Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Conference on World Affairs

The University of Colorado’s Conference on World Affairs was founded in 1948, originally as a forum on international affairs. CWA expanded rapidly to become a forum on Everything Conceivable—encompassing music, literature, environmental activism, science, journalism, visual arts, diplomacy, technology, spirituality, the film industry, politics, business, medicine, human rights and so on.

Every year in April approximately 100 participants representing a wide range of backgrounds gather in Boulder—a beautiful college town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains—for what the New York Times calls “a week-long extravaganza of discussion and debate” on over 200 non-academic, cross-disciplinary panels, plenary sessions and performances.

The Conference challenges its participants to discuss a wide-range of issues on an impromptu basis—offering a refreshing alternative to the specialized gatherings of academia and the business world. According to columnist Molly Ivins, CWA panels offer “...astonishing, cross-disciplinary insights, whole new ways of looking at old questions, and...information that can transform the way you look at things.”

Film critic Roger Ebert, who is this year marking his thirty-sixth consecutive appearance at CWA, says, “Why is this week like lifeblood for me? Once we settle into our life’s careers, most of us charge the line with our heads down, doing our jobs and trying to get ahead. We become specialists, and develop tunnel vision. 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.”

The Conference owes its existence to a vast network of volunteers. Although many of our panelists and performers ordinarily command large speaking fees, CWA participants come at their own expense, finding reward in a diverse group of people from around the globe. Boulder community members, University faculty, staff and students work together to plan and host the week’s public sessions, as well as the participants’ meals and social events. Student volunteers provide local transportation to the participants, greeting them at Denver International Airport when they arrive. Many gracious Boulder community members open their homes to house the participants during the week.

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 50 to well over 2,000 at individual sessions, with a combined total of approximately 50,000 during the course of the week.

Past participants include:
Patch Adams
Margot Adler
Steve Allen
Oscar Arias
Lillian Boutté
Andrei Codrescu
Norman Cousins
Malcolm Bradbury
Bernardine Dohrn
Betty Dodson
Roger Ebert
Michael Franc
R. Buckminster Fuller
Dave Grusin
Don Grusin
Jeremy Harris
Simon Hoggart
Jean Houston
Arianna Huffington
Molly Ivins
Robert Kaplan
Kenneth Kaunda
Henry Kissinger
Rita Klimova
Nicholas Lemann
Johnny Mandel
George McGovern
Terry McNally
Arthur Miller
Steve Miller
Ralph Nader
Andrew Neil
Howard Nemerov
Huey Newton
Yitzhak Rabin
Richard Rodriguez
Eleanor Roosevelt
Paolo Soleri
I. F. Stone
Studs Terkel
Ted Turner
Dennis Wilson
Tim Wirth
Robert Wright

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