Charles Freeman, keynote speaker for the 2011 Camden Conference
Charles Freeman, keynote speaker for the 2011 Camden Conference
Charles Freeman, Nixon's interpreter on his breakthrough 1972 visit to China and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, promises to set an inquiring and enlightening tone that will continue throughout next February's Camden Conference on "The Challenges of Asia." Tickets are already on sale to Conference members. They will go on sale to the general public on Monday, November 29, on www.camdenconference.org and by phone at 236-1034. Dates of the Conference are February 18 through 20, 2011.

In the keynote address that opens the conference on Friday evening, February 18, at the Camden Opera House, Freeman will lay out the wide range of challenges that a rising Asia poses to the U.S. and highlight some of the challenges that the massive continent - home to more than 60% of the world's people - faces internally. While fluent in Mandarin, with expertise in China burnished during a stint as No. 2 in the U.S. embassy in Beijing and later co-chair of the U.S. China Policy Foundation, Freeman also served in Thailand and is likely to brush a broader stroke, encompassing India and the rest of Asia.

The ambassadorship to Saudi Arabia that topped off Freeman's varied diplomatic career coincided with the first U.S. Gulf War in 1991. His wide-ranging experience in strategic and military as well as economic and trade issues mirrors the enormous scope of topics other speakers will address in more detail in the course of February's three-day Conference in the Camden Opera House. Live feeds will stream the conference to satellite locations at the Strand Theatre in Rockland, the Hutchinson Center in Belfast and, for the first time, the Grand in Ellsworth.

"One way or another, in the 21st century, China and its neighbors will determine what the resumption of Asian leadership in more and more fields of human endeavor means for an emerging post-industrial world, including for Americans," Freeman wrote in 2007 in the online magazine The Globalist. "Despite the challenges of doing so, we have ample reason to try to understand China and other Asian countries as they are, not as our politicians and pundits prefer to depict them."

Conference speakers will include Indian-born economist and specialist in development and trade policies Pranab Bardhan; Chinese historian and diplomatic scholar Lanxin Xiang; the president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington and former U.S. ambassador for negotiations with North Korea Charles (Jack) Pritchard; and journalists Hannah Beech of Time magazine and Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic monthly.

The conference moderator will be, for the second year running, Nicholas Burns, now a professor of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard's Kennedy School, director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and faculty chair for programs on India and South Asia, as well as the Middle East. Burns served as undersecretary of state for political affairs from 2005 to 2008, the No. 3 position in the State Department. His first appearance at the Camden Conference was as a featured speaker at the 2009 conference on "Global Leadership and the U.S. Role in World Affairs."

For information on the full conference and numerous community events being held across midcoast Maine and as far Down East as Bar Harbor, visit www.camdenconference.org or call 236-1034.