Barrett seeks to make city residents global citizens

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Larry Barrett is president of the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that aims to educate the community about international affairs.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, how did the organization start and what are some of its guiding principles?

We’ve been around for 31 years now. It was started by the city leaders back in 1979 to create more dialogue and awareness of international relations.

Our mission statement is pretty simple: It’s to create and sustain greater study, discussion and participation in international relations. In a word, I like to say we’re about education. In several words, I like to say we’re about fostering greater global citizenship. We have two basic program areas. One is the adult education program area, which consists of lectures, seminars and discussion groups. We have roughly nine events every year featuring ambassadors, international business people, academics and military officials — those sorts of things.

Have you seen any rise in interest after Sept. 11, for example, or has community interest in international affairs generally remained the same?

The council has had its ups and downs. In the last few years, it’s probably been more challenged in terms of membership and attendance at lunches, and I think a lot of it has to do with the business environment. We’re a nonprofit, but we still have to charge for luncheons, we still have to try and raise revenue, and when a lot of your members are retired and on pensions, that influences how active you’re going to be. The good news is we think that this year we’re starting to see a renewed interest and renewed participation, so it’s growing again.

How do you see affairs happening abroad impacting life for everyone in Colorado Springs?

I think it’s a big challenge for our society in general to appreciate how much globalization means to their personal lives and their business lives, and that’s one of the reasons, I think, we exist. To increase the awareness of how important global technology, global economy and global society are. We’re in a shrinking planet, figuratively speaking, so the challenges of peace, the challenges of terrorism, and the challenges of national security are compounded.

We’re entering what the international community refers to as a multipolar world. It’s no longer the U.S. is number one — you’ve got Europe, you’ve got China, you’ve got India, you have Brazil — so in this multipolar world, things are becoming more challenging and more important, so we take our mission quite seriously. It’s critical to engage the public as much as we can in building international awareness and international participation.

The next Colorado Springs World Affairs event is at 11:30 a.m. on April 12 at Garden of the Gods Club. U.S. Ambassador Donald Phinney Gregg will be speaking on the topic “What do Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong Il have in Common?” For more information, visit www.csworldaffairs.org.