Column: Fulbright Association meeting in Atlanta for the first time

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on October 16, 2015.

Although Atlanta will not host the 2015 Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in November, a significant international event will be taking place here after all.

The Fulbright Association will be holding its 2015 annual conference in Atlanta at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14 — the first time the prestigious alumni organization has held its U.S. gathering outside of Washington, D.C.

And 2014 Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi (who was awarded the peace prize along with Malala Yousafzai) will be the keynote speaker on Thursday evening at the opening dinner of the “Creating Pathways to Peace: Global Health and Education” annual conference. Satyarthi has been described as India’s modern day Mahatma Gandhi for his peaceful struggle to stop the exploitation of children.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young will welcome the Fulbright scholars to Atlanta at the opening night dinner.

If the conference feels similar to the now-defunct 2015 Nobel Peace Laureates Summit that was supposed to have been held in Atlanta, it’s no accident.

Kim Eger, co-chair of the Fulbright Association’s 2015 Annual Conference, originally had teamed up with the Nobel Summit to simultaneously put on their events so they could benefit from each other.

As for Atlanta, Eger said the conference could set a foundation for future peace gatherings in the city.

“It is our hope that this will help position Atlanta for a 2017 bid to host the Nobel Peace Laureate Summit — if there is interest,” Eger said. “When the 2015 Summit imploded, there was a lot of good will and interest here. Unfortunately that didn’t go anywhere.”

Paul Bowers honored

Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Committee, came to Atlanta at the St. Regis Hotel on Oct. 8 to be at the dinner when Georgia Power Co. CEO Paul Bowers received the 2015 National Human Relations Award.

“The warmth of the people in this room and the fellowship here is something quite remarkable,” Bergman said. “I just felt something really special here.”

Dov Wilker, the AJC’s regional director in Atlanta, described some of the many ways the city has stood out when it comes to its relationships between the Jewish community and the community at large.

“Atlanta was the third to sign on to the Muslim-Jewish Task Force,” Wilker said.

Bergman added that the coalition between the Jewish community and the African-American community during the Civil Rights era is legendary nationally and internationally.

“We are an organization that sows the seeds of understanding,” Bergman said, commending Atlanta for its work with diversity and multi-cultural exchanges that combine different faiths, countries and races.

And it was in that spirit that Bowers received the 2015 Human Relations Award.

Coca-Cola’s Clyde Tuggle, retired Southern Co. CEO David Ratcliffe and United Distributors’ Doug Hertz spoke of the qualities Bowers has brought to the Georgia business community.

“Not much gets done in this state without Paul Bowers weighing in on it,” Hertz said. “I’ve been chasing him around every where.”

Bowers gave the credit for all his success to his family, his mentors and all the Georgia Power associates.

“The energy in the room, these are the folks who deserve the true recognition here tonight,” Bowers said, and then told event honorary chair and Home Depot Chairman Frank Blake that he sets the standard of being “a humble leader.”

Southface Visionary Dinner

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who won Southface’s annual Argon Award in 2014, proudly gave Cox Conserves the 2015 award at the Visionary dinner on Oct. 7 at the Egyptian Ballroom.

At the time,, the mayor pledged once again to make Atlanta one of the top 10 most sustainable cities in the United States.

He credited Cox Enterprises as being a company that leads by example by setting aggressive conservation and sustainability goals.

Lacey Lewis, senior vice president of finance for Cox Enterprises, told the dinner crowd how Jim Kennedy, the top executive of the company for decades, became so environmentally sensitive.

In 1978, Kennedy was asked to give a talk at his son’s school. One of Jamie Kennedy’s classmates asked Jim Kennedy: “How many trees do you kill for the newspaper?”

It was then when Kennedy decided “we needed to invest in a recycled newspaper company,” Lewis said. “In the 1990s, he challenged our management to reduce our carbon footprint by 10 percent in 10 years.”

Now the challenge is to have zero waste to landfill by 2024 as well as be water neutral and carbon neutral that same year.

The keynote speaker for the night was Steve Curwood, host of NPR’s Living on Earth program.

His advice to folks in Atlanta? Invest in transit. With the amount of population growth occurring in urban areas – including Atlanta, Curwood said there’s no way the region would be able to handle a proportionate increase in cars. Plus that’s not the lifestyle people are seeking today.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if they could walk or if they could take public transportation?” Curwood asked rhetorically. “Increasingly young folks don’t want a car. Millenials have figured it out. I’m so glad you are so interested in sustainability. But one of the first things you are going to have to do is develop a more sustainable system of transportation.”

Note to readers: The last item did not run in the Atlanta Business Chronicle due to lack of space.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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