Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Interview with Gabriela Frías, from CNN en Español

Written by: Lorena Ayala-Ortiz
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Recent Graduate, Georgia State University
Published: 12/19/2018

The morning of October 10, 2018, Gabriela Frías, business anchor at CNN en Español, was rushing to exit after the World Affairs Council’s “Latinas on the Rise” program, which she moderated. I only had a couple of minutes to interview her before she had to continue about her day, as there was a taxi already waiting for her. For a moment, I felt like a reporter as I had to walk and talk as I interviewed Frías, I was in her shoes now.
The first question I had for her arisen from the recent reporting of the United State’s 3.7% unemployment rate, the lowest since 1969, and that there was the creation of approximately 134,000 jobs within September. I questioned Ms.Frías on how she views the U.S.economy under the current administration and if she could foresee any dramatic changes to come in the next two years. She stated that “the stock market could tell the story. With the GDP numbers at 4.2% in growth, a solid growth, this administration can own to the fact that the tax cuts and other measures have helped increase confidence but also maintain and sustain growth.”
However, there’s a population in the U.S. that expresses their concern about the changes in diverse policy aspects that could potentially impact the economy of this country. The following question for Ms. Frías was if the consideration of these modifications, will the U.S still be seen as a country of great power regarding the economy and global influence? She believes that apart from the tension caused by these devised modifications, “the U.S. is still one of the bright spots in the world…[but] global influence is to be determined. It’s a leading economy, the largest in the world.”  This year it’s a success story for the United States as the stock market again tells us the story, though “it is not the best measure, because it moves up and down, but it is an evidence.”

We proceeded to discuss how she sees the relationship between Mexico and the United States with the new President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who’s to begin his term December 1st. For this question, Ms. Frías had a more lengthy response that touched on factors such as the rhetoric used regarding the construction of the wall, whether Mexico will finance this construction, trading agreements like the revamped NAFTA, and immigration policy. What resonated with me the most was her statement that the relationship between these neighboring countries “is beyond two men.” These two countries have a “very important dynamic relationship whether it’s trade or it’s immigration.” Gabriela Frías, who’s an immigrant from Mexico, wishes to see an immigration reform that makes sense to both countries.
Furthermore, Ms.Frías is also a Hispanic woman, a woman who is living in a time where her birth country Mexico and the country in which she resides, are facing substantial women’s rights problems. In regards to this matter, she stated that there has to be an improvement, “it’s not about seeing it happen, but about making it happen,” she said in a firm tone.
So what is next for Gabriela Frías, what is her next challenge to accomplish? Well, there’s a possibility that she will write a book. That is if she has the time, and finds the time to carry out this task, because she has newborn, and is still finding it difficult to find the balance of life and work. She adds that our abuelas (grandmothers) had four to seven kids, so her having one doesn’t make achieving this balance impossible.

A Conversation with Ambassador Gordon Giffin

Written by: Cameron Geer
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
Published: 12/19/2018

Being an Atlanta native, I’m no stranger to the hustle and bustle of the downtown city life. For those unfamiliar with the terrain, it can be even harder to navigate the landscape when it is pouring buckets, the wind hitting your face, and it's absolutely freezing. So, the well heated interior of the SunTrust building housing Dentons law firm was a warm welcome. The 53 story ascension in the elevator allowed me some time to get my thoughts together before my interview with Ambassador Gordon Giffin.

A quick Google search will give you a glimpse of Ambassador Giffin’s impressive resume. He grew up in Canada for 17 years and moved to the United States to attend Duke University and later Emory Law School.  From 1975-1979, he was Legislative Director and Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Sam Nunn in Washington, DC.  Truthfully, I was nervous. Unnecessarily so I soon found out. The ambassador immediately showed himself to be a kind man willing to share his professional knowledge. Less than a minute into the interview, I was teaching the ambassador to the internal search engine on his iPhone a useful feature he was previously unaware of.

