60th Anniversary

Launched on September 12, 1951 by twenty-two Seattle community leaders, the World Affairs Council has enriched Seattle’s civic and cultural conversations with global perspectives. Since its founding, the World Affairs Council has connected the Seattle community with the world. It has been, and continues to be, a hub for discourse and discussion on world affairs.  When it began in 1951, the World Affairs Council quickly established itself, presenting eighty speakers from thirty countries in its first two years. By 1958 the World Affairs Council was the recipient of the Blue Ox Award, given by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce for its work in helping to put Seattle on the world stage through its community programs.

60th Anniversary Celebration

History was made at the reception prior to Jimmy Carter’s speech at the Paramount Theatre. Pat Baillargeon and Marcia Williams were on hand to cut a birthday cake celebrating the World Affairs Council’s 60th anniversary year.  Their father and grandfather, Cebert Baillargeon and Walter W. Williams, respectively, were founding members of the World Affairs Council and their families have remained engaged with the World Affairs Council over the preceding six decades.  Highlighted in the display set up for the reception, the World Affairs Council has had an illustrious history connecting Seattle with the world at large.  Many big-name guests and speakers were featured in the 1950s and 1960s, with Seattle receiving the prestigious Institute of International Education award in 1967 for “having welded the component parts of its community into a truly international city extending warmth and friendship to visitors from every corner of the world.”  After a difficult period in the 1970s, the World Affairs Council was reorganized and regained the prominent position that it continues to hold today.  Hosting former President Jimmy Carter represents not only the start of an exciting year of special programs around the World Affairs Council’s 60th anniversary, but also a new pinnacle of the Council’s contribution to the greater Seattle region. An introduction to President Carter’s talk is available here.

On June 19th, at an event concluding our 60th anniversary season, the World Affairs Council Board approved the new Strategic Plan. The Identity Statement from the plan is available here.


Our Founding Board Members

William S. StreetCharles E. Martin
Bishop Stephen S. BayneRichard E. Fuller
Father A. A. LemieuxHerbert S. Little
Walter W. WilliamsRaymond J. Huff
General Frank E. StonerL. W. Schram
George TaylorWalter L. Riley
Henry ElliottRobert Graham
Clinton HarleyCebert Baillargeon
E. L. SkeelPaul Ashley
R. B. AllenChas. F. Clise
Willard J. WrightEdward W. Allen


Notable speakers of the 1950’s included:

  • Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Dean Rusk, speaks on “Current Problems of Far Eastern Policy” with 800 attendees (1951)
  • Harvard University President and U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Dr. James Bryant Conant, speaks on “The Defense of Europe in the Atomic Age” with 1400 attendees (1951)
  • Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1954)
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (1958)
  • Ambassador of the Netherlands, Dr. J. H. van Roijen (1958)

The 1960’s and 1970’s were decades of rapid growth for the World Affairs Council. The newly established International Visitor Program had seen quick success, hosting international visitors from over thirty-eight countries including Argentina, Finland, Greece, Iran, Jamaica, Philippines and Vietnam. The Program would grow further in 1969 when it would replace the closing U.S. State Department’s Reception Center as Seattle’s official greeter of international visitors. Additionally, the World Affairs Council was cited in the Institute of International Education’s award to Seattle in 1967 for its 16 years of active programming in the city, recognition for the positive influence of the Council has in the region.

Notable speakers of the 1960’s and 1970’s included:

  • Allen Dulles (1963)
  • Author Pearl S. Buck (1966)
  • Henry Kissinger (1966)
  • Pauline Frederick (1966)
  • Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (1967)
  • John Chancellor (1969)
  • Peter Jennings (1967)
  • Robert Novak (1969)
  • C.L. Sulzberger (1969)
  • Dr. Angie Brooks, United Nations General Assembly President (1969)
  • H.E. James Shen, Ambassador of the Republic of China to the United States (1973)
  • H.E. Dong Jo Kim, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States (1973)
  • Jack F. Matlock, Director of the Office of Soviet Union Affairs in the Bureau of European Affairs  (1974)
  • William C. Sherman, Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (1974)
  • Consul General Shacco Von Estorff of the German Consulate General (1977)
  • King Goodwill Zwelethini and Queen Mantfombe of the Zulu nation (1977)
  • Henry Jackson, United States Senator (1979)
  • General H.F. Zeiner Gundersen, Chairman of NATO Military Committee (1979)
  • David D. Newson, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1979)
  • Hans Adolf Jacobsen (1979)

The World Affairs Council continued to grow in the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s to reach the prominent position it holds today as a nationally and internationally renowned organization in global affairs. In 1990, the International Visitor Program was awarded “Best in Nation” by the National Council for International Visitors in Washington D.C. The International Visitor Program continues to hold this outstanding reputation in the NCIV community today.

Notable Speakers of the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s included:

  • Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (1995,  1996 and 1999)
  • Former Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency Robert Gates (1996)
  • Former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (1998)
  • United States Secretary of State Madeline Albright (1998)
  • Former Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and current U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2000 and 2003)
  • United States Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider (2000)
  • United States Executive Director of The World Bank, Jan Piercy (2001)
  • Author and Venture Capitalist George Soros (2003)
  • Author and Activist Naomi Klein (2003)
  • United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (2004)
  • Former head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission Dr. Hans Blix (2004)
  • United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (2004)
  • Ambassador Anwarul K Chowdhury (2004)
  • Former Saudi Ambassador to United States Prince Turki Al-Faisal (2006)
  • Former Senior Vice President of the World Bank and Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz (2005 and 2006)
  • United States Senator John McCain (2007)

Learn more about the history of the World Affairs Council . . .

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