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First Person

Each week, one guest whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world.

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Haven America or Fortress America?

Harvard historian Jill Lepore on the long and tortured history of the U.S. immigration debate.

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Each week on First Person, we conduct a narrative-driven conversation with one person whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world. Our guests tend to be people who have participated directly in events, either as protagonists or eyewitnesses. We get them to tell their story, not just offer analysis. First Person is hosted by FP deputy editor Sarah Wildman. Sarah is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in the New York TimesSlate, Vox and the New Yorker online. She is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.

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sarah wildman

Sarah Wildman is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in the New York TimesSlate, Vox and the New Yorker online. She is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.

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Soldiers set up to fire on Taliban positions in Afghanistan on Nov. 8, 2001.

Roots of a Quagmire

On the podcast: America’s first post-9/11 envoy to Afghanistan recounts the early months of the war there.

Security personnel stand guard on a deserted road during a lockdown in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Aug. 15.

The Future of Kashmir

How India decided to end the area’s autonomous status and what it means for the region.

The chef José Andrés stirs paella in a giant pan during the #ChefsForPuertoRico relief operation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2017.

How an Upscale Chef Came to Serve Those in Need

On the podcast: José Andrés on food insecurity, Puerto Rico, and battling hunger.

A scene from the film Jirga. Lightyear Entertainment

How War Traumatizes the Victims and the Perpetrators

On the podcast: A new film explores the experience of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

The movie poster for "One Child Nation."

The Dark Legacy of China’s One-Child Policy

On the podcast: The filmmaker Nanfu Wang tells the harrowing story of her own family’s one-child ordeal.

A Central American migrant and her children walk outside El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico, on July 17.

Trump, Immigration, and the Fight for America’s Soul

On the podcast: Where Trump’s effort to block asylum-seekers fits in the history of U.S. immigration policy.

Nadia Murad sits in a UNODC office, preparing for an upcoming speech at the United Nations, in the film "On Her Shoulders."

A Survivor’s Struggle to Care for Her People and Herself

On the podcast: The filmmaker Alexandria Bombach followed the Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad for the film “On Her Shoulders.”

U.S. soldiers sweep through an abandoned house during heavy fighting in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 9, 2004.

A U.S. Marine Looks Back at Fallujah

On the podcast: Elliot Ackerman served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Emergency personnel search for wounded people after a bomb exploded at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994.

Argentina, Iran, and the Enduring Mystery Surrounding the Death of a Special Prosecutor

On the podcast: Alberto Nisman accused Argentina’s president of covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Then he was shot in the head.

Undocumented youth and allies begin the Walk to Stay Home, a 15-day walk from New York City’s Battery Park to Washington’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, on Feb. 15, 2018.

A Dream Deferred

On the podcast: The journalist Laura Wides-Muñoz traces the lives of several immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.

Brazil's future Minister of Justice, Sergio Moro, gestures during a national forum on combatting corruption in Rio de Janeiro on Nov. 23, 2018. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

The Dirty Residue of Brazil’s Car Wash Probe

On the podcast: The editor in chief of Americas Quarterly explains why investigators are now under scrutiny in Brazil’s largest corruption inquiry.

Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on June 13, 2012. Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Mohamed Morsi and the Passing of Egypt's Democratic Moment

On the podcast: Shadi Hamid recounts the rise and fall of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Protesters attend a rally against a controversial extradition law in Hong Kong on June 9.

How an Extradition Bill Became a Red Line for Hong Kongers

On the podcast: A former China correspondent traces Beijing’s gradual effort to erode human rights in Hong Kong.

Climbers line a path on Mount Everest in Nepal on May 22. Rizza Alee/AP

Death and Debris at 30,000 Feet

On the podcast: An American adventurer describes climbing over bodies to reach the top of Mount Everest.

Palestinian children inspect a bullet-riddled wall in Gaza City on April 16, 2008, following an Israeli military operation. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

Shot by Israelis, Healed by Israelis

On the podcast: Yousef Bashir describes growing up in Gaza during the second Palestinian uprising.

“Yes” campaigners wait for the official result in the Irish referendum vote to overturn the country’s abortion ban at Dublin Castle in Dublin on May 26, 2018.

The Referendum That Changed Ireland

On the podcast: A look back at the vote in Ireland that ended the abortion ban.

On the First Person podcast: Stephen M. Walt talks with George Packer about Richard Holbrooke, America’s long-serving diplomat.

How Richard Holbrooke Represented America’s Best and Worst Impulses

On the podcast: George Packer, in conversation with Stephen M. Walt, on America’s long-serving diplomat.

Algerian protesters wave a national flag as they take part in a demonstration in the capital of Algiers on May 3.

How Algerians Ousted Bouteflika

On the podcast: Algeria’s Arab Spring has been peaceful so far, but its future remains uncertain.

A demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Thirty Years After Tiananmen Square

On the podcast: A look back at the student protests that changed China’s trajectory.

A woman mourns over a relative's grave at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery on Nov. 22, 2017. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

The Butcher of Bosnia on Trial

On the podcast: A film on the war in Bosnia probes the psychology of genocide and justice.

Supporters attend a pro-government rally for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv in in March 2015. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

How Israel’s Netanyahu Uses Fear and Loathing to Win Elections

On the podcast: The Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer looks back at Bibi’s first general election campaign in 1996.

Farah Pandith on April 6, 2016.  (Jemal Countess/Getty Images/Foreign Policy illustration)

How to Defeat Political and Religious Extremism

On the podcast: A former State Department official who led the outreach to the Muslim world after the 9/11 attacks.

Smoke and fire billow after a shelling on the Islamic State’s last holdout of Baghouz, in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province, on March 3. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

Inside the Fall of the Islamic State

On the podcast: A reporter who embedded with U.S.-backed forces in Syria describes the battles there.

Workers spray contaminated houses within the “no-go” cordon around Chernobyl (Igor Kostin/Sygma via Getty Images)

Meltdown at Chernobyl

On the podcast: A journalist reconstructs the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Eliot Higgins in December 2018. (Claudia Leisinger for Foreign Policy)

How Citizen Journalists Solved the Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

On the podcast: The founder of the group Bellingcat on using open sources to investigate war crimes and abuses.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom speaks during a news conference in Berlin on April 10, 2018. (Wolfgang Kumm/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Toward a More Feminist Foreign Policy

On the podcast: Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on how to give women a voice in an arena dominated by men.

A guard watchtower rises above a perimeter fence of what is officially known as a "vocational skills education center" for Uighur Muslims in Dabancheng in Xinjiang, China, on Sept. 4, 2018. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

China’s War on Uighurs

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People celebrate in Bangalore on Sept. 6, 2018, after India’s top court struck down a colonial-era law that penalized gay sex. (Aijaz Rahi/AP)

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The chef José Andrés stirs paella in a giant pan during the #ChefsForPuertoRico relief operation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2017.

Paellas for the People

On the podcast: How chef José Andrés feeds the needy around the world.

Afghan Taliban militants and residents stand on an armored vehicle of the Afghan National Army as they celebrate a ceasefire in Maiwand district of Kandahar province on June 17, 2018. (Javed Tanveer/AFP/Getty Images)

How the Taliban Won

On the podcast: Former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani on America’s endgame in Afghanistan.

People raise their hands during a mass opposition rally against President Nicolás Maduro, during which Juan Guaidó declared himself Venezuela's acting president, in Caracas on Jan. 23. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington on Jan. 8 before a hearing for his lawsuit against the government of Iran. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Protesters demonstrating against the right-wing government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold a rally in Budapest, Hungary, on April 14, 2018. Demonstrators demanded a free press and independent public media and new laws to ensure fair elections. (Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)

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Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe speaks at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, on April 3, 2012. (Nellie Doneva/Abilene Reporter-News via AP)

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On the podcast: A scientist who is also an evangelical Christian wants conservatives to understand the dangers of climate change.

(Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

The China Syndrome

On the podcast: A former CIA analyst on Beijing’s interference in the affairs of other countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a signed presidential memorandum aimed at what he calls Chinese economic aggression at the White House on March 22. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Why Economists Hate Tariffs

On the podcast: How the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 embroiled the U.S. in a trade war and prolonged the Great Depression.

Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images

Are Brazilians Ready for Bolsonaro?

On the podcast: The era of the strongman returns to Brazil.

A man protests against Brexit outside the Houses of Parliament in London on July 5. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The Brexit Rubik’s Cube

On the podcast: Inside the British campaign for a second vote on leaving Europe.

War correspondent Marie Colvin in Peeblesshire, Scotland, on Aug. 20, 2011. (Writer Pictures via AP Images)

Shot in Sri Lanka, Shelled in Syria

On the podcast: War correspondent Marie Colvin documented the horrors of war until one of them took her life.

Wind mills of the National Power and Light Company in Santa Ana, Costa Rica, on Oct. 23, 2015. (Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images)

Costa Rica’s War on Climate Change

On the podcast: How a tiny Central American country became a leader in reducing carbon emissions.

A demonstrator attends a protest to denounce China's treatment of ethnic Uighur Muslims in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on July 5. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

Inside China’s Re-education Camps

On the podcast: A Uighur journalist describes the plight of her relatives interned in Xinjiang. 

Cumhuriyet editor in chief Can Dundar speaks to media as he arrives at a courthouse for trial in Istanbul on April 1, 2016. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

'To Be a Journalist in Turkey Means You're Ready to Sacrifice Everything'

On the podcast: the price one Turkish newspaper editor is paying for angering President Erdogan.

Benjamin Ferencz, a former chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, at his home in Delray Beach, Florida, on March 10, 2016. (Brooks Kraft/Getty Images)

‘How Do You Balance a Million People Murdered Against 22 Defendants?’

On the podcast: The last living Nuremberg prosecutor describes the Allied trials against Nazi leaders.

A 10-year-old Yemeni boy, Ghazi Ali bin Ali, who suffers from severe malnutrition, rests on a bed at a hospital in Jabal Habashi on the outskirts of Taiz on Oct. 30. (Ahmad Al-Basha/AFP/Getty Images)

Not Just Bombs but Economic Warfare

On the podcast: How a Saudi-led campaign has starved Yemen’s children.

Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images

Flirting With Fascism

On the podcast: How Brazilians grew tired of democracy and rallied around a strongman.

Manal al-Sharif reads from her book, Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening, in Munich on Oct. 8, 2017. (Andreas Gebert/picture alliance via Getty Images/Foreign Policy illustration)

‘They Took Them Quietly. All of Them Are in Jail Today.’

On the podcast: A woman who challenged the Saudi regime by getting behind the wheel of a car speaks out.

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