Candidate Profile

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Diplomacy & International Affairs
History - General
Politics & Current Affairs
Travel & Destinations
Snyder was a diplomat with the U.S. State Department Foreign Service for thirty years. He served in Thailand, Iran, Taiwan, Malaysia and Austria, as well as in Washington. Among his positions was Director of the State Department Press Office and Spokesman, when he often delivered a televised daily briefing with reporters, and Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, where he directed work on nuclear issues in North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

After retirement from government service Mr. Snyder was President of the American Australian Association in New York, Executive Director of the Asia Society’s Washington Center and Director of Asia Programs at the Atlantic Council of the U.S. in Washington.

His undergraduate (Georgetown University) and graduate (Yale University) majors were in international relations with an emphasis on the history, politics and economics of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

For the past ten years Mr. Snyder has been a destination and special interest lecturer on cruise ships, private jet tours and Smithsonian Journeys land tours. He has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Australia and New Zealand.
The Mediterranean: The Sea at the Center of the World. As the center of the ancient world, the Mediterranean Sea played a crucial role in the foreign policies of the countries on its shores. This role continues with the rise of political Islam and Arab nationalism. This talk will discuss the historic importance of the Mediterranean and the political currents surrounding it today.

Spain: The Arab Conquest, Colonial Power, Fascist Ally, Modern Nation State. This talk will examine Spain’s pivotal role in the history of the Mediterranean world, Asia, the Americas and modern Europe.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: What Is It Exactly? The UK is composed of several disparate parts, often called countries. Exactly what was united to form the United Kingdom? England isn’t the same as Great Britain. Scotland had a long history of independence; Ireland didn’t. What about Wales?

Brexit: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid To Ask. What does the impending departure of Britain from the European Union mean for the future of the country, for the rest of Europe and for the world?

Ireland: The Tragic Emerald Isle. The history of Ireland is largely one of fending off domination by its larger neighbor, Great Britain. Even today, with the Republic of Ireland independent, a portion of the island remains a part of the United Kingdom. Have the Irish and the British reconciled themselves to each other?

Northern Ireland: Is it Irish or is it British...or a bit of both? An examination of the sometimes tragic history of Northern Ireland. Can this transnational state be viable in the long run?

Glorious France. The history of France is, more than most countries, the history of leaders with strong personalities: Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Louis XIV, Napoleon, De Gaulle. The French today view their nation as a reflection of these great historical figures.

Italy: From Rome to the Modern Republic. Italy was one of the earliest parts of Europe to be civilized, but one of the last modern nations formed. A look at the tumultuous history of the boot-shaped peninsula.

What is NATO’s Role Today? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed at the height of the Cold War to deter Soviet aggression. The Soviet Union has disappeared and many of its satellites are now members of NATO. But Russia once again threatens the West. What can and should NATO do in today’s world?

The Balkans: Why It’s Called Balkanization. The Balkan region has long been a case study for political and economic fragmentation. What has this history revealed and what are the prospects for the future?

Albania: Once Europe’s Hermit but Now a NATO Member. During the Cold War Albania shunned the West and later the entire Communist world. But now the country is a member of NATO and an active participant in Europe. How did this happen?

Turkey: Bridge between East and West. A secular westernizing state whose population is almost entirely Muslim, Turkey has looked to both Europe and the Islamic world. With the rise of world-wide Islamism, the country is changing internally. A bridge in Istanbul literally connects Europe and Asia. Will Turkey continue to do the same?

Oh Canada! A review of Canada’s history and politics, with an emphasis on relations with the United States. Why is the border between the two countries the longest undefended frontier in the world?

Russia: From the Czars to the Commissars to Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin has been Russia’s ruler, either as President or Prime Minister, since 1999. He could remain in power until 2024. He was democratically elected but rules as a Czar. What does he want?

The Russian Far East. Russia’s conquest of its far eastern territory has some interesting parallels with America’s 19th Century development of the western United States. Today both regions have immigration problems on their southern borders.

