The Cal Poly Performing Arts Center will welcome General Stanley McChrystal and his lecture, titled “The State of International Affairs and the Security Challenges Facing America,” tonight in the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC).
McChrystal, a four-star general and former Green Beret, first gained notoriety for his leadership in Afghanistan and then for his criticisms of the Obama administration.
Director of Cal Poly Arts Steve Lerian said he has wanted to step up the level of speakers on campus for a long time.
“It’s been a project of mine,” Lerian said. “To bring in well-known people, people who are in the news, people who are part of pop culture. We don’t really get enough of that on campus.”
He said McChrystal’s presentation will hopefully start a trend of prominent speakers on campus.
Lerian said McChrystal will be well received on campus, and his presence will bring something new to campus that will hopefully raise a lot of interest. He said he hopes to draw people from all over the community — both supporters and opposers of McChrystal.
“He is a somewhat controversial figure,” Lerian said. “Some people are very enthused to listen to the lecture because they are pro-military, and some are very enthused because they are anti-military.”
McChrystal attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, and held multiple titles in the military, including his final as the head of International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He held the position from June 2009 until his resignation in June 2010.
McChrystal resigned after an interview with Rolling Stone, in which he openly criticized the Obama administration, was published. He said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the only one in the White House who knew what she was doing, and then McChrystal resigned from his position and soon after announced his retirement from the United States military.
Political science professor Shelley Hurt said McChrystal did the right thing in stepping down. If he had remained a prominent figure in the military, the armed forces would have lost more civilian support, she said.
“I’m an advocate for civilian control of the military,” she said. “Had McChrystal not been removed, it would have been detrimental.”
Hurt said she is very excited about McChrystal’s presence on campus and stressed the importance of learning about foreign policy for all students.
“General McChrystal has been very influential in foreign policy for a long time,” she said. “Especially as an innovator in Afghanistan.”
McChrystal pioneered a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and was famed for his leadership and innovative tactics.
The “Post 9/11” generation, as Hurt calls current students, are more inclined to get involved and are more politically aware. She said she sees students in her international relations courses who are passionate and devoted to work in public service.
“I hope those kids attend the presentation,” she said. “It is so important to hear from people who are on the front lines.”
She said students are at least subconsciously aware of the war going on. That awareness, she said, makes them more intellectually curious.
“A lot of my students are really interested in public service, whether it be in the government, police force or otherwise,” she said. “I think this is a very important lecture for them to attend.”
Political science freshman Nathan Billings said he’s looking forward to the presentation.
“After reading the ‘Rolling Stone’ story, I’m really interested in what he has to say,” he said.
Before attending, Hurt said students should be aware of the controversies McChrystal has been involved in.
“Students should know how influential he has been in shaping policy in Afghanistan,” she said. “And they should be aware of the controversy of U.S. civil military relations.”
Hurt said anyone interested in international relations or public policy should attend.
Lerian said he hopes to draw a broad audience from both on and off campus. Cal Poly Arts has advertised the lecture as a community event as well as a student event.
Student rush tickets will be available for $10 at 6 p.m. the evening of the presentation. For regular seating, visit the Performing Arts Center’s box office or call (805) 756-2787. Regular seating ticket prices range from $25-$100.
“General McChrystal is kind of a big deal,” Lerian said. “I really hope we get a lot of people to come out and listen.”