The International Society has a new president: David M. Kirkham, former professor, university administrator, international negotiator, diplomat, US Air Force officer, and lawyer. This announcement comes at the conclusion of Kirkham's recent service as a Special Representative for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United Arab Emirates, where he worked on governmental, humanitarian, and interfaith relations.
Kirkham's extensive international experience makes him well-suited for his new position. Since 2007, he has been a Senior Fellow for Comparative Law and International Policy at the BYU Law School International Center for Law and Religion Studies. Additionally, he has occupied various academic roles, including academic director and professor at the Brigham Young University London Centre, associate dean and professor of International Politics and Democratic Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, and the Director of International Plans and Programs at the United States Air Force Academy.
After serving two years of his Air Force career as a NATO Exchange Officer with the German Armed Forces, Kirkham embarked on a personal journey of self-reflection and prayer. He felt a calling to use his knowledge of international security to impact people's lives positively. "I prayerfully petitioned, 'Isn't there some way I can take everything I've learned about international security and turn it on its head to bless rather than threaten or harm people's lives?'" Kirkham shares. Soon after, he received notification that the United Nations sought a French-speaking individual with military experience to assist developing countries in utilizing their military assets for humanitarian purposes. Kirkham and his family spent two years seconded to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, Switzerland, an experience that profoundly influenced his dedication to humanitarian work.
Throughout his career, Kirkham actively engaged in international negotiations and diplomatic representations. He represented the United States, the United Nations, and Brigham Young University in over fifty nations across six continents. Notably, he was a senior humanitarian affairs officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, primarily focusing on Africa. Kirkham's writings and teachings encompassed crucial areas such as international human rights, democratization, constitutionalism, diplomacy, and countering ideological extremism.
As the newly appointed president of the International Society, Kirkham is committed to expanding the organization's global reach and facilitating connections among professionals and students. He emphasizes the Society's potential to make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals worldwide and expressed his vision for increased international representation, leadership, and geographical outreach. "My main hope, the thing that gets me up in the morning ready to give significant time and energy to the Society, is that it can be a vehicle to bless the lives of others in some significant ways not previously available to them," Kirkham states.
When reflecting on the purpose of the International Society, Kirkham emphasizes its collective nature and dedication to supporting the Church, Brigham Young University, like-minded organizations, and individuals committed to serving people around the world. He encourages leaders and mentors in diplomacy, international business, law, education, government, science, medicine, and the arts to join forces and leverage the Society's network to implement high ideals on a global scale. "We welcome those who embrace—or are ready to embrace—the challenges, contradictions, complications, and cognitive dissonance, along with the thrill and great satisfaction, that commonly arise in the course of international engagement," Kirkham says, extending an invitation to like-minded individuals to unite in pursuit of shared international goals.
Learn more about the International Society here.