JACKSON BLEVINS ‘21 | STAFF WRITER • Tuesday afternoon, Trustee Ray Jovanovich ’84 returned to campus to present his presentation titled “American Prestige in Asia… Diminished?”, as a part of the Asian Lecture Series. Jovanovich spent most of his career in Asia as an executive at many investment firms where he also interacted with government officials from across the globe. He meshed personal and professional experience with his educated opinions to give the jam-packed classroom his take on political, social, and economic issues facing the teetering relationship between the United States and Asia. Jovanovich argued that American prestige in Asia has not diminished, but there was disengagement on behalf of the United States.
He admitted early on in his presentation that his thoughts were not a direct solution to all of the diplomatic issues, but rather a unique outlook on the status of American prestige in Asia. Jovanovich addressed scores of issues, but honed in on a few that we could reflect on and showed how the United States could influence geopolitical issues moving forward.
Some of these issues included Asian countries’ treatment of Donald Trump, China’s advancement in the South China Sea, and how volatile North Korea is affecting the global political climate. Jovanovich was impressed by many Asian capitals that rolled out the red carpet for Donald Trump and acknowledged while Trump has been very blunt and sometimes disrespectful, many Asian countries respected his focus on making progress in the region. The South China Sea is a region full of valuable resources and strategic military positioning, and Jovanovich cited the importance and perhaps danger of China’s growth in the waters. China now has four man-made islands that have been turned into military bases, and this body of water is becoming a hotbed for potential conflict as the United States continues to patrol the waters. Finally, Jovanovich looked at North Korea and how they continue to present problems for the United States with their nuclear program and humanitarian crises.
Jovanovich threw many highly debated ideas out into the open in a limited amount of time, and it was evident that the audience had mixed reactions. He was not scared to challenge the opinions of his peers in the audience, and he did it with a smile on his face. Jovanovich stayed after his presentation for almost an hour, as he welcomed debate and greeted many members of the audience.
“Ray’s point of view is different from other people, so it was nice hearing a different point of view,” Shaun Khoo ’18, a biology major from Malaysia, said.
“I am an Asian Studies minor and am very interested in learning about Asia and possibly working in Asia,” Justin Woodard ’19 said. “I thought it was a strong presentation. He really highlighted the big issues in Asia right now which was interesting to hear about.”
Jovanovich made it clear that he loves Wabash and was excited to speak in the Asian Lecture Series for the seventh consecutive year.
“I found that the Wabash education provides a great foundation for success,” Jovanovich said as a biology major who reminisced on his mother’s motives for him to become a doctor. “This school is a national treasure. Wabash provides one with intellectual agility, confidence, and courage. It became very apparent to me that a foundation in the hard sciences was applicable across other disciplines, particularly in finance and economics. Also, I chose to speak on this because I heard so much about American prestige in Asia diminishing, and with the exception of a few governments, this idea does not fit reality.” Jovanovich’s presentation exposed issues that will be prevalent for many generations of American citizens.