Distinguished Guests Ken Burns and David McCullough to Speak; Other Major Programming Planned to Explore Historical and Current Democratic Issues
With less than six months before the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate on Oct. 7, Belmont University is busy planning special debate-related programming for the 2008-09 academic year for Belmont students and the Nashville community. Most notably, award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (right) and historian, New York Times bestselling author and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough (below left) will appear on campus as special guests during this momentous year at Belmont. Burns will speak on Sept. 30, 2008, and McCullough will follow up in the spring semester on March 30, 2009.
Belmont is also launching a new Web site specifically for the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, located at www.belmontdebate08.com. The site, which will launch the week of May 1, will feature news, programming information and campus updates for the Belmont community, neighbors and up-to-3,000 media expected on campus for the debate.
“The opportunity to host the Town Hall Presidential Debate provides an invaluable educational experience to our students, allowing them to observe firsthand our nation’s political process and to be participants in American history,” said Belmont Provost Dan McAlexander. “Bringing such distinguished guests as Ken Burns and David McCullough on campus is just one component of the debate experience we plan to offer our students.”
A task force of faculty and staff from Belmont, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State University, Volunteer State Community College, Trevecca University and Nashville State Technical Community College has formed to create several opportunities for city-wide learning centered on Belmont’s role as Town Hall Presidential Debate host site. While Belmont is in the unique role of host site for the debate, this consortium with other schools celebrates the opportunity this debate offers Nashville and Tennessee – an occasion never before experienced in the city or state that has produced three American presidents (Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson).
A variety of speaker series, visual and performing arts programs, and activities and events designed specifically for students at Belmont and city-wide are slated for the 2008-09 school year. The Key Issues Speaker Series will bring an array of experts to campus to discuss issues of importance to voters in this election year: energy, the environment, entrepreneurship, health care, media and religion. Speakers will include Belmont faculty and special guests distinguished in their respective fields.
The Office of Spiritual Development has put together a comprehensive schedule of events that focus on spirituality’s place in the world of American politics. The complete schedule of events includes:
• Citizenship and Faith – Tony Campolo – September 3, 2008
• The American Empire and the Kingdom of God – Dr. Stanley Hauerwas – September 17, 2008
• The Media and Religion – Barbara Bradley Hagerty – September 24, 2008
• Jesus for President – Shane Claiborne – October 1, 2008
• Faith-Informed Political Science – Dr. Vaughn May – October 22, 2008
• How Would Jesus Vote? – Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner – October 29, 2008
“We are in the midst of an election year in which all of these issues are dominating news coverage,” said Dr. Todd Lake, vice president of Spiritual Development at Belmont. “As a Christian institution we encourage students to discern how their passions and talents best fit the world’s needs. We feel a great responsibility to provide programming that gives us a forum to wrestle with conversations about social and political issues and how they relate directly to faith.”
The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) has prepared a lineup of art exhibits, plays and concerts that center on the American experience. The Department of Art is hosting performance artist Sheryl Oring, who will present her interactive project, “What I Wish to Say to the Future President,” on Oct. 1. Oring, accompanied by a photographer, will set up a workstation in a highly visible area of campus and type up postcards dictated by participants interested in sharing what they would like to say to the future president. A kiosk will display the variety of answers for perusal after Oring has left campus. Students in the Department of Art are completing projects in different media that incorporate the theme of the American flag and will display their work from September through November in the Leu Center for the Visual Arts on the Belmont campus.
Other programs and performances hosted by CVPA will celebrate the freedom of expression enjoyed by Americans in a variety of venues. The Belmont Theatre Company will perform three plays that explore American themes and struggles: Piece of My Heart, Biloxi Blues and a modern update of Arabian Nights. The annual Faculty Concert Series will celebrate American music with its concerts featuring classical piano, commercial voice and percussion faculty. The Belmont Oratorio Choir and Jazz Band will contribute concerts presenting the best of American music. See the attached calendar for a complete listing of all shows and concerts.
Belmont is also planning several opportunities for students to actively participate in the democratic process, such as voter registration drives, viewing parties for the series of presidential and vice presidential debates and a post-debate mock election on campus. The Belmont Student Government Association has already begun voter registration drives this spring at a variety of on-campus concerts and programs. The Belmont Program Board, a student group on campus that hosts several programs throughout the year, is bringing rock n’ roll historian, Barry Drake, to campus to discuss the rock music of the 1970s and its role in the changing political atmosphere of that time.
Details on all scheduled programming at this time can be found in the downloadable calendar below. For an up-to-date schedule of all Debate 08 programs and events at Belmont University, please visit www.belmontdebate08.com.