When I left work for home this past Friday, it seemed to me that my backpack was heavier than usual. As I pulled out the papers and books, I thought of Foreign Policy magazine’s feature titled “The Things They Carried” in which they interview somebody and explore the contents of their backpack/briefcase. I thought doing something similar would give readers an insight into how my mind works. This is the result.
Starting with the four papers in the upper left corner, I’ve got materials on NATO. When NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave his first press conference, it happened to be during my Government & Politics class. I thought it would be a great opportunity for my students to watch the conference and discuss it afterwards, so what you see on top is the paper on which I took my notes. Underneath the transcript of the conference (which I printed off because I wanted to go back over it thinking I might write about it) are NATO’s Strategic Concept and an article by Franklin Miller and Kori Schake titled, “NATO’s newest mission: Conquering its generation gap.”
To the right of my “NATO pile” is my “EU pile,” consisting of “A New Ambition for Europe: A Memo to the European Union Foreign Policy Chief,” and two documents from the European Commission on the new Juncker Commission. I highly recommend the memo by Daniel Keohane, Stefan Lehne, Ulrich Speck, and Jan Techau, for anybody interested in the EU’s foreign policy. The other two documents, “The Juncker Commission: A strong and experienced team standing for change,” and “Questions and Answers: The Juncker Commission,” were useful as I watched the changes taking place in Brussels. For reasons I cannot explain, I find the EU (its history, institutions, foreign policy, etc.) to be extremely fascinating. As such, I am constantly learning as much as I can about it.
To the right of the “EU pile” is a stack of three reports relating to transatlantic relations- Atlantic Currents: An Annual Report on Wider Perspectives and Patterns; Transatlantic Trends: Key Findings, 2014; and The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: A Multilateral Perspective. The first two reports come from the German Marshall Fund, a think tank devoted to strengthening transatlantic cooperation. Out of the numerous think tanks whose websites I regularly visit, I find the GMF to be the most useful and enlightening. If you are interested in transatlantic relations, you should definitely check them out. The report on TTIP was just released, and given the importance of trade to the transatlantic relationship, I thought it would be wise to read it.
To the right of that stack is The Twitter Government and Elections Handbook. Given my interest in how politicians, policymakers, and diplomats use Twitter, I wanted to make sure I had a copy of this. It’s a fascinating insight into how Twitter thinks politicians and candidates for office should use Twitter. It starts out with the basics of setting up an account and eventually gets into topics like engaging and mobilizing followers. I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring this into my Government & Politics class but haven’t quite nailed down what I want to share.
Underneath that is a great article by Tobias Bunde titled, “Transatlantic Collective Identity in a Nutshell: Debating Security Policy at the Munich Security Conference.” This is the one paper I haven’t gotten to yet; however, knowing Bunde’s work on transatlantic relations (e.g. @FutureNATO and his essay on future generations of Atlanticists), I’m sure it will be worthwhile and useful.
Underneath that, in the lower right corner is my trusty, school-issued MacBook. All of my lesson plans, tests, and other school work is on this glorious machine. Next to it is my external drive, which I found out to be extremely valuable after all of the files for one of my classes mysteriously disappeared. The protective sleeve is usually home to a few stickers courtesy of my children. In the past it has been home to Bucky Badger, but now Olaf the Snowman graces the cover. I also have CD’s with materials from courses I no longer teach just in case I want to use a lesson for a current course.
To the left of that is the book Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age, by Steven Hill. Any time I read a non-fiction book, I have to take notes, hence the notebook underneath. Call it a bizarre quirk, but it’s important to me to jot down my thoughts and ideas/passages I want to remember. I chose this book in particular because I recently picked up a copy of Lessons from Europe? What Americans Can Learn from European Public Policies, edited by R. Daniel Kelemen, and I wanted to read the Hill book first. I think the U.S. has a lot to learn from European policies, but that’s for a future post.
The last pile in the lower left corner consist of four different assignments that need to be graded. All of them are either essays or short-answers. I try to do all school work at school (which is why I usually arrive two hours early), but I wanted to get as much done as possible before Thanksgiving break.
I know this may have seemed like a silly exercise, but I rarely share anything personal, and I thought this was a good way of doing so. Maybe it gave you insight into the way my mind works, or maybe it showed you that I need to clean out my backpack more often. Either way, one thing should be quite clear- I am passionate about transatlantic relations, and I hope to one day use that passion to maintain and strengthen them.
Thanks for reading.