ST. PETERSBURG — The former United States ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina is bringing a slew of experts on world affairs to speak this week with residents of this small city by the bay.
Why here, for this World Conference on International Affairs?
"Because I live here," Doug McElhaney laughs. "Next question."
McElhaney moved to downtown St. Petersburg in 2008 for many of the same reasons he feels the city is the perfect host for a meeting of minds on global issues. Namely, he sees St. Petersburg as becoming more and more international at a time when he feels U.S. citizens need to be much more informed about the world stage.
"There's lots of Bosnians here. There seem to be a lot of German and British I've run into here, and I know that over in Tampa they're making a bid to get more international air flights coming in here," McElhaney says. "It's not going to be a well-kept secret for long. I predict things are really going to start jumping here."
The two-day conference, which is free and open to the public, will run from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The school's honors program is co-sponsoring the event at Harbor Hall, the former home of the Dalí Museum, at 1000 Third St. S.
Speakers will include a retired CIA agent, a state department senior adviser on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and former ambassadors to Peru and Argentina.
Topics will sweep the potential effects of post-Castro Cuba and post-Chavez Venezula on Florida, energy policy, nuclear war and the worldwide recession, among others. Tampa Bay Times editor Neil Brown and Stephen Buckley, dean of the Poynter Institute, which owns the Times, will sit on a Thursday panel discussing "Global News in the Digital Era."
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said he hopes the conference will help "to bridge relationships between St. Petersburg and cities across the globe as our city increases its presence on the world stage."
McElhaney said he is unsure how many people will show up to the conference, but is hoping to see hundreds. For more information, including the full schedule of speakers, go to stpetersburgintheworld.com.
Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected]