Group wants to bring world affairs to local stage
Aspen has an institute, Crested Butte has the Public Policy Forum, and even Gateway Canyons has John Hendricks’ Curiosity Project. So why wouldn’t Grand Junction and a World Affairs Council be a match?
Those intellectual efforts bring world-class speakers and experts to their inquisitive communities, an effort at bringing together like-minded folks with a curious yen to learn about the wide world at large.
“I think that we have reached a critical mass now, of people who have come to the area and have an interest (in foreign affairs) and would like to see the horizons broadened,” said Duane Butcher, a career foreign service officer who retired to the Grand Valley and is a force behind bringing the idea of a World Affairs Council of Western Colorado to Grand Junction.
Butcher, Colorado Mesa University professor Tim Casey and Grand Junction City Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein are really the team behind the idea, which ideally would bring top-name foreign affairs experts to town for a regular speaker series. Butcher said the group also aims to have smaller, seminar-type events, probably featuring locals with experience or connections to far-flung countries across the globe.
“We’d like to see something that helps people understand other cultures, other peoples, and it increases their knowledge of what’s going on in the world,” Butcher said. “It could be a major addition to what is going on in Grand Junction.”
First things first: The group is hosting an organizational meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Central branch library, 443 N. 6th St., in the library’s conference room. Organizers plan to file for nonprofit status, a step necessary to collecting any kind of dues, so the Wednesday meeting is important to gauge local interest and hopefully assign some initial duties, Butcher said.
People interested in being a part of the group need only share a desire to learn about foreign affairs and global cultures, Butcher said. Though it may be difficult to avoid, speakers and subjects will be non-partisan and non-political, he said.
Butcher had a long and distinguished career in the foreign service, which saw him stationed in countries including Turkey, France, Germany, Sweden, Kenya and Saudi Arabia. Butcher also served for a year as an international adviser to former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, who co-directs the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver.
Butcher said his connections to the U.S. State Department could yield some high-profile speakers coming to town. He’s also hopeful to draw Joe Wilson, a former U.S. diplomat and husband to infamously outed CIA agent Valerie Plame. He and Butcher worked closely in the run-up to the Iraq-Kuwait War.
Butcher’s son, Duane C. Butcher, is charge d’affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, essentially meaning he will serve as acting ambassador there until a new one arrives. He is expected to be a featured speaker at the group’s inaugural meeting, planned for August.