ASU students travel to India for lessons in service, leadership

For 12 accomplished students from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, this year was not your typical spring break

April 6, 2018

For a lot of students, spring break is a time to recharge and enjoy the benefits of a few carefree days before the storm surge of year-end deadlines hits.

For 12 accomplished students from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, this was not your typical spring break. SCETL students exchange experiences with college students in India at Fulbright House, New Delhi Arizona State University School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership went to India over spring break for the Global Intensive Experience. Download Full Image

When these students signed up for an immersive service and leadership experience in India, they exchanged beaches, parties, visits home and camping trips for arduous travel to bewildering urban centers and dusty villages, where they would work hard and learn from entrepreneurs, teachers, journalists and nonprofit workers about what it takes to be a leader in the world's largest liberal democracy. 

The Global Intensive Experience, sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and led by cultural anthropologist Susan Carrese and political scientist Paul Carrese, exposed ASU students to some of the diverse facets of modern India — from densely populated, technologically advanced cities to the most rural, amenity-poor villages.

Each day, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the students took on new intellectual challenges, and in some cases, confronted personal stereotypes and false assumptions while serving communities with completely unfamiliar cultures and value systems.

When the school proposed this leadership-service trip to ASU’s Study Abroad Office they listed several major themes that students would explore in their Global Intensive Experience in India:

• Cross-civilizational issues of leadership and liberal-democratic politics in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim culture

• The power of globalization

• America’s growing partnership with India as a world power in a prominent but difficult region

• Journalism and a free press in India

• Market economics in a formerly social-democratic or “third way” economy

• India’s vast socio-economic diversity

• The challenge of service and service-learning in a completely different cultural context

To address these complex issues in a short period of time, Susan Carrese curated a syllabus of lectures, interviews, service activities and cultural experiences that offered students the opportunity to engage, not as cultural tourists, but as researchers, collaborators and volunteers.

A cultural tour

The students began their service trip with a visit to Humayun’s Tomb, a great mausoleum of the Mughal dynasty that would later influence the Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb is a UNESCO world heritage site and an important touchstone to understanding the complex interactions of Hindu and Muslim culture in contemporary India.  

During a guided walk through the former center of the Muslim imperial city of Shahjahanabad — now part of the national capital city of New Delhi — they visited India’s largest mosque and participated in a pujaworship ceremony at a Hindu temple.

Students say they were struck by the religious diversity they witnessed.

“While the group was walking down the streets of Old Delhi, we witnessed Jain, Hindu, Sikh and Islamic places of worships all on the same street,” said Ivan Bascon, a junior majoring in molecular biosciences and biotechnology. “Although the relationships between the religious communities are not perfect, I saw a far better form of respect and understanding between religions than in the United States.”

Kira Olsen-Medina, a junior studying sociology, said, “It’s one thing reading about religious conflict and seeing it on the news in distant places, but seeing firsthand the dominant role of religion in another culture was significantly impactful.”

Later, at a visit to the Fulbright House — which administers the Fulbright-Nehru fellowships for educational exchanges between India and the United States — they learned about international scholarship opportunities and talked with Prasad V. Kunduri, a senior editor of The Tribune newspaper, northern India’s largest circulating daily newspaper.

“Speaking with Prasad Kunduri about the state of the news media in India was fascinating,” said Rebecca Spiess, a student of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “While the numbers of English newspaper consumption have plateaued, other dailies aren’t losing readers across India. I think it will be incredibly interesting to see whether, as the prevalence of smartphones rises, newspapers in India will take a different approach than we’ve taken in the U.S. to make sure revenues stay steady.”

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership cohort also met with Indian university students for an exercise in which the students identified together the issues that mattered to them on local, national and international levels. They then worked toward collaborative, cross-cultural solutions, and exchanged ideas about education reform, democratic participation and the "brain drain" that leads educated students in India to leave smaller villages in pursuit of careers in larger, more prosperous cities. 

Other activities included a Q&A session about transportation, globalization and business leadership with the CEO of a major Indian freight company, an impromptu cooking lesson, and a walking tour through the markets and old city of Jaipur, not far from the Pakistan border.

Making a difference

As the students complete their post-Global Intensive Experience written assignments, an overwhelming majority say that among the many activities on their journey, the service project and the residential experience at Barefoot College, in the state of Rajasthan, was the most memorable.

Barefoot College is a volunteer organization founded in 1986, committed to giving poor, rural communities the tools they need to independently thrive. Inspired by the principles of India’s independence and civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, the Barefoot ethos elevates the values of service and citizenship over financial wealth. The college rejects certifications and university degrees, claiming that students who attend Barefoot are certified by the communities they serve.

The mission of Barefoot College is to promote self-sustaining communities. They do so by training older students (often grandmothers) to produce solar energy and clean drinking water technology to take back to their communities.

The Global Intensive Experience cohort met with the Solar Mamasthe school's village-matriarchs-turned-solar-engineers, and learned how — since the program's inception — they have brought solar lighting, cookers, heaters and water desalination systems to over 18,000 households in 83 countries. 

“I was absolutely blown away when I saw the education and work that the Solar Mamas were undertaking in the workshop with electrical wiring and solar panels,” Bascon said. “Inviting these older women from all over the world really speaks volumes about the idea of being a global citizen and serving communities all over the world by educating and creating future leaders and community change makers.”

A unique education

While the training at Barefoot gives students technical skills, the backbone of the multi-faceted approach is civic education. 

Through a network of “night schools,” about 75,000 children, most of whom work during the day taking care of farm animals or their siblings, are able to learn everything from mathematics and reading to how to care for their sheep or what to do if they get arrested.

Among the top priorities of the night schools is teaching the children about democracy and citizenship, even going so far as to elect a 12-year-old “prime minister” and “government cabinet” that monitors and supervises 150 schools.

Sophomore political science major Alexis Kwan noted that India has an astounding 66 percent voter turnout, and it is likely this kind of early civic engagement by Indian youth that leads to a lifetime of democratic participation.

ASU students were lucky to attend a session of the night school — after a long and bumpy ride on dirt roads. During that session, freshman philosophy major Max Fees also delighted the Indian students by leading them in interactive songs.

Because a majority of Barefoot students are illiterate and often don't speak the same language as their peers or teachers, lessons are routinely taught through sign language, art and puppetry. 

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership students led activities ranging from painting a mural to illustrate the medicinal benefits of plants to coordinating educational games that teach children about gender stereotypes and how to identify and expose sexual abuse. 

In spite of language barriers, the ASU students felt like they made connections with the night-school students.

“By the end of the day, the kids were teaching us phrases in their language, calling us ‘sister’ or ‘friend,’ and walking back with us to the new campus,” Kwan said. 

The Barefoot night school visit was arranged by Shuvajit Payne, Barefoot director of education who left London and a successful consulting career with IBM to return to India and work on developing sustainable rural communities. 

Justin Heywood, a sophomore political science major, said that he learned something about servant-leadership from Payne.

"He had a great job working in the U.K., but was willing to leave it all behind after witnessing he could make a difference in India," Heywood said. "He could have ignored the problems that he saw, but he decided to act. His decision led to him living a less lavish lifestyle relative to the U.K. However, it was my perception that he does not regret his decision and is happier as a result. He is dedicated to his job and truly seeks opportunities for his communities."

Given limited tools, compromised communication and last-minute changes to lesson plans, the Global Intensive Experience students learned to be flexible and find solutions and compromises at Barefoot.

“Barefoot College really taught me a lot about working with the resources you have, being creative and innovative” Olsen-Medina said. “Working together, we realized that sometimes a leader’s responsibility is to recognize individual strengths and direct those energies into one cohesive mission.”

Reflecting on the experience

Before leaving India and a dizzying series of activities, the students visited the Taj Mahal, arguably the most significant cultural site in all of India. But the grandeur of the mausoleum, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not without its price, as Olivia Gonzales, a junior majoring in global health, remarked.  

