Monday, August 9, 2010

Our View - Helping to keep us abreast of global issues

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Nov. 30, 2009

Our View - Helping to keep us abreast of global issues

For hundreds and hundreds of luncheons in the past 25 years, the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council has featured speakers who have provided local residents with a view of the wider world.

Back in the early 1980s, University of Iowa President James O. Friedman worked to find funding, office space and university support for a "town and gown" international program. Drawing from the many guests and scholars attracted by the university's international reputation -- as well as from the presidential candidates drawn to the Iowa caucuses -- the new council began providing a downtown forum in which these experts would share their experiences with a broad swath of the community as a whole. Working with UI International Programs and with other programs like UI history professor David Schoenbaum's Foreign Policy Chautauqua, the council has been making our town into a much more internationally minded city.

As council board member Alan Nagel observed in a guest opinion a few months ago, the council's luncheons have included famous (even infamous) speakers as well as many names (and issues) that were relatively unknown at the time but that have gone on to become much more widely recognized:

• Twenty-one years ago, Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, warned about a coming crisis in energy efficiency.

• Thirteen years ago, U.S. diplomat Paul Warnke told of the risks in arms control agreements following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

• After 9/11, Navy Admiral and CIA Director Stansfield Turner gave his view of fighting terrorism.

• Jim Leach, early in his Congressional career, came to review of national foreign policy, and then came back toward the end of the Bush administration to explain the new challenges facing American leadership.

• And back in 2007, an upstart U.S. senator from Illinois -- one who had the audacity to run for president before finishing a single term -- proposed new directions for U.S. foreign policy that he is now, as president, trying to implement.

We're thankful that council for working so hard for the past 25 years to keep local residents aware of the challenges and opportunities facing people across the globe. And just the council's influence has stretched from the waning of the Cold War, to the post-Soviet Union period, to 9/11, to the global War on Terrorism, to the new policies being shaped by the Obama administration, we hope it continues to keep challenging Iowans to think about America's changing role on the global stage.

The council's next luncheon will be at noon Tuesday at the Congregational Church, 30 N. Clinton St. in Iowa City. Scott Snyder, adjunct senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, will speak on "North Korea and the 6-Party Talks." Reservations are due by noon today. For more information, visit or call 335-0351.

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