Russia’s Eastern Frontier: The Urals to Siberia to Alaska. Much of Russia’s history has involved expansion from its heartland around Moscow. Most of this expansion involved movement eastward in the 1700 and 1800s, and it extended all the way into North America in Russian Alaska.
Genghis Khan: The Man Who Conquered Eurasia. Genghis Khan, who conquered a huge part of the Eurasian continent, has a reputation as a fierce warrior and a cruel ruler. He was both, but he was also an exceptional administrator whose rule facilitated long-range trade and eventually led to the European colonial penetration of Asia.

Norway: the Viking Kingdom. Norway’s people have included the fierce Vikings and today’s peaceful Scandinavians. How did the country’s history shape today’s Norway?

The Arctic: Who Owns It? With the discovery of oil and and the recent shrinkage of the Polar Ice Cap, the question of which countries have the rights to these resources has become more urgent. This talk will cover the the legal issues involved and the upcoming competition among the countries bordering the Arctic Ocean.

The Great European Explorers. Despite its ancient history, much of Asia was unknown in Europe until the age of European exploration. This talk will review some of the exploits of the intrepid men who first ventured into the unknown for glory and riches.

Captain Cook: the Greatest Explorer. James Cook was perhaps the greatest European maritime explorer. He charted both coasts of North America, discovered Hawaii and many other Pacific Islands, ensured that both New Zealand and Australia are English-speaking countries today and even found a cure for scurvy.

After the Arab Spring. In the spring of 2011 tens of thousands of people took to the streets throughout the Arab world demanding greater political freedom and better economic opportunity. The optimism of those days has given way to the harsh reality that the Arab world is in great chaos now than ever. What happened and why? Where is it all going?

Political Significance of Islam. Islam, one of the world’s great religions, has in the past been a significant political force in the Middle East and elsewhere. We will discuss Islam’s political role throughout its history and look at its changing impact in today’s world.

The Gulf: A Political Crossroads. The Persian (or Arabian) Gulf occupies some of the most critical real estate on the planet. A huge portion of the world’s oil and gas reserves come from the Gulf. At the same time the Gulf is a dividing line between Shia and Sunni Islam, between Iranians and Arabs. What are the major political and economic forces at work in the region?

Morocco: A Different Arab Country. Both in its history and its current makeup, Morocco is significantly different from the rest of the Arab World. The country stands out with its unique ethnic mixture of Arabs and Berbers, distance from the Arab heartland and moderate monarchy. Morocco has weathered the ongoing changes better than most of its Arab brothers and is likely to continue on this path.

Egypt: Glorious History and Current Relevance. One of the earliest and greatest civilizations in human history rose in Egypt’s Nile Valley. Modern Egypt continues to occupy a significant place in the world, even more so after the events of the past few years. How does Egypt fit into the Arab Awakening?

The Barbary Pirates: Scourge of the Mediterranean. For over 300 years pirates from the Mediterranean coast of North Africa preyed on European shipping and coastal towns, stealing valuable goods and capturing seamen and residences to sell into slavery. The practice only ended in the early 1800s when European and American navies grew strong enough to suppress the pirates.

“Communist” China: Communist No More? China is a growing giant whose economy will become larger than America’s in the next 25 years. How did this happen in a country still under tight control by the Communist Party? Is rising China a threat to the U.S. and the rest of the world or is it a great opportunity?

Hong Kong: The Dynamic Democratic Chinese City. Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese control in 1997. But it is very different from the rest of China, with one of the freest economies in the world and a form of elected government. Dissent is not only tolerated but it flourishes. What does the future hold? Is Hong Kong a model for resolving the status of Taiwan?

Greater China: the Influence of the Middle Kingdom on the Rest of Asia. For most of its 3500 years of existence the Chinese empire has exerted tremendous influence on the cultures, politics and economics of its Asian neighbors. After a two-hundred year period of retreat, China is once again attempting to play a similar role throughout Asia. Will it succeed?

Taiwan: The Other China. The government on Taiwan today, the Republic of China, was the ruling government in mainland China until the Chinese Communists took power in 1949. While Taiwan acts like an independent state, the PRC claims the island as an integral part of China. Divided by deep political differences for decades, mainland China and Taiwan have in recent years worked practical ways of dealing with each other. What does the future hold for this unusual relationship?

