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Obama’s chief speechwriter diagnoses rising authoritarianism in the changing world order

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Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University
Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama joins Mai'a K. Davis Cross, the Edward W. Brooke professor of political science and international affairs, at the Civic Experience discussion in Northeastern’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex on Monday, September 20, 2021.

Former president Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter Ben Rhodes, who traveled the world with the 44th president and was involved in some of the administration’s biggest foreign policy decisions, stopped at Northeastern Monday evening to share insights about the breakdown of the traditional liberal world order.

Rhodes, in front of a packed audience of students in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex for the annual Civic Experience speaker series, recounted an anecdote involving him and Obama in 2017 when the two were staying at a hotel in Shanghai. Obama was no longer president at the time and was succeeded in the Oval Office by Donald Trump.

“Some Chinese officials wanted to come see me,” Rhodes recalled, “to basically warn me that Obama should not meet with the Dalai Lama on his upcoming trip to India.” Rhodes said that what he found disconcerting was that no meeting between the two had been publicly announced. Beijing brands the current Dalai Lama, exiled in India, as a separatist and instead recognizes someone else as the highest religious figure in Tibet.

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