Since 1967, the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium has brought to the Homewood campus each year experts whose perspectives shed light on one national issue.
To increase the symposium's wattage for its 35th year, the 2002 student co-chairs have invited speakers from several different fields to illuminate the new American identity.
Dennis Boothe and Meera Popat hope the lineup for Changing Times: Who Are We? An Introspective Look at American Identity in the 21st Century will broaden the appeal of the already popular symposium.
"Sometimes, having one specific theme attracts only one group of people," said Boothe, a junior majoring in civil engineering. "This year, we wanted a theme that would attract the entire Hopkins community."
Boothe and Popat have secured a gamut of guests from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons to the host of MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews. Actor and activist Edward James Olmos will talk about Latino life in the United States. Journalist David Brock will address the power of the news media, and Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, will discuss race relations. The speakers and their topics vary, but they all offer a glimpse of life in America, a phrase that takes on new meaning after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We picked this theme because of the effect of Sept. 11 on America's identity," said Popat, a junior majoring in international relations. "Our identity has come into question in the past year, but by its nature, America's identity is always changing. Now is the time to look around and say who are we, what is our future, and what is our role?"
The MSE Symposium attracts thousands of students and residents from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas. The co-chairs, undergraduates at Homewood selected by the Student Council, are responsible for choosing a theme, securing speakers, raising necessary funds, recruiting other student volunteers and publicizing the series. Past speakers have included Maya Angelou, Bob Woodward, Oliver North, Kurt Vonnegut and Charlton Heston.
Each lecture lasts approximately 45 minutes and is followed by a question-and- answer session. Then the audience is invited to a reception where they will have a chance to mingle with the speakers. Olmos, Brock and Matthews will be signing copies of their books after their lectures, the students said.
In addition to the lectures, the symposium will incorporate a political debate, a workshop and a film series. All take place on the Homewood campus.
An exhibit, MSE Symposium Throughout the Times, located in both the Mattin Center and the MSE Library, features posters, news stories and photographs of past MSE symposia, as well as updated biographies of some of the past co-chairs. The display on M-Level of the MSE Library will be open through Sept. 27 and that in the Mattin Center's Ross Jones Building through Oct. 10.
New to last year's symposium, the MSE Film Series will be back this fall. The students selected six films as primers to lectures. For example, a screening of Olmos' documentary Americanos: Latino Life in the United States will precede his lecture. And the DNA-thriller Gattaca will be shown Nov. 22 in anticipation of a Nov. 25 panel discussion on the ethics of biotechnology.
The lecture series begins tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. in Shriver Auditorium with "The Melting Pot: Cultural Assimilation in Modern America," a lecture by Linda Chavez. President George W. Bush's nominee for secretary of labor, Chavez is the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Equal Opportunity, a nonprofit public policy research organization focused on policies affecting racial preferences, immigration, assimilation and multicultural education. Chavez is also the author of Out of the Barrio: Towards a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation and a forthcoming memoir, An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal. Chavez's lecture is co-sponsored by the Young America's Foundation and the JHU College Republicans. Doors open at 7 p.m. A reception in the Ross Jones Building of the Mattin Center will follow the lecture.
The lectures will be held in Shriver Hall, and all films but Olmos' will be shown in the Bloomberg Center's Schafler Auditorium. All events are free and open to the public. For the complete schedule and the locations of other events, see the box below.
Last week, Boothe and Popat said they were nearing the finish line, dealing with seemingly small details like catering, transportation and rounding up extra student volunteers.
"But sometimes," Popat said, "those small details are more of an undertaking than all the other big jobs."
Both co-chairs stress that they couldn't have done their job without the help of advisers like William Smedick, assistant dean of student life, who has helped organize several symposia; James Almond in Homewood Student Affairs, who helped Boothe and Popat keep track of the MSE Symposium's bank account; and the 10 students on the MSE Symposium staff. The co-chairs receive a living stipend to stay on campus during the summer planning months, but many other students stayed without that benefit.
"There are students who have done 60 to 80 hours of work each week for nearly a year on this symposium," Popat said. "They are involved in other groups, too, but they always give us 110 percent."
"We all work really well together," Boothe said. "It's an open environment where we discussed the plans as a group. We call it our MSE family."