Dialogues are designed to bring students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in touch with their counterparts around the world and let the young men and women debate the questions of mutual interest. Connected via Internet, students talk about international and local issues facing people in different countries, explore their differences, and identify points of agreement. The exchange is facilitated by civic culture and social science educators who identify discussion topics, help students formulate their positions, and teach them to look critically at the pressing issues of the day. The dialogue questions and student answers are posted on the site of the Center for Democratic, the UNLV institution promoting civic education and civility in public discourse through research, scholarly exchange, and community-based programs. The first crosscultural dialogue addressed the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City that shook the United States on September 11, 2001, and the Nord-Ost Siege that lead to numerous casualties in Russia’s capital Moscow on October 10, 2002. Excerpts from this dialogue can be found here: “Dialogue on Terrorism: 9/11 & 10/23.”
Dialogue on Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
In the fall of 2019, students from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and University of St. Petersburg took part in the following dialogue under the heading "Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: Elective Affinity." Answers by American and Russian students to the questions listed below are posted this page.
Диалог о Дональде Трампе и Владимире Путине
Осенью 2019 г. студенты Университета Невады в Лас Вегасе и Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета приняли участие в диалоге "Дональд Трамп и Владимир Путин: Избирательное Сродство". Ответы американских и российских студентов на нижеследующий вопросы вопросприведены ниже.
The U.S. president Donald Trump is often compared to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The two leaders have publicly expressed respect for each other and sought to identify international problems that could benefit from their cooperation. At the same time, tension persists in relations between the United States and the Russian Federation on the issues of disarmament, engagement in Syria, and Russian interference in American elections.
Do you see parallels in the leadership style of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? What are the similarities and differences between the American and Russian presidents? Was Donald Trump justified in withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty? Has Russian and American government cooperated effectively in fighting terrorism? Do you think Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections on behalf of one of the presidential contenders, and if so, should it be held accountable for its action? Do you think Russia and the United States can cooperate despite their divergent national interests?
Обозреватели часто проводят сравнения между американским президентом Дональдом Трампом и российским президентом Владимиром Путиным. Оба лидера не раз высказывали взаимное уважение и искали возможности взаимодействия на международной арене. В тоже время существуют трения между двумя странами по вопросам разоружения, войны в Сирии, и вмешательства российской стороны в президентские выборы 2016.
Вы видите параллели в стиле лидерства двух президентов? В чем сходство и различие Дональда Трампа и Владимира Путина? Оправдано ли решение Трампа выйти из Договора о ликвидации ракет средней и меньшей дальности? Насколько эффективно сотрудничество России и Америки в борьбе с терроризмом? Вы согласны с тем, что российская сторона вмешивалась в американскую президентскую кампанию 2016 года с целью помочь одному из кандидатов, и если да, то должна ли она нести ответственность за свои действия? Насколько реальны шансы на международное сотрудничество между Соединенными Штатами Америки и Российской Федерацией?
