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ASU hosts conversation with Anderson Cooper on media, democracy

portrait of journalist Anderson Cooper
April 22, 2015

What role can the media play in encouraging a more participatory democracy?

That's the question ASU professor Matthew Whitaker and journalist and author Anderson Cooper will answer in a community conversation moderated by Whitaker.

The event, ASU’s second annual Delivering Democracy Lecture, takes place at 4:30 p.m., April 25, at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, 1401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix.

“Our democracy is special in its ability to propel average people, lifted by hope and passion, to work to affect positive change,” said Whitaker, Arizona State University Foundation Professor of History and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. “It’s often regular folk who challenge us as a nation to maximize our democratic potential.”

“Can journalists help foster an environment in which participatory democracy is better understood, valued and promoted? How can the media educate, empower and inspire individuals – especially young people – to use their talents and skills to become positive change agents? These are some of big questions we’ll be exploring,” Whitaker added.

Cooper, who anchors the weekday CNN television news show Anderson Cooper 360, is also known for his social justice advocacy and philanthropy, supporting causes that address civil and human rights, HIV and AIDS research, bullying, sexual abuse and children’s health in emerging and expanding democracies.

“Anderson Cooper is courageous, principled and respected for his professionalism, going beyond the headlines with in-depth reporting and investigations,” said Whitaker. “His ability to connect with people from all walks of life, and [his] personal commitment to work toward building unity and tolerance across cultural divides aligns straight-up with our mission for the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and we’re honored to be hosting his visit to Phoenix.”

Sarah Herrera, senior program specialist with the center, encourages people to come early to the event and browse the community resource fair that will be staffed from 2 to 4 p.m., and to enjoy an electrifying performance of the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Gospel Choir, beginning at 4 p.m.

Last year’s inaugural Delivery Democracy Lecture drew a crowd of 2,500-plus to hear actor and humanitarian Forest Whitaker.

Herrera and colleague Deborah Cox, senior project specialist, have been working for more than a year with professor Whitaker and student assistants Krystal Lee and Zachary Mihalevich to plan the 2015 Delivery Democracy Lecture, the center’s signature event.

“Our Architects of Change volunteer group has also put in almost 400 hours of service in planning this year’s lecture,” Herrera said. “Like so many of our programs, it has been a 360-degree, university-community partnership.

“We’ll have more than 30 organizations at the resource fair, including representatives from ASU Admissions and College of Public Service and Community Solutions,” Herrera said. “Organizations such as the ACLU, Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Arizona Humanities Council and Tanner Community Development Corporation will also be represented.”

Community sponsors for the Delivering Democracy Lecture number nearly 20, with substantial sponsorship from APS, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Arizona Community Foundation Black Philanthropy Initiative, in addition to Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.

The event is free and open to the public but tickets are required. Register online at or call the center at 602-496-1376.

ASU's Center for the Study of Race and Democracy is a unit in the College of Letters and Sciences, with offices on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus.