President Trump Briefed by Gwangil Jung

This month, a group of North Korean defectors met with President Trump to discuss human rights in the country. Recent BCFR speaker JUNG Gwangil participated in the briefing, along with his interpreter, Henry Song. Mr. Jung is the founder of No Chain, an organization working to deliver outside information to the citizens of North Korea. You may read a transcript of the meeting HERE

The meeting was originally reported by The Washington Post.


American Committees on Foreign Relation's Experience in Birmingham

The purpose of this communication is to record the events in Birmingham on October 18-19, 2006 and how it was evaluated by Frank Young, Chairman of the Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations (“BCFR”); David Carder, President of the American Committees on Foreign Relations (“ACFR”) in Washington, D.C.; and Ken Jensen, Executive Director of ACFR..

In accord with an understanding between The American Interest (hereafter “TAI”), publisher Charles Davidson, and the BCFR staged a number of events together in Birmingham. TAI provided and paid the expenses of speakers in the persons of its editorial board chairman, Frank Fukuyama, editor Adam Garfinkle, and contributor Raymond Baker. The BCFR did the organizing of local meetings and arrangements. ACFR acted as an intermediary initially, but almost all of the organizational work was undertaken by TAI and the Birmingham Committee

In accord with an agreement with the head of America Abroad Media (AAM), Aaron Lobel, one of the events in Birmingham was the taping of a radio program for NPR broadcast distribution. Again, ACFR acted as an intermediary only. The taping was conducted in conjunction with a local NPR outlet, which provided the moderator/host for the panel discussion.

The events of the 18th-19th were as follows:

1) The Committee leadership (including a member of ACFR’s Board of Distinguished Advisors, Herb Sklenar) hosted a dinner on the evening of October 18 at the Mountain Brook Country Club for the four TAI visitors (publisher Charles Davidson came down as well), Aaron Lobel and Mr. Jensen. Guests included former city council president William Bell and his wife. The spouses of Committee leaders also attended. While dinner went forward, Frank Young called upon the group to introduce themselves and then to make remarks on what each of them hoped to get out of the events of the next day. This became a very lively exchange of views that focused both on national and local concerns of an international character.

2) The 19th began with the radio program taping. Panelists included Frank Fukuyama, Adam Garfinkle, Frank Young, and David Pollick, the president of Birmingham Southern College, which hosted the event. The topic was the Bush Doctrine and the Middle East. The guiding principle of the event was the bringing together of significant national opinion makers and local concerned citizens/international actors. A number of Committee leaders were in attendance. They formed both the audience and were a source of questions and dialogue. The quality of the product was, all agreed, outstanding. 

3) The next event was an hour-long meeting with the editor and editorial board of The Birmingham News. TAI spoke to its own “creative centrist” editorial position and its concern for American public policy as well as foreign policy. A discussion of Alabama politics as they related to national foreign policy and other political issues ensued.

4) At noon, a public event was held at Birmingham Southern College. On the occasion, the speakers were Frank Fukuyama, Adam Garfinkle, Raymond Baker, and William Bell, with Frank Young moderating. BSC president David Pollick did welcoming remarks. The topic was, roughly, “America in the World,” with Baker opening the bidding with a presentation on the role of international corruption in globalization, Bell speaking on his experiences in dealing with the PRC as a local trade official, Garfinkle speaking on the Middle East, and Fukuyama speaking on the limitations of the Bush Doctrine. The presentations were followed by a lengthy question and answer period.

5) There followed an afternoon visit to the Birmingham Civic Rights Institute, which began with a panel of three local speakers discussing civil and human rights issues pertinent to Birmingham. This was hosted by Institute director Odessa Woolfolk, who afterwards led a tour for TAI and BCFR members. The greatest effect of this, inasmuch as it explained and gave evidence of the way in which the Institute was created as a civic response to Birmingham’s uncomfortable civil rights history, effectively acquainted the non-Birminghamians present with local civic and political culture. The Institute and Odessa Woolfolk proved to be a world-class experience. Accordingly, the group’s visit was very much more than a visit to a local attraction: it conveyed meaning regarding life in Birmingham.

6) The climax of October 19 was the monthly dinner meeting of the BCFR, at which Adam Garfinkle spoke on a half-dozen realities of the Muslim Middle East and Frank Fukuyama spoke once again on the limitations of the Bush Doctrine and the current problems of U.S. foreign policy. It should be mentioned here that each of the TAI presentations throughout the day was fresh, which was much to the benefit of the BCFR members who attended more than one event. Some 120 BCFR members turned out for dinner and asked first-rate questions. Host Frank Young and ACFR President David Carder thanked the TAI participants and presented Fukuyama, Garfinkle, and Davidson with a number of gifts as mementoes of their stay in Birmingham.


TAI visitors Fukuyama, Garfinkle and Davidson expressed their pleasure at the success of the enterprise and stated that the manner in which they were hosted was demonstrable. What interested them most was what they had learned about Birmingham civic life and Alabama politics. They also discussed the possibility of further collaboration.

A large amount of work was necessary to pull off a program the likes of which occurred in Birmingham - several hundred man-hours would be no exaggeration at all. The BCFR provided 2-3 drivers continuously throughout the two days, managed the logistics of each event, fed the speaking participants between events, gave them mini-tours when time between events permitted, and, generally speaking and most importantly, engaged them personally throughout.

It is hoped that TAI editor Adam Garfinkle will print an article regarding the Birmingham experience in a future edition of The American Interest. A piece will also be submitted to The Birmingham News as a possible feature article.