Ответы (Российские студенты)
To judge how similar the leadership styles of President Tromp and President Putin are, we need to clarify what we mean by the term "style." In terms of Kurt Levin's theory, we can call Trump's style authoritarian in a rather extreme form. This American president is often rude, impulsive, disdainful of compromise, unwilling to listen to his aids. The Russian president's style can be described as more institutional and democratic insofar as he is apt to listen to different interest groups in his circle of power. At the same time, Vladimir Putin makes decisions independently, presenting "iron hand in the velvet glove." From the vantage point of the Weberian theory of legitimation, and with the full acknowledgement that we use "ideal types," President Putin prefers the legal-rational grounding of his authority. Since he remains in power for a long time, we can discern here some form of traditional authority with the elements of charismatic leadership in its modern – secular – guise that is maintained via concerted efforts of construction reflecting current politic circumstances. Trump's charisma, by contrast, is innate, reflecting his psychological peculiarities. Since he leads a democratic country, he depends on the legal-rational grounding as well, with the role of traditional authority minimized. However expressive and authoritarian, the American president is constrained in his authoritarian impulses by the institutions of his political system. The weakness of the counterbalancing forces is responsible for the growing authoritarian tendencies in the Russian political system. In addition to these institutional and psychological factors, we must distinguish the professional backgrounds of two leaders. Trump came to politics from big business, his family sporting generations of businessmen; Putin has a background in the national security services, and his family is of working-class origins. When it comes to foreign policy, certain realism is perhaps the most obvious similarity in the approach of the two leaders. Trump's decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty is rather justified, given his need to show the toughness toward Russia and the limitations this Treaty imposes on both sides in the world with the changing balance of power. I am less conversant with the issue of the Russian-American collaboration, but so far as the ambitions of the two countries in the Middle East, they belong to different alliances (if we can speak of the Russian alliance at all). Our side favors the multi-vector approach designed to achieve the balance of power in the region. While it maintains relations with the Persian Gulf monarchies generally affiliated with the U.S. interests, Russia stays in touch with Yemen and Iran, backs up Assad's regime in Syria, nurtures its ties with Turkey, while assuming a cautious stance toward the Kurds. Bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is evident in the fact that their intelligence services continue to exchange information. Regarding the Russian interference in the U.S. election, it might have taken place, if we talk about the spread of negative information about one of the candidates by the Russian side. I don't think Russia's culpability is a proven matter, since the competitive mass media and the advanced internet culture in the United States ensures that the public opinion is likely to amplify political news consistent with its biases. Cooperation between our countries is possible, albeit only in limited areas. As long as the Russian political system remains intact, public collaboration will be toxic for the American political establishment.
I see several parallels in the leadership styles of our presidents, starting with the authoritarian approach to government. Compared to other countries, especially European ones, Trump and Putin are far more likely to speak openly and bluntly. The two leaders face certain limits that the respective political systems and cultures impose on their decision-making power. We can assume Putin has more space for maneuver than Trump because there is no strong opposition in Russia capable of checking the president's power. Trump on the other hand, is pressured by the Democratic party. The two heads of states have developed different profiles. We can see this in the way both leaders present themselves in public. The American president is a showman, sporting nonchalance and familiarity with people around him. The Russian president positions himself as a national leader distinguished by his cold calculations rather than emotions. Trump is open to the world and is a daily presence on television and Twitter where he has a personal account revealing his family life. Rarely do you find reports in the press highlighting Putin's personal life. He has no blogs, no presence in social media – he is a closed personality compared to his American counterpart. Two things come to mind in connection with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This agreement seemed meaningless in the first place, insofar as it applied only to Russia and the U.S. Today, such weaponry is available to other countries such as Israel, Iran, Pakistan and India, which are not interested in joining the Treaty. That is why both Putin and Trump had a stake in terminating the agreement. The Treaty still has a value as a symbol of the end of the Cold War. With the international tension rising, the denunciation of the Treaty bodes ill for the future, especially in view of the fact that Trump took the first step in the denunciation process.
We don't know how many terrorist acts have been thwarted due to the cooperation between USA and Russia, although we know that the failure to cooperate get in the way of stopping terrorists. The Tsarnaeyv brothers' 2013 attack in Boston is the case in point. The same problem is evident with the fight against al-Qaeda and ISIS. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism in Syria, Russia and United States pursue their geopolitical agendas, supporting friendly power groups in the region. I am not sure Russia interfered in the American presidential campaign of 2016. I cannot exclude the possibility that Kremlin-sponsored hackers abused social media, but Robert Mueller's report did not produce an ironclad proof of that. Interference could also have been carried out by other agents unaffiliated with Russia. Even if Russia meddled in the American election, it is unlikely that such an interference would have been a decisive factor in the ultimate outcome. Since this can't be proved one way or the other, blaming Russia seems to be a politically motivated act. For all the disagreements, prospects for cooperation between our countries are real, even if not in the immediate future. Nor do I anticipate the significant worsening in the bilateral relations. America's number one rival today is China, an if there is going to be a rise in international tensions, it is likely to involve these two countries. In the foreseeable future the relations between USA and Russia should remain stable.
