2024 Kim T. Adamson Lecture

The Best We Could Do with Thi Bui

In this presentation, artist Thi Bui discusses her powerful, award-winning graphic novel, The Best We Could Do, which chronicles the anguish of immigration during her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s. She explores building a new life in the United States while exploring universal questions about identity, family, and the meaning of home. Join us for an exhilarating discussion of “a book to break your heart and heal it,” according to Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen.

The event is in-person, free, and open to the public. Registration is required.

To request ADA accommodations for the event, please contact Richard Badenhausen by email (rbadenhausen@westminsteru.edu) or phone (801.832.2460).

  • Date: April 2, 2024
  • Time: 5:00 p.m.
  • Location: Jones Recital Hall in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts


Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1978 as part of the “boat people” wave of refugees fleeing Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War. Her debut graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do (Abrams ComicArts, 2017) has been selected for an American Book Award, a Common Book for UCLA and other colleges and universities, an all-city read by Seattle and San Francisco public libraries, a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography, and an Eisner Award finalist in reality-based comics. It made over thirty best of 2017 book lists, including Bill Gates’ top five picks. She illustrated the picture book, A Different Pond, written by the poet Bao Phi (Capstone, 2017), for which she won a Caldecott Honor. With her son, Hien, she co-illustrated the children’s book, Chicken of the Sea (McSweeney’s, 2019), written by Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen and his son, Ellison. Her short comics can be found online at The Nib, PEN America, and BOOM California. She is currently researching and drawing a work of graphic nonfiction about immigrant detention and deportation, to be published by One World, Random House.


Thi Bui photo by Andria Lo

About the Kim T. Adamson Lecture in International Studies

The Kim T. Adamson Lecture in International Studies is an annual endowed lecture at Westminster University. Since 2001 the lecture has brought recognizable figures in international studies, military history, and related fields to campus to deliver relevant public lectures and conduct seminars.

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, complicated issues face us every day. The lecture attempts to help people consider and navigate these challenging questions. Speakers are from a pool of scholars, writers, and thinkers without regard to ethnic, religious, or ideological considerations.

The annual lecture is open to the public without charge thanks to proceeds of the Kim T. Adamson Endowment, a gift from Kim T. Adamson, alumna and longtime friend and supporter of Westminster University.

Past Lectures

Chris Turner is one of Canada’s leading voices on climate solutions and the global energy transition. His latest book is How To Be A Climate Optimist, a survey of the first two decades of progress on solving the climate crisis. His previous books on climate, energy, and technology include multiple bestsellers and winners of the National Business Book Award, the W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, and the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Freedom to Read Award. His essays and features on energy, climate, and technology have appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Globe & Mail, Maclean’s, and many other publications, and won 10 National Magazine Awards.

Eman Mohammed is an award-winning photojournalist and Senior TED fellow, currently based in Washington, DC. Eman is a visual artist, born in Saudi Arabia and educated in Gaza City, Palestine. Using photojournalism, she captures the nuanced dynamic of a community, and uses her art as a way to change the “Us vs. Them” outlook. Examples of Eman’s past work include documenting political conflict in the MENA region, highlighting women in culturally sensitive communities, and investigating stories about US criminal justice and race relations from an outsider perspective.

Dr. M Jackson is a geographer, glaciologist, TED Fellow, and National Geographic Society Explorer. M earned a doctorate from the University of Oregon where she examined how climate change transformed people and glacier communities in Iceland. M is the recipient of many grants and awards, including three U.S. Fulbright grants and a U.S. Fulbright Ambassadorship. M currently serves as an Arctic Expert for the National Geographic Society, holds a Masters of Science degree from the University of Montana, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia. She’s worked for over a decade in the Arctic chronicling climate change and communities, guiding backcountry trips and exploring glacial systems. Her 2015 memoir While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change weaves together the parallel stories of what happens when the climates of a family and a planet change. Her 2019 book, The Secret Lives of Glaciers, explores the profound impacts of glacier change on the human and physical geography of Iceland. She is currently at work on her first novel. M travels extensively giving public talks and lectures on climate change and women in science.

James Dao has been the Op-Ed editor of The New York Times since February 2016. The department today includes nearly two dozen editors operating out of Hong Kong, London, Istanbul, San Francisco, and New York, producing daily op-eds, the Sunday Review, the international Op-Ed section, and online opinion features such as The Stone and Fixes. In 2017, the Sunday Review ran a 20-part series about Syrian refugees, "Welcome to the New World," that won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, the first time The New York Times has won in that category.

During his 27 years with The New York Times, Mr. Dao has been the Albany bureau chief, a national and Washington correspondent, the military and veterans affairs reporter, and deputy national editor. While he was deputy metropolitan editor in 2008, the section published a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation that led to the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer. He has reported from a dozen countries and across the U.S., covering the impeachment of President Clinton, the 2000 presidential campaign, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina. In 2010 and 2011, he was the reporter on an eight-part multi-media series about the yearlong deployment of an Army battalion to Afghanistan, titled A Year at War, which received an Emmy and an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University award.

Prior to working at The New York Times, he worked as a reporter for The Record of Hackensack, NJ, and the Daily News in New York, and was a writer and researcher for the New York Chinatown History Project. He is a graduate of Yale College.

President Trump was elected promising to put "America first." In his first year in office, how much change has there been in U.S. foreign policy? And is another war more likely—perhaps with North Korea and/or Iran? These questions and related issues were the focus of the 2018 Kim T. Adamson Lecture given by Kael Weston.

