A tradition lasting more than 20 years in Dunwoody brings foreign policy experts to the city to talk with people from throughout metro Atlanta about global topics ranging from nuclear security to U.S. trade policy.

Known as the Great Decisions Lecture Series, a program of the Foreign Policy Association, the series has been ongoing nationally for about 60 years. This year’s Dunwoody series is underway and continues through Feb. 23.

“This is an opportunity for citizens to come together and discuss critical issues going on in the world,” said Ginny Johansmeier, director of the Dunwoody’s Great Decisions program.

Johansmeier explained that about 20 years ago, Rosalie Fitzpatrick, a member of Dunwoody United Methodist Church, decided to start the program in her home town due, in part, to her involvement in Atlanta’s international community.

The Foreign Policy Association, which states it offers “balanced, authoritative, nonpartisan programs” has a mission of encouraging citizen participation in the U.S. foreign policy process and allows anyone to form a group at the FPA website. In Georgia, there are nearly 30 Great Decisions groups across the state.

Johansmeier, also a member of Dunwoody United Methodist Church, has been director of the local series for the past three years. Last year, she said, more than 500 people attended the sessions that include a 45-minute presentation by a speaker followed by 45 minutes of questions and answers in an informal setting.

The series is intended to provide face-to-face, active and informal conversation, Johansmeier said.

“Primarily, programs all across the country are discussions. In Dunwoody, we get a speaker who is very familiar with the topic,” Johansmeier said.

The FPA decides what eight topics to cover as part of the Great Decisions series about six months before they actually begin, giving Dunwoody’s group time to find the speakers.

“The series is a more in-depth understanding of what is happening in the world than what everyone sees on the news,” she said.

“We believe if you live in a democracy and are going to vote, you should be as familiar with as many topics as possible,” she said.

People can attend all the discussions or just one or two, depending on their interests, Johansmeier said.

The lecture series is held at Dunwoody United Methodist Church, 1548 Mt. Vernon Road. All events are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person and includes a briefing book, and $50 for companions if sharing a briefing book. For more information, see gciv.org/programs/gd/Dunwoody and fpa.org.

2017 Discussion Topics

Jan. 12: China and its Military Policy

Speaker: Dr. John W. Garver, Professor Emeritus, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology

Jan. 19: Afghanistan/Pakistan Update

Speaker: Dr. Marion Creekmore, Distinguished Visitor Professor of History and Political Science, Emory University

Jan. 26: Latin America’s Falling Economies

Speaker: Dr. Thomas D. Rogers, Associate Professor of Modern Latin American History, Emory University

Feb. 2: The European Union

Speaker: Dr. Eleanor G. Morris, Associate Professor of Political Science, Program Director of International Relations, Agnes Scott College

Feb. 9: The Geopolitics of Energy

Speaker: Dr. Marilyn Brown, Professor, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology

Feb. 16: U.S. Trade Policy

Speaker: Dr. Sheila Tschinkel, Distinguished Visiting Economics Professor, Emory University

Feb. 23: Nuclear Security Today

Speaker: Dr. Robert Kennedy, Professor Emeritus, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.