1922: The Council's Formation

The Chicago Council was formed during the period of fervent isolationism in the United States after World War I. On February 20, 1922, twenty-three men and women established the Council as an impartial forum for discussing foreign affairs. These founders believed that World War I had catapulted the United States onto the international stage, requiring reevaluation of traditional policies and greater public awareness of foreign policy questions. 

1920s-1930s: Establishing a Foundation of Excellence

The Chicago Council remained virtually the only voice on foreign affairs in the Midwest throughout the 1920s and 1930s. At a time when the mass media paid little attention to world events, the Council was the most reliable source of international news and analysis. In 1930 the Council began broadcasting discussions of foreign affairs and luncheon speeches over WGN radio. Regular luncheon meetings and public lectures featuring distinguished international personalities and experts were highly popular, often drawing thousands of guests.

Representative Speakers:

British Economist John Maynard Keynes, U.S. President Herbert Hoover, French Wartime Premier Georges Clemenceau, former German Chancellor Heinrich Bruening 

1940s - 1950s: Increasing Relevance and Growth

After World War II, the Chicago Council made an effort to attract younger members by forming the Young Adults Group. In addition, suburban programs were introduced. For four years in the 1950s, the Chicago Council used the new medium of television to produce a weekly program, called World Spotlight, for the local public television station to advance understanding of world affairs.

Representative Speakers:

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, India Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, future Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy 

1960s - 1970s: Broadening Horizons

In the early 1960s, the Chicago Council's programming shifted its emphasis to the leading international issues of the day of world hunger and relations between the countries of the Atlantic. The Chicago Council also began sponsoring missions to foreign countries, which attracted considerable interest and participation from local business and civic leaders. Entering the 1970s, the Chicago Council launched its biennial Atlantic Conference, which brings together foreign policy experts from North America, Europe, Latin America, and Africa for discussions of selected themes. 1974 marked the first year the organization conducted and published results for its Public Opinion Survey on Foreign Policy Issues, a significant undertaking that continues to this day.

Representative Speakers:

Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, Philosopher Mortimer Adler, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, U.N. Secretaries General U Thant and Kurt Waldheim, U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Economist Milton Friedman, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger 

1980s - 1990s: Expanding Our Reach

During the post-Cold War period, the Chicago Council expanded upon its specialized programming for business leaders, young professionals, secondary school teachers, international travelers, and the general public. Programming concentrated on European development, economics, and integration, which included facilitation of exchanges between young leaders in the Midwest and Europe. At the same time, human rights emerged as a central topic as civil strife increased in countries around the globe.

Representative Speakers:

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Polish Solidarity Leader and Future President Lech Walensa, former Prime Minister of France Valery Giscard D' Estaing, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, South Korea President Kim Young Sam 

2000 - Present: The Shift Toward Globalism

The Chicago Council has stepped up its activities in the sphere of public education, drawing U.S. and international leaders and world affairs experts to Chicago. The Council has heightened its emphasis on trends and themes, including the global economy, democratization, sovereignty and intervention, global institutions, and a changing America. The Council has also shifted emphasis to less familiar areas of the world, especially Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Additionally, the Council is moving beyond its historic concentration on public education in Chicago and expanding its influence on opinion and policy regarding global issues through activities such as task forces, conferences, and study groups. In recognition of these changes, in September 2006 the Council changed its name from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and developed a visual brand identity to represent the unique character and services of the organization.

Representative Speakers:

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Irish President Mary McAleese, Ukraine President Victor Yushchenko, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President of the Republic of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, future U.S. President Barack Obama, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair