Great Decisions
Educating young people about world events
Luncheon Lectures
Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, November 9th 2016

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 of Email

Dr. Katy Oh Hassig

Kim Jong-un's North Korea: Old Politics, New Economy, and Porcupine Policy

Dr. Kongdan (Katy) Oh Hassig is a Senior Asian Scholar at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA).  She was formerly a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Bookings Institution and a member of the political science department of the RAND Corporation and has taught courses at a number of universities.  She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Board of Directors of the United States Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, and she is the co-founder and former co-director of The Korea Club of Washington, D.C.  She is co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Sejong Society in Washington, DC.  

She received her B.A. at Sogang University and an M.A. at Seoul National University.  She subsequently earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  She is the co-author of North Korea through the Looking Glass (2000) and The Hidden People of North Korea (2009).  

Her recent articles include “The United States between Japan and Korea,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, June 2010, “Kim Jong-un Inherits the Bomb,” International Journal of Korean Unification Studies, 2011,  “Military Confrontation,” Joint Force Quarterly, February 2012,  “The ROK President of 2013-2018: Who Should Lead the Nation at This Critical Time?” The Journal of East Asian Affairs, Spring/ Summer 2012, “The Costs of Korean Division and the Benefits of Korean Unification of US National Security,” and “The Costs and Benefits of Korean Unification for the United States,” in edited books by Korea Institute for National Unification, respectively December 2012 and December 2013.    She served as the task leader for the US Government & Japanese Government to revise the US-Japan defense cooperation guidelines from 2013-14.  The second edition of her book, The Hidden People of North Korea was published in April 2015. 

All Things International
Wednesday, November 16th 2016

Lecture: Perkins Auditorium - Penn State Berks- 12:15-1:15 PM

Joby Warrick

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

Joby Warrick is a Washington Post reporter who has just won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for his book Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS. He will read from his book, answer questions, and sign copies in the Perkins Auditorium at Penn State University - Berks.

Warrick's reporting on international terrorism is timely and important. The event is open to students, faculty, staff and the comunity.

Breakfast Meeting
Wednesday, November 16th 2016

Breakfast Meeting - 7:30 AM - Goggleworks Cafe

Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Carl Zvanut

Engineers Without Borders

Engineers without Borders (EWB) is a national organization started in Denver by a professor who wanted his engineering students to become more internationally and socially aware.  The goal is to provide engineering skills to communities in developing countries to help them install sustainable solutions.  EWB was incorporated in 2002 and now has over 16,800 members.  The majority of the members are students, but there are over 50 professional chapters across the country.  The professionals take on more complicated and longer lasting projects and mentor the students.

Lehigh Valley Professional is the chapter to which Carl belong.  EWB has had a project in Sierra Leone for over seven years working at a secondary school providing sanitation, water and power.  Carl just returned from a trip last month.  EWB has recently started a second project in the Dominican Republic.  EWB is about to finish their current project in Sierra Leone and may be starting an additional project there.  EWB is funded through grants and fund raising, with a lot of money coming through Rotary.

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, December 14th 2016

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading

Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Captain Paul Tortora, USN

Cyber Security

CAPTAIN Paul Tortora, USN (ret), is currently the Director of the Center for Cyber Security Studies and the first Chair of the new Cyber Science Department at the United States Naval Academy. Paul recently retired from the Navy following a 26-year active duty career originally as a Nuclear Submarine Officer and then as a Naval Intelligence Officer. During his active service he served and deployed on two nuclear fast attack submarines, two amphibious assault ships, and a nuclear aircraft carrier, conducting various operations across the globe. His ashore assignments included Director of Training at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Command, on the staff of the Director of Naval Intelligence, as Naval Aide and Intelligence Officer to the Secretary of the Navy, and with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Paul is a 1989 graduate of the Naval Academy, where he majored in Mathematics, minoring in Spanish. He holds a Masters of Science in Management from the University of Maryland, and a Masters of Arts in National Security Strategy from the Naval War College. His personal awards include the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal. He is a recipient of both the National Military Intelligence Association's Vice Admiral Rufus Taylor Award for Intelligence Leadership and the Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton Award for outstanding leadership in Naval Intelligence. 