I see parallels in the leadership styles of D. Trump and V. V. Putin, as well as marked differences. The two presidents share authoritarian tendencies in their respective approaches to governance, show intolerance toward their political opponents. If Putin pretends not to know that the political opposition exists in his country, Trump attacks his opponent though mass media. Both presidents can be reckless in making decisions that bring in their wake global consequences (Putin's treatment of Crimea and Trump's odious decision regarding the wall on the American-Mexican border come to mind). At the same time, we should not overlook serious differences between Putin and Trump. The Russian leader comes across as an introvert who rarely interacts with common folks, doesn't participate in the social media, and is reticent in dealing with the press. Trump is the opposite – he personally directs the social media account, opines on different subjects, and he is capable of rendering sharp and odious judgment. Trump's decision to exist the Intermediate Missile Treaty is wrongheaded. His decision undermines the nuclear disarmament process that has been shaping up for decades. He is wrong, also, because the Russian Federation did not violate the Treaty. Neither country is effective in the fight against terrorism, as we can see in Syria where each nation pursues its geopolitical interests under the cover of fighting terrorism and the Islamic State. While Russia support Bashir Assad, USA gives a helping hand to the coalition fighting Assad. I don't believe Russia interfered in the American presidential campaign in 2019. Mueller's report supports this proposition. As for hackers' attacks from Russian IP addresses, these could have been initiated by third parties. I am skeptical about the prospects for the U.S.-Russian cooperation, a least in the short and medium run. Among the hurdles in the path of better relations are the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the annexation of Crimea, geopolitical quarrels in Syria, the political regime of Russia where the current elite holds the reins on power, and Russia's push toward closer relations with China which America sees as a rival.
Both leaders, Putin and Trump, pursue a rather aggressive foreign policy. Both repeatedly announced the withdrawal of their troops from the Middle East, yet their armed forces are still there. Moreover, their military presence in the region is growing thanks to the deployment of private and secrete groups. Bonapartism and populism are palpable in the actions of these leaders and is the concern about the ratings which they mange to keep up in spite of their problematic foreign policy initiatives. Appeal to the outside threats helps each leader to maintain their ratings (Trump portraits Russia as intruding in our affairs, while Putin sees America as bent on strangulating our country). Finally, both leaders reject socialism and leftist ideas as obsolete. The U.S.A. pulling out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty is rooted in its hegemonic intentions which meet resistance from the well-armed opponents like China, Iran, and North Korea. One can mention in this context another Treaty that the U.S. has renounced and that aimed to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions. Since these countries build up the arsenal of such weapons, the U.S. has little reason to keep its commitment to the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Joint efforts on the part of Russia and USA in fighting terrorism are of limited significance. Existing contacts are minimal, with the United Nations serving as a forum for international cooperation in this area. The United States and Russia are on the same page in fighting organizations like ISIS and Taliban. Americans support the Kurds, RF backs the government of Assad in Syria. But there is little cooperation between the two countries. The lack of cooperation explains the fact that al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, and ISIS are still undefeated in this region. Interference in the electoral process of a sovereign country is a serious infraction akin to a declaration of war. Such an act should be condemned by all countries and result in the imposition of sanctions and other diplomatic demarches. But the charges of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 have been circulated by Trump's opponents determined to discredit him. Indeed, Trump sought to improve the U.S.-Russian relations, but in reality, the two countries drifted further apart. That is why I consider baseless the charges levelled against Russia in this regard. The future of Russian-American cooperation remains uncertain in spite of the fact that the two countries continue to maintain close ties. Russia continues to export oil and other raw materials to America and receive various goods in return. The two countries trade charges of reckless actions of the other side in Syria and Iraq, interference in the affairs of other nations, and violating human rights conventions. Interestingly, Russian oligarchs prefer to keep their money in the U.S., which is understandable, given the 10% growth in the U.S. stock market in 2018. The elites of both nations strengthen their cooperation, with the Russian elites sending their children to study in the U.S. Some of the offspring even gain American citizenship. Still, there are obvious areas of disagreement, notably in Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuela. Recent meetings between Putin and Trump in connection with the world summits bode well for the future.