“One of my main takeaways from class has been that the most successful empires understand the importance of balance and moderation," Gonzales said. “They use their power with purpose, not just for the sake of exercising it. Seeing the Taj Mahal and hearing about the life of Shah Jahan really stuck out to me as the dangers of losing sight of moderation.” 

As the students submit reflections on their experience in India, their comments testify to the value of studying abroad, and the life-changing impact that traveling with purpose can have on those who are ambitious enough to participate.

“Diving deeper into the sociopolitical and historical aspects of India gave me a much more detailed understanding of this country than I had from my other short travels," Gonzales said. "More than that, however, our trip reaffirmed my love of service abroad. From now on when I travel, I want to be sure I have a symbiotic relationship with the country I go to. I want to give back as much as I take.”

According to Olsen-Medina, she returned from the Global Intensive Experience experience with big goals. 

“I have a new found sense of global responsibility, and a desire to make meaningful impact," she said. "I see the importance of understanding those you are trying to help and immersing yourself in the issue before trying to make solutions. Often we are so quick to try to ‘fix’ things that we do not fully understand the problem.” 

To learn more about the 250-plus study abroad programs in more than 65 different countries offered at ASU, see the Study Abroad Office website.

Ty Fishkind

Communications specialist, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


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Steven Pinker addresses human progress, free speech to ASU audiences

Harvard Professor Steven Pinker talks speech, reason, religion with ASU students
April 4, 2018

Harvard professor fields questions from students on religion, politics and technology

Steven Pinker has a message for all those standing at the ready, poised to raise the doomsday alarm at a moment’s notice: Not so fast.

In his new book, “Enlightenment Now” (which Bill Gates has declared his “favorite book of all time”), the Harvard professor of psychology uses social science data to make the argument that we are actually living in the most peaceful, progressive time in human history.

On Wednesday afternoon, Pinker fielded questions from a group of about 30 ASU students in an open discussion on the Tempe campus that included such topics as religion, politics and technology.

“Almost anything that you measure when it comes to human well-being has increased over time,” Pinker told students, citing life expectancy, general health, time for leisure, rates of literacy and access to food, among other measures. 

Pinker was in town to deliver the final public talk in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership’s “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society” 2017–2018 seriesThe School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership’s “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society” series is co-sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law., which he gave later Wednesday evening at Old Main’s Carson Ballroom.

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

Over the course of the academic year, the series featured such speakers as fellow social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Middlebury College Professor of international politics and economics Allison Stanger and University of Chicago law Professor Geoffrey Stone, who all spoke on the urgent need to embrace free speech and diverse thought on college campuses and in society in general.

“It’s been a terrific yearlong series,” said Paul Carrese, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership professor and founding director. “We’ve welcomed well over 3,000 people to these events since September … and we’ve had a wide range of views represented by people from multiple disciplines and life experiences. 

“We’re delighted to have [Pinker] as the final, cleanup hitter.”

The first question lobbed at Pinker during the afternoon discussion was no softball — "What role do you feel religion plays in humanity’s future?" — and he held nothing back when he swung at it.

“I don’t think there’s a role for belief in a deity,” because there’s no evidence of one existing, he said.

steven pinker

Harvard Professor Steven Pinker wasn't afraid to tackle hard questions posed by ASU students during an open discussion on the Tempe campus Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The belief in gods, souls and spirits does nothing to enhance humanity, Pinker argued. Instead, holding out for an afterlife only serves to devalue our lives on Earth. And though he conceded that many religions nowadays have become more humanistic and social justice-oriented, the belief in a benevolent, omnipotent being can lead to inaction on issues like climate change (if the understanding is that said being would never let humans suffer as the Earth withers away) and dangerous misinterpretations of perceived sacred texts.

“If we want to make humans better off, we have to do it ourselves,” Pinker said. “Prayers aren’t going to do it. … That’s why I think humanism combined with science and reason is the most moral set of beliefs.”

