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My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Memoirs, 1993
Postscript, 1994

Frank Munk, my grandfather, wrote this autobiography to record his memories from 1901 onwards. This history and its postscript are available on our family website in his memory as they tell a complete story of the 20th century. These memoirs may be referenced as long as proper attribution is made; our family retains ownership and copyright. We have one request: if you reference this material in any way, please send us email at feedback@theragens.com and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would like to know when this material is of interest and we are curious as to how it is being used. We'd like to hear from you.
Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families

WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL OF OREGON
CHAPTER 25

One of my main interests and activities during the last forty years was the World Affairs Council of Oregon. I was one of its founders and five times its president, and I spent a good portion of my time and effort on its care and nursing. Naturally, I was not alone. Many good citizens and friends were engaged in the effort -- too many to mention all of them. It was a good example of that unique American institution -- volunteers at work.

But in a broader sense I was identified with the Council and regarded by many as the voice of Oregon in international affairs. As an example, when I left my last post with the Council in 1988, as chairman of its subsidiary, the Portland Committee on Foreign Relations, I was given a plaque bearing the following dedication: "Presented to Dr. Frank Munk, the Doyen of International Affairs in the Oregon County."

That may be somewhat exaggerated, but as a matter of fact I thought it my duty to contribute as much as I could to education in world problems. My area was more or less the whole West of the United States, but the Council was my base of operations, together with Reed College till 1965 and Portland State College (later Portland State University) after that.

Perhaps I ought to describe briefly the history of the Council. It was incorporated in December 1950, but in reality it was a continuation of the annual two-week Pacific Northwest Institute of International Relations, started by Professor G. Bernard Noble in the late thirties, a time when the storm was gathering in Europe and Asia. Its main purpose was to deal with isolationism, which was more or less prevalent at that time. It seemed even more necessary after the war, when the United States suddenly emerged as the leading world power, responsible for war and peace.

I must confess I felt personally responsible for the world. I suppose not quite realistically, but I had definite ideas about good and evil, much more so than I have now. In the thirties it was the battle against fascism and nazism, especially as it threatened Czechoslovakia, and later the whole democratic world. After the war I was committed to the effort of economic, political, and social restoration, and shortly thereafter to the opposition to totalitarian Communism. I may say I never objected to democratic socialism. In fact back in Prague I was an active member of the National Socialist party--the party of President Benes. I regarded Stalin's Soviet Union as an unholy amalgam of State Socialism in economics and of Fascism in the realm of state, society, and politics.

As a matter of fact, I was never a red baiter. For example, I will quote from a report in the Portland OREGONIAN of December 12, 1946, of a speech I had given before a session of the Reed College Forum:

"I don't believe present differences with Russia are of a nature that would warrant war--or even talk of war. Let us talk peace and proceed with the job of building it. Russia's immediate aim is security from attack . . . This fear is at times almost pathological, but psychologically understandable after what they have gone through in this war."

Among my closest associates at the start up of the Council were Louise Grondahl, E. Dean Anderson, and a little later Peter Gantenbein. I served five times as its President: 1950-51, 1952-53, 1954-55, 1957-58 and 1972-73. Like other organizations, the Council underwent periods of growth and periods of stress, usually of a financial nature. There were times when I had to scurry around town in search of financial backers, mostly among my friends in the business community and other well-to-do backers.

Throughout many years the Council had to depend entirely, or almost so, on volunteers who spent a great many hours working for its success. As early as 1963, it was felt that firmer foundations were needed. An advisory committee was appointed to report on possible options. It found, and I quote from its report, that "the Council has operated handsomely and proudly since its inception. Its record of achievement can be matched by few other organizations of such limited manpower. However, its operation has been characterized by the sort of informality and easygoing operation which is possible when a handful of energetic and dedicated people are willing to devote all their time to the activities of the organization.

I received another award when I completed my last period as the Council's president in 1973 and was named "First Citizen of the Year." At a banquet, where I was introduced as a former Czech revolutionary and founder of the Council I described the broader scene: "Set against the backdrop of the Watergate controversy, the U.S. is wrapped up in a mini-euphoria in a time of maxi-frustration." The euphoria was connected with the recent appointment of Henry Kissinger as President Nixon's Secretary of State. I continued: "The United States can no longer be the gendarme to the world; nor can it be the teacher or the preacher to the world. And unless Kissinger turns from his old political models to more modern concerns, the euphoria around the recent appointment will be short-lived." (Might still be timely today.)

The World Affairs Council of Oregon became of more than local importance early in its life. In 1955, only five years after it was launched, it attained national prominence because of its role as originator of the national "Great Decisions" program. This project was started in cooperation with the Foreign Policy Association of New York. The project grew out of the conviction that education in international affairs is too spotty and too shallow to have much effect. It was based on concentrating on one problem area for nine or ten consecutive weeks, but to do so in a massive barrage of newspaper articles, radio and television shows, discussion groups, school programs and other events, all based on fact-sheets prepared by the Foreign Policy Association. At the end of the nine-week program opinion ballots, distributed to discussion group members, were compiled and evaluated and sent to the U.S. State Department.

The Oregon Council received first prize in a national competition sponsored by the F.P.A. "for significant contribution to citizen education on world affairs." Among the panel of judges who decided the award were Ralphe J. Bunche, Under Secretary General of the United Nations, Norman Cousins, Editor of the Saturday Review and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. The prize, which included a cash award of $1,000, was presented at a star-studded dinner in the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. on December 2, 1955. Mrs. Louise Grondahl and I received the award from George V. Allen, Assistant Secretary of State. President Eisenhower sent a congratulatory telegram reproduced in the next page, as did Adlai E. Stevenson.

FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION
Conference Headquarters
Executive Suite
The Willard Hotel
Washington, D.C.
December 2, 1955

 

WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON, D.C.
DEC. 1 - 7:30 PM

 

JOHN W. NASON, PRESIDENT
FOREIGN POLICY ASSN
WILLARD HOTEL
WASHINGTON, D.C.

PLEASE EXTEND MY GREETINGS TO THE MEMBERS OF THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION WITH MY CONGRATULATIONS TO THE OREGON COUNCIL ON WORLD AFFAIRS FIRST PRIZE WINNER OF THIS YEARS FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION AWARD I APPLAUD THE ASSOCIATIONS CONTINUING WORK TO STIMULATE CITIZENS INTEREST IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND THE COUNCILS INGENUITY IN CREATING THE "GREAT DECISIONS" PROJECT TO ALL OF YOU MY BEST WISHES FOR CONTINUED CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CAUSE OF INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING IN THE YEARS AHEAD

DWIGHT D EISENHOWER

 

During the more than forty years of its existence the World Affairs Council of Oregon has played host to practically every important speaker in this country and many from abroad. It is the primary platform for all important visitors to Oregon. It performs many other services, among them that of organizing Oregon stays for foreign dignitaries visiting the United States at the behest of the State Department and other federal agencies. It now sponsors an important foreign relations program in schools throughout the state.

I commented already that early in its life the Council was on the whole managed as a volunteer venture. After the first few years it was felt that a more professional management style was needed. This was finally achieved in the 1980's when Charlotte T. Kennedy was named Executive Director. Under her leadership the Council grew in membership, financial backing, programming and in every other respect, thus finally fulfilling the hopes of its founders.

 

 

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