Heng Chee Chan, Singapore's ambassador in Washington, has served for close to a decade but says she is still fascinated by U.S. politics.

Chan, who attended the Republican National Convention last week, said she was impressed by the intensity and vigor of the U.S. election process.

"Only a country with the enormous resources of the United States can mount a convention of this magnitude," she said. "I found the convention not only large but grand, mobilizing and energizing. In fact, both conventions were outstanding, which shows how tight the race is. This is the third time I have been to both," she said in an interview.

Chan compared the 2004 conventions with those in 1996, when President Bill Clinton was popular and seemed likely to win, and in 2000, when larger venues made the gatherings seem "somewhat impersonal."

This time, she said, she felt engaged by the substance of the issues facing Americans. "The conventions were not only about domestic issues but also about foreign policy in the broader context of leadership and global direction and the war on terror," she said. "In my country, we are very concerned with how terrorism is handled. We feel the U.S. must take the lead."

Post-Sept. 11 Dialogue

To commemorate the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, leaders of Americans for Informed Democracy, a student-run nonpartisan group, are planning 30 town hall meetings across the country to discuss U.S.-Islamic world relations.

Students and family members of Sept. 11 victims are organizing the sessions, which will feature conversations with a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress, former ambassadors and scholars. The sessions are supported by a number of nonprofit organizations such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the United Nations Foundation and the Families of September 11, an independent group founded by victims' families.

The series is titled "Hope not Hate, " said Seth Green, a student at Yale Law School who is executive director of Americans for Informed Democracy. He said the program is a "call to action out of the ashes of tragedy and as a response to the recently released 9/11 Commission report." Organizers believe the United States must share its "vision of opportunity and hope" and "must act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world," Green said.

He said the sessions would close with six face-to-face videoconference dialogues. Participating in the dialogues, he said, will be young leaders at universities in Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and South Dakota, and from six countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey.

A Look Ahead

The nonpartisan Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation today is releasing an early version of a book that gathers the views of academics and others about the role of the United States in the 21st century. The book's title is "Patriotism, Democracy and Common Sense: Restoring America's Promise at Home and Abroad."

Its editor, Alan Curtis, assembled contributions from 39 internationally known scholars, economists and political scientists. He said he had asked them to take a hard look at the United States and suggest practical alternatives to present policies.

The book, published by Rowman & Littlefield, "is not a partisan gripe session," Curtis said, but a search for alternatives to policies that have "discredited the U.S. abroad and weakened it domestically." The foreword is by Kevin Phillips, a political historian, columnist and former adviser to Republican administrations.

The book examines post-Sept. 11 politics and is an attempt to influence national debate on foreign policy, according to Leila McDowell, director of communications for the Center for Community Change. Among the authors are former U.S. senators, leading American academics and political activists, including four contributors based in Europe. One is Clare Short, the former secretary for international development in the cabinet of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Short resigned from the Blair government in 2003, protesting its role in the U.S.-led war in Iraq.