When it came to that other most-avoided topic of polite conversation — politics — Pinker’s stance was just as firm.

“We’d be better off if policy questions were not treated as matters of tribal loyalty,” he said. “There are an awful lot of scientists who take a more global approach to [political issues] — we could use more of them. … Decoupling particular ideas from political ideologies is absolutely essential” to progress. 

Pinker referenced the chapter on reason in “Enlightenment Now,” in which he addresses the scientific community’s complaint that many people reject scientific findings because of a lack of education. 

“The actual studies on why that happens show that [the stances people take on certain issues are] simply identity badges for belonging to a particular ideological tribe,” he said. “On average, people who advocate for climate change don’t know any more science than those who deny it.”

Social psychology graduate student Adi Wiezel enjoyed listening to Pinker’s insights.

“It was interesting to hear how different threats, or perceived threats, can affect political attitudes,” she said.

Pinker left students with the notion that just because some things may appear to be in dire straits, it does not mean all hope is lost.

“It’s a misunderstanding of progress to think that everything always has to get better. That would be magic.” Instead, he said, “If we apply knowledge, science and reason to the goal of making people better off, we can succeed. And we have succeeded.”  

Top photo: Steven Pinker answers questions about his books and his thoughts on free speech and human progress during a Q&A session with students, faculty and staff on the Tempe campus Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Editor , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

ASU In the News

How Clinton-era welfare reform keeps Dreamers out of the work force

Although the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has earned wide bipartisan support, surprisingly few states actually protect Dreamers' right to earn an honest living in any occupation that requires a state license — including as barbers, engineers, nurses, plumbers or in dozens of other occupations.

The evidence suggests that stricter licensing requirements stymie entrepreneurship among immigrant communities. According to a 2015 report by Stephen Slivinski, a senior research fellow at Arizona State University, “occupational licensing statutes place a disproportionate burden on immigrants trying to start their own businesses,” since immigrants are more likely to work in the service industry, which is more heavily licensed than other sectors of the economy. Lorena Jofre works at her desk at Wilson, Washburn and Forster Insurance Company on Feb. 9, 2018, in Miami. Jofre is one of approximately 800,000 immigrants that fall under the category of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More generally, after Slivinski matched an earlier data set from IJ’s “License to Work” with data on immigrant entrepreneurial activity from the Kauffman Foundation, he found that “states with heavier-than-average licensing burdens have an average immigrant entrepreneurship rate that is nearly 11% lower than average.”

Reducing the burden of licensure or repealing the requirements for many licenses is crucial to expand economic opportunity. With fewer licenses, both citizens and DACA recipients would face fewer obstacles that would otherwise block their chosen careers and stand in the way of achieving their own American Dream.

Article Source: NBC News

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

ASU student exceeds expectations to make his family proud

March 13, 2018

On most nights, it might be possible to catch a glimpse of Arizona State University student Alexander Bernard somewhere in Hayden library with his head buried in a book, working tirelessly to achieve his goals and make his family proud, just as so many other students strive to do.

Graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science in political science and a certificate in political thought and leadership, Bernard has succeeded in his academic and professional pursuits during his time in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Alexander Bernard will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science in political science and a certificate in political thought and leadership. Download Full Image

“I chose to attend ASU because I come from a Sun Devil family,” Bernard said. “It is a growing and thriving university that offers so much opportunity for anyone, regardless of financial background or where someone comes from.”

Bernard grew up in an international household, his mother being from Cambodia and his father from France. His diverse upbringing interested Bernard in international relations, politics and policy at a young age, and he knew learning about world affairs and politics was the right area of study for him.

Going beyond his studies, Bernard has been a heavily involved student, engaging in multiple activities on campus to further his skills. His positions have included being the co-president for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Ambassadors, communication assistant for the Center for Political Thought and Leadership, and a student representative on the advisory board for the Department of Career and Professional Development.

“I am also the former president of the Political Thought and Leadership student club,” Bernard. said “From guest speakers to intellectual debates, I was fascinated with the fact that ASU provides a program where students can learn civic leadership and political debate.”

