Our History

The history of the World Affairs Council – Washington, DC began in 1918 when the Foreign Policy Association (originally named the League of Free Nations Association) was formed by 141 distinguished Americans, including the social reformer Paul Kellogg, to support President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to achieve a just peace. The founding members were concerned that at the end of World War I, Americans would choose an isolationist foreign policy over one of engagement so they worked to nurture grassroots citizen involvement in international affairs. In 1923 the organization received its current name (FPA) and leaders at that time, including John Foster Dulles (later to become US Secretary of State) and Eleanor Roosevelt (later to become First Lady) sought to promote careful study of international issues affecting the United States.
 
In 1980, the Foreign Policy Association consolidated its operations into its New York City headquarters and established the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC to continue operations in the nation’s capital. FPA Board members Patrick Gross and Philip Odeen co-founded the new entity and both served as Chairman of the Council’s Board of Directors.  Mr. Gross co-founded American Management Systems and CGI Technologies in 1970’s and Mr. Odeen served in senior positions with the office of the Secretary of Defense and led Defense Arms Control.
 
The World Affairs Council – Washington, DC is an independent member of the World Affairs Councils of America, a network established in 1986 to act as a national association umbrella for the growing number of Councils around the country. Initially named the National Council of World Affairs Organizations, the national network grew out of the WAC-DC office where it began with a part-time WAC-DC employee managing the communications between councils.   Today, WACA is the country’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to fostering grassroots understanding and engagement in international affairs and seeks to involve as many citizens as possible in an exchange of ideas, knowledge and understanding of global issues.


Global Education Programs
 
Since its beginning the WAC-DC has been a leader in its commitment to Global Education programs.

The Summer Institute on International Affairs is week-long intensive seminar for high school educators from across the nation and provides teachers with the tools and materials with which to bring international education into high school classrooms.  To date over 1,400 American and international high school educators have participated in the 28 annual institutes, resulting in a direct impact on more than half a million students.  For fifteen years, the Council’s Young Ambassador Program has awarded outstanding students the opportunity to travel abroad for an intensive language and cultural awareness experience.  More recently, the Council has launched its High School Leadership Academy, a full-year program for high school students that begins with an intensive week-long summer workshop and continues during the following academic year with special programs in their schools and with other academy students.  In 2013 the Council began to host monthly webinars on global issues for teachers and students.

In 2015, WAC-DC launched the Global Education Teacher-International Exchange Program (GET-IEP) made possible by a generous grant from The MasterCard Foundation. This year-long teacher exchange program, between 6 Washington, D.C. area and 6 Johannesburg, South Africa high school educators provides a two-way cultural exchange and professional development opportunity for teachers to develop curriculum around WAC-DC’s 10 global competencies and major global education themes.


Public Programs

The Council’s fifty to sixty public programs annually include ambassador presentations, foreign policy panel discussions, distinguished speaker series, embassy visits, and young professional programs that collectively engage over 6,000 members and guests each year. In 2013, the Council established its first University Charter. These campus charters will serve as a vehicle to involve college and university students in international affairs. The first charter was established with The George Washington University.
 
Moreover, the Council’s weekly national television program World Affairs TODAY, begun in 2010 and broadcast on MHz Worldview Television is available in approximately 40 million homes across this country and through various platforms and our YouTube channel internationally to millions more.
 
Originally begun with a small staff of two, the Council has grown to a full-time staff of seven who are joined each semester by a group of undergraduate and graduate leadership program interns.
 
The Council continues to expand by reaching out to more students in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. With each coming year the Council reaches more individuals and launches more high quality programs.

 

Current Chairman
Michael Norris

Former Chairmen
Edie Fraser: 2013-2016
John Duff, Jr.: 2011-2013
Hon. Franklin Kramer: 2002-2011
Patrick W. Gross: 1992-2002
Philip Odeen:  1982- 1992
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