Bruce Cole

Volunteer Spotlight-Bruce Cole

The Camden Conference is almost entirely an all-volunteer organization. The Camden Conference truly relies on volunteers to make it happen! As a new newsletter feature, we would like to shine a light on the special people that have created and continue to sustain our year-round programs and our Conference weekend.

Bruce Cole is the President of the Camden Conference Board of Directors and the focus of our first spotlight.

  • Tell us how you first got involved in with the Camden Conference . . .

In 2010, I was working on a Climate Change Symposium for the First Congregational Church of Camden and learned from Camden Conference’s President Bob Hirsch, and Brewster Grace, that the Camden Conference was also interested in a program on climate change.  We combined our efforts and held the program in October of 2010 at the Camden Opera House.  I was invited to join the Camden Conference program committee after the Symposium.

  • What has surprised you most about working with the Camden Conference?

I was aware of the main conference held in February, but I had no idea that the Camden Conference included more than 50 events around the State, which has now grown to more than 80, all which have topics related to our February conference topic.  (For 2019, our topic:  Is this China’s Century?) And I had no idea that the Camden Conference organized educational efforts with Maine-based universities.  That program has grown to include a relatively new program called, Camden Conference in the Classroom, that provides funding and resources for teachers to teach global affairs in up to 20 Maine high schools annually.  Our student attendance—about 20%– at the February Conference is something about which we are especially proud.   For many students, the Camden Conference can be a life-changing experience.

  • What do you wish other people knew about the Camden Conference?

The Camden Conference is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to fostering informed discourse on world issues.  The Camden Conference is first and foremost a citizens’ forum.  With attendance of about 1,100 at our four venues (three are live-streamed), we are one of the largest such events in the United States.  Our speakers are top international experts we fly in from all points of the globe.  Our attendees at our live-stream venues enjoy a very high quality production due largely to our talented production crew.  No other global affairs conference in the United States approaches our quality, except the TED Conferences.  

  • What might someone be surprised to know about you?

My first significant job was as a logger in the Western Oregon Coast Range.  I worked in extremely rough terrain at elevations of 2,000 – 4,000 feet on cable logging operations taking out Douglas Fir logs up to 10 ft. in diameter. The work was very demanding physically and is still classified as one of the two most dangerous professions in our nation.  However, I was able to fund five years of college and two degrees while completely avoiding loans (and injury!).

Some people may not be aware that one of my great loves is playing trumpet, which I do with the Midcoast Brass Quintet, and other groups.       

  • What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering for the CC?

The first thing I would say is, “We need you!”  Our volunteers come from positions in government, education, and the private sector.  Many are retired, but a number of our volunteers (me included) are employed and fully engaged in their careers.  The Camden conference has approximately 100 volunteers who donate more than 5,000 combined hours annually. We have a number of accomplished foreign affairs experts in our midst, but many of us are not experts in the field.  But I can say without reservation that all our volunteers have high interest in global affairs and in the future of our nation.  Without the help of our volunteers, and the great efforts of our two-person staff, we could never accomplish our goals.     

  • What’s it like to be a volunteer for the CC?

I can only speak from my personal experience that volunteering for the Camden Conference is highly rewarding.  Our volunteers are highly intelligent and talented.  It is a great pleasure for me to learn from the life experiences of so many highly talented people.  It is a huge honor, as well as humbling, to be President of the Camden Conference. I also take pride in the fact that volunteers come from various political persuasions, yet we find ways to step away from the political polarization so prevalent in society to work together.  It gives me hope.

  • The interest in the Camden Conference seems to be growing. Why do you think that is?

Our society seems to be moving rapidly to information exchange via soundbites and social media such as Twitter.  However, the growth in the Camden Conference demonstrates that many people still feel a need to drill deeper to understand the critical challenges facing our nation.  The Camden Conference fills that niche.

Originally from Oregon, Bruce J. Cole is President of McNabb Marketing Resources, Inc., a Camden-based communications and marketing company. Bruce has 38 years of experience in business magazine publishing, and in the organization and management of conferences and trade expositions.  He has extensive experience working with clients and customers based in Europe, North America, and Asia.  Education includes B.S. and B.A. degrees from Oregon State University in geology and technical journalism, and a M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota.  Bruce and his wife and business partner, Ann, have three children and two grandsons, all residents of Maine.


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