Tribune Print Share Text

Information truth seekers

Great Decisions keeps neighbors ‘well informed about world affairs’

Created date

March 21st, 2018
(From left) Barbara Kauke and Gladys Baker, leaders of the Greenspring Great Decisions discussion group, prepare for club’s eighteenth year at the community.

(From left) Barbara Kauke and Gladys Baker, leaders of the Greenspring Great Decisions discussion group, prepare for club’s eighteenth year at the community.


Greek philosopher Plato once remarked that “a good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”

With the primary purpose of keeping up to date on important foreign policy issues, community members at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., recently kicked off the eighteenth year of their Great Decisions discussion group.

“Our group is just one of thousands of Great Decisions groups throughout the country,” says Greenspring community member Gladys Baker, coleader of the group. “We have a huge number of residents who worked overseas and have wonderful, unique insights to share with our group.”

Guidance from the FPA

The Great Decisions program, sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association (FPA), is America’s largest discussion program on world affairs. According to the Great Decisions website, “the program model involves reading the Great Decisions Briefing Book, watching the DVD, and meeting in a discussion group to discuss the most critical global issues facing America today.”

Each year, eight topics are chosen by a panel of experts. The FPA provides background information and policy options contained within the Great Decisions briefing book. This book serves as the outline for the group discussions.

Prior to this year’s first meeting, Gladys and fellow group coleader Barbara Kauke, appeared on Greenspring’s cable channel 6 to discuss the group and encourage community members to take part in these important discussions.

“On a global scale, Greenspring is a voting district with the highest voter turnout of any district in the state,” says Barbara. “Programs such as Great Decisions are one of the many activities designed to keep residents active and well informed.”

Humble beginnings

In 2000, Greenspring hosted the community’s first Great Decisions discussion with a small group of 20 residents.

“At that time, one of our Great Decisions committee members researched the topic in depth and handled the discussion,” says Gladys. “But as our attendance grew, the discussions became unwieldy. It was then that we began relying more on outside speakers followed by a Q&A session open to all attendees.”

Since 2006, the seven-member, resident-run Great Decisions committee identifies guest speakers—experts on the various topics of discussion—to address members at the meetings. Following the expert’s presentation, all attendees are invited to participate in an open Q&A session.

Meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of the month from February through May and currently see as many as 100 participants in attendance.

Exciting new year

This year’s Great Decisions program began with the topic, “The Waning of Pax Americana?”

The discussion centered on the recent shift in American politics away from Pax Americana, Latin for “American peace,” a concept of relative peace in the Western hemisphere supported by American strength and military power. 

Greenspring community member and former ambassador Theresa Tull served as the speaker, adding a wealth of information to the topic as obtained throughout her career in the Senior Foreign Service and as ambassador to the Republic of Guyana.

Other 2018 topics include “China and America: The New Geopolitical Equation;” “Media and Foreign Policy;” “Turkey:A Partner in Crisis;” “U.S. Global Engagement and the Military;” “South Africa’s Fragile Democracy;” and “Global Health: Progress and Challenges.”

“The Great Decisions meetings are open to the entire community,” says Barbara. “No one should hesitate attending because they feel they may not have enough knowledge on a topic. Both the DVD and the speaker will provide a great deal of information— and informing residents is one of the top reasons why we host this program.