As I see it, the leadership styles of V. Putin and D. Trump are quite different. Each person is quite unique, each defends forcefully the national interests. In public, Trump reveals himself as a showman, relaxed, ironic, emotionally expressive, aggressive and vociferous. Trump is an embodiment of American society. He is a forceful personality active in social media, sensitive to the popular needs. Putin's MO is the opposite. He is old-fashioned, cautious, circumspect in public, emotionally withdrawn. He embodies power and authority. There are some parallels between the two leaders, insofar as each is quite unpredictable in the eyes of the world. It's too early to judge whether the decision to exit the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty is justified. The two presidents obviously acted in line with the national interests, increasing the latitude for future actions, but the consequences remain to be seen. I think that the two nations have been ineffective in combating terrorism, their collaboration has been minimal. I consider a provocation the charge that Russia interfered in the American election. Prospects for future collaboration appear limited, for Russia and the U.S. share few common goals.
Both leaders exemplify the democratic leadership style. Putin and Trump are concerned with their public image and prefer to surround themselves with ardent supporters. The American President is clearly a showman who likes to draw attention to himself and his family, while the Russian president is secretive, unwilling to reveal much about his family and daughters, his photos are not from family albums but from professional shoots. Trump's decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty will complicate the relations between the two countries, forcing Russia to suspend its commitment to the Treaty. In theory, joining forces in fighting terrorism is a good idea. In practice, such cooperation is complicated by the tension in the relations between the two countries. However, the prospects for the future in this area are good, as we can conclude from the success in the international efforts to cut financial bloodline of terrorist organizations. I disagree with those who think that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. The future of Russian-American cooperation remains cloudy. Disagreements about Crimea and nuclear disarmament will continue to complicate the bilateral relations. The situation can improve if the two countries pursue their shared interest in combating terrorism and promoting cultural and scientific exchange.
Answers (American Students)
I believe there are several parallels between the leadership style of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. For one thing, both have authoritarian leadership styles. Even though Donald Trump is more constrained by the principles of the U.S. Constitution, both leaders exhibit similar behavior, relying on fear and intimidation to push their own political agenda. Contrastingly, Putin chooses to refrain from social media use, which has become a staple of Trump's presidency. I think Trump was justified in withdrawing from the INF Treaty. Russia was not complying with the Treaty, and it was only serving to limit the U.S. advancement in a critical area of national defense. By withdrawing from the Treaty, Trump untied the moral burden attached to following a Treaty that an adversary wasn't, allowing the U.S. to develop a stronger nuclear forces for national security. No, Russia and the US have not cooperated effectively in fighting terrorism. To be frank, they have clashed more than they have cooperated in the War on Terror. Russia is currently allied with the Assad regime in Syria. The U.S. does not choose to work with the Assad regime, given their use of chemical weapons on their own citizens, as well as other human rights violations. The U.S. has engaged in gunfire with Russian private military contractors n Syria fighting on behalf of the Russian government on more than one occasion. There is credible evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Whether they did so on behalf of Trump (at his request) remains unproven. Russia has meddled in other nations elections before, so their actions are not entirely surprising. Holding Russia accountable would be difficult, as the people responsible would never be extradited to the U.S. and Putin would not admit to such an act. Provoking Russia militarily would not be warranted in this instance. The best course of action would be to prepare for future meddling and determine ways to counteract it. There are issues that Russia and the United States can and should cooperate on. I do not believe the degree of mistrust between Russia and the United States will go away anytime soon. However, it is important for the two nations to cooperate on issues like disarmament to avoid widespread conflict. Putin and Trump carry a heavy responsibility of ensuring these nations do not fall back to a Cold War era mentality of unstable diplomacy.