Ambassador Gordon Giffin serves as the Global Vice Chair of Dentons. His practice is focused on international transactions and trade matters, government procurement, energy regulatory and policy matters, corporate governance and crisis counseling, federal and state regulatory matters and public policy. However, our conversation mainly focused on his career prior to Dentons as U.S. ambassador. As a Global Studies major with an interest in International Affairs being an ambassador was a position I considered working towards. Listening to someone who has done what I wish to do was an opportunity I did not want to miss.

With his childhood spent in Canada, studying French and Canadian history, and later spending his adult years in the Unites States, Ambassador Giffin’s life seemed tailored for a future position as an ambassador to Canada. However, his ambitions were not aimed in that direction at all. In fact, it wasn’t until after a brief trip to Canada with former President Bill Clinton had he ever seriously considered the position. On July 1, 1997 he was nominated by former President Clinton and confirmed on July 31. As Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, he managed U.S. interests in the world's largest bi-lateral trading relationship in the context of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as U.S. collaboration with Canada on global issues.

Ambassador Gordon Giffin agrees that hard work and persistence were necessary for his success. But he also attributes part of his accomplishments to a little luck. Through his professional relationship with former Senator Sam Nunn he was able to meet other high-profile individuals who helped project him forward in his careers.   

Through his experiences the importance of staying informed on global issues was something Ambassador Gordon Giffin valued. Living in a world where what’s happening within and outside of our borders influences how we interact with each other, for better or worse. In order to make informed decisions on an individual, local, national, and international level it is important to have accurate and current information. Working for a decentralized international law firm, the largest in the world, the importance of global awareness can’t be taken lightly. Although it is something, we all can benefit from ourselves as global citizens.

Ambassador Giffin’s passing advice: Pursue your ambitions and don’t let anyone talk you out of it. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Philosopher’s Approach to Globalism

Written by: Garrison Cox
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Recent Graduate, Georgia State University
Published: 10/30/2018

The Philosopher’s Approach to Globalism

Today, the world thrives and prospers, and civilizations enjoy unprecedented peace and opportunities for success. Of course, the world is far from a utopia by any definition, but compared to the rest of humanities’ brief history our era of the 21st century is thought of as the culmination of all our efforts for the betterment and progression of our species. So, is the uninterrupted flow of time responsible for our progress? Are we naturally predisposed to will ourselves onward and upwards regardless of the major setbacks on our timeline? Perhaps.

Maybe time is rather the stage on which the forces of our universe act, and the laws of science that dictate the order and results of those forces interacting are the lines that they present for us, the observant audience. We would quickly notice that a character like Puck, the mischievous fairy from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, is performed by the meddlesome force of gravity. Just like Puck moves in a confusing manner to grab seemingly distant and detached characters and mix them all together, so too does gravity act on foreign peoples and eventually draw them close. In the 21st century there is immense gravity linked with the internet, and before the internet radio, and previously telegraphs, and continually international trade. Clearly, the world has historically become closer and increasingly connected due to the gravitational effects of our technology. Each advancement we call progress, and each major improvement, a technological wonder. So why do some people so vehemently oppose the connection and understanding between different peoples when those are the byproducts and results of our shared progress?

The devil is in the details, a phrase normally meant as a caution to avoid failure due to the specifics of a project, but what if the details are the devil. What if focusing on the minute differences are what keep us from seeing the bigger picture, and realizing that there’s not that much that separates us after all. Consider the children’s puzzles that ask you to spot the differences between two pictures, do you ever notice that the differences are always inconsequential, like the skin color of a person, the language they speak, or the invisible borders that separate them. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a puzzle if it asked to find the commonalities, but what would the world look like if we focused on our similarities instead of our differences?

 What if we thought about what unites us rather than what divides us? Maybe we would approach problems differently, and try to find solutions based on what we both would like as an alternative to pursuing whichever scenario makes the other person most upset. A world that brought empathy to the fore front of interactions and relationships with the people in our lives would be drastically different. In many ways, most likely for the best. If everyone considered other people’s perspectives as important as their own, then grace and understanding would be far more prevalent. We all enjoy forgiveness when we mess up, so surely a society which accepts failure with an optimistic mindset would advance at a dramatic pace. Without the pressure of failure being permanent people would be willing to work worry free, or without any pressure would there even be any meaningful work at all.

