As It Was: Southern Oregonians Participate in U.S. Foreign Policy Debate
From 1958 until 1963, nine Central Point, Ore., friends ranging in age from 16 to 75 met eight times a year in a Great Decision Discussion group, studying and discussing America’s foreign policy.
They were ordinary people who believed individuals could make a difference in the world. At the end of a meeting, each person would cast a ballot that was tallied with thousands of others from across the country and the results sent to the U.S. State Department.
There were some heated arguments among the friends, who included an orchardist, a farmer, a retired salesman, a bank manager, a county extension agent, a founder of the local Planned Parenthood chapter, a grocery store owner and a high school girl.
The issues of the day were primarily about the Cold War and Soviet aggression in developing countries. Votes often represented as many opinions as there were people in the Central Point group, but the arguments were always civil, and meetings ended with a shared dessert.
The Foreign Policy Association still runs Great Decisions groups that got their start in Portland, Ore., in 1954. Through these discussions, individual opinions can still be heard in Washington.
Sources: Personal recollections of the author. Great Decisions. Foreign Policy Association, 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.