This October, the Patterson School successfully held its annual Fall Conference, despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic. Every year, the Patterson School invites a diverse group of leading experts to Lexington for discussions about key topics in international affairs. The conference theme changes each year, but all the meetings build on the Patterson School’s efforts to link scholars and practitioners, to convert knowledge into action, and to explore the full breadth of professional activities in diplomacy, international commerce, national security, intelligence, and development.
This year, considering the herculean challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the faculty selected “Black Swans: Preparing for the Unforeseeable” as our theme. The black swan is an extremely rare event with severe impacts which cannot be predicted beforehand. COVID-19 is certainly one example of such an event but there have been many others.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré. General Honoré served 37 years in the US Army, including as the commanding officer of Joint Task Force Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. Much of his career was spent in providing Department of Defense Support to Civil Authorities and Homeland Defense. Honoré became the commanding officer of U.S. First Army in Fort Gillem, Georgia, in 2004, where he coordinated the response to several hurricanes that struck the southeast in 2004. After Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, he was named commanding officer of Joint Task Force Katrina. In that position, he was responsible for coordinating the Department of Defense’s response with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Mississippi, Alabama, and his native Louisiana. Honoré received wide acclaim for his leadership and management of the crisis and was nicknamed the “Category 5 General.”. He retired from the military in 2008 and now lives in Baton Rouge. He is the author of three books, including “Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid!” in 2017 and “Leadership in the New Normal” in 2012.