A future, a world filled with possibilities for new international connections and many dangers were the topics of research papers presented Thursday night by 2017 Palm Beach Atlantic University LeMieux Center for Public Policy Fellows Jenna Wolfram and Nicole Freire.
Wolfram, a senior from Lakeland, Florida, presented about “The Effects of Cuban Immigration Polices”; and Freire, who graduated in May with a degree in biology, shared about the “Global Threat of Chemical and Biological Agents.” The event was held in the Helen K. Persson Recital Hall of the Vera Lea Rinker building.
Freire was supported in her research by Dr. Roger Chapman, an assistant history professor; and Wolfram was aided by Dr. Elizabeth Stice, also and assistant history professor. Both students also worked directly with former United States Senator George LeMieux, for whom the center is named.
“I’m getting a lot more out of this than I’m giving,” said LeMieux, chairman of South Florida’s Gunster Yoakley & Stewart law firm. “It is one of the great joys of my life going to these sessions with these students.
“It’s wonderful to see students have an epiphany,” he said, “and realize there is a larger truth about what they are researching.”
Wolfram said she had such a moment when she was researching her paper on Cuba-U.S. relations – explaining that she began the project very much in support of the U.S. embargo established in 1962 on trade and travel to the island nation, but now strongly supports lifting the restrictions.
“Cuba is on the verge of great change, and the U.S. should be helping, not hindering,” said Wolfram, a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in business administration. “The embargo doesn’t simply shut down goods, it shuts down ideas.”
Noting that the Castro brothers, who have ruled Cuba as a communist dictatorship since 1959, have outlasted 10 U.S. presidents, she said, “Five decades of failure is sufficient to call for a change.”
Still, Wolfram said she wanted to make clear that she is “in no way a proponent of the Castro regime” but that her research – which included a trip to Cuba sponsored by Senator LeMieux -- leads her to believe that a free flow of commerce and ideas into Cuba will do more to create positive change than continuing a policy that is “ineffective, outdated and possibly counterproductive.”
Meanwhile, the research conducted by Freire, a native of Mozambique, is starker in its appraisal of the future.
Rogue nations, failed states and terrorist groups with access to chemical and biological weapons “cannot be ignored,” she said. “They are the biggest threat to our national security.”
At the same time, she said, climate change and the ease of mobility through airline and other travel will allow natural pathogens – such as cholera, anthrax, Ebola and perhaps someday even small pox -- to spread rapidly and kill perhaps millions.
“Cholera is one of the biggest threats in tropical areas like South Florida,” Freire pointed out.
If we are not ready to deal with chemical and biological weapons, and with outbreaks of virulent disease strains, “we will have greatly failed our people,” she said.
Started in 2013, the LeMieux Center Fellows program is a course of offered annually to two PBA upperclassmen who select, research, write and present papers on a chosen topic of public policy importance. Fellows work directly with Senator LeMieux to prepare the topic for publication and presentation.