A Utah native and former U.S. State Department official, Weston spent 7 years in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003–2010) working closely with the U.S. military and Iraqi and Afghan leaders. He is the author of The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Secretary of State's Medal for Heroism for his work with U.S. Marines in Fallujah. Weston is currently Westminster University's Writer-in-Residence in the Honors College.

The Maurice Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he leads the Cyberconflict and Cybersecurity Initiative, Dr. Segal gave a chilling account of the current state of cyberconflict in his lecture "The Digital Cold War between the U.S. and China: Is Cooperation in Cyberspace Possible?".

Award-winning journalist and activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault gave a stirring yet sobering lecture on "The New Face of AIDS: Africa's Women and Children." Earlier in the day, Hunter-Gault met with students studying African history and public health to discuss the role of AIDS in Africa. Finally, she inspired students during lunch by recounting her trailblazing role as the first female African-American student at the University of Georgia.

Eric Greitens, the founder and CEO of The Mission Continues, discussed the work of his national nonprofit organization that encourages veterans to serve and lead in communities across America. During the day, he met with students, faculty, and staff to talk about his book The Heart and the Fist, which was also a common read for the incoming Honors class. Greitens served as a US Navy SEAL in four deployments, was a Rhodes Scholar, and the author of 3 books. He even talked about his work with John Stewart on The Daily Show.

John Harris, editor-in-chief and co-founder of POLITICO, the must-read publication for anyone involved in politics, talked about America's place in the world and handicapped the 2012 presidential election in his talk, "The Whole World is Watching: Global Leadership and the 2012 Elections." During the day, he met with Honors students to talk about the founding of POLITICO, new media, and the future of journalism. Harris is the author of 2 books on presidential politics and worked at the Washington Post for 2 decades.

Georgetown University Professor of Philosophy Nancy Sherman laid out the central arguments of her important book, The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers, a study dedicated to "the men and women who have served in the military and have carried the weight of war and its moral uncertainties."

A specialist in ancient ethics and the history of moral philosophy, Sherman has authored 4 books and edited a fifth on Aristotle's ethics. She has taught at Yale, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Maryland, and served as the first Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy, designing the brigade-wide required military ethics course and laying the groundwork for the new Stockdale Ethics Center.

In a packed concert hall, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Thomas Ricks discussed 3 critical things that we don't understand about the Iraq War. Ricks has studied and reported on U.S. military activities for nearly 30 years, covering American combat in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Ricks served as a special military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, followed by a similar position at the Washington Post. He is the author of 2 best-selling books on the war, Fiasco and The Gamble.

Michael O'Hanlon is senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in U.S. National Security Policy. The author, co-author, or editor of a dozen books on foreign policy, defense strategy, and military technology, Dr. O'Hanlon gave a talk entitled "The Case for Staying in Iraq: Advice for the Next U.S. President." He also visited an Honors seminar to discuss the 9/11 Commission Report and spoke at a student luncheon about his experience teaching high school physics in the Peace Corps.

Author of the groundbreaking study Achilles in Vietnam, which rereads the Iliad through his work of 20 years with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, VA psychiatrist Jonathan Shay lectured on the challenges of homecoming for soldiers. Shay also gave a lively lunchtime talk on "Odysseus as a Military Leader" and met with students in an Honors seminar entitled War, Trauma, and Narrative. In 2007, Shay received one of the MacArthur foundation's "genius" fellowships.

Co-author of The Next Attack, which The New York Times praised as "a persuasive and utterly frightening picture of the current state of America's war on terror," former White House advisor and member of the National Security Counsel Dan Benjamin deconstructed what we are doing right and what is going wrong in the country's struggle against terrorism. A senior fellow in the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Benjamin also met with students for lunch to discuss what it is like working in Washington, D.C. and the White House.

Foreign Policy and National Security Correspondent for USA Today, Komarow gave a lecture entitled "Reporting on Terrorism from the Frontlines: Perceptions vs. Realities." Komarow has reported on all of the major developments in Iraq during the past 2 years. Since September 11, 2001, he has also reported from Europe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Yemen, and Djibouti. Before that, he accompanied ground troops into action in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti. An AP correspondent in Washington for 10 years, Komarow also has extensive experience covering Congress and the presidential elections.

Theoretical neurobiologist William Calvin addressed a filled Gore Auditorium on the topic of climate change. The author of 11 books, Calvin teaches psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. His talk, entitled "When Climate Staggers: Civilization's Vulnerabilities to Sudden Climate Change," surveyed historical data on global climate change and speculated about what the future holds if we don't change our current patterns of resource usage. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Marcia Bartusiak noted that Calvin "is a member of that rare breed of scientists who can translate the arcana of their fields into lay language, and he's one of the best."

The noted historian, biographer, and human rights activist Professor Rajmohan Gandhi delivered a rousing talk before an overflow crowd of 400 Westminster and Salt Lake City community members on the timely topic of "Religion and Violence," often framing the debate about violence in terms borrowed from his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi. The author of 6 books, Professor Gandhi discussed what it meant for America now that its days of "seclusion and isolation are sadly, but absolutely, over."

Mr. Ralph Peters, who held a special meeting with Honors students during his visit on campus, spoke on "Terrorism in Our Times: Myths and Realities." Peters left a career in the U.S. Army to write and has authored 10 books, and was called by Newsweek "one of the best military minds of his generation." He discussed the post-9/11 landscape and what America could expect from terrorists in the future.