Belmont Unveils Debate 2020 Programming Theme, ‘The Ideas of America’

Dedicated courses, virtual educational events/exhibits form foundation of Belmont’s celebration surrounding Oct. 22 presidential debate

Belmont has new debate 2020 signs up around campus at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, May 29, 2020.

With fall classes underway and the 2020 election coming up in just over two months, Belmont University announced today a robust slate of events and programming in support of its role as the host site of the third and final presidential debate, to be held on Oct. 22 in the campus’ Curb Event Center. Under the overarching theme “The Ideas of America,” Belmont will provide a variety of opportunities for students, faculty, staff—and the community at large—to engage in informed dialogue on issues surrounding the election and to enjoy artistic interpretations of themes related to the presidential debate.

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “U2’s lead singer Bono, a native of Ireland, once said that ‘America is an idea… one of the greatest ideas in human history.’ We agree, and we want to lean into that notion by exploring many of the ideas at the heart of the American story: our history, democracy, the vote, the rights and responsibilities of citizens and more. Ultimately, our goal is to create events and programs that celebrate the American spirit and recognize what makes this great nation so unique.”

Woman looks up at Bell Tower

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on public gatherings, Belmont has created virtual events, many of which can be enjoyed by both students and the community at large. Events kicked off Aug. 18 as more than 1,400 students, faculty and staff participated virtually and on campus (in socially-distanced locations) in the city-wide “Ring the Bell” campaign, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the grand opening of the Nashville Public Library’s “Votes for Women” room. The University’s Bell Tower carillon rang 100 times at noon followed by a short concert from Belmont Master Carillonneur Dr. Richard Shadinger.

The emphasis on voting will be a common theme among the wide array of Debate-related events that are being scheduled. Below is a brief overview of a few upcoming highlights in the Debate 2020 Programming Series—additional details on these and other programs, including how to access them remotely, can be found on the Events page of BelmontDebate2020.com:

Now Thru Dec. 11: The Unity Flag Project
In the summer of 2020, creatives from all over the U.S. were invited by faculty in Belmont’s Watkins College of Art to create a Unity Flag in order to promote empathy for bipartisanship in a time of political unrest. Though on display in the University’s Leu Center for the Visual Arts, COVID-19 guidelines currently result in limited in-person access to this poignant exhibit. However, all of the flags, along with each artist’s statement, will soon be available for viewing online, and a virtual panel discussion with project founder, Belmont Assistant Professor of Art Dr. Meaghan Brady Nelson, and several participating artists is being planned for October.

Sept. 17: TEDxNashville “We the People” Presented by Belmont’s Executive Learning Network
TEDxNashville will host a collection of talks on Belmont’s campus that will be streamed—$10 tickets are available on Eventbrite. Join us virtually as we dig into topics including civil engagement in a time of divisiveness, using our differences as our strengths, the impact of a new era of media and more in this historic TEDx event.

Sept. 22: Rock the Vote at Belmont University: Nashville’s Colleges Celebrate Democracy
In collaboration with Rock the Vote, Belmont’s Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business is hosting a virtual event featuring performances from Belmont and other area universities, along with voter registration information and promotion.

Sept. 23: Culture Care with Renowned Painter Makoto Fujimura
Culture Care is an alternative to the “culture wars” that have characterized politics in recent decades. It is a philosophy born of Makoto Fujimura’s art and Christian faith that offers the creation and conservation of beauty as an antidote to cultural and political brokenness. Fujimura was a presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, and two of his books, Refractions and Culture Care, were written during that time. He is one of the premier living abstract painters, and his works have been exhibited on four continents.

Sept. 24: White House Style—A Four-Part Series
Sponsored by Belmont’s O’More College of Architecture and Design and led by Nashville-based creative consultant Libby Callaway, a four-week program on White House Style will launch next month. The series not only explores the wardrobes of modern inhabitants of the White House, but examines how a broader sense of personal style has elevated the images of the 53 couples who have lived there over the last 289 years. In addition to the opening session with the White House Historical Association’s Lina Mann, additional programs will cover White House interior design, the White House kitchen and First Couple fashion.

Sept. 24: “The Role of Social Media in a (Mis)informed Electorate” with John M. Seigenthaler
Sponsored by Belmont’s College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, John M. Seigenthaler, former weekend anchor and correspondent for NBC and MSNBC and current partner of Nashville-based PR firm DVL Seigenthaler, will provide insight into how social media impacts political views.

Sept. 28-Oct. 2: Humanities Symposium “A More Perfect Union: Dialogue and Democracy”
Conversation is essential to community and citizenship, and dialogue is essential to democracy. How can we return to conversation and dialogue as the crucial foundation for the responsible actions of citizenship? Belmont’s 19th annual Humanities Symposium, sponsored by the School of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, will consider how conversation impacts voting enfranchisement, racial reconciliation and healing political divisions through engaging these topics from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Sept. 30: Lee C. Camp on “Politics and Christianity”
Lee C. Camp’s Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians makes the case that a renewed Christian politics is more essential than ever, one that is “neither left nor right nor religious,” but a prophetic way of life modeled after Jesus of Nazareth. Christian identity is in moral and political crisis, scandalized by the many ways in which it has been co-opted and misrepresented.

Oct. 21: Habitat for Humanity: A Home for Everyone
Jonathan Reckford has served as the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International since 2005, leading global nonprofit’s growth from serving 125,000 individuals a year to helping more than 7 million people last year alone. Reckford, who was deeply influenced by his parents who were active in the Civil Rights movement and by his grandmother U.S. Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, seeks to follow in their footsteps by leading Habitat’s efforts to help create a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Oct. 27: Integrity in Journalism During an Election Year
Belmont’s Kennedy Center for Business Ethics welcomes NPR National President and CEO John Lansing for a conversation about integrity in journalism.

Beyond individual programs, the presidential debate will also be embedded as a topic of conversation in many Belmont classrooms this fall. In fact, three new courses were specifically designed by faculty as a result of the University’s position as a site host:

Public Relations in Action: Students will consider the debate through PR’s four-step process of research, planning, implementation and evaluation including some study of media messages mentioning Belmont University in connection with the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle.

Media, Democracy and the Public Sphere: Through the lenses of history and media, students will understand the intersectional roles of the press, U.S. democracy, civic life and the public sphere.

The Watergate Scandal and All the President’s Men: Journalism and entertainment media as a vehicle for justice will be studied in the context of the Woodward and Bernstein articles for The Washington Post, their Pulitzer Prize-winning book All the President’s Men, and the film by the same name.

For more information on Belmont’s hosting of the Oct. 22, 2020 Presidential Debate, visit BelmontDebate2020.com.