Surprisingly, two former presidents from the region were chosen to launch the event, focusing on the topic of Managing Post-Conflict Transitions. The decision to have politicians mark the opening of this event was peculiar. This decision came as unexpected for two reasons. First, it is difficult for students to learn from politicians in a practical sense. Politicians are not known for being strong teachers and the messages they deliver tend to be carefully created and aligned with party politics. The second, and arguably more significant, element of politicians speaking at this launch, is considering which politicians were invited and which people or groups were left out. By inviting people that represent some groups, and not others, the symposium is missing voices and perspectives from the region that could contribute to a fuller understanding of the difficulties of transitioning.
The former presidents chosen to set the scene for managing post-conflict transition were former Croatian President Mr. Ivo Josipovic and former BiH president Mr. Ejup Ganic. Both men are engaging public speakers. Mr. Josipovic made many references to his musical past and love of film but largely stuck to a speech focused on his accomplishments while in office. For his part, Mr. Ganic shared jokes about asking the intervening parties during the conflict in the early 90’s for a doctor and their sending a priest, and with a smirk later referenced “Sex & the Grad” or Sex & the City in one of his anecdotes. Mr. Ganic broadly spoke about refugees returning and education but more as an ending to his lecture than a full topic. This would all be fine if the lectures had been accompanied by a more unguarded or unfiltered type of sharing about the transition in each of their respective countries. Both men, as former presidents and still very much public figures have given numerous interviews and just as many speeches. These can all be accessed via Google. What new can be learned from former presidents now if nothing new is being shared?