By Janet Newcomb

Even though the world seems obsessed with various and sundry celebrity pratfalls and sleazy affairs, the World Affairs Council of the Desert has loftier concerns.  The nonprofit organization’s stalwart leaders have been luring experts to the Coachella Valley to expound on global issues over dinner since 1972, and the monthly gatherings are sold-out social and educational affairs. According to WACD President Brigadier General (Ret.) Guido Portante, the mission is to engage and educate adults and students about international affairs through its speaker series and its support of an active youth program.  A member of The World Affairs Councils of America (WACA), the largest nonpartisan, nonprofit grassroots organization in the country dedicated to addressing global issues, the desert chapter produces eight speaker dinner events a year.

What’s very special about this group is that they host local college students at the dinners in order to introduce them to international economic, military, social and political realities via some of the brightest and most knowledgeable experts in the country. The Council also sponsors the Academic WorldQuest, an annual national competition among high school teams. Our local teams have placed well in this competition among the 225 high school team finalists that represent the best of more than 4,000 regional qualifier competitions. In fact, Desert Christian Academy’s 2012 team (Hunter Hurja, George Mathews, Christie Mathews, and William Nelson, coached by Dr. Emily Nelson) took 4th place, a stellar accomplishment.

The first event of the 2012-2013 WACD series, at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells, is on October 28 with Mark Parris, a former ambassador to Turkey who is now at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank in Washington.  Mr. Parris will discuss the future role of Turkey, a secular country of 75 million people with 15 recognized political parties that is currently in the news for its intervention in Syria and its looming internal civil unrest in the Kurdish region.

November’s speaker will be Erroll Southers, professor of counterterrorism at USC’s Price School of Public Policy addressing “Counter-Terrorism 101: Above CNN but Below Classified.”  Southers is a former FBI Special Agent, President Barack Obama’s first nominee for Assistant Secretary of the TSA, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Deputy Director for Critical Infrastructure of the California Office of Homeland Security. In December, Dr. Marian Tupy, a policy analyst with the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute in Washington, will be the speaker. He specializes in globalization and global well-being, as well as the political economy of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. He will address the questions of “Is the World Better Off or Worse? By What Measure?”

You can show your support for the nonprofit World Affairs Council of the Desert by becoming an annual Member (levels from Individual $90 to Diplomat $500), becoming a Dinner Sponsor ($1,000), or making a one-time donation of your choice. Ticket prices for each event are $65 for Members and $80 for nonmembers – including dinner with wine! There’s a reception at 5, and the dinner event begins at 6. For information and tickets phone 760.322.7711, email, or visit