Saudi Ambassador, KDL Series on Community Resilience headline April calendar

Patrick Skinner speaking via zoom
Picture of HRH Ambassador Reema Bandar Al-Saud

The first woman to ever hold the title of Ambassador for the country of Saudi Arabia, HRH Ambassador Reema Bandar Al-Saud will interact with Council members via a live digital program on Tuesday, April 13, at 12 noon Eastern.

“There are many topics to cover regarding Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States, and indeed the world,” said Council executive Director Michael Van Denend.

This is an important conversation for those interested in an important and strategic bilateral relationship, recently fraught with tensions of regional war, political intrigue, and women’s rights.

The trail-blazing ambassador began her work at the Saudi Embassy in Washington in July of 2019. From 1983 to 2005, she lived in the U.S. Capital while her father, Prince Bandar, served as Saudi Ambassador to the United States. She attended George Washington University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in museum studies.

Upon her return to Saudi Arabia, the Ambassador has played roles in the private sector and in public service related to the empowerment of women in her country.

Registration is free to Council members and friends by visiting this site.

Also in April, the Council launches the 2021 version of its annual partnership with the Kent District Library (KDL). The topics bring issues of special significance to the West Michigan region to attendees and in the past has featured the future of work, water quality issues, and civil dialogue.

“We look forward to this collaboration with the Kent District Library every year,” said the Council’s director of programming, Erica Kubik. “The leadership at KDL is interested in the same values of education and civil discussion as our Council. These annual programs stretch us to think wider than our neighborhoods, and yet include our neighborhoods in the conversation.”

This year’s theme is “Community Resilience” and three presentations in April will spur our thinking as we rebuild local connections when the barriers of COVID-19 are lowered.

Pandemics, politics, and persistent social problems make our communities seem more fractured and polarized than ever. Yet, we must all live together and create communities where people are safe, prosperous, and healthy. How do we create communities where folks can come together even if they have differences in experiences, perspectives, and opportunities? How do we build communities to be more adaptive, resilient, and inclusive? How do we focus on community locally so that we can meet the challenges of the world?

This series tackles the idea of community resilience, and the ways we can all work together to create stronger communities, starting right here in Western Michigan.

On Thursday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. EST, John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center begins our conversation with a presentation titled “Toward a Newly Vital Midwest.” Austin will share insights from his 2020 Chicago Council on Global Affairs Report: A Vital Midwest, and the opportunities and challenges facing the Midwest in building newly prosperous, inclusive and resilient communities. 

Then, he'll discuss how Covid-19 has changed the picture and extend the discussion to include the common challenges and opportunities facing similar historic industrial regions around the world. 

On Monday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. EST, three panelists will fill in the equation “Empowered People = Community Resilience.”

Communities are formed when people come together. And when people prosper, communities do, too. This group of panelists will highlight the ways individuals have exhibited resiliency--and the equity gaps that remain.

The panelists will be Tarah Carnahan from Treetops Collective; Willie Patterson III on LINC Up; and Carlos Sanchez of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State University.

Finally, on Monday, April 26, at 6:30 p.m. EST, the series will take a look at how local governments can set the table for resilience. Guests will be Nicole Hofert, city planner for the City of Wyoming; Stephen Kepley, the Mayor of Kentwood; and Milinda Ysasi, second ward commissioner for the City of Grand Rapids.

Information about how to link to these programs can be found here.