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, January 11th 2017

Luncheon Lecture - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Dr. Randall Fegley

Rwanda Rebuilding After Trauma

A political historian at Pennsylvania State University’s Berks College, Randall Fegley specializes in the study of mass trauma, especially long-term conflicts, gross human rights violations and prolonged disasters in Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan. He lived, taught and completed Ph.D. research in Sudan from 1980 to 1984 and has returned to work there and in other African countries numerous times. In November 2003, he received Penn State Berks’ Beaver Community Service Award for restoring schools in war-torn Kajo Keji County, South Sudan as part of a program of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem. He has been particularly active in the Sudan Studies Association, the leading scholarly organization on Sudan. Host of the SSA’s 22nd annual conference in May 2002 and a member of the association’s board from 2003 to 2007, he has also served as the organization’s president and executive director. As the coordinator of Penn State’s four-year degree program in Global Studies, he set up an internship program in Rwanda. His latest book is A History of Rwandan Identity and Trauma: The Mythmakers' Victims. His other published works have examined Rwandan, Sudanese, Belgian and Equatorial Guinean political history, the mythologies that perpetuate conflict; elections and governance in post-trauma societies; and the rehabilitation of former slaves and child soldiers. He and his wife Connie live in Berks County.

Breakfast Meeting
Wednesday, January 18th 2017

Breakfast Meeting - 7:30 AM - Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Tahara Akmal

Islam in America - My Journey as an Interfaith Hospital Chaplain

Tahara Akmal will talk about her role as an interfaith hospital chaplain and will share her thoughts about issues, including myths and misunderstandings, affecting Muslims in America.

Tahara serves as Manager of the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, and Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) Supervisor at the Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences in Reading, Pennsylvania. Tahara earned a B.A. degree in psychology with a minor in religion (ministry and leadership) from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. Tahara holds a M.A. degree in Islamic studies and pastoral counseling from the Claremont School of Theology, also in California. While completing her graduate studies, Tahara worked as the bereavement coordinator for Odyssey Hospice Los Angeles where she provided grief support to patients and their loved ones.

Tahara completed a chaplain internship at the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus,Ohio: her first year chaplain residency at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) MedicalCenter: and second year residency at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. After completing her second residency. Tahara remained at Hopkins where she spent four years training as a chaplain educator (CPE Supervisor). In May 2015, Tahara made history as the first Muslim woman to become certified by ACPE as an Associate CPE Supervisor. In March 2016, Tahara became certified as a Full CPE Supervisor by ACPE.

Prior to her career in chaplaincy and education, Tahara worked for the Islamic Information Service (IS) in Altadena, California as an Anchor and Segment Producer for IIS' nationally broadcast television program, American Muslim Hour. Tahara's media career also included hosting a southern California radio program, Islamic Perspectives and freelance writing for the MuslimJournal newspaper.

As a Muslim woman leader in the field of education and ministry, Tahara often speaks nationally about Islam and chaplaincy. She specializes in topics such as interfaith ministry, Islamic bio-ethics, end-of-life spiritual care for Muslim patients, and fundamental tenants of the Islamic faith.

Internationally, Tahara has addressed audiences across the globe in cities such as Rome, Italy; Jerusalem, Israel; Gaza, Palestine; Tokyo, Japan and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Since moving to Berks County in August 2015, Tahara has presented at local events at Immanuel United Church of Christ, The Highlands, St. Alban's Episcopal Church, The Islamic Center of Reading Pennsylvania, and St. John's Lutheran Church. In the fall, Tahara presented at the University of Maryland Baltimore's annual conference on religious, medical and ethical issues at end-of-life. Recently, Tahara was invited as a guest speaker for a class on "Islam in America" at the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.

Tahara is the mother of two sons and a daughter, and lives in West Reading, Pennsylvania.

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, February 8th 2017

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Colonel Scott Sanborn, USAWC

Drones - Past, Present and Future

COL Sanborn is qualified as both an Aviation and a Military Intelligence officer serving in a variety of assignments over the past 28 years. He has commanded at the company, battalion and brigade level and held multiple staff positions including Chief of Staff of US Army Cyber Command. His Pentagon assignments include HQ, Department of the Army G2, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and the Secretary of Defense’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force. Mostly recently, COL Sanborn served as the Chief of Staff of the Army Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security a national defense policy oriented think tank located in Washington, DC. COL Sanborn’s deployment experience includes: operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM as an attack helicopter pilot with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment; deployments to Albania and Hungary during the mid-1990s as the commander of a provisional/experimental Predator unmanned aerial system company in support of operations PROVIDE PROMISE, DENY FLIGHT, DELIBERATE FORCE, and JOINT ENDEAVOR; and, multiple deployments to South America in support of airborne ISR operations. COL Sanborn also commanded the 224th Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Exploitation) during a deployment to Iraq from 06-07 where his unit conducted manned and unmanned airborne ISR operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.  From 2010-2012, COL Sanborn commanded the US Army Air Operations Group, where his unit was responsible for the global transport of the Army’s most senior leaders, rotary wing transport of senior Defense Department leaders in the National Capital Region, technical rescue engineer operations, as well as the operation of Davison Army Airfield at Ft Belvoir, VA and the Pentagon Heliport. From 2012-2014, he served as the second Chief of Staff of US Army Cyber Command/Second Army as the command continued to evolve as the Army Service Component of US Cyber Command and the newly established Second Army.

