Panel participants were selected based on the topic being discussed as well as their ability to articulate ideas in English. Some delegates participated more often than others, but all appeared at least once. It was educational television that aimed to be entertaining and provocative. The programs were geared toward high school students. Popular topics for this age group included comparing the American education system with foreign schools, discussing if American teenagers had too much freedom or if parents the world over were out of touch, and giving their impressions of the U.S. and the benefits of student exchange. The delegates also discussed less immediately ‘youth-focused’ issues: ‘Does the Key to peace in this century rest with non-white peoples?’, Communism, American’s global influence, Africa’s future, the status of women, religion, and the role of the United Nations.
The Yugoslav delegate was ensured a place in the annual program discussing Communism. Finnish delegates were questioned about their country’s relationship with the Soviet Union, and Scandinavian delegates often found themselves defending ‘socialist’ policies in their countries, much to their bemusement. The South African delegate invariably came under pressure over the apartheid system, while the British delegate was in the spotlight in discussions of decolonization. When interviewed many years later, most delegates recalled their surprise at being taken seriously. Their opinions were sought and respected. Some remembered feeling very unqualified to discuss issues of politics and international affairs, while others were in their element.
By 1959, the Forum had hit its stride. It was a well-oiled machine, both on and off screen. The programs’ format and production had been fine-tuned, changing over time. One year students are all sitting on the floor; in another, they are grouped around an armchair, but by 1959 they are behind a table in a boardroom-like setting, in front of place cards identifying their respective countries like a model U.N.. In 1954 the strains of a jaunty orchestral version of ‘Getting to Know You’ accompany images of a rotating globe before moderator Helen Waller introduces the Forum. In 1957 an opening salvo, in which each delegate gives a very scripted response to a set question, is followed by the theme again against a stylized group portrait of good-looking youngsters idealistically gazing upwards towards a globe.