Robert Kennedy, far left, joins fellow ACIR board members receiving the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta's International Community Service Award from committee chair Firooz Israel, fourth from left.

In a rare sweep of its two annual international awards, Atlanta Council on International Relations and its president, Robert Kennedy, were honored this week by the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta. 

During the club’s Tuesday luncheon, Dr. Kennedy received its International Award, a designation that started in 1996 with the honor going to longtime Atlanta architect and developer John C. Portman Jr.

Since that time, the award has been bestowed on former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, Ambassador Andrew Young, Ambassador and former Emory University President James Laney, and former CDC Director Tom Frieden, among many other luminaries from university presidents and writers to Atlanta’s Olympic committee organizer, Billy Payne. 

In 2019 the club began offering  the International Community Service Award to organizations that help promote Atlanta as a global city and contribute to its understanding of global issues.

“This year we had an organization as well as an individual that fit the bill very well,” said Firooz Israel, who chairs the Kiwanis international committee and is also a member of the ACIR. The service award comes with a $2,000 stipend that goes toward the organization’s programming.

The Atlanta Council on International Relations, which traces its charter back 70 years, has long focused “educating the Atlanta community on complex foreign policy issues,” all while playing an unofficial liaison role for the city with diplomatic, military and business leaders when they arrive in town.

Recent programs include a luncheon focused on the ongoing economic and social crisis in Lebanon, a conversation on Iran’s protests, a panel on NATO’s fight against disinformation warfare and an expert look at satellite security, all peppered in among discussions with diplomats posted in Atlanta. 

Dr. Kennedy has led the organization since 2014 as a volunteer after retiring from a long military and academic career that included a 20-year stint as a professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Institute of Technology, with which ACIR maintains strong ties. 

Before Georgia Tech, Dr. Kennedy was director of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. His extensive academic credits also include a stint as deputy commandant at the NATO Defense College in Rome, a professorship sat the U.S. Army War College and a senior research role at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. He has also studied as a Fulbright scholar in Peru. 

His military career includes service as an enlisted man in the U.S. Army and as an active-duty command pilot of the U.S. Air Force. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and both a master’s and Ph.D. from Georgetown University in political science.

While the award is not billed as a lifetime achievement award, Dr. Kennedy’s honor can be construed as recognizing the depth of his contributions to the city and to the international affairs community, Mr. Israel said.

Global Atlanta has partnered with the ACIR on a variety of events in recent years, including forums with the ambassadors of the Philippines and Australia, as well as lectures by Turkish scholars and an in-person luncheon with India’s ambassador to the United States.

Global Atlanta founder and publisher emeritus Phil Bolton was selected for the international award in 2009.

Read more of Dr. Kennedy’s bio and learn more about the rest of the ACIR board here.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...