In the Fall of every year, the Program Committee meets to begin planning for the following season’s Friday Speaker Series and the first item to be determined is the theme for the following year which provides the context for Topics and Speakers to be recruited. There are 14 members on the Committee and they started with at least 20 different themes being considered/discussed (this is an interesting process to watch, which is what I do quietly).
From this two-hour discussion threats to the liberal World Order emerged as the leading theme but with concerns expressed over that word “liberal.” The meeting adjourned with plans to finalize the theme the following month. At the next month’s meeting the discussion resumed with concerns being voiced over that word, yet again. What I found interesting, as I watched, it was the Liberals who were questioning the word and the Conservatives (yes, we have some of each on the committee with the majority being Centrists) defending the word “liberal” in the context of liberal World Order.
When Maureen put the biennial survey together, she included the theme for the coming year as a discussion item and elicited comments from you. The survey garnered a 28% response rate overall which translate to 327 of you, which is very good. Of those of you whom commented on the theme most of the comments were positive, but there was a significant minority who feared we had fallen off the left side of the aisle and that next year’s ID Name Tags would be PINK.
Such is not the case and let me provide some context:
- First off there is a significant difference between liberal with a lower case “l” and Liberal with a capital “L,” as at least two of our speakers this past year commented on
- As most of you know, I am a historian by training, so let me provide some historical perspective:
- In 1648 the Peace of Westphalia brought an end to the 30 Years War and established World Order (granted only in Europe) with the recognition of nation states
- 100 years later the Enlightenment came about, challenging the rule of kings and providing the underpinnings of our constitution and the rule of law, thus creating on a small scale a liberal world order that was designed and built mainly by conservatives
- With 18 Brumaire (1799) Napoleon hijacked the French Revolution but the Congress of Vienna put that genie back in the bottle and world order was reestablished
- In 1848 the Liberals revolted by attempting to overthrow the various crowned heads in Europe and establishing constitutional order. Many of those Liberals emigrated to the US and the arch-conservative Bismarck created the initial German scheme of pensions, healthcare and welfare (all Liberal constructs in today’s world) in the 1870-80’s
- The 20th Century brought two devastating World Wars before ushering in a US established liberal World Order.
- In December every year, The Economist publishes an edition that looks forward rather than a backward-looking reportage of events. This edition is more opinion pieces written by statesmen, futurists and The Economists staffers. In the 2018 Edition Senator John S. McCain (AZ) eloquently made the case for a liberal World Order. I do not always agree with John, in fact, there are days that I swear that when he bailed out over Viet Nam, he landed on his head. BUT, in this case I think he nailed it. I commend it to you – download a PDF of the article and see for yourself.
Looking back on 2017-2018
On this 4 July 2018, it seems an appropriate time to take a look back at the year the World Affairs Council of Hilton Head just completed and a glance forward to the new year we will formally kick-off with the Annual Meeting of the Council on 21 September.
The Friday Speaker Series was a resounding success. We have heard from many of you via email, conversations and survey responses that it was the best Program Year you had experienced. For that kudos and thanks go out to Jeff Stokes and the members of his Program Committee. From personal observation, I know the time and labor that these folks put into determining the right topics to present and then finding the right speakers to discuss these topics.
Back in January, Bill Clifford, President of World Affairs Council of America, visited with us and as I took him back to his hotel he asked is this how you treat all your speakers and was the Q&A typical for a session? It was a simple answer, Yes. He was highly impressed with our processes and the quality of the questions asked and the quantity of members in attendance.
His last point speaks to you our audience and you are a major factor in our ability to attract the speakers we do. The Speakers Marketplace is small and select and for the most part they all know one another, and they talk to one another. When I have breakfast with the speaker on Friday mornings I preview the session for them and except for our Global Speakers the response I get is; “I talked with so-and-so and they said I am going to love the audience and I will be challenged with solid questions”.
Ben Kinnas now takes the reins of Program Committee Chair for the next two years with this coming year’s theme being "Threats to Liberal Democracy" (more about that in Part II of my summer letter).
Comings and goings:
- Claudia Kennedy completed her second term as a Director and rolled off the Board in June. She coordinated our In-Reach Programs (Summer Forum, Fall Forum, Great Decisions and the Evening Speaker Series).
- John Gilbert was elected to the Board in March; John and his wife Lesley led the Program Cmte for the Evening Speaker series for the past two years.
- David Borghesi was elected to the Board in June.
- Linda Fiore has taken on the coordination of the Evening Speaker Series Program.
- Michel Jover completed three years of coordinating the Great Decisions Program
- Brian Turrisi has taken on the coordination role for Great Decisions
- Margaret McManus has taken on Summer Forum for the next two years in addition to her VP responsibilities.
- Joan Lemoine was elected to the World Affairs Council of America Board of Directors for a 3 year term.
When you are a membership organization having people willing to step up and take on leadership roles is key to being successful. My thanks to all of them and to our volunteers who make this all work.
Lee J. Wilwerding President,
World Affairs Council Hilton Head