Lessons from Francis Fukuyama in how to have real world impact

Joshua Yaffa has a good profile of two Ukrainian activists and journalists turned politicians–Mustafa Nayyem and Sergii Leshchenko–in The New Yorker. This bit jumped out at me:

After months of chaos, Nayyem was worn down, and in July, 2014, he left for California. He had been accepted into Stanford University’s annual summer course for activists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and government officials from around the world. (Leshchenko had attended the summer before.) The program is led by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama. “We teach them about the structures of democracy as if they were Stanford undergraduates—this is what different political systems look like, here is how you can effect political change,” Fukuyama told me. “Getting the dictator out is the easy part. The really difficult part is exercising power in a way that is legitimate and self-sustaining.” In Ukraine, he was certain, “unless you make that transition, the Maidan Revolution is going to fail, just as the Orange Revolution failed.”

Fukuyama urged Nayyem to go into politics, and introduced him to others who had made a similar transition. On his way back to Kiev, Nayyem stopped in Washington, and gave a talk at the National Endowment for Democracy. When asked whether he and others from Maidan were thinking of entering politics, he demurred, saying of Ukraine’s ruling class, “They will use us, but we don’t know how to use them.”

…When Nayyem returned to Kiev, he told Leshchenko about Fukuyama’s suggestion, and said that he was thinking of running for parliament. Leshchenko laughed, but in the coming days he and Nayyem talked about how the post-revolutionary rupture was likely to present a fleeting moment for outsiders to enter parliament—an opportunity that might never recur.

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