I do see parallels in the techniques that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin use to maintain, or attempt to maintain, control over their countries. Trump consistently undermines journalism that he either disagrees with or that he feels shows him in a bad light, regardless of the truth. His cries about "fake news" have become a point of irritation and a joke among many Americans. While most see through his ploy, it is a disturbing trend at the very least. Putin deploys a similar tactic in trying to control "legitimate news" in that media is controlled and regulated, thus reducing the chance that negative media regarding him and his country will even become an issue in the first place. Trump was not justified in withdrawing from the treaty. While some countries, such as China, appear to be amassing intermediate-range missiles, withdrawing from the treaty will likely result in negative consequences. Besides potentially encouraging other countries to withdraw and to begin building their own arsenals, the needs for such an action is not obvious. The United States has one of the largest, best-funded militaries in the world. Our spending on the military is off the charts, especially in comparison to other countries.
On the terrorism question, I will admit I am not well versed in the subject. America seeks to combat terrorism. After all, most of my life has been in the shadow of 9/11. Despite positive spins on the "War on Terror" in U.S. media, I feel it is mostly a lost war. The Middle East is still war-torn, with terrorist cells still holding ground. Americans no longer approve of having forces in the Middle East; it is politically unpopular for politicians to support this engagement, which is why we are disengaging. As for Russian involvement in the conflicts, I am a bit ignorant. I recall they had forces on the ground, but I am not clear on how large of a role they played. I suppose this says a lot about the coverage in American media. I do think that there might have been an interference in the American election, given Trump's connections and meetings with Russian officials. But the level of involvement is something I am unsure of. If there was an involvement, there should be consequences for the tampering, although I feel this would only worsen relations between the two countries.
I see some similarity in the leadership style of Donald trump and Vladimir Putin. Both can be classified as "strong leaders" and "successful men" willing to take bold, controversial steps to achieve whatever they deem necessary, sometimes letting their ends justify their means. While Trump used his success in private business to enter the world of politics, Putin dedicated his life to serving the Russian nation and rose through the ranks to power. These leaders have strong personalities and demand respect, perhaps Putin more so than Trump. Was Donald Trump justified in withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty? I think permanently leaving a monitoring arms deal with Russia would be foolish. "Trust but verify" is a wise saying, and this deal is good for both countries. I am hoping this is just a negotiating tactic in order to re-write terms that are more favorable for the U.S. to even things out. Has Russian and American governments cooperated effectively in fighting terrorism? Yes, but only in terms of preventing attacks on each other. However, issues of terrorism still very much exist in the Middle East. The U.S. and Russia have been at odds about what to do with that situation. But I have seen reports about the U.S. sharing terrorist information with Russia when a possible attack might happen on Russian soil, and vice versa. So far as the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, I think some Russian hackers used internet propaganda in an attempt to aid in a victory for Donald Trump because they knew Trump would be more willing to work with Russia. That's probably what happened. Did they manage to swing the election for Trump? Certainly not. Some meddling was going on, to be sure, but not enough to secure a victory for Trump. As for the U.S. and Russian cooperation, the two countries should continue to cooperate because they are huge world powers. It is better for both nations to work together as allies rather than against each other as enemies.
There are similarities between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in a sense that both leaders are corrupt. Vladimir Putin uses brutal force to prevents Russian citizens from rising against him. Not only that, he often disposes of his political opponents who try to expose his corrupt administration. Donald Trump seems to have issues of corruption as well, as evidenced in the tax return controversy. Yet there are distinct differences between these two. Putin is more calculating than Donald Trump. President Trump has special interests as a "businessman" despite his role as president. While he is taking the U.S. troops out of Kurdish areas in Syria, he continues to deploy troops in Saudi Arabia. Trump's justification for terminating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty makes sense since "banning" nuclear weapons is an empty promise. Just because both countries agreed to ban nuclear weapons, they won't stop making them to stay in power. I do not think America and Russia made any difference in fighting terrorism. The situation hasn't changed much since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and American's intervention to hunt down Sandam Hussein. The troops continue to fight in the Middle East, civilians suffer, and ISIS continues to be a threat. It would be great if Russia and America cooperate to resolve the issue with terrorism. I'm not sure if Russia interfered with 2016 election. Trump did lose the popular votes but won by the electoral vote; there is no definite proof of causality here. Russia denies tampering with our elections, and it's is hard to hold it accountable. Yet we know we cannot trust Russia. I saw the video showing Russians in Crimea where the Russian soldiers with no flag and military insignia were taking over Ukrainian military installations.
