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Senior's Jetting Off to Talk Politics With Albright

June Grimes is headed to Washington, D.C., as part of a program by the nonprofit Foreign Policy Assn.


June Grimes, self-described world adventurer, is looking for someone to dust her souvenir-filled bookcases.

The 77-year-old Santa Ana resident is busy. Her free time is spent talking about such things as how monetary unification in Europe is affecting the United States and whether policy goals for the Middle East since World War II have been achieved. Not only that, Grimes is in the middle of packing.

On Wednesday, Grimes is off to catch a plane for Washington, D.C., where she will meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. For the second year, she has been invited to attend a Leadership Summit Conference, where ordinary citizens have the opportunity to share what they think should be world leaders' top concerns.

Grimes was invited because she is the Southern California coordinator for the Great Decisions program, an education group begun in 1955 by the Foreign Policy Assn., a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The goal is to facilitate the exchange of ideas among local residents about this nation's foreign policy. The Newport Beach chapter, of which Grimes is a member, has about 20 people; there are 25,000 participants nationwide.

A member since 1977, Grimes said fellow participants are "average, normal people [who] have an interest in the United Nations."

Great Decisions "was established to educate the grass-roots population," she said. "Until the Second World War, we were never much concerned as a nation [about] foreign policy, but then, of course, we became globalized."

Years ago, as a newlywed to an Air Force lieutenant colonel, she began clipping and saving newspaper articles and photographs related to World War II. She still has them today, along with photographs her husband collected while he was stationed in the South Pacific for three years.

In her opinion, it wasn't until after the Vietnam War that the U.S. government fully realized the importance that public opinion held.

"You can't fight a war without the people behind you," she said.

Grimes and other Great Decisions leaders will present Albright with the National Opinion Ballot Report.

Each year, participants of the grass-roots Great Decisions group submit their opinions on eight world issues they think are the most important. The results are sent to government departments and news outlets.

This year, topics include the role of the U.S. military, humanitarian intervention throughout the world and the political realignments in the Middle East.

The small apartment where Grimes lives with her two cats, Percy and Putty, is a gallery of scenic pictures she snapped herself. The knickknacks and curios that line her bookshelves are testament to her journeys, including treks to the pyramids of Central and South America and safaris in Africa.

Ana Beatriz Cholo can be reached at (714) 966-5890

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