Past CC President, Peter Imber, has some takeaways from the 2023 Conference
Ok, to “get” the reference I’m making with the image above you had to be at the Camden Conference this past weekend. With my sense of irony I’m betting even if you were, you might not get it anyway. I’m used to that.
I was there. It’s an event that was started by a group of people who had moved to Midcoast Maine after careers in various government jobs in Washington, D.C. In 1987, after deciding that the area needed a bit of intellectual stimulation in the middle of the long Maine winter, they organized the first Camden Conference. That initial gathering was attended by only a couple dozen people sitting on folding chairs in the Camden library.
Through the years the Conference, which is held over parts of three days, has had as many as a thousand attendees and since they can’t all fit into the Camden Opera House, a number of other venues in Rockland, Belfast and more recently Portland have been added to which the Conference is live streamed.
I got involved with Conference shortly after we moved here in 2010. I think the leaders at the time were more interested in recruiting Jo but since she was already involved in what would become all but a full time job transitioning the Strand Theatre that her grandparents had built in Rockland 100 years ago from near extinction to a thriving and successful nonprofit, I was the next available target.
I learned a couple of things very quickly. One was that the easiest way to meet people when you’re new to a place is to become a volunteer in your community’s organizations. The second was that if you agree to take on any leadership position and then do what you say you’re going to do, within just a few years you will more than likely be asked to lead that organization. After a meteoric rise I was a president of the Camden Conference five presidents ago.
The Camden Conference was formed with the original goal to be a yearly gathering to discuss American foreign policy as well as crucial issues and events that impact our country and the world. It is a nearly completely volunteer operation with just two employees who are vital and do much of the heavy lifting and each year’s topic for discussion is chosen by committee. In recent years those topics have ranged from the regional– China, Europe and the Arctic –to the information revolution, the global refugee crisis and the future of food and water.
The Conference invites nearly a dozen experts– academics, journalists and relevant leaders –from around the world to come to Camden each February who give presentations followed by questions from attendees. As one speaker from India said this weekend, “My friends told me I would be crazy to come to someplace so cold, but they didn’t know that the people here would be so warm.”
This past weekend’s topic was the status, impact and future of the globalization of trade. As is always the case some of the speakers hit the ball out of the park while others may have struggled with the curve ball. Hey, in baseball a .300 batting average gets you a plaque in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Conference always doubles that at the very least.
I’ve made many good friends through my involvement with the Conference and I thank those who have continued to sustain it. Congratulations to all!
Oh, and here are a few of my own takeaways from the weekend…