COL Sanborn’s education includes a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics from the University of Iowa, a Master of Science in Computer Resources and Information Management from Webster University (with honors), and a Master of Science in National Security Strategy from the National War College. He is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College, the US Army Military Intelligence Officer Adv  Course, and the US Army Avn Officer Basic Course.

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, April 12th 2017

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Nooon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

David Satter

Putin and Russian Corruption

Satter was born in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago and from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar. From 1976 to 1982, he was the Moscow correspondent of the Financial Times of London. He then became a special correspondent on Soviet affairs of The Wall Street Journal. He is currently a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a fellow of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He has been a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In the 1990s, Satter wrote extensively about post-Soviet Russia. In an article in The Wall Street Journal Europe, April 2, 1997, he wrote: “When the Soviet Union fell… the moral impulse motivating the democratic movement had to become the basis of Russia’s political practices. The tragedy of the present situation is that Russian gangsters are cutting off this development before it has a chance to take root.”

David Satter is the author of four non-fiction books about Russia, It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past (2011), Age of Delirium: the Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union (1996), Darkness at Dawn: the Rise of the Russian Criminal State (2003), and The Less You Know,The Better You Sleep (2016).

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, May 10th 2017

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email
For PrePaid Reservations: Click HERE.

Dr. Jose Esparza

The Global Challenge of Confronting Emerging Epidemics: From AIDS to Zika, and Beyond


José Esparza is an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is also the current President of the Global Virus Network (2016). From 2004 to 2014 he was Senior Advisor on HIV Vaccines and Vaccines at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, WA. From 1986 to 2004 he was with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) in Geneva, Switzerland, were he coordinated an international effort to develop HIV vaccines. From 1974 to 1985 he worked at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC), becoming Professor of Virology and Chairman of Microbiology and Cell Biology. Esparza received his MD degree in Venezuela in 1968 and a PhD in Virology and Cell Biology from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, in 1974. He has published over 185 scientific articles in medical virology, vaccinology and HIV/AIDS. He is a member of the Venezuelan Academy of Medicine and serves in several international scientific advisory boards. He is also a vaccine consultant for several companies. 

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, June 14th 2017

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Ambassador Charles Ray

The Need for a Stronger Diplomatic Force - American Diplomacy at Risk

Charles A. Ray is a retired Foreign Service Officer who served 30 years in the US Foreign Service, and before that, 20 years in the US Army. During his army service, including two tours in Vietnam, he served in Military Intelligence, Special Operations, and Public Affairs, with tours of duty in Germany, Korea, Vietnam, and Panama, as well as posts throughout the U.S., and retired in 1982 with the rank of Major.

During 30 years in the Foreign Service, he was posted to China, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Zimbabwe. His overseas assignments included service as Deputy Chief of Mission in Sierra Leone during that country’s transition to democratic rule, he was the first US Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and was ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe. From 2006 to 2009, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs and Director of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. 

Since retirement from public service, he has been a full time freelance writer and consultant, and is the author of more than 60 books of fiction and non-fiction, including three books on leadership. He is a frequent blogger and contributor to several Internet news and content sites. Ray is also a photographer and artist, and has worked as a journalist and artist for a number of publications in the US and abroad. During the late 70s he was editorial cartoonist for the Spring Lake (NC) News, a weekly newspaper near Fort Bragg, NC. He was the first chairman of the American Foreign Service Association’s Professionalism and Ethics Committee. He runs a workshop on professional writing for Rangel Scholars at Howard University each summer, and has lectured at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of Johns Hopkins University, speaking on global hotspots and the History of American Diplomacy. He has also done consulting work for the Department of Defense on personnel recovery (working with the Angel Thunder PR exercise) and as an interagency subject matter expert during army unit pre-deployment training. 

Ray is a member of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the Association of Black American Ambassadors, and the American Academy of Diplomacy.

A native of Texas, Ray now makes his home in North Potomac, MD, a suburb of Washington, DC.