Congressional Candidate Dave Harden talks Ukraine with students

By Emma Russell
Student Life Editor

The WAC Democrats invited Democratic Congressional Candidate for Maryland’s First District Dave Harden to campus for the second installation of their “Coffee with the Candidates” series on Tuesday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. in the Hodson Hall Commons Faculty Lounge.

Harden is from Westminister, Md., but has “deep roots” in Rock Hall, which has been home to his family for nine generations, according to his congressional campaign website, hardenforcongress.com.

Harden attended Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. After graduating, he decided to go into the Peace Corps and helped build a junior high school in a small village in Botswana. He returned to the United States to earn his master’s degree from Columbia University in New York then attended Georgetown University for law school.

He later served as minister counselor in the Career Senior Foreign Service where he helped to solve “some of the most complex foreign policy crises of our generation in the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Africa,” according to his website.

In 2016, Harden was nominated by former President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assitance. 

Harden led a bureau that focused on global crisis response and political transition with a staff of over 1,000 workers and an annual budget of $4.8 billion. 

Due to his work in the position, in May of 2019, former President Donald Trump awarded Harden the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service, the highest award in Foreign Service for “sustained extraordinary accomplishment in the conduct of foreign policy,” according to his website.

Harden currently serves as the managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group, a law firm he founded that “leverages talent, technology, and capital to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems.” This firm works with the private sector, communities, and governments, and seeks to develop economic opportunity, promote trade and investment, advance security and stability, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the Middle East and Africa, according to his website. 

At the beginning of the event, Harden said that he was not going to spend the time talking about his campaign. Instead, he wanted to discuss “where we are in the world, and what it means for [the students].”

Following his background in foreign policy, Harden spoke mainly about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and said that we are “living in the most dangerous time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

“What’s different [about the Cuban Missile Crisis] was that was only for a short period of time…we are in a sustained crisis, and it’s dangerous, and there’s a possibility that it will reshape the world in very unpredictable ways,” Harden said. 

While speaking to the students in attendance, Harden emphasized the importance of having a liberal arts education when it comes to problem-solving.

“You’re going to be able to think about a changing world order, but a lot of the world won’t be able to, a lot of America won’t be able to, a lot of this district won’t be able to, so we’re gonna need you, with your liberal arts education, be able to understand, contextualize, and adjust to the world today,” he said.

Harden then led the students in attendance through an exercise where he tasked them with identifying potential problems within the political, humanitarian, and economic aspects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as what it means for the United States. 

“We’re gonna be smart and snappy and get you to think on your feet,” Harden said about the exercise. 

Politically, students identified possible issues with the Baltic States, Russia’s tension with Finland, a possible no-fly zone ban, and other countries’ energy dependence. 

From a humanitarian perspective, students identified the refugee crisis. 

Economically, students brought up countries’ oil dependence which led to a rise in gas prices and a lack of wheat, which leads to a rise in food prices.

As for what it means for the United States, students pointed out that blame often shifts to the party in power — in this case, the Democratic party — and how problems like high gas prices or lack of wheat can lead to solutions that are more beneficial to society, such as more accessible electric cars and more American farmers selling their wheat.

“The future, if we get it right, if we get leadership with vision and leadership with courage and understanding of the world, we can thread this dangerous needle and shape a world that has more hope of peace and prosperity than what we currently see right now,” Harden said.

Photo by Lydia Lee

Featured Photo Caption: Dave Harden, Democratic Congressional candidate for Maryland’s first district, speaking about the Ukrainian Refugee crisis currently happening in Europe.

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