David L. Carder Elected President of the American Committees on Foreign Relations

At the Annual Meeting of The American Committees on Foreign Relations held in Washington, D.C. on May 5, 6 and 7, 2005, David L. Carder, of Birmingham, Alabama, was elected President of the organization and Frank M. Young, III was elected a member of the Executive Committee. Carder, Retired President of Vulcan Lands, has been a member of the Executive Committee of the ACFR since 2002. He is a past Chairman of the Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations and a longstanding member of its Board of Directors. Through Carder’s leadership during the past two years, the ACFR organized a Board of Distinguished Advisors, of which Herb Sklenar, retired Chief Executive Officer of Vulcan Materials, serves as a member.

Carder assumed his duties at the ACFR Board meeting on Saturday, May 7th, presiding over a meeting of Board members from across the country. The ACFR is an organization of over 2,400 members throughout the United States that supports civic dialogue on U. S. foreign policy issues by sponsoring outstanding programs and guest speakers on these important issues. The Committee in Birmingham was established in 1943, and is in its 61st year. Carder’s leadership helped build the Birmingham membership to become one of the strongest committees in the ACFR organization.

Carder is the first President of the organization from Birmingham. “I hope to continue to strengthen the organization’s emphasis on quality speakers and add new committees where appropriate during my term,” said Carder, who has held many leadership roles in the Birmingham community, including Past Chairman of the Norton Board of Advisors for Birmingham Southern College, and Past President of The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham.

Frank M. Young, III, the current Chairman of The Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations, said it is a great honor for Birmingham to have its first elected President of the national organization. “Dave Carder is an outstanding leader and will do a superb job as President of our organization. Under Dave’s leadership, we expect the ACFR to continue to grow and prosper.”

In Honor of Charles F. Zukoski, Founding Member

A year or so ago, Frank Young asked me to present a short biographical sketch of the founder of the Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations, Charles F. Zukoski. I gladly accepted. I accepted because of the fond memories I had of him as a young member of this organization which met then at the Relay House. Charles was always in attendance, along with General Henry Graham and Alex Lacy, smartly dressed and truly on top of the issues of the moment. Even though he was over 75 years of age, we could always count on him to ask thought provoking questions of our speakers. As Shorty Williams will attest later, he was never loath to speak his mind on issues, however controversial!

As I researched his life, I ran across an 88-page book entitled "Voice In The Storm" the Button Gwinnett Columns written during the Civil Rights Struggles and other writings. It is to be found in the Birmingham Public Library and was published in 1990, six years before his death at age 97. In a foreward to the book his friend and archivist Marion Yeomans Whitley wrote in part and I quote:

"Charles F. Zukoski, Jr. is a remarkable individual. His history includes a successful career as a senior officer of Birmingham, Alabama’s First National Bank; as the first mayor, and as a four-term mayor, of the City of Mountain Brook; as one of the area’s civic leaders, serving as chairman of the Shades Valley High School Advisory Committee; as one of the organizers, committee members, and early president and long board member of the Birmingham Civic Symphony Association (now the Alabama Symphony Association); for many years a member of the board of the Birmingham Music Club; as organizer and for twenty years the secretary of the Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations; and as president of the Jefferson County Coordinating Council of Social Forces, which was for years the planning agency of the community for health, recreation and welfare.

Although this history bespeaks the “remarkable,” as does the work which he and his wife Bernadine undertook, following his retirement from the bank, in behalf of family planning and birth control both locally and in many countries on all the continents, to my mind, Charles deserves the appellation principally because he is an individual who has never been afraid to think, to explore ideas and issues, and to speak his mind when the occasion is appropriate. In a culture crowded with people who are either not trained to the life of the mind, or who, although once trained, find the pursuit of ideas too demanding, Charles has remained wedded to the discipline.

There is, however, another quality in Charles which I find remarkable. When he has explored an idea or an issue and has come to a conclusion about it, he will stand up for what he then believes. To quote a phrase my grandfather was wont to use, Charles has the “conviction of conscience.” These two qualities, a willingness to think and the courage to argue for what one comes to believe, are clearly evident in The Columns which Charles authored in the 1940s and 1950s, The Columns published under the pseudonym “Button Gwinnett” in the Shades Valley Sun. Whatever the issue-McCarthyism, race in education, the U.S. Supreme Court, racially-motivated bombings, death, fraternities and sororities in a local high school -- the writing always reflects careful forethought, the capacity to live with ideas, and precise afterthought, the ability to reach conclusions, to present them cogently, and to offer arguments in their behalf. 

In an era of growing social hysteria, when the word "race" more than often, among Southerners, provoked the "knee-jerk reaction" and not the reasoned response, when it was often easier, among Americans, to hurl the word communist than to endure thinking that differed from the norm -- in the mist of a growing storm of voices speaking in defense of a status quo, the voice of "Button Gwinnett" was remarkable, for it spoke of inevitable change, of the need to adjust to that change, of restrained and decent adjustment; of the value of ideas, of the need for a sense of the ethical, of the worth of the individual. For the age in which it spoke and the place from which it spoke, the voice was indeed remarkable, as was the man who spoke through it: Charles F. Zukoski, Jr.”

Dearly beloved, we have come together on life’s road until now, and it has been good. There have been trials and there have been gratifications. For a moment you and I have had a part in mankind’s endless procession. I am saddened over your going, but your memory will have meaning for me all along the remainder of my journey. I bid you good-bye.