Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Former U.S. Defense Secretary and Sen. William Cohen addresses the audience gathered at SUNY Cortland’s Sperry Center Thursday. Cohen said countries always need to keep open a line of communication, noting that sports can serve as a unifying force. “There are things we are still going to disagree about. There are things that will still divide us, but let
SUNY Cortland symposium unites US, Cuba
History was made on Thursday at SUNY Cortland, as the first major symposium on U.S.-Cuba relations since President Barack Obama visited Cuba in March was hosted at the college.
William Cohen, former secretary of defense during the Clinton Administration, served as keynote speaker.
More than eighty people — faculty members, students, local residents — congregated into the Sperry Center’s lecture hall before the start of the four-session symposium to hear a variety of expert panelists discuss a range of topics, from politics to baseball.
The latter being the overriding topic of the event, which was sponsored by the Caribbean Baseball Initiative, a consortium of baseball executives that hope to bridge U.S.-Cuba relations using the sport. Jordan Kobritz, a professor at SUNY Cortland and the school’s chairman of the Sport Management Department, is an executive of the initiative and helped organize the symposium.
“It’s exceeded my expectations, and I had high expectations,” Kobritz said after the first session ended.
Through a number of connections, Kobritz was able to bring in notable professionals to discuss baseball diplomacy, business opportunities, politics and growth in academics between Cuba and the United States.
Cohen gave a few anecdotes about his time working in politics and playing sports. At first, the stories seemed off track, given what the event was about, but he concluded with the point that countries need to always keep a line of communication and sports can act as a unifying force.
“To take something (baseball) that is so much of our national pastime in America, and Cuba, and say, ‘There are things we are still going to disagree about. There are things that will still divide us, but let’s see if we can find things that can unite us,’ is the brilliance of what the Initiative is trying to do,” Cohen said.