As we enter the month of May, we wind up a very successful Speaker series for the year and we crank up our Annual Membership drive. This final speaker completes Joan Deery’s very successful run as Program Committee Chair. This Committee Chair is probably the most challenging volunteer position in the organization. The emotions run from the highs of landing a speaker we particularly wanted to the frustration and pressure of filling a speaker cancellation on short notice. During her two years as Chair Joan has had the pleasure (?) of dealing with both of these multiple times. She has done a good job and I sincerely appreciate her dedication and hard work. If you get the opportunity, give her your thanks as well.
In 2015-16, we experienced our highest attendance ever at a speaker event at the opening session in October with 750 folks in attendance. Conventional wisdom previously said you need to have a name speaker, like Jon Huntsman, to start the season to get people interested. Unless you were knowledgeable in the nuclear weapons field, Doctor Perkovich was not a well-known name. However, his topic, Ramifications of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, clearly was one of high interest.
Before addressing the membership drive let’s look at the upcoming Speaker Program year. The Program Committee, now with Jeff Stokes as Committee Chair, has lined up 9 speakers for the 14 slots available (a detailed listing is in your renewal packet) and has deliberately slowed the process for the remaining five as we are in an ever-changing, dynamic world environment and want to be able to react accordingly.
Applying lessons from the past seasons, we are starting off the 2016-17 season with a presentation on World-wide Foreign Policy Challenges Facing our Presidential Candidates with Ambassador James Jeffrey as our speaker. While we normally do not have an encore performance by a previous speaker so quickly, your reaction to his Skype presentation (due to snow in Washington DC), was so positive that we have invited him to return to address this important topic.
We are finishing this year with a total membership of 1134. When my wife and I moved to HHI and joined in 2011 it was just after the waiting list period ended and membership reached the 750 mark. The growth since then is a testament to the quality of our Speaker Programs and to you for bringing guests and talking about the organization with your friends and neighbors. The only active membership recruiting we do is the Annual Membership renewal we are beginning now. You can pick up your Renewal Packet at the remaining Friday sessions or go online to complete your renewal.
To those of you who “fly out” for the summer, enjoy the summer season wherever you “land” and I will see you in the Fall — just remember to “Re-Up” before you go. For those of you who choose to share the Island with the tourists I will see you at the Summer Forum series starting in June. Watch this space for more about the Forum in a couple of weeks.
Lee J. Wilwerding
President, World Affairs Council Hilton Head