A quarter-century after starting as a forum for national interests, the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville is 800-members strong and plans a series of global-issues events for the coming year.
Its president, retired Adm. Jonathan Howe, said that while membership and attendance set records the past year, the council wants to extend its reach further.
“The World Affairs Council has been steadily increasing its impact and value to our community each year, but we still believe there is significant unrealized potential,” said Howe. “We believe many people in our community are unaware of these opportunities and we need to spread the word.”
Formed in 1985 as the National Interest Forum, the group joined the World Affairs Councils of America in 1995. Its members include a who’s who of business, military, legal and international leaders as well as students and community advocates interested in Northeast Florida’s role in international affairs.
It’s funded by membership dues, sponsorships, donations and grants to bring in speakers of global expertise.
The council has confirmed speakers from September through June, starting Sept. 27-28 with Hunter Lovins, president and founder of Colorado-based Natural Capitalism Solutions, which promotes sustainable development and business practices.
Lovins is a sociologist and lawyer who co-founded the California Conservation Project and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The World Affairs Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group and states that its mission is “to promote understanding of the world and its people and to engage citizens of Northeast Florida in becoming informed participants in the global community.”
Howe said the council is building on the work of retired Ambassador Marilyn McAfee, a foreign service officer from 1968-98, primarily in Latin America. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala from 1993-96.
McAfee has been central to organizing the council and arranging its globally significant speakers. She chairs its advisory board.
“Building on the superb work of Ambassador Marilyn McAfee, I think our continuing growth is due to the high quality of our speakers, increasing opportunities for members to experience and participate in what we offer, an exceptional staff, an engaged board, and the growing importance of Americans being knowledgeable about the world and the issues that confront us,” said Howe.
The Council offers speaker series and other events.
The “global issues evenings” are the flagship events and typically take place at the University of North Florida University Center. Speakers present international issues and offer a question-and-answer period. Attendance ranges from 500 to 800 people and premier-level members are invited to a private reception in advance. The evening programs at UNF are co-hosted with the UNF Distinguished Voices Lecture Series.
The “global business luncheons” are designed for executives and are co-hosted by the Gate Governors Club at The River Club. They feature speakers about international political, economic, business and financial trends. The evening speakers often speak at the luncheons.
The council also arranges “special engagements” to feature members with expertise about international topics.
In addition, the council offers special events, an educational program, a travel program and a young professionals’ organization.
The council lists membership levels that start at $35 for full-time educators and full-time students and active duty military. Individual memberships are $100, family memberships are $150 and other levels range up to $1,200 for the Ambassador’s Circle.
Howe said goals for the year include increasing the awareness of the council; providing greater value for members and sponsors through special events in addition to the events already planned; adding more global business lunches; and strengthening the council’s educational programs in schools and colleges.
An invitation has been extended to a speaker for October, but he has not confirmed.
For November, NPR correspondent T.R. Reid is scheduled for events Nov. 15-16.
In January, The New Yorker columnist Ken Auletta is scheduled for two events Jan. 11. In February, New York Times Washington correspondent David Sanger is scheduled Feb. 8.
Assistant U.S. Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow is scheduled in March, followed by Newsweek Editor Jon Meachem in April.
In June, the future of Korea is scheduled for discussion.
For more information, visit www.worldaffairscounciljax.org.