The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a member of a network of nonprofit educational organizations around the country that have similar objectives to bring global affairs awareness and education programs and resources to our communities. Every November the councils gather in Washington for a conference to enhance their cooperation and to interact with leaders in government, business, academia, the military and other decision makers to discuss the top issues on the international affairs agenda.
Through a generous grant from Mr. Carlos Alvarez, a board member of the World Affairs Councils of America, the national office that coordinates the network’s activities, 25 students from the 95 councils are selected to attend the conference. The Tennessee World Affairs Council was pleased to nominate Alexis Humbrecht, a sophomore at Belmont University, to attend the 2016 National Conference. She enjoyed three days of programs, panels, think-tank visits, hosted luncheons and networking with diplomats, policymakers, World Affairs Councils’ staffs and fellow students.
Here for your consideration is a brief report of her observations from WAC2016.
A Report on WACA16
I was recently gifted one of the most amazing opportunities. One of my professors, Associate Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education Dr. Mimi Barnard, told me about a scholarship opportunity to attend a conference in D.C. I applied and was accepted to attend the World Affairs Councils of America’s National Conference with the Tennessee World Affairs Council (TNWAC). Since learning about TNWAC, I have met amazing people on Belmont University’s campus, such as Ambassadors Charles R. Bowers and Ronald Schlicher.
The national conference allowed me to meet incredible people and go to amazing places. I found some of the speakers particularly interesting. One of the best speakers was the keynote speaker on Wednesday, Senator George J. Mitchell. Senator Mitchell stated, “Everyone has something to worry about, so be grateful.” This resonated with me.
A plenary session of the World Affairs Councils of America National Conference (WAC2016) in Washington, DC.
I also found the journalists on the Presidential Leadership and US Foreign Policy panel very interesting. One of the things that Tom DeFrank stressed was the importance of continuity. While I have always thought the transition period to be important, I would never have described it as “continuous.” However, I now see how important this is. Presidents cannot come into office and expect to change each and ever policy or practice put into place by the president before them. Evan Thomas claimed that a smooth, continuous transition is incredibly important to the president’s success. They also discussed the importance of following through on your word and doing what you say you will do. Obama ran into this issue a few times, a problem of which I was not aware. Before the conference, I had not heard of his “red line in the sand” issue. My favorite thing that these speakers said was that one has to be a narcissist to run for president. The validity of that statement is amazing.
WAC2016 Scholarship Students with sponsors Carlos and Malú Alvarez (C).
I also thought that Senator Chris Murphy was a very interesting presenter. He spoke about the Obama Doctrine and how Islamophobia took off in 2008, with the election of Obama. The conference was just days after the Russian election hack was announced. Murphy made sure it was clear that, even though they helped Trump win the election, they are not Republicans.
I was also given the opportunity to visit Brookings, a nonprofit public policy think tank. One of the speakers at Brookings, Michael Doran stated, “You may not be interested in the Middle East, but the Middle East is interested in you.” This resonated with me as well. I do not and have never had a particular interest in the Middle East. I always admire people who know a lot or are passionate about it. This visit gave me the desire to learn about it. Although I may not particularly enjoy it or find it interesting, it is an important global issue to know about.
WAC2016 conferees sit in on a foreign policy panel discussion at the Brookings Institution.
The most important thing that I got out of this conference was the connections. As a German major, meeting people that speak German is a rarity. However, during the Ambassador’s Luncheon, I was able to share a meal with the German Embassy’s head of the Economics and Science Department, Peter Rondorf. I would love to work with or in Germany at some point in my life. However, the most important relationships that I made were those that I made at odd times. On my way to the French Ambassador’s house, I sat next to Diane Conroy- LaCivita. She gave me amazing life advice and told me about her family. I took her card and look forward to connecting with her in the future.
Tennessee World Affairs Council representatives at WAC2016 (L-R) Patrick Ryan, President; Alexis Humbrecht, Scholarship Student; and Dr. Charles Womack, Board Member during an evening reception at the residence of the Ambassador of France.
On my way back to the hotel from the French Ambassador’s house, I met Sandy Campbell, the executive director for the Santa Fe Council on International Relations. While his enthusiastic personality makes him a person that I would not typically approach, I enjoyed my time with him very much. I met him on the bus, and he quickly invited me to go out to eat with him and two of his colleagues. While we were out, we planned some events for their council. I saw Sandy the next day, and he offered me an intern position with him over the summer. Without the World Affairs Councils of America, I would have never had this opportunity. I am incredibly grateful for this organization and for Mr. Carlos Alvarez’s support.
WAC2016 Scholarship Students (TNWAC representative Alexis Humbrecht 2nd from right) with Ambassador of France to the United States Gérard Araud at a reception at his Washington, DC residence.
The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit (501c3), nonpartisan educational charity based in Nashville that works to build understanding of global issues in our communities. Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at: www.TNWAC.org — Join / Donate / Volunteer