Former security adviser to speak in Camden

Posted Jan. 13, 2009, at 8:51 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — Brent Scowcroft, the man Time Magazine recently called “Obama’s Yoda,” will share his pithy words of wisdom with Mainers as the keynote speaker of next month’s Camden Conference.

Scowcroft is the former national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush — and is a perfect fit for this year’s conference on global leadership and the U.S. role in world affairs, said Jim Matlack of the Camden Conference program committee.

“I don’t think you could find a more distinguished speaker, or better-known,” Matlack said. “Scowcroft has always been an essentially brilliant analyst of foreign policy.”

President-elect Barack Obama has been consulting with the policy expert since the election, and the conference comes at a particularly relevant time, as the new president decides what course to take while charting his way through foreign relations.

“It’s going to take really hard work and thought and discussion and debate in the Obama leadership group,” said Matlack. “That makes the conference an overview at the beginning. What does the world look like for the Obama team?”

Scowcroft is no stranger to the Camden Conference, having spoken at the very first one in 1988. But the conference has changed a lot in the last 21 years, though perhaps not as much as U.S. foreign policy.

“Scowcroft may remember looking out and seeing 50 people,” Matlack said. “It was really very modest at the beginning. But because it was successful, it has grown, and its stature has gained over the years.”

People now can hear Scowcroft and other speakers in person at the Camden Opera House and streamed live to satellite venues at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast, the Strand Theatre in Rockland and the Hannaford Auditorium in Portland.

“I think it will be a real boost to inform a citizen perspective on the role of the United States in the world, and on the challenges we face as we enter the Obama administration,” Matlack said.

Other speakers include career diplomats, magazine editors, a former director of the CIA and the head of the International Crisis Group. But the roster does not include Ambassador Morton Abramowitz, who was pulled away on diplomatic duties, Matlack said.

International crisis and winter storms can wreak havoc with planning for the conference, but Matlack said he has high hopes for the February event.

“I look forward to hearing all of them, with no more drop-outs,” he said.

The conference will take place Feb. 20-22. For more information about the conference or for tickets, visit online www.camdenconference.org or call 236-1034 or 877-214-8579.

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