Programs are usually the first Thursday of the month from 7 to 8:30 pm October through May.

The purpose of Great Decisions is to educate citizens about issues of importance to American foreign policy and to provide them with the information to form opinions about the topics covered.

Pilgrim House has held a Great Decisions Program since 2007. We have found Great Decisions to be a stimulating and provocative learning exercise, and we encourage others to join us.

Great Decisions is a dynamic citizen education and discussion program, sponsored nationally by the Foreign Policy Association and coordinated locally by Global Minnesota. Speakers are informed and interesting observers of Foreign Policy affairs. We usually meet the first Thursday of the month, 7:00 at PH or via Zoom, and invite all to attend.

Each year eight issues significant to the United States’ role in the global community are chosen for discussion.

All are welcome to attend.

Next Program

The programs are currently via Zoom only. Information will be sent to current participants. If you would like to attend and don’t receive a Zoom link, email

May 2, 7:00pm – Science Across Borders

Climate change poses an urgent challenge and despite current efforts, the risk of “overshooting” the 1.5 degree Paris Agreement goal is likely. In this environment, should all options, including risky technological “fixes,” be considered? Solar radiation modification, which promises to reduce the surface temperature of the earth, also carries substantial risks, including regional droughts, flooding, and extreme weather events. Unfortunately, the effects (both positive and negative) of solar radiation modification, which is being researched by international organizations, global networks of scientists, individual countries, and private sector groups, cannot be confined to a single country or region. Who should decide on how to address the urgent threats from climate change?

Our speaker is Christi Siver. She was with us last year on the topic of war crimes.

Christi Siver is a Professor of Political Science at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. She did her undergraduate work at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, her Masters in International Relations and International Economics at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Washington. She teaches courses on international relations and international security. Her current research interests include international humanitarian law, military technology, and comparative law.

Great Decisions 2024 topics

Mideast Realignment

The United States and Middle East are at a crossroads. In spite of a reduced presence in the Middle East, the U.S. still has significant national interests there and the area is a key arena for global power politics. Can the U.S. continue to defend its interests in the Middle East and globally with a lower level of military and political involvement, or should it recommit to a leading role in the region? Climate technology and competition Will the United States and China, with other powerful countries following suit, approach current and future climate initiatives with an increased commitment to trade protectionism and nationalism, by various measures including trade restrictions? Or could a growing spirit of international accord develop to confront the “common enemy” of climate change?

Science across borders

Scientific advances benefit from collaboration between researchers, but what happens when material, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is controversial and important to a nation’s national security? Is there a middle ground between sharing information and denying access? How can we regulate cooperation? U.S. -China trade rivalry China’s economic rise and its current policies of increasing the role of the state in the economy have led U.S. policymakers to seek to deny China access to U.S. technology and investment. This is seen as a necessary corrective to decades of predatory Chinese economic policies. Is this a wise strategy, and how effective can it be?

NATO’s future

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has come under increased scrutiny, not because NATO troops are involved in the conflict, but because of its role in relations between Russia and its neighbors. Will expanding membership in NATO protect countries, or will it further provoke Russia?

Understanding Indonesia

Despite its large size, Indonesia remains virtually invisible to most Americans. But as one of the world’s largest democracies, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and as an economic driver of ASEAN, why does it fly below the radar? What are current issues in U.S.-Indonesian relations, and what role can the country play in Asia?

High Seas Treaty

Areas of the seas beyond national jurisdiction comprise the high seas, which are facing a degradation of ecosystems due to climate change and the increase in human activities, such as shipping, overfishing, pollution, and deep-sea mining. The recently negotiated High Seas Treaty, also known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty, will attempt to address these issues. How difficult will it be to convince nations to participate?

Pandemic preparedness

Looking back at the covid-19 pandemic, there are lessons to take away in terms of domestic and international policies. Although this pandemic seems to have waned, how can we apply these lessons to future pandemics? Will countries cooperate, and will a consensus emerge on how to manage global health challenges?