We are well into our 2019-2020 program year and have seen record attendance at the first six Friday morning presentations. Our speakers so far have presented diverse views on a variety of issues and two recent speakers shared important insights on China from a historical perspective as well as China's current moves to increase its international influence. This was particularly timely given the signature of a "Phase 1" trade deal between the US and China this month. And we can't overlook the fact that all of our speakers have commented on your perceptive questions that led to lively Q&A sessions!!!
We have eight more speakers lined up to add even more valued and timely perspectives. The next, Sean McFate, will speak on the new rules of warfare, which is a topic that became even more significant after developments in late 2019 and earlier this month. Our speakers in February are Dr. Bhavya Lal, a widely respected expert on space technology, and Joby Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Washington Post reporter. Dr. Lal will discuss developments in commercial and military space technology applications and Joby Warrick will discuss the significance of conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.
We now have over 1100 members and more than 225 are new this year. Several guests have also attended each of the Friday sessions.
Besides our Friday speaker series, other WACHH programs are complete or moving forward -
- The 2019 Fall Forum is complete, and attendees enjoyed lively discussions in several locations and next year's program is already being planned.
- The Evening Speaker Series starts on January 21 and has a full lineup for February, March, and April at the SoundWaves facility near Coligny Circle. The January speaker will be Bing West, a part-time Hilton Head resident who co-authored General Jim Mattis's recent book on leadership and loyalty. The January session is sold out, but a few spaces are available for the remaining three sessions.
- Great Decisions books have been delivered and discussion session signups have proceeded quickly. A few spaces remain open.
- Our Summer Forum is on track to offer a program of three local speakers for June, July, and August 2020.
In addition to these programs available to WACHH members, we also support two school-focused programs - Academic World Quest and Model UN. More than 150 local students are participating this year and over 35 World Affairs Council members and supporters have visited local schools to share their experiences living or working in over 25 countries with Model UN contestants. Other volunteers have been working with local high schools in advance of the Academic World Quest competition, which is scheduled for March 7 at Bluffton High School. Your financial support for the past few years has been important and will provide additional opportunities for local students this year.
I want to thank all of you for your attendance and the many questions you asked of our speakers. I also want to thank members who brought guests to our events and hope you continue to encourage interest and involvement by your friends and neighbors.
John Gilbert, President
World Affairs Council of Hilton Head