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Pulitzer Center Update July 28, 2008

Engaging the world, North Carolina style


Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center

Every summer, the last weekend of July, a hardy band of world-watchers gathers in Black Mountain, N.C., for the Southeastern World Affairs Institute. They've been at it for 55 years and for nearly half that time I've been there too, in recent years as the in-house journalist who gives the closing summary of the talks.

This year's topic was trans-Atlantic relations and the roster of speakers, as usual, was superb -- from the long-time editor/publisher of Germany's die Zeit newspaper to the chief Washington spokesman for the European Commission to leading academics from Brown University, the Naval Academy and Davidson College. The summary gives you an overview of what we heard.

But as good as they are, it's not the speakers who keep me coming back. It's the group itself, a self-selected community determined to take seriously their responsibilities as citizens -- and to stay seriously engaged throughout their lives. It's an inspiration to be with them, a reminder that our work as journalists matters and that we should do our best to do it well.

For more information about the institute check out the website of the sponsoring organization, the American Freedom Association. And next July, come to North Carolina!