Opening eyes: Pittsburgh sets tone for World Affairs Councils

The Board of Directors of the World Affairs Councils of America met in Pittsburgh last week to examine the way forward at a critical time in the conduct of America’s foreign relations, as a new administration tackles international issues that increasingly touch on the lives of Americans.

The organization is comprised of some 95 councils in 40 states, reaching an estimated half a million persons per year, coast to coast. Its newest member is in Albuquerque, N.M. It met here at the invitation of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and its president, Angelica Ocampo.

The primary focus of the WACA members, including the Pittsburgh council, is to introduce and extend to students at the secondary-school level knowledge of and interest in foreign affairs. They also, equally important, bring to outside-the-Beltway America important, knowledgable speakers on issues central to U.S. foreign relations. A recent series of the Pittsburgh council involved experts on cybersecurity. There is also an effort to provide interactive forums to discuss issues such as China, Russia, the Middle East, terrorism and trade.

The WACA board chairman, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Roman Popadiuk, said that the organization’s primary goal was “to bring foreign affairs to the kitchen table.” He said that WACA had found interest in the subject growing rapidly across the country in recent months.

The WACA board’s visit to Pittsburgh was timely in providing an opportunity for them to put into context President Donald Trump’s remark about representing Pittsburgh, as opposed to Paris, with reference to the climate change agreement from which he is withdrawing the United States. The visitors saw the clean, scenic view from Mount Washington, and their Pittsburgh hosts recounted to the visitors how we got there, starting in the 1940s.

Their visit included a meeting with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald as well as stops at the City of Asylum’s Alphabet City Center on the North Side and the RAND Corp. “Eds and meds” innovation was stressed, as opposed to smoky and dirty. Pittsburghers welcomed the WACA board’s visit as a chance to show them our city, as well as to provide them a chance to reflect on America’s future, particularly in engagement with the rest of the world, a lesson that Pittsburgh’s history and people can deliver without much effort.


The above content is from an Op-Ed published on June 13, 2017 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. To read the article on their website, follow this link.