China and India: Rising Asian Powers. China and India are potential competitors for leadership in Asia and even in the world. What does their rise mean and what are the prospects for the future?
Divided Korea: the Inchon Landing (or Pusan Perimeter) to the North Korean Atomic Bomb. A discussion of the history of the divided Korean Peninsula, with an emphasis on the recent past. The discussion will touch on the Korean War, the economic miracle in South Korea, the development of democracy in the South and the continued hereditary dictatorship in the North.

Japanese History: The Land of the Rising Sun. Japan’s long history is a source of great pride to the Japanese people. Although it borrowed many elements of its culture from China, Japan has remained a distinctly different country in many ways.

Japanese Politics: What Makes the Country Tick? For much of the post-war era, Japan was governed by a single party, the Liberal Democratic Party. In the past three years, the Japanese have experimented with new political leaders, with mixed results, including frequent leadership changes. Is Japan governable today?

Japan after the Earthquake and Tsunami. Japan, one of the most prosperous countries in the world and a major democracy, suffered a huge blow with the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. How has this affected the economy and the politics of the country?

The South China Sea: Whose Is It? With its hundreds of scattered islands and potential mineral resources the South China Sea is claimed by many of its neighboring countries. China claims the whole thing. This is a potential source of regional instability. How is this going to turn out?

Vietnam: Yesterday’s Bitter Enemy, Today’s Good Friend. The Vietnam War was a bitter experience for many on both sides, yet Vietnam’s relations with its old enemies are thriving today. Vietnam is a hot new destination for foreign investment and its economy is growing rapidly. The government in Hanoi is still controlled by the Communist Party, but the political system is opening up. How did this happen?

Cambodia: the Glorious Khmer Empire. Cambodia is a tiny country today and it almost disappeared before the French and British arrived in the region. But 600 years ago Cambodia was a great empire whose territory extended over much of modern Southeast Asia. The magnificent ruins at Angkor Wat reflect the glory of the ancient Cambodian Empire. What happened to that great empire? Why did the Khmer Rouge become so powerful and so terrible?

Malaysia: Multi-ethnic Success Story. Since its independence from Britain in 1957, Malaysia has thrived despite deep racial, religious, language and cultural differences. How does the country manage this? What kinds of lessons does Malaysia hold for other multiethnic states?

Brunei: Fabulously Wealthy Mini-State. As one of three former British colonies on the island of Borneo, only Brunei decided to become a separate independent country. The other two became independent as part of Malaysia. Why did this happen and why has Brunei been successful? A big part of the answer is oil. Will success continue?

Singapore: The Little Country that Could. Singapore first became independent of Britain as a part of the new country of Malaysia, but racial and political strife soon led to its separation and independence as a tiny island nation. Singapore’s economic success despite its lack of hinterland or physical resources is legendary. With remarkable political leadership Singapore has exploited its only resource, its people, in a way unmatched by any other former colony in the world.

Thailand: Bending with the Wind. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that was not a colony of the West. Thailand began World War II allied with the Japanese but ended the war as an ally of the United States and Britain, with most of the same people in charge. What is it in the Thai character that produced such political flexibility?

Indonesia: Awakening Giant. Indonesia is the largest country by far in Southeast Asia and has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. Since its independence in 1949 Indonesia has aspired to an international role commensurate with its size, but has not often been able to do so because of its economic and political limitations. Today, though, the country is a vibrant democracy with a rapidly growing economy, and it stands ready to become a regional and global leader.

Burma: Emerging Hermit Kingdom. Historically, Burma was a major power in its region. Since its independence after World War II, however, the country has been an international recluse, turning its back on the rest of the world. Burma (or Myanmar) is slowly emerging to take a more active role in Southeast Asia and providing new political freedom to its people.

Colonialism in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia lies at a crossroads between the great civilizations of China and India, yet neither of these great powers colonized the region. Instead, it was European countries that used their overwhelming political, military and cultural power to occupy and dominate the peoples of Southeast Asia. How did the colonial system develop and how did it end? What impact has the region’s colonial history had on the countries of today?

The Diverse Cultures of Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is one of the most diverse cultural areas in the world. Influenced strongly by the cultures of India, China and Europe, as well as those of its indigenous people, the region presents a fascinating, and relatively harmonious, mosaic of customs, religions and languages.

A (Very) Short History of India. The history of the Indian subcontinent is long and involves interactions among many of the world’s great civilizations. This talk will encapsulate that history and explain its relevance for today’s India.

