The Crown Center for Middle East Studies is working to invite numerous political leaders to speak on the Middle East, according to the Office of Communications. Amongst those invited are John Edwards, Al Gore, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, Senator Joe Biden, and Senator Norm Coleman.
"That, so far, is the roster," said Vice President of the Office of Communications Lorna Miles. "Some of them are declared [Presidential] candidates, some of them are not -- all of them have something to say about the region. We're sending quite a few invitations, and I expect that we might send some more."
The initiative to bring these speakers began "in recent months [when] I [had] been approached by students and by faculty who are interested in bringing more ‘public' figures to Brandeis," said Miles.
"About a month ago, as more and more prospective candidates started forming their ‘exploratory' committees, I approached Professor [Shai] Feldman [(NEJS)] and President [Jehuda] Reinharz and suggested we add a number of the candidates and others involved in policy roles related to the Middle East to the roster of speakers sponsored by the Crown Center over the course of the next year."
Miles explained that the main focus on these speakers would be to lecture on the current region of the Middle East, adding that "by virtue of their work, they are already engaged in some sort of policymaking discussion in regards to the Middle East."
She added, "we're asking them to think about, in terms of their talk, to share their thoughts and vision for addressing the challenges to America and the world presented by the Middle East; what should America do to enhance its image in the region? How do you view the future for the region as whole, and America's role in it? Those are some of the questions that we are asking them to consider."
When asked if that focus might be considered myopic, Miles responded that she felt the topic of the Middle East was extremely relevant for the speakers, especially for those invited who plan to run in the 2008 Presidential Election. "I think that one of the things that we offer here is this unparalleled resource of the Crown Center for people to come in and speak about the Middle East [,] [and] one of the issues that anyone who is involved in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations or Armed Services, or someone who is thinking about a national office or serving in public office, has to deal with are issues pertaining to the Middle East."
In regards to University cost, Miles said that it was too early in the process to be certain, but said she believed many of the speakers would not charge expensive honoraria, and that she expected the costs to be "fairly manageable."
Miles added that the timetable for these speeches was not confirmed, as the Crown Center was only in the process of inviting the speakers, and had yet to receive confirmations of any kind. She did add, however, that each speaker would be invited individually, and that the goal was to have at least one of these speakers come in before the end of the semester. "My hope is that the likelihood is high, and that we will be able to accommodate their schedules with our cramped academic schedule."
In addition to the Crown Center's initiative to invite prominent politicians, a separate group of students is also attempting to bring in notable speakers. Jamie Ansorge '09 is part of the group of students interested in bringing political figures to campus. "I represent a coalition of about 20 activists that want to invite all the [presidential] candidates, especially the democratic candidates." Ansorge explained that he spoke with President Reinharz who then informed him of the Crown Center's initiative. "We fully support the work of the Crown Center in contacting these speakers," Ansorge said, "we would like to collaborate to get students involved to ensure positive responses to these invitations." Ansorge further explained his hope that his coalition of students could work with the Crown Center to "successfully lure these people to campus."
Members of the Brandeis community were enthusiastic over the Crown Center's plans. "I'm really excited that they're turning Brandeis into an open forum," said Michael Werner '08. "I think that if they got all these people here, it would be fantastic."
Alice Glicken '09 agreed, saying "I think it's important to get people who have such important positions in America to talk to the students about their experience and answer questions… it's a good resource for students." Meanwhile, Andy Lewis '10 felt that the experience would "bring a lot of publicity to campus which is positive. We're on a college campus so it's hard to get out and see the candidates. It'd be cool if they came to us."
"I think that would be great," said Mike Martin '09. "I think those people would be hard to get but it would be exciting. Especially with Jimmy Carter speaking this semester, it sets a good precedent for Brandeis to get speakers of that caliber. It's something that Brandeis as an Ivy-caliber school should do."
Zach Handler '09 was also excited by the prospect of one of these speakers coming to campus. "I think it's great that they're trying to bring some possible presidential contenders, less Al Gore, to Brandeis, especially after Jimmy Carter...as a politics major, especially, I feel like it's amazing to me when the people who could be president are just a few feet a way from me. To see speak Jimmy Carter speak in person that was unbelievable. That guy was a president."