The United States and the Russian Federation represent distinct systems of government, each one marked by certain flaws. In the United States the general population does not have much power when it comes to the election of a president due to the existence of the electoral college. This can be seen in the most recent election where the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, had won the popular vote but lost the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, due to the electoral college vote. In our electoral system, approval ratings generally do not matter when it comes to the presidency of the United States. A president can have an approval rating of 30% and still win reelection due to the low voter turnout. The current polarization in our politics goes back to the Ronald Reagan era when the right drifted further right and the left drifted further left, with limited dialogue in between. In my opinion, this growing gap can be attributed to the lack of a 'bad guy' for America following the collapse of the Soviet Union. For many Americans, Putin is a "bad guy," the other one being Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Vladimir Putin's proposal to let Russia join NATO didn't go well in this country. Speaking of the differences between the two presidents, Putin comes from his career in espionage during the Cold War when he was working as a spy. Donald Trump was born into wealth, and unlike Putin he did not stay behind the scenes, gaining prominence in the entertainment industry. Trump and Putin also differ in their temperaments. On the other hand, the two men consider themselves strong leaders who refuse to back down from a fight, even though Donald Trump tends to be unpredictable and undecisive while Putin tends to keep his cool in his interactions with both journalists and world leaders. Witness how both men dealt with Angela Merkel. Whereas Trump made the rash decision not to shake hands with the German chancellor, Putin took a more calculated approach by introducing Merkel to his dog even though Merkel is extremely afraid of dogs. Other similarities include the preoccupation of Putin and Trump with "fake news" – both presidents attack news outlet that disagrees with, and the obsession with restoring each nation's former glory as seen in Trump's campaign centered on MAGA (Make America Great Again) and Putin's belief that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical catastrophes in the 20th century.
President Trump and Vladimir Putin show some similarities in their leadership styles. They both tend to lead while consistently talking about the glorious past of their respective countries. Trump talks vaguely about making American great again, while Putin talks regretfully about the fall of the Soviet Union. They both exhibit a type of strong-man style in their political leadership. Trump was justified in leaving the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty if indeed Russia was violating the terms of the Treaty. It would be wise to try and revive the Treaty or draft a new one that is agreeable to all parties involved. As far as I know, the United States and Russia have not cooperated to combat terrorism. The U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the election. It makes sense, for Russia interfered in other countries to sow discord. As far as punishment, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia, and it is as far as the punitive actions should go. With the current administrations in power, cooperation between the two countries will be difficult. Maybe things will change under new leadership.
I think the national interests aren't the true issue. It is mainly the current people in power. While Trump and Putin seem to get along, I do not feel this is a positive development. Putin hasn't had the cleanest record on promoting free self-expression and overall human rights. While there are some obvious historical contradictions, it is fairly easy to say that most Americans, and American culture in general, promote those values. So, based on those principles, I think so long as Putin is in power, relations between the two countries will be strained. But once power changes hands, in both America and Russia, I feel there is a chance for cooperation. From what I have learned from this class, Russia and America aren't complete opposites, and there are certainly parallels between the two, so it shouldn't be impossible. Hopefully, peace and human rights prevail in the end.
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Dialogue on Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
Dialogue on Russian-American Relations
Dialogue on Domestic Violence
Dialogue on Same-Sex Marriage
Dialogue on United Nations and the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria
Dialogue on Terrorism: 9/11 & 10/23
Dialogue on Iraq, United States, and the United Nations
Dialogue on Globalization and the Image of America Abroad
* Crosscultural Dialogues is the program sponsored by the UNLV Center for Democratic Culture. It is brings students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with their counterparts around the world and let the young men and women debate the questions of mutual interest. If you have an interest in this program, please contact the CDC board of directors: email@example.com.