The universe has never been fair, and the world has never been a collection of fairly operated societies that wanted the best for each other as much as for themselves.  In this world, life repeats conflicts so that progress may be made through the work dedicated to solving those problems. A relationship with very little effort given from either or both sides will not be a strong relationship. Working to master a skill that took years to perfect, compared to something which is easily done, will provide varying levels of satisfaction for their completion. A cycle of conflict, resolution, and progression requires conflict, and based on the effort put into solving the conflict the greater the reward of alleviating the situation. Conflict is rewarding when we learn from it and it is essential for us to learn from our conflicts, otherwise we are only destined to repeat them.

To refrain from the vicious cycle of repeated conflicts between peoples it is important to learn from those conflicts by having a more open perspective about why other people believe what they believe. But without that conflict it is unlikely for people to properly learn about each other. Difference of opinion is not a bad thing, our varied perspectives are what make us so wonderful, but difference of respect for those who disagree with you will lead nowhere and without resolution there can be no learning from the conflict, only anger and repeated conflicts. Humans are attracted to each other by forces of social gravity, and there is no way to avoid the tension created from some of our social interactions. This is why it is so important to remember that at the end of the day the majority of all people have way more in common than the differences between themselves, and mutual respect about those differences is more likely to ensure resolution and progress through conflict than preconceived biases about our differences.

The More You Know

 Written by: Jazzmen Fobbs
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
Published: 10/30/2018

The More You Know

When I began taking classes at Georgia State University, meeting new people and getting involved in my chapter, I couldn’t help but feel like the odd one out. Nearly every person I met had at least one story to tell about a country or countries they’d traveled to; it was unbelievable. Everyone had so much experience, and it felt like there was so much that I didn’t know about the world. I grew up in one of the smallest towns in Southern Georgia, and no one casually left the country unless it were for military reasons. The diversity of the campus became one of my favorite things about GSU.
Towards the end of first semester, junior year, I moved in with my three roommates, one of whom I’ve grown extremely close to. She’s been to over 7 countries and visits Japan once a year. Fortunately, we share the same major and we’re always up talking about our future plans and the places we want to travel. She is the first person who pushed me to leave the US, and I am so grateful that she did. One day she came home with brochures from a class presentation, saying “let’s go to Argentina.” Although I was reluctant at first, she convinced me to apply regardless of my fear of the unknown. Everyone who’s traveled abroad always emphasizes the importance of going abroad before graduating college and how life changing these experiences can be. But although I began to entertain the idea of taking such a leap, I had no idea how I would possibly afford such a trip. Initially, I thought there was no way everything would fall into place. We wouldn’t get in the program on time, the flights would be too expensive or there’d only be room for one of us. All of these excuses to the reality that I was fearful of leaving my comfort zone. Luckily, we were both accepted and awarded scholarships to go towards the cost of the trip and stay. I worked endless hours to save up to pay any other expenses but never would I have ever imagined that all this work was going to pay off in the way it did.
After boarding in Atlanta we had a layover in Peru, took a boat to Uruguay, and finally arrived in Argentina. Everything was an entirely different experience. We hadn’t been in Córdoba for more than five days when our professor suggested that we join a march in the city during our free time. Stores and schools were closing early and everyone was meeting near Patio Olmos to begin protesting the 2 for 1 law. This ruling was being considered to reduce the sentences for those convicted of human rights violations that took place under the military dictatorship from 1976-1983. The turnout at the protest was incredible, it seemed as if most of the city was out marching with us. The most admirable thing about that night was that despite the size and relevance of the march, it was the most high-spirited protest I’d ever seen. I could easily compare it to something more upbeat like a parade, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. We even made the front page of their local newspaper.