In addition, Bernard was able to join the Capital Scholars program in the School of Politics and Global Studies, which allowed him to join over a dozen other students in Washington D.C. for two months. Through the program, Bernard interned for the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think-tank.

“I met so many amazing people and made lifelong friends that I am still in contact with today,” Bernard said. “I highly enjoyed my time there, and the experience opened my eyes to a whole new world.”

His work in public policy has inspired Bernard to consider the idea of working in the public sector after graduation to gain more experience before pursuing a master’s degree in public policy or public administration.

Although the world outside of academia can be intimidating, Bernard feels as though he is equipped to take on new challenges.

“The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences prepared me for life after graduation by giving me the opportunity to pursue what I love and enhancing my communication skills to new heights,” Bernard said. “The amount of opportunity the college offers is beyond question and takes an effective holistic approach to interdisciplinary student engagement. I took classes from multiple schools and became a full learner, not just a specific-topic learner.”

Excelling in his classes and extracurricular activities, Bernard said his motivation to thrive comes from his mother. A woman who came to the United States to raise her three children on her own, she faced adversity at every turn, overcame her obstacles, and was able to earn a degree at ASU while raising Bernard and his siblings.

“My mother is my biggest inspiration,” Bernard said. “Her drive and tenacity pushed me every single day throughout my studies. Everything I do, I do for my mom.”

Olivia Knecht

Student writer-reporter, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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Day 1: Free speech, national security and what it's like to cover Washington in the age of Trump

March 13, 2018

Read and hear the highlights from the first day of the opening-week celebration of ASU's new Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center

Editor's note: The first day of the opening week at the Ambassador Barbara Barrett & Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center at ASU was a full one. Here are the highlights; find the current day's blog here.

Panel: 'Covering Washington in the Age of Trump'

7:30 p.m. Monday, March 12

Barrett and OConnor Washington Center panel on media and Trump

Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker (center) speaks to a full house, along with CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip (left) and CBS This Morning senior producer Chloe Arensberg on the topic "Covering Washington in the Age of Trump" on Monday at the Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Three Washington journalists spoke about the changing media/political landscape in front of a standing-room-only audience Monday evening at the Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center.

Leonard Downie Jr.

Leonard Downie Jr., Weil Family Professor of Journalism at Cronkite (though he’s perhaps better known as the consultant on the film “The Post,” ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle quipped), moderated the event, throwing questions in front of the trio to get their take. Here’s a sampling.

Question: What’s different about covering this administration?

Abby Phillip, White House correspondent, CNN:

“Everything is different. … It’s probably as wild and chaotic as it seems to you (the news consumer), especially by comparison to past administrations.”

“…The White House can often be a very controlled environment. …  (In this presidency) there are a lot of little tornadoes happening all over the federal government, and that’s what makes it so difficult to keep up as a reporter.”

Q: In a White House that seems to attack the press so much, why are there so many good sources?

Ashley Parker, White House reporter, Washington Post:

“This White House is in a lot of ways more accessible than previous White Houses. Some of this changed when John Kelly came in and implemented new discipline. … In the Obama White House, I remember, any little story I was doing they had to know what sorts of questions do you think you’ll be asking and what’s the topic and do you have an understanding of whether this will run on the front page or on A17. The Trump White House is not like that.

“You also have a lot more acute sense of what the president is thinking, because his tweets are literally what he’s thinking in the moment. I don’t buy the theory that he’s sort of strategically turning everyone’s attention away, covering up one chaotic thing with another.”

And as for all those sources? It’s because it’s often less compelling to be in front of him in person and more compelling to be in front of him “through the sheen of cable news.” So people are fighting it out in the press because it’s the most efficient way to sway the president.

Q: How do you handle all this chaos when preparing for news shows?

Chloe Arensberg, senior producer, CBS This Morning:

“Barely. <laughter from the audience> One of the most challenging things with a morning show is we have to have some kind of vague prediction of what might be driving the news at 7 a.m. in the morning. I work primarily day side the day before, and I have to say the number of times I’ve even woken up to seven different stories out of Washington that we had not originally had when I went to bed at 10, it’s astonishing.”

