Los Angeles World Affairs Council Fiscal 2012-13 Turnaround

Membership was up by 6%, compared to a 32% decline in the previous year. This turnaround is directly linked to the quality and frequency of our programming: we had 47 events during the fiscal year - a mix of film screenings, full Council speaker events over lunch or dinner, Young Professional events for our under-30s, and roundtables for our board and International Circle members. We also moved from downtown to a new open plan office in Culver City in West Los Angeles mid-December, giving us the ability to hold smaller events in our own space. With new energy in the Council and a crucially important return to profitability which gives us financial stability, we are in a very strong position to grow further in the coming months and years.

We started the fiscal year last July with a lunch for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who had just got off a plane from Germany where he had a series of talks about how to stabilize the then-teetering Eurozone (and incidentally save the world economy). In August we had the director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who cited cyber spying as one of his greatest concerns. We had two events looking at foreign policy in the run-up to the Presidential Elections – author James Mann discussed the differences – and similarities – between the foreign policies of Presidents Bush and Obama, and we also had a vicarious presidential debate with Ambassador Derek Shearer speaking to President Obama’s views and Pepperdine Professor Robert Kaufman speaking to Governor Romney’s side.

We had a very successful event in October at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where Director Charles Elachi gave an inspiring talk about the successful landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars – in fact the event was so successful it sold out in 9 hours, and we had to put on a repeat event in December, which also sold out. In December we also had our Venetian masked ball fundraiser, which produced some wonderful costuming ideas, a funny speech by the comedic actor Eddie Izzard, and a welcome profit to bolster the Council’s finances.

Michelle Rhee, the former schools chancellor from Washington DC and a passionate advocate for education reform spoke to a crowded lunch in January, and former Treasury Secretary and President of Harvard Lawrence Summers addressed the Council in February – with a slightly more sanguine view of the world economy than Timothy Geithner 6 months before. In February we also had a spectacular dinner under the port wing of the space shuttle Endeavour, with astronauts Colonel Buzz Aldrin and Garrett Reisman talking about space walking, how to throw footballs in zero gravity – and how we could get humans to Mars.

In March we had the Taiwanese foreign minister, David Lin, and a Young Professionals reception for water programs in Kenya. In April we went to the Getty Villa in Malibu for a wonderful exhibition on the antiquities of Sicily, with a dinner outside in the Villa’s peristyle overlooking the ocean. We had a very well-attended screening of the documentary Manhunt about the female CIA operatives who found Osama bin Laden. And the Russian parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky addressed us – in Russian, with simultaneous interpretation – about how Moscow views the world.

In May Ambassador Ryan Crocker spoke about the Arab Spring – only at its beginning, in his view, and we had a screening of the controversial Israeli movie, The Gatekeepers. To end the fiscal year in June we had Oscar-winning director Billy Friedkin and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who made a tongue-in-cheek call for a one-handed economist who didn’t continually offer an “on the other hand” viewpoint.

In the coming year we will continue to offer high-quality programming, including our very popular foreign-themed film screenings. One date to mark in your calendar – on September 26th we will have a dinner at the Petersen Auto Museum to celebrate board member Stanley Gold’s successful 7,610 mile drive from Beijing to Paris in a 1965 Porsche 911, complete with video from the countries he passed through. We are also planning a trip to Cuba for Los Angeles World Affairs Council members, which will take in Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos. The trip is scheduled for end-March 2014, with spaces still available (please call Jessica McCarthy if you are interested).

Our staff – Alexander Messmann, Susan Hwang, Jessica McCarthy and Ron Gray – and I thank you for your continued support for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Please feel free to call us on 424 258 6160 or email me directly on tmccarthy@lawac.org if you have any questions or comments. We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events.