Though the reason I was able to study abroad was to take a psychology course, this journey has an unexpected impact in my life and made me reevaluate my career path. Back in Georgia State, I had recently picked up Political Science as my second major, and I started to feel more intrigued by the field than I did by psychology. This curiosity was exalted by everything in Argentina but particularly the old detention centers such as “La Perla.” To hear the stories of the missing people and stand in the same place where they had once been was heartbreaking. Almost 30,000 people had disappeared or been killed and I learned way much more then I would have known if it weren’t for my time abroad. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know and tell others. I couldn’t believe that an entire genocide took place only 40 years ago and it wasn’t common knowledge to us in the United States.
Finally, this the trip culminated with the unforgettable experience of walking with the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. These mothers have been marching weekly for four decades. They have consistently been coming together with pictures of their missing loved ones protesting the government’s efforts to “forget” about the Dirty War and stop the trials of those convicted. Overall, it was such an eye opening experience to be around such amazing people who continue to fight endlessly for justice and to see pictures of everyone throughout the cities who would never be forgotten by their families. I have never seen such adamant people; the entire trip was inspiring.
“When people are determined they can overcome anything” –Nelson Mandela

Monday, June 11, 2018

Member Profile Beau Cummins: A Career of True Value

  Xan-Rhea Bilal
 Written by: Xan-Rhea Bilal
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
Published: 6/11/2018
 Beau Cummins is the co-chief operating officer of SunTrust Banks, Inc where he leads the Wholesale division and loves it. He has had an eventful career in banking and the past year and a half is no exception. In February 2017, he was named Wholesale division Executive, bringing to bear his years of experience as head of both SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and  head of Commercial & Business Banking also at SunTrust. When asked about his numerous positions at SunTrust and other financial institutions, he makes sure to always emphasize the importance of clients and, their relationship to the financial team. Understanding the needs of clients with business models of various sizes and pairing them with SunTrust team members best equipped to meet these needs, are how Mr. Cummins says Wholesale delivers on SunTrust’s purpose of “Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being”. 
When asked about how clients are looking to grow their businesses here in Atlanta, Mr. Cummins stressed the human aspect of company development, saying that the “ease of business is more than taxes or regulations – it’s can I hire or attract smart workers? Can I ship my goods easily? Can my workers and clients get to the office easily?" He went on to also mention the fact that Atlanta is indeed a pro-business, international city with a lot of opportunities and room for growth. This is thanks to our community leaders—lawmakers included-- that have incentivized companies from both the U.S. and abroad, to have their headquarters in Atlanta. There is still room for improvement however, Mr. Cummins points out that improving investment in education, transportation and, infrastructure is central to Atlanta’s growth and competitiveness. SunTrust has supported this through its involvement in the revitalization of the Westside and Ponce City Market.   

Given that global finance is so interconnected, Mr. Cummins strives to always be ahead of the curve in ensuring SunTrust clients have the tools to succeed in the global market. “I wake up every day making sure we have a competitive advantage”, he says. SunTrust does this by looking at innovations not only in the financial sector but, in all industries. One great way that Mr. Cummins has found to drive innovation is through dialogue; that is where the World Affairs Council comes in. Beau Cummins is a board member for the World Affairs Council he says because, the council challenges how many think about global issues along with driving professional development and enrichment. He personally enjoyed programing on the role central banks play in the integrated North American economy and, hearing from the Central Bank of Mexico about how they stimulated economic growth. The Council provides a rare environment for people from various industries and walks of life, from students to CEO’s, to converge in one place and share perspectives on current and relevant issues. He finds that this is a significant way to not only strengthen SunTrust's Wholesale division, but also to enhance the Atlanta community through positive and informative conversations. 
As one of these lucky students that get the opportunity to participate in the Council, I asked Mr. Cummins what advice he had found most meaningful when starting a career, the answer I received was simple but quite profound. “Whatever you’re doing you need to know why." This purpose, he says is “a key element of a successful career, finding something you are passionate about, which will allow you to be authentic." Mr. Cummins believes this is what SunTrust does by Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being; enabling people to find the true value of their endeavors, whether it is buying a house or getting a degree. It is apparent that Beau Cummins loves what he does, but when he is not working towards realizing the SunTrust purpose, he also enjoys nature and is an avid snowboarder.