Q: Is some of this accessibility to sources in the White House part of the infighting there?


“The second layer of all of this starts with the fact that Trump is a candidate who came into politics fairly recently. So he has filled his White House with a lot of people who don’t know him that well, who haven’t worked for him particularly long. Some of whom are his family members, some of whom are longtime allies — although there are fewer and fewer of those people left — and what it creates are those factions you just mentioned.

“A lot of people with a lot of different interests working for this one person — that’s very different from what you typically get with a president. … Trump has always had the challenge of having a lot of people working with him who he frankly doesn’t trust a whole lot.”

Q: Are press briefings useful anymore? Do you still go to them?


“We do go to them. Are they useful? Some days I think they’re useful; some days I don’t. I think the greatest use — I think this is true not just of the Trump White House but of the Obama White House … the greatest use is to create a public record of what the White House’s position is on a given subject. I think it’s actually incredibly important.

“When everything distills and we find out what the real truth is, or we’re at the point where a decision needs to be made, we can compare that to what was said when we asked the question.

“… To the extent that we can press for answers on facts, I think it’s still very important. To the extent that it becomes this sort of game of trolling? Not so helpful.” 


Plus, “So much happens after the briefings now that they’re also often outdated and irrelevant in a matter of minutes after they conclude.”

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

Q: Pro-Trump commentators often describe the press as part of the resistance to the president, trying to press him out of office. What’s your feeling on that — is it anti-Trump or normal accountability for the press to hold the president to?


“I think it’s normal accountability. It’s an easy narrative to say we’re part of the resistance. I also think it dovetails nicely with the enemy-of-the-American-people, opposition-party rhetoric that this White House has attached to the news media. It depends on how tired you are, how you feel when you hear that language.

“But I do think technically we work in an environment with strong press freedom and a First Amendment, and things aren’t so bad.”

Q: Have you ever been the target of anti-media vitriol?


(She covered him during the campaign, and Parker and New York Times colleague Maggie Haberman had just published a story that Trump did not like. Then they were at a big rally in San Diego.)

“All press, no matter what candidate I’ve covered, you’re always sort of enclosed by bike racks, but normally you’re in the back of the room. But with Trump we were part of the show. …

“We’re in the middle of this room of 10,000 people or more, and he starts complaining about our story. He says, ‘There’s a woman named Parker and a woman named Haberman, and they wrote the most’ — and I actually had a little name card that I quickly slid my laptop over — ‘they’re the most dishonest and the most despicable — they’re not here, are they?!’

“I’m sitting in the front row with a now slightly obscured name card, and the whole crowd turns around, ‘Boo hiss! Is Parker here?!’ and I was just like, <looks behind her> ‘Is she here?’

“The good part about being a print reporter is that no one knows who I am. A lot of my good friends who are on TV, especially women, felt a lot more vitriol. This has been reported, but CNN and other outlets got security guards for their female reporters to walk to their cars after rallies. So it was a slightly disconcerting, unnerving experience certainly for me to be called out in a negative way by (Trump) in a crowd of 10,000 people, but I knew my story was accurate — which was the main thing I cared about — and I also knew no one knew what I looked like.”


“I’ve had people post my parents’ address. I’ve had a conservative — I won’t even call this person a reporter — a conservative person who writes on a website online publish a story about my mother, including posting her photo online, in an attempt to attack me for coverage of a Trump surrogate. That kind of thing has really escalated.

“I don’t mind it personally … I worry more about the impact on your family and people who didn’t sign up for this. I signed up for this; my mother did not.”

Watch the full talk here, including the journalists’ views on when Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner will leave the White House, what mistakes the media have made, people who have been vilified in public but whom they find quite sympathetic in person. ASU President Michael Crow also addressed the crowd at the end of the event, speaking about ASU's mission.

