The World Affairs Councils of America traces its earliest roots to 1918, when the League of Free Nations Association was formed by 141 distinguished Americans, including the social reformer Paul Kellogg, to support President Woodrow Wilson's efforts to achieve a just peace. At the end of World War I, the Association’s founders were concerned that Americans would choose isolationism over a foreign policy based on international engagement. They worked to promote and nurture public awareness of critical international issues affecting the U.S., and in 1923 reconstituted the organization as the Foreign Policy Association. John Foster Dulles and Eleanor Roosevelt were among the FPA’s incorporators.
Citizen discussion groups and FPA branches began to form and spread in the 1920s,1930s, and after World War II – forerunners of the independent World Affairs Councils of subsequent decades. In 1954, the Great Decisions program was launched in Oregon. Based on the annual briefing book prepared by FPA's editors, Great Decisions has become the largest nonpartisan public education program on international affairs in the world. The FPA consolidated its operations into its New York City headquarters in the 1980s while the network of independent councils on world affairs continued to flourish.
In 1986, the National Council of World Affairs Organizations office was established in Washington, DC. The organization was renamed the World Affairs Councils of America, and today WACA serves more than 90 World Affairs Councils nationwide, in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
In an age of globalization and a rapidly shifting international order, we believe that our mission – engaging the public and leaders to better understand global affairs and America’s role in the world – is more vital than ever.