Annual World Affairs Council provides diverse insight to AQ

Story by Chucky Blackmore, News Editor 
Photo courtesy of Andris Visockis

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan made its annual return to AQ on Monday, February 1, inviting students, faculty, and staff to take part in their 2016 series: “Great Decisions Global Discussions.” The WACWM has the longest-running discussion in West Michigan with over eight weeks of presentations.  

With the Performing Arts Center as the setting, the ‘Great Discussions’ series covers topics far and wide, including global migration, climate change, genocide prevention, and normalizing relations with Cuba–just to name a few.  There are eight presentations in this series, and attendance is free to all students, staff, and faculty of AQ.

“Our format allows people to draw close and gain a personal perspective on some of the most pressing issues of the day,” said Dixie Anderson, executive director of the WACWM. “We make it possible to hear from an impressive group of scholars, researchers, and policy makers without ever leaving Grand Rapids.”

To kick off this year’s series, Arab-American scholar Isra El-beshir presented on the political “khartoons” of Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese Muslim cartoonist living in Qatar.  El-beshir, who represents the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, titled her lecture “It Isn’t Funny: A Political Cartoonist in the Arab World.” Her goal included bringing Albaih’s work to light, as he rose to prominence during the anti-government protests of the Arab Spring in 2011.

On Monday, February 8, Bing Goei, who leads Michigan’s Office for New Americans, discussed how Michigan is the third largest state receiving refugees in the U.S. Goei examined the future implications for Michigan and its people. On Monday, February 15, following Goei, a presentation on climate change was conducted by George Heartwell, former mayor of Grand Rapids.  Heartwell talked about the role community members can play to address climate change. He also discussed his experience at the Paris Climate Conference last December.

The ‘Great Decisions’ didn’t stop there. On Monday, February 22, Dr. Brent O’Bannon, from the Conflict Studies Program at DePauw University, explored the reliance Americans have on the United Nations in preventing mass violence, specifically in relation to genocide.

Four more presentations are set to take place every Monday until March 28:

February 29: Dr. Jessie Clark, geographer at the University of Nevada-Reno, will present “Our Allies in the Middle East: The Future of Kurdistan.” During her lecture, Dr. Clark will provide insight on regional and state conflict in Kurdistan and what that means for the future of the Middle East.  

March 14: One of the biggest questions surrounding East Asia is whether or not North Korea and South Korea will be able to reunite as one country again by putting aside their vast differences.  “Is Korean Reunification Possible?” will be hosted by Dr. James Person of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

March 21: Former CIA Case Officer Patrick Skinner will talk about the dangers of ISIS, and how the militant group poses a threat to the U.S.  Skinner, who is currently with the Soufan Group of New York, titled his presentation “ISIS: What We Don’t Know.”  

March 28: Ambassador Charles Shapiro, who was the former coordinator for Cuban Affairs for the U.S. Department of State, will wrap up the series.  Shapiro’s presentation, entitled “Cuba and the U.S.: What Does the Future Hold?” will discuss the steps the U.S. has taken (and still must take) to normalize relations with Cuba. July 2015 marked the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations.  

Each remaining presentation, from February 29 to March 28, will run from 6-7:15p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at AQ. The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan came into existence in 1949, and now has over 2,500 members.  On top of that growing success, the WACWM is considered one of the best Councils of the 100 that make up the World Affairs Councils of America. The most important news yet: The WACWM’s office is located right on AQ’s campus, in the lower level of Donnelly Center. Take a visit today, and be informed of the issues that surround us.

About the Writer…

Chucky Blackmore, News EditorChucky Blackmore is a senior studying English and Education, with a minor in ESL. Other than being The Saint’s News Editor, Chucky is also a Resident Assistant in Hruby Hall and plays lead guitar in Grand Rapids based band, Velcrofibs.

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