Video: Cronkite grads and jobs

Lisa Ruhl, senior producer at The Hill and one of the panelists in the afternoon Cronkite School event, graduated from ASU's master’s program in May 2011. She moved to Washington and reached out to Steve Crane, director of Cronkite's Washington Bureau, and the rest is history. Here she talks about that and how she pays it forward when she needs to fill a position at work — including her latest hire, fellow panelist Marisela Ramirez (Class of 2017).

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now 

Tour: Cronkite School's Washington Bureau

5:45 p.m. Monday, March 12

In the afternoon, prospective students got to hear from alumni of the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication about what drew them to ASU, what they gained from the Cronkite School and the twists and turns in their careers.

The crowd then went down to the Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center’s fourth floor to tour the Washington Bureau newsroom, where Cronkite students work 15-week (12-ish weeks in summer) assignments covering the nation’s capital for Cronkite News/Arizona PBS.

Barrett and OConnor Washington Center tour of Cronkite Washington Bureau

Cronkite News/AZ PBS Washington Bureau director Steve Crane talks with nearly a dozen East Coast prospective journalism students as they tour the bureau and learn more about the opportunities at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Monday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“You’re not a student reporter; you’re a reporter,” Steve Crane, director of the Washington Bureau, tells each new program cohort. The students get credentials by the Congressional press gallery, the same as other media.

“One of the great things about working in Washington — and I stole this from the dean — it's a line some reporters don't get on their resumes during their careers,” he continued.

Later, he spoke with ASU Now about the Washington program. It has hosted 138 students since starting in summer 2011 and runs every semester (fall, spring, summer). The students work with Crane and Bill McKnight and will be working next to Leonard Downie Jr.

Since the program began, its journalists have gone to four national political conventions, two inaugurations, six or seven States of the Union, and they have covered many Supreme Court cases and churned out thousands of news stories — “and we eat a lot of jelly beans,” Crane said.

Barrett and OConnor Washington Center tour of Cronkite bureau

Cronkite School Associate Dean Mark Lodato (left) and East Coast prospective journalism students (some younger than others) and alumni flash the ASU pitchfork in the Washington Bureau on Monday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Video: Why foreign policy is definitely worth it

3:05 p.m. Monday, March 12

Sharon Burke, one of the panelists from the national-security discussion this morning, talks about the views that gained voice after the last presidential election — that our global diplomacy wasn't worth the cost and time — and how that couldn't be more wrong.

CLAS overview — and civil disagreement among the D.C. crowd

2:49 p.m. Monday, March 12

Members of ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences presented during lunch, sharing the accomplishments and range of the college and this video:

Afterward, they opened the room to questions about the previous panel.

Stanlie James, vice provost for inclusion and community engagement at ASU, had stopped by the new center while in Washington for the American Council on Education conference. She objected to several of the statements made during the "Crisis in Higher Education" panel, including statements about quelling emotion.

“I would argue if you’re a professor, you need to have passion,” she said.

Panelist Allison Stanger, who was still in the room watching the CLAS presentation, spoke up to clarify what she had said earlier. She spoke about being seriously injured by Middlebury protesters. Stanger said she saw how the passion of a small minority got others stirred up to actions they might not have otherwise, actions that those students later were surprised that they found themselves doing.

“There is a lot to be angry about what’s going on in this country. … Somehow as educators we have to validate those emotions” but in a way that moves the needle, Stanger said. Part of it is teaching people to harness their emotions to bring about the change they want to see, she said.

James thanked her for the clarification, and both expressed appreciation for the discussion.

FB Live: 'Covering Washington in the Age of Trump'

2:35 p.m. Monday, March 12

The panel "Covering Washington in the Age of Trump" will be livestreamed on ASU's Facebook page at 6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Video: A war by any other name ...

2:25 p.m. Monday, March 12

After this morning's panel on National Security, Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle (ret.) spoke with the ASU Now crew about what happens when we use the word "war" to describe something that traditionally hasn't been considered a war.


