In 1976, a group of West Palm Beach business leaders shared a collective dream...
They envisioned bringing to the community the men and women whose words and actions shape the world in which we live. They built a club where no club existed. Then they invited the sculptors of our daily universe to come and share their views.
President Jimmy Carter was the inaugural speaker, transforming the dream of providing a forum into reality. And, one by one, they have continued to come.
From the halls of Tallahassee and corridors of Congress. From the highest court in the land and lands on the brink of war. Out of White House offices and foreign embassies. Prime ministers and military leaders. Statesmen and revolutionaries. Astronauts and ambassadors. Politicians and wannabe politicians.
They are the players. They bring the world to our sandlot “forum of dreams,” giving us insight on the game taking place all around us.
Today, four simple words sum up the Forum Club’s mission: “Stimulate thought. Promote dialogue.”
Back in 1976, the first club directory spelled out its purpose in lengthy detail: “It is organized to present knowledgeable and prominent public affairs and political personages in forum style meetings. The club’s sole purpose is to inform and educate the community’s social, business and political interest and to promote a more active participation by all citizens in the democratic process on the local, state and national levels.”
In the beginning, former newspaper editor Bob Kirkpatrick was hired as executive director and a 23-member Board of Directors was created comprising a cross-section of Palm Beach County’s top-level executive, professional and civic leaders. Over the years, there have been only two executive directors. After 17 years in the post, Kirkpatrick retired in 1993. Former newspaper city editor Gayle Pallesen has held the position since then.
Over the years, wrecking balls have done away with the club’s first two meeting places: Christopher’s Restaurant in the downtown Holiday Inn and the old Helen Wilkes Hotel, both in West Palm Beach. For a while, the club met at the West Palm Beach Sheraton at CityPlace (now the West Palm Beach Marriott). However, over time, a larger venue was needed as attendance and membership continued to grow. In November 2003, the Forum Club moved to the Cohen Pavilion at the Kravis Center. Today, with attendance reaching as high as 1,100, meetings are rotated between the Kravis Center and the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
Initially, membership was limited to 200. Currently, there are 800 members, a growing waiting list of applicants and a 800-member cap. Over the years, the Forum Club has become Florida’s largest non-partisan political and public affairs organization with the highest attendance record of any such group in the state.
…Build a club and they will come … blind faith on the part of the founding fathers with 20-20 vision results.