair the WPI I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to get involved in the sort of stuff that interested me, a Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House albeit on an infinitely more modest scale. When I said yes I did not have inkling I would work at the WPI for over a decade, nor did I foresee the headaches along the way.

But we accomplished something in those years, maybe even quite a lot. We put together a prestigious board (no names, no pack drill, as we used to say in the army). We raised enough money to survive, and had a lot of good rewarding moments on the way. Some of our colleagues, such as Walter Russell Mead, went on elsewhere. Many stayed.

Sherle Schwenninger did much of his best work while he was on the WPI staff. To have Mira Kamdar as a colleague, and for two years as acting WPI director, was all one could ask for. Karl Meyer became a superb editor of the World Policy Journal after a distinguished career on The New York Times, and while he was with the WPI he published major history books, jointly with his wife. We had the good fortune of James Chace as our editor, a distinguished enormously likeable colleague. He died too young!

Bill Hartung's work on cold war and disarmament subjects was widely respected. Ian Cuthbertson with his Scottish burr warned about the dangers of terrorism. Ian Bremmer became increasingly influential on the emerging world while he built up a successful advisory firm for Wall Street bankers. Nina Khrushcheva was our Russian star. Martin Walker made the transition from British to American journalism.

Most of the WPI Fellows made their living elsewhere, but to be a much-coveted WPI Fellow enhanced their standing and the WPI atmosphere was beguiling. The offices were "sur les toits de Paris" on Fifth Avenue, reachable only by foot above the top floor elevator.

Our all-important links with the New School, alas, weakened over the years even though Bob Kerrey continued to be helpful in many ways, but the WPI has found a new lease on life. John Watts has been generous with time and money. Michele Wucker has taken over, and is building an even better WPI. Many long-term generous financial supporters continue to be generous, in particular Mary van Evera, a WPI founder, and Henry Arnhold, a New School trustee, and even I can't quite break the WPI habit

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Walter Eberstadt served as Chairman of the World Policy Institute Board from 1995-2006

[Photo of Walter Eberstadt, Senator Bob Kerrey, and Stephen Schlesinger at the World Policy Journal 20th Anniversary]

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