Indian Politics: How the World’s Largest Democracy Functions. Despite having great ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity, widespread poverty and the world’s second largest population, India has remained a functioning democracy throughout its more than sixty years of independence. How do they do it?

Bombay: Maximum City. Bombay (now Mumbai) is one of the most complex cities in the world. Modern research facilities exist side by side with gigantic slums. This talk will explore the paradoxes of India’s most fascinating city.

The Indian Cultural Heritage of Southeast Asia. The countries of Southeast Asia contain a mosaic of different cultures. One thing many of them have in common is the fact that they originally came from India. We will examine each of the main cultural strains in Southeast Asia with an emphasis on the heritage of India.

Sri Lanka: The Violent Divide. As Ceylon, Sri Lanka had a relatively peaceful transition from British colonial rule to independence in 1948. But growing strife between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities resulted in 30 years of violent civil war that only ended in 2009. What does the future hold for this war-torn land?

Australian and American Histories: Similarities and Differences. Australia and the United States both are former British colonies that date their beginnings to the late 18th Century, yet their histories are dramatically different. What are the similarities and differences and how does it matter today?

Politics in Australia: How the Country Runs. Australia and the U.S. are two of the oldest democracies in the world. Both derive their political systems from Great Britain, yet they are very different forms of democracy. We will examine the Australian political system, with comparisons to America.

Native Australians and Native Americans: National Perspectives on Indigenous Minorities.
European settlers’ treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia and North America followed similar patterns in both countries, based on attitudes prevalent at the time of settlement. This was not a particularly glorious chapter in the history of either country, especially in light of changing moral standards. This will be another comparative look at the situations in both countries.

The Irish Experience in Australia: Who Was Ned Kelly? Irish immigrants played a much greater role in Australia’s early history than the Irish in America. How has this affected today’s Australia? Ned Kelly is an Australian folk hero (and executed criminal). Who was he?

Sporting Australia: Competition in a Sport-Mad Country. Australians take their sports seriously. They have won more Olympic medals per capita than almost any country on earth. Some of their games are familiar to Americans, but most are very different, even though Australians are found at the major league level in most American sports. We will examine Australia’s addiction to sports.

Is Australia an Asian Country? Geographically Australia is clearly a part of the Asia-Pacific region. Does that make it an Asian Country? For the last several decades a debate has raged in Australia whether the country’s essentially European cultural and political heritage means it is a part of the Western world or the country’s geography (and increasingly its ethnicity) means it is a part of Asia.

Australia and the U.S.: Separated by a Common Language and More. Australians and Americans get along very well together because both see many similarities between themselves at first glance. Yet both begin to realize that the similarities are not as strong as they first seemed. For one thing, the English spoken on the two sides of the Pacific can be quite different. This talk will examine the social similarities and differences between Australians and Americans.

New Zealand Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud. New Zealand was one of the last large land masses to be occupied by humans and one of the most remote countries in the world. Although now largely populated by immigrants from Europe and their descendents, the culture of the indigenous Maori has a strong influence even today. This talk examines the history and politics of this remarkable country.

Who are the Maori? New Zealand’s Indigenous People. New Zealand was the last substantial land mass on earth with human habitation. The country’s earliest settlers were participants in the great Polynesian migration. They still make up a substantial share of the country’s population.

Extraordinary Travelers: Taiwan, Indonesia, Tahiti New Zealand and Madagascar. The native people of countries as far apart as Taiwan, Tahiti, New Zealand, Indonesia and Madagascar all speak closely related languages. Their forebears were the most far-flung explorers the world has known, and most of that travel took place long before Christopher Columbus.

South Africa: From Apartheid to the BRICS. South Africa’s transformation from a stronghold of racial segregation to rising regional power almost defies imagination. This talk will discuss the formation of South Africa from the joint colonial experience of Britain and Holland, the development and eventual breakdown of apartheid and the country’s growing importance in the world.

The Colonial Experience in Africa. Africa was colonized by virtually every European country that aspired to control overseas territory. What characterized the rule of each colonial power and what impact have the colonial experiences had on today’s Africa of free nations.

