Friday, May 24, 2024 May 24, 2024
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Lunch With: Jim Falk, CEO of the Region’s World Affairs Council

A worldly discussion over baba ghanoush and Moroccan tea.
Kirsten Ulve
it’s clear from the start that Jim Falk is a regular at Soük in Trinity Groves. The president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Dallas-Fort Worth is also the honorary consul of the Kingdom of Morocco. “So, I’m partial to great Middle Eastern cuisine,” he says, as he orders up a feast for us to share, without even peeking at the menu. A mezza platter of hummus, baba ghanoush, beet hummus, avocado hummus, olives, harissa lebna, and potato croquettes is just a warm-up; before long, a spread of seasoned rotisserie chicken with grilled vegetables and basmati rice is delivered to our table.

In between bites of food and sips of Moroccan tea, Falk tells me about his early adventures as a global citizen and how he “caught the bug” for international affairs. He was in his freshman year at Woodberry Forest, an all-male boarding school in Madison County, Virginia (the same prep school attended by Beto O’Rourke), when his parents decided to shutter his father’s medical practice and go to work for Project HOPE, an international healthcare organization. They were heading to Tunisia, a North African country bordering both the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea. After some pestering, they agreed to let their son join them. The plan was that he’d stay for just a year, but that extended into three. It was followed by a year in Switzerland, undergraduate studies at Washington and Lee University, and graduate studies at the University of Virginia. Falk took an internship with the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., and stayed on after graduating.

He moved to Texas in 1982 and had an extensive career in energy banking before taking the helm of the Institute of International Education and, later, working in development at the National Center for Policy Analysis. Falk was named president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Dallas-Fort Worth in August 2001.

“Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the most international metros in the United States. It has really changed a lot in recent years.”

Formed about six decades ago, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supports DFW trade and economic growth and connects North Texans with business and political influencers from around the globe. Recently, for example, Falk pulled together a group of key local executives for a private meeting with Sir Kim Darroch, British Ambassador to the United States. “It gave them an opportunity to hear firsthand what is happening with Brexit,” Falk says.

The World Affairs Council hosts about 90 events every year. In February, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke on fascism in the 21st Century. In April, the WAC will present a Trade Policy 101 seminar, taught by experts from the U.S. Department of State and SMU’s Bush Institute. “We are the key liaison to the diplomatic community in Dallas and Houston and Washington,” Falk says. “I encourage business leaders to bring a guest to one of our dinners, instead of spending four hours on a golf course. It provides an opportunity for them to have a very meaningful experience together.”

Because of his own upbringing, Falk is passionate about the WAC’s Global Young Leaders program, which helps provide a pathway for students to pursue international careers—and not just global finance and civil service, but perhaps working as war correspondent or a spy.

Falk’s job also allows him to play the role of journalist. For various World Affairs Council events, he has interviewed everyone from James Baker to Condoleezza Rice. He also does a weekly iTunes podcast called Global I.Q. Minute. “It’s a pretty good gig, for not having gone to the Columbia School of Journalism,” he jokes.