A year and a half after Barack Obama's historic election, can we still believe in hope and change?
In this lively session from the 2010 Sydney Writers Festival, three heavyweight America-watchers examine the unfolding legacy of the Obama administration.
Why has the "President for Peace" pulled out of Iraq only to increase troops in Afghanistan? Banks have been bailed out, but what about the people? Has Obama failed to live up to the lofty promises of his campaign? Or, were the expectations of a nation keen for renewal simply too much, maybe impossible, to fulfill?
The panel includes journalist Anne Davies and writers Don Watson and Christopher Hitchens. The moderator is Geoffrey Garrett from the United States Studies Centre.
Anne Davies is the Washington correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Anne covered the run up to the 2008 presidential election and has served as the Herald's state political editor and urban affairs editor, exposing deepening links between property developers and local politics. Her work with Kate McClymont helped win her a Gold Walkley for their coverage of the Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league salary cap scandal.
Geoff Garrett is founding CEO of the United States Studies Centre and Professor of Political Science at the University of Sydney. Garrett was previously President of the Pacific Council on International Policy, where he remains a Senior Fellow, and Professor of International Relations, Business Administration, Communication and Law at the University of Southern California.
Among the most widely cited political scientist of his generation, Garrett is an expert on the causes and consequences of globalization, American politics and foreign policy, and the impact of China's rise on the US and the rest of the world. He is author of Partisan Politics in the Global Economy and editor of The Global Diffusion of Markets and Democracy, both published by Cambridge University Press.
Garrett has been quoted and interviewed by leading media sources around the world and his essays and opinion pieces have appeared in newspapers and magazines in Australia, the US, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Garrett served as founding Dean and Vice Provost of the UCLA International Institute and has held academic appointments at Oxford, Stanford and Yale universities and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Garrett is a member of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations as well as the Pacific Council.
Garrett was born and raised in Canberra and holds a BA (Hons) from the Australian National University. He earned his MA and PhD at Duke University in North Carolina, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
Christopher Hitchens is an author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in 2008.
Don Watson is one of Australia's most distinguished writers and public speakers. He grew up on a farm in Gippsland, took his undergraduate degree at La Trobe University and a Ph.D at Monash and was for ten years an academic historian.
He wrote three books on Australian history before turning his hand to TV and the stage. For several years he combined writing political satire for the actor Max Gillies with political speeches for the former Victorian Premier John Cain. In 1992 he became Prime Minister Paul Keating's speech-writer and adviser and his best-selling account of those years, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart': Paul Keating Prime Minister, won both the The Age Book of the Year and Non-Fiction Prizes, the Brisbane Courier Mail Book of the Year, the National Biography Award and the Australian Literary Studies Association's Book of the Year.
In addition to regular books, articles and essays, in recent years he has also written feature films, including "The Man Who Sued God," starring Billy Connolly and Judy Davis.
His 2001 Quarterly Essay Rabbit Syndrome: Australia and America won the inaugural The Alfred Deakin Prize in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. Death Sentence, his book about the decay of public language, was also a best seller and won the Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year. It was published in the UK and the US. Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words was published in 2004 and continued to encourage readers to renounce what he perceives to be meaningless corporate and government jargon that is spreading throughout Australia and embrace meaningful, precise language. More recently Don contributed the preface to a selection of Mark Twain's writings, The Wayward Tourist.
His latest book, American Journeys, is a narrative of modern America from Watson's travels in the United States post-Hurricane Katrina. Traveling the railways and highways, he writes about religion, race, class, places, politics and people; the noble dreams and confounding paradoxes of the world's greatest democracy and superpower. It was published by Knopf in 2008 and again won both the The Age Book of the Year Non-fiction and Book of the Year Awards.