Announcing the 2022 Symposium on Democracy

“Why Democracies Fail,” the theme of the 2022 Symposium on Democracy, will prompt a broad exploration of the challenges entailed in sustaining democracy, freedom and human rights in the United States and internationally. Some topics to consider in relation to this theme include: free and fair elections; the role of education in preparing citizens to participate in the democratic process; declining public trust of institutions; women and minorities being disenfranchised and how they are able to participate. These are just a few topics to consider. Read more questions related to this year’s theme.

The first confirmed session is entitled, “The Fall of Democracy in Afghanistan: First-Hand Perspectives.” The withdrawal of the United States from Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 20021 brought an end to a 20-year effort by the U.S. to establish a democratic Afghan republic. Was this a failure of democracy, an ill-conceived attempt at nation-building, or both?  What, if anything, was accomplished at a cost trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives? What does the future hold for the Afghan people, especially women, under Taliban rule?

This session will explore these issues from the perspectives of two women with first-hand experience in Afghanistan:

Shaqaiq Birashk was a policy advisor to the Afghan government in Kabul when the country fell under Taliban control. An Afghan-American who had worked in the country since 2017, she was among the last U.S. citizens evacuated from the city. Her story was covered by CNN, The New York Times and the Financial Times. Earlier, she was Assistant Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Colorado, Denver, and a BA in philosophy and political science at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Kerry McBride, W&J class of 1989, is an official with the U.S. Department of State who was on the team sent to Afghanistan in 2002 to re-establish the U.S. embassy that had been shuttered since 1989. She remained there for 13 months. Her postings have also included U.S. embassies in Bangkok, Thailand; Amman, Jordan; Ankara, Turkey; and Paris, France. Most recently she was called upon to assist with the drawdown of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. She was a history and French major at W&J and was recognized in 2021 with the College’s annual Alumni Achievement Award.


We are fortunate during these challenging times that generous funding for the Symposium on Democracy is again provided by the Guy Woodward, Jr. Foundation.

Upcoming Sessions