The Alabama World Affairs Council (AWAC) is a nonprofit organization that sponsors lectures and programs on current and recent events of national and international interest. Through these programs, which take place in Montgomery, Montgomery County, AWAC aims to promote public awareness and understanding of international affairs as they relate to U.S. interests in the context of political, economic, cultural, historical, and military issues. AWAC leadership states that the organization works to foster a democratic society through increasing individual knowledge of world affairs.
AWAC is supported by Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM), Huntingdon College (which hosts its Web site), Air University located at Maxwell Air Force Base, the business community, the Alabama Humanities Foundation, and by contributions from its board and approximately 400 dues-paying individual and family members. It is one of 94 councils spread throughout the United States that are affiliated with the Washington, D.C.-based World Affairs Councils of America. AWAC is one of the largest world affairs councils in the South. It is overseen by a board of directors composed of approximately 30 leaders from the business community, academia, the military (both active and retired), state government, the professions, nonprofit organizations, and others.
The organization was founded in 1985 when representatives from AUM and the Air War College at Air University came together and provided academic support on the board. James Nathan, the Khaled bin Sultan Eminent Scholar at AUM, a former Foreign Service Officer, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, became the executive director in 1992 and enlisted the support of the Montgomery Advertiser and Alabama Public Television. At the end of the 1990s, Charles G. Cleveland, former commander of Air University and a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force, became president of the AWAC board of directors. For his efforts on behalf of AWAC and in recognition of the organization's success, Nathan was later chosen as one of the members of the World Affairs Council of America's national governing board.
Each year, the organization typically holds five or six events from September through May on Tuesday evenings at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. The programs begin with an informal reception, followed by a lecture/presentation and a question and answer session. AWAC's affiliations and proximity to Maxwell Air Force Base and the financial resources of AWAC members have brought in many notable speakers, including serving ambassadors from the United Kingdom, France, Korea, and Saudi Arabia, as well as former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) deputy director John E. McLaughlin (2008), then-CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden (2009), U.S. Ambassador and Middle East expert Ryan Crocker (2009), retired major general Charles Dunlap Jr. (2011), and other federal officials and eminent scholars of international affairs and national security. In recent years, lecturers have spoken on terrorist threats against the United States, the nuclear ambitions of Iran, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the war in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Latin American politics. The last program of the year often features presentations by senior members of the Air University faculty who have recently traveled to their region of interest and expertise, including China, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, and nations in Europe.
AWAC dues structure has been designed so that any interested person may participate, including high school students, who may attend for free as guests of the board, and college students, who pay $30 annually. Programs often attract many students from Huntingdon College and AUM as well as foreign officers attending the Air War College.