Photo-booth fun

2:20 p.m. Monday, March 12

If you're at the Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center this week, don't forget to visit the photo booth in the lobby (and if you're posting on social, use #ASUinDC). See you there! 

Barrett and OConnor Washington Center photo booth

Ambassador Barbara Barrett poses with her nephew Ian McConnell, 15, of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, in the photo booth of the new Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center on Monday in Washington, D.C. The photo booth will be available all week during the grand opening. (And yes, there are Sparky masks too.) Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Video: Understanding the lived experience for people who aren't like you

Laura Beth Nielsen, one of the panelists from the earlier talk on the crisis in higher education, talks about why it's important to understand how ordinary people live and to communicate that across the political divide.

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now 

Panel: Group discussion at 'Crisis in Higher Education'

1:20 p.m. Monday, March 12

Paul Carrese, founding director and professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) at ASU, introduced the panel at "Crisis in Higher Education? Free Speech, Intellectual Diversity, and Civil Dialogue on Campus." He explained how SCETL is dedicated to reviving the link between civic education and classic liberal education, and that the spirit of Socratic debate is crucial at both campus events and in the classroom.

Barrett and OConnor Washington Center panel on free speech on campus

Laura Beth Nielsen (second from right) speaks at the School of Civil and Economic Thought and Leadership panel discussion on the topic of "Crisis in Higher Education? Free Speech, Intellectual Diversity, and Civic Dialogue on Campus" Monday at the Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center. Looking on are (from left) Allison Stanger, Robert P. George, Greg Lukianoff and SCETL founding director Paul Carrese. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), spoke about the six trends that he sees as stifling free speech in higher education: political correctness run amok, administration run amok (such as tiny free-speech zones, or speech codes that outlaw harsh text messages or email, or "inappropriate directed laughter"); feds run amok, professors run amok, students run amok and the right run amok.

“I get really tired of people saying, ‘Is it the right or left?!’ Can you just focus on the issues?” he said.

Later in the panel, he would say, “We have to have really high tolerance for difference of opinion; we must have zero tolerance for violence.”

Laura Beth Nielsen, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University and research professor at the American Bar Foundation:

“We need to consider and innovate how to best expose our students to new ideas,” she said. And to do that, we must do the hardest thing about free speech: We must listen.

She spoke about microaggressions and sexual speech.

“We have an inequality in the First Amendment right now,” she said. College women are told they have to put up with a fraternity crowd chanting “No means yes” because of free-speech rights.

“At the same time, we see a regime of free speech that protects the popular and the powerful,” Nielsen said, such as bans on panhandling, protecting workers, tourists and consumers. The Westboro Baptist Church protests ultimately inspired the congressional override that prohibits protests around soldiers’ funerals, but nothing mentioned about LGBTQ funerals, Nielsen said.

We expect white women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community to uphold the right of others to speak, but businesses and others are protected, Nielsen said.

“Some decry the current generation as whiny, snowflakes — but I would argue the opposite,” she said. These students are demanding that their subordination experiences are heard.

What we must do “is try to help those who are not like us understand what the world is like for people like us … instead we seem to be in a shouting match over who is (censoring) whom and we skip right over the listening part of free speech.”

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University:

“People are shut down on campus today — they’re shut down on the content of their speech” — not the aggressiveness of it, but the ideas of the content, George said. “Beyond the pale, worthy of being shut down and excluded, and even the basis for punishment.”

Campuses skew largely liberal, so students are hearing mainly one message. 

“We’re not giving our students …. an education because they’re not hearing the engagement of competing viewpoints,” he said.

Though he may not agree with Nielsen on many points, he does agree on one: Listening is key, and few are doing it.

“No one is regarding each other as reasonable people of goodwill who happen to disagree on certain issues,” George said.

Incivility is reflected in and provoked by the people brought on campus deliberately to be provocateurs, George said. He thinks that’s largely the “sense of suffociation” that students with dissenting views on campus feel, that they can’t express dissent or even have alternative viewpoints considered. So these people come in and “provide a service in causing an uproar” — and they do so in