Jim Palmer attended his first Conference on World Affairs in 1966 as a film studies professor at the University of Colorado.
He recalls hearing Ralph Nader speak about cars.
Now, 44 years later, he’s still teaching full time, and he’s still regularly attending the CWA — only now he attends as the conference director.
The difference between his first conference and this year’s event, which kicks off on April 5?
“It’s bigger,” Palmer says. “It’s a lot bigger.” The conference is now so popular, in fact, that finding venue space is one of the toughest challenges. At last year’s CWA, some 90,000 thousand seats were filled over the week-long event. That’s compared to about 35,000 seats 12 years ago when Palmer first became director. The conference has grown so large that this year it will have a presenting partner: Toyota Motors. And there will be crowd control at every venue.
Macky Auditorium, the University Memorial Center and Old Main, the three biggest venues, make up the axis of the conference, as Palmer calls it, where the majority of main-ring events will be held. Other venues include the Wolf Law Building, Muenzinger Auditorium and Boulder High School. Helping to fill these venues will be about 100 presenters participating in about 200 panels.
Veteran conference speaker Roger Ebert will be in attendance for the annual Cinema Interruptus, where panelists and audience members have the chance to deconstruct the chosen film scene by scene. This year’s pick is Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and the film’s director, Werner Herzog, will speak at the first two of the four Interruptus sessions, at 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday in Macky Auditorium. An uninterrupted screening of the movie will run before the conference officially begins, on Sunday, April 4, at 4 p.m. in Muenzinger Auditorium.
Palmer and CWA staff member Graham Gerritsen point out other highlights and personal picks throughout the week, including the keynote speech by Lt. Col. Isaiah “Ike” Wilson, “Rethinking American Power.” Wilson will speak on Monday, April 5, at 11:30 a.m. in Macky Auditorium.
Gerritsen, who volunteered with CWA for four years before joining the staff in 2009, says his one can’tmiss event will be the talk “Everything You Know is Wrong,” by Bill Reinert, manager of Toyota’s advanced technologies. Reinert will present on April 6 at 5 p.m. in the UMC Ballroom.
Professor and author Naomi Oreskes will be giving the NCAR/UCAR 50th Anniversary Lecture, “Communicating Climate Science: Why Is This So Hard?” at 1 p.m. on Monday in Macky Auditorium.
“I’d imagine ‘The Politics of Avatar’ is going to draw a lot of people,” Palmer added, referring to the 9 a.m. panel on Friday, March 9. He said he himself would have a hard time choosing, however, between that and “Artful Duet: Aborigine Songlines and The Dreamtime,” which begins at the same time.
Palmer also recommended the Tuesday night jazz concert, one of the annual highlights of the conference and one of the most popular. Performers this year include Don and Dave Grusin, singer Lillian Boutté and Tjupurru, a didjeridoo player from Papua New Guinea, among others.
“It’s just a stunning list of people,” Palmer says. The conference will wrap up on April 9 with John Hockenberry’s talk, “Where Have All the Powers Gone?” at 2:30 p.m. in Macky Auditorium.
All CWA events are free and open to the public, though tickets are required for the jazz concert. These tickets can be reserved online for a processing fee of $1 each. More information and a full schedule of events can be found at www.colorado.edu/cwa.