Long-running Great Decisions program moves to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and is free to the public starting February 2024


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The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan (WACWM), the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation (GFPF), and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum (GFPM) announced that the Great Decisions Global Discussions series is moving to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum for the 2024 season, beginning Tuesday, February 6.


“The Ford Museum is the perfect home for the Great Decisions series,” said Michael Van Denend, executive director of WACWM. “The museum, on the Grand River, reflects the heartbeat of the city, and President Ford, certainly a man of this city, was a strong advocate for engagement with the world. The intent of the series and the site of the presentations will be in great alignment.”


Another significant change to the series, which has been available in West Michigan since the late 1950s: all the programs are free to the public.


Great Decisions consists of eight weeks of world-oriented topics that are recommended by the Foreign Policy Association of America (FPA) in New York City as global issues every American community should be learning and talking about. In 2015, WACWM was honored by the FPA for the council’s impressive history of programs over the decades.


Past presenters have been ambassadors and other international diplomats, State Department staff members, Washington think-tank specialists, world-focused journalists, and other global experts. This year, among the 2024 Great Decisions guests will be General (ret.) Curtis Scaparrotti, former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for NATO; NPR’s Neela Banerjee on climate technology; Kaiser Kuo from the Sinica Podcast on Chinese technology; and Hiroko Muraki-Gottlieb from Pace University on high seas treaties.


“This partnership is a natural,” said Gleaves Whitney, executive director of the Ford Presidential Foundation. “Our 38th President was once asked what additional formal education he wished he had received. Without pausing he said, ‘More history classes so that I would have gained a better understanding of the world and America’s role in it.’


“In that spirit,” said Whitney, “the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation is proud to partner with the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan and the Ford Presidential Library and Museum to contribute in such a significant way to the civic education of the lifelong learners in our community. Great Decisions is one of the premier civic programs in the nation, and the World Affairs Council has been a leader in this space for many decades.”


“President Ford once stated: ‘Our societies, our philosophies, our varying positions in the world give us differing perceptions of our respective national interests,’” said Brooke Clement, Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum. “The Ford Presidential Museum is honored to partner with the World Affairs Council and the Ford Foundation in hosting the Great Decisions discussions in 2024. We aim to be a place where the Grand Rapids community can explore and learn more about the global perspective.”


Hosting the Great Decisions series at the Ford Museum will be made possible by generous support from WACWM corporate member Wolverine Worldwide and the GFPF. Other corporate and educational partners of WACWM will be topic sponsors. GFPM team members will also support the effort for the eight-week program in a variety of ways.


Great Decisions 2024 will be held each Tuesday of February and March, beginning with February 6, and running eight consecutive weeks until March 26. Receptions and networking begin at 5 p.m.; programs, which always include ample time for audience questions, begin at 6 p.m., ending at 7:15 p.m. Each presentation will be offered free to the public. Parking is free at the museum.


Each Great Decisions program will be livestreamed for remote viewing at a variety of venues and universities across the state through the generous support of Grand Rapids Community College. The WACWM’s YouTube Channel contains many past programs in the series. WACWM celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2024, and is part of a national system of 90 world affairs councils, supported by the World Affairs Councils of America in Washington, D.C. Contact Michael Van Denend at mvd@worldmichigan.org for more information.