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Zach Vertin: A Rope from the Sky (at Georgetown)

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This event is hosted by Georgetown University’s International Relations Club and will be held at the McGhee Library on campus.

The untold story of America’s attempt to forge a nation from scratch, from euphoric birth to heart-wrenching collapse.

South Sudan’s historic independence was celebrated around the world—a triumph for global justice and an end to one of the world’s most devastating wars. But the party would not last long; South Sudan’s freedom fighters soon plunged their new nation into chaos, shattering the promise of liberation and exposing the hubris of their foreign backers.

Chronicling extraordinary stories of hope, identity, and survival, A Rope from the Sky: The Makig and Unmaking of the World’s Newest State journeys inside an epic tale of paradise won and then lost. This character-driven narrative follows a cast of liberators who rally around a common idea and achieve the unthinkable. Mobilizing on their behalf is an unprecedented coalition of Americas: Democrats and Republicans, ideologues and activists, evangelical Christians, and Hollywood celebrities. This righteous alliance helps deliver South Sudan from tyranny, only to watch in disbelief as it comes dramatically undone. Finally, a war-weary people must pick up the piece and start over again—an uncertain quest to salvage a republic from the shards of a broken dream.

Weaving together narratives local and global, this is first a story of power, promise, greed, compassion, violence, and redemption from the world’s most neglected patch of territory. But is also a story about the best and worst of America—both its big hearted ideals and its difficult reckoning with the limits of American power amid a changing global landscape.

Zach Vertin’s firsthand accounts, from deadly war zones to the halls of Washington power, bring readers inside this unique episode in global history—an unprecedented experiment in state-building, and a cautionary tale. From battlefields and ballrooms to the emerald green marshes of the Nile, A Rope from the Sky is brilliant and breathtaking, a modern-day Greek tragedy that will challenge our perspectives on global politics.

ZACH VERTIN is an American writer, foreign policy analyst, and former diplomat. He is currently a Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. He previously served in the Obama Administration as an Adviser to the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and Sudan South Sudan, and prior to that he was a Senior Analyst for the International Crisis Group, working both in the Horn of Africa and on multilateral affairs and UN peace operations in New York. He has written or commented for: The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, The Economist, CNN, and the BBC. He lives in Washington, DC.

Advance Praise for: A Rope from the Sky

“The still-unfolding tragedy of South Sudan is too little understood and too little known, even among foreign policy experts. Zach Vertin is a rare exception... He has spent his life not just explaining how the promise of this young nation, for which so many sacrificed, was broken so badly, but helping end the bloodshed for a people who have seen far too much of it....An important read.”

—JOHN KERRY, 68th U.S. Secretary of State and author of Every Day is Extra

“An engrossingly written account. A Rope from the Sky is an essential guide to one of the world's most intractable conflicts—a must-read for warriors, diplomats, relief experts, and would-be peace negotiators anywhere in the world.”—JON LEE ANDERSON, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

“Zach Vertin’s pages bring close real Africa in South Sudan – violence, great hearts, leadership duels, insoluble problems, and a striking landscape. Honesty about his subject dunks your head deep in the muddy waters of reality...Offering keen insights into the nation's leaders and a feel for the hopes and travail of ordinary people, this is a rich and well written narrative...a must read for anyone who wants to understand the country, its struggle for survival, and its impact on the continent.”

–THOMAS R. PICKERING, former U.S. Under Secretary of State and Ambassador to Jordan, Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, India, Russia and the UN

“… a political roller coaster from Africa to the White House and back. Zach Vertin guides us through South Sudan’s euphoric independence and its devastating descent into war. A compelling read.”
—BART GELLMAN, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author

“Zach Vertin had a front row seat... With a journalist’s verve he takes us through the cast of characters – and forces – which put this country together and then tragically combined to dismantle it. This is a tale of leaders’ illusions and of a terrible violence consequently unleashed. And it’s a story that has not been properly told till now.”

—LORD MARK MALLOCH-BROWN KCMG PC, former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

“A brilliant, authoritative, and colorful insight into the hope and despair that is the world’s youngest country. Unique in modern history, this untold story of South Sudan’s birth carries lessons not just for Africa but for the rest of the world.”

—JON SNOW, Journalist and Anchor, Channel 4 News

“A hugely important contribution to the debate about one of Africa's longest running tragedies.”

—LORD CHRIS PATTEN OF BARNES, CH PC, Chancellor of Oxford University

“A highly readable, well-informed and people-centered account… Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand why South Sudan has unraveled.”

—DAME ROSALIND MARSDEN, DCMG, Former British Ambassador to Sudan and European Union Special Envoy

“A remarkably authoritative account of South Sudan’s rise and fall; Zach Vertin matches expert political analysis with a journalist’s knack for storytelling, and the result is an exciting and immersive book that will be read for years come. He was present at the creation, and could not be better suited to tell this story.”

—HAILE MENKERIOS, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan

Earlier Event: January 31
Story Time and Singalong with Bearsong
Later Event: February 9
Story Time and Singalong with Bearsong