Gen. Richard Myers to Give UI’s Borah Symposium Keynote Address

Tuesday, March 18 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho’s Borah Symposium will examine how World War I changed the face of modern warfare. The symposium entitled, “The Legacy of WWI: The Making of the Modern World” will take place April 1 and 7-9 on the Moscow campus and are free to the public. Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will give the keynote address.

“The First World War is a lesson in the chaotic and unpredictable nature of history. Something went terribly wrong a hundred years ago, which no one since has been able to explain fully,” said Rick Spence, UI professor of history.

In honor of the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, the symposium will look at how the introduction of technology changed the way battles were waged during WWI from previous wars, including the Civil War.

Lectures will discuss the impact of modern technology and old ideas of valor and idealism, which led to the greatest loss of life in recorded history up to that point. Young men and women were asked to fight a war they imagined from classical literature, but it was fought with new technology. The world watched as most of a European generation died or was wounded, leaving holes throughout European landscapes and people’s lives.

At the end of the war – they said never again. Unfortunately, that resolve gave way to a new ethos – ‘how can we fight war better.’ Additionally, WWI reconstructed the face of the world by creating new unstable countries that would be the source of future conflicts.

“The conflict of 1914-1918 wasn’t just a military contest. It unleashed ideological, national and economic forces which continued – and continue — to shape the world long after the guns fell silent,” said Spence.

The symposium opens on Tuesday, April 1 with the Renfrew Colloquium presentation entitled, “Commemorating Catastrophe: Remembering the First World War 100 Years On” presented by Jay Winter, professor of history at Yale University, at 12:30 p.m. in the Idaho Commons, Whitewater Room, 875 S. Line St. in Moscow.

Winter was a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and a lecturer turned reader in modern history at Cambridge from 1979-2001. He won an Emmy award as co-producer and historian on the eight-hour television series show on the BBC and the American PBS “The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century.” He is a founder of the Historial de la grande guerre, the museum of the Great War at Péronne, Somme, France.

The symposium will continue on Monday, April 7 with the presentation entitled, “Killing Franz Ferdinand: The Terrorist Act that Started a War and Changed the World” presented by Richard Spence, UI professor of history, at 1:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building Vandal Ballroom, 709 Deakin Ave. in Moscow.

Spence’s interests include modern Russian, military, espionage and occult history, and the history of anti-Semitism. One of his most popular courses deals with the role of conspiracies and secret societies in history. Many of his articles have appeared in Revolutionary Russia, Intelligence and National Security, International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism, American Communist History, The Historian, New Dawn and other publications. He has been interviewed on Coast to Coast and has been a commentator and consultant for the History Channel, the International Spy Museum, Radio Liberty, and the Russian Cultural Foundation.

Later that evening, Winter will give the Borah Symposium plenary address, “Legacies of the Great War on the Modern Era” at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Building Vandal Ballroom.

On Tuesday, April 8, Scott Minnich, UI professor of microbiology, will present “’Lest We Forget:’ Influenza, the Great Pandemic of the Great War” at 12:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building Vandal Ballroom.

Minnich received his doctoral degree in microbiology from Iowa State University. He pursued postdoctoral studies in microbial and molecular genetics at Purdue and Princeton Universities. His present research is centered on the molecular pathogenesis of Yersinia pestis and hemorrhagic E. coli. He serves as the course chair for the WWAMI microbiology and infectious disease class for first-year medical students and is the associate director for the NIH-funded Idaho INBRE program. From October 2003 to May 2004, he served as a subject matter expert with the Iraq Survey Group WMD Inspection Team headquartered in Baghdad.

The symposium will continue later that evening with a lecture entitled, “Impacts of the Great War on the Middle East” presented by Priya Satia, associate professor of modern British history at Stanford University, at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Building Vandal Ballroom.

Satia’s first book “Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East” won the 2009 AHA-Herbert Baxter Adams Book Prize, the 2009 AHA-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award, and the 2010 Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize. Her work also has appeared in the American Historical Review, Past and Present, Technology and Culture, Humanity, as well as several edited volumes and popular media such as the Financial Times, Nation, and the TLS. With support from the NEH and the ACLS, she is currently finishing her second book, “Empire of Guns: The British State, the Industrial Revolution, and the Conscience of a Quaker Gun-Manufacturer.”

The symposium will wrap up on Wednesday, April 9 with the Borah Symposium Keynote Address entitled, “The Changes to the Laws of the War and the Control of WMDs” presented by Myers at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Building Vandal Ballroom.

“The Borah Committee is very excited about having Gen. Myers come to UI to speak to our students and the university community,” said Spence.

Myers retired as the 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 1, 2005, after serving 40 years in the U.S. Air Force. During his term as chairman, he served as principal military adviser to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council. Myers led the U.S. Armed Forces during a time of great threat to the nation’s security. He began his term just a few weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and was instrumental in guiding the U.S. strategy for the War on Terrorism.

He holds a Bachelors of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a Masters of Business Administration from Auburn University. He attended Air Command and Staff College, the Army War College, and the Program for Senior Executives in National and International Security at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. For more information on Myers, visit

The Borah Symposium honors the legacy of former U.S. Idaho Senator William Edgar Borah by considering the causes of war and the conditions necessary for peace in an international context. Themes and speakers for the annual events are selected by the faculty-student Borah Foundation committee, with administrative and fiscal support provided by the staff of the Martin Institute. Each symposium adopts an interdisciplinary, non-partisan focus in an effort to reach as many members of the university and community as possible.

Since 1948, the foundation has sponsored an annual program devoted to understanding the causes of war and the conditions for establishing a lasting peace. Many well-known speakers have addressed the annual symposium over the years including: Frank Church, Les Aspin, Thurgood Marshall, Benjamin Spock, Philip Habib, Al Gore Sr., William Kuntsler, Eugene McCarthy, Frances Moore-Lappe, Betty Williams, Andrei Codrescu, Stephen Jay Gould, Arun Gandhi, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Oscar Arias, and Johann Olav Koss

For more information about the Borah Symposium, visit

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