The Dutch Colonial Empire: Americas, Africa, Asia. Most of the major European countries had overseas colonial empires sometime during their history, including the small country of the Netherlands. Although their empire was not as well-known as those of Spain and England, the Dutch had colonies around the world, including in the Americas, and their influence continues to this day.

Latin America: Three Cultures, Many Variations. What is Latin America? Its existence began in 1492 with Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World, and it has been developing ever since. The region combines three great cultures, European, Native American and African, in a huge variety of ways.

Brazil and Argentina Today: Comparing the South American Powers. Brazil and Argentina are the two largest countries in South America. They share many things in common: former colonies, immigrant populations, autocratic histories and democracies today. But their differences are profound as well. A comparison of the two countries helps to understand them both.

America’s Northern Frontier: A History of Alaska. America’s westward expansion in North America coincided with Russia’s expansion eastward. Washington’s purchase of Alaska in 1867 halted Russia’s expansion and directed America’s northward. A state since 1959, Alaska is unique in many ways.

The Panama Canal: The Real “Big Dig”. Long envisioned as a crucial short-cut for world trade, the Panama Canal was only completed a little over a hundred years ago. Creating the canal was a huge engineering, political and medical challenge. A major expansion of the canal is imminent, and a competing canal through Nicaragua is under construction. What does this mean for the future?

Mexico: Once the Center of the New World, Today in the Shadow of Its Northern Neighbor. Mexico City was at one time the capital of Spain’s Empire in North America and the colony provided the riches to make Spain a wealthy European power. Today’s Mexico remembers the glory of its early history, but lives with the burden of being the poor country on the southern border of the United States.

European Exploration of the New World. The age of European exploration, beginning in the late 1400s, opened the New World to Europe for the first time. This talk will review some of the exploits of Christopher Columbus and other intrepid explorers who first ventured into the unknown for glory and riches.

What Does a Diplomat Do? A retired American Foreign Service officer reflects on the nature of diplomacy. Drawing on the memoirs of diplomatic giants like Henry Kissinger, George Kennan and Richard Holbrooke, as well as my own career, I will discuss the grand strategies of diplomacy and its daily practice.
March-April, 2009: Tahitian Princess, Osaka to Singapore
October-November, 2009: Amsterdam, Papeete to Sydney
March-April, 2010: Queen Victoria, Singapore to Dubai, and Pacific Princess, Hong Kong to Phuket
November-December, 2010: Seabourn Pride, Singapore to Hong Kong, and Silver Shadow, Singapore to Sydney
February-March, 2011: Silver Shadow, Sydney to Singapore, and Seabourn Spirit, Singapore to Dubai
April, 2011: Ocean Princess, Singapore to Rome
October, 2011: Diamond Princess, Beijing to Singapore to Beijing
January, 2012: Crystal Serenity, Sydney to Singapore
April-May, 2012: Silver Shadow, Singapore to Tokyo
January-February, 2013: Silver Shadow, Sydney to Auckland to Sydney
April-May, 2013: Ocean Princess, Dubai to Venice
July-August, 2013: Sea Princess, Athens to New York
September-October, 2013: Silver Shadow, Vancouver to Shanghai
January, 2014: Nautica, Cape Town to Singapore
April, 2014: Silver Cloud, Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona
September-October, 2014: Insignia, Southampton to New York
January, 2015: Silver Wind, Singapore to Bali to Yangon to Singapore
February-March, 2015: Crystal Symphony, Hong Kong to Yangon to Singapore
March-April, 2015: Seven Seas Voyager, Tokyo to Singapore
November, 2015: Silver Spirit, Rome to Fort Lauderdale
January-February, 2016: Silver Spirit, Fort Lauderdale to Buenos Aires
April-May, 2016: Seven Seas Mariner, Miami to San Francisco via the Panama Canal
August, 2016: Seven Seas Voyager, Stockholm to Amsterdam, and Seven Seas Explorer, Rome to Lisbon
February-March, 2017: Seven Seas Navigator, Papeete to Phuket
August, 2017: Seven Seas Mariner, Vancouver to Seward
September-October, 2017: Seven Seas Explorer, Southampton to Rome
February-March, 2018: Seven Seas Mariner, Melbourne to Hong Kong
June, 2018: Nautica, Dublin to Dublin
September, 2018: Silver Whisper, Civittavechia to Fort Lauderdale