By Jim Harrington
I was introduced to the Conference on World Affairs in high school. Since then every year in April I get into trouble playing hooky from school or now work to continue my education. Much of what happens is just opening new pathways of perspective. The Conference on World Affairs, originally founded in 1948 as a forum on international affairs, expanded in its early years to encompass the arts, media, science, diplomacy, technology, environment, spirituality, politics, business, medicine, human rights, and so on and so on. Roger Ebert, who participated in the Conference on World Affairs for four decades, always referred to it as “the Conference on Everything Conceivable.” It is all that and more.
Each April at least 100 participants representing a wide range of backgrounds gather in Boulder for what The New York Times calls “a week-long extravaganza of discussion and debate” on approximately 200 panels, plenaries and performances. Molly Ivins, a frequent participant for over 25 years, wrote that the Conference on World Affairs offers “whole new ways of looking at old questions and information that can transform the way you look at things.”
Ebert when asked “Why is this week like lifeblood for me?” Answered “Once we settle into our life’s careers, most of us charge the line with our heads down. I have a tendency, for example, to think the world revolves around movies. Once a year at the Conference, I am forced to think on subjects not of my own choosing. I get to talk to people from other worlds.” For me there is something very infectious as an audience member seeing participants being stretched in this way that helps me to stretch my own thinking to new delights.
Although many of the panelists ordinarily command large speaking or performance fees, Conference on World Affair participants attend at their own expense, finding reward in a fascinating and diverse group of people from around the globe.
This year’s Conference on World Affairs will be held April 7-11th on the University of Colorado Campus. All events are free and open to the public, and are attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni, townsfolk, journalists and visitors from around the nation. Audiences range in size from an intimate 75 to well over 2,000 at individual sessions, with a combined total of about 72,000 over the course of five days. Additional information can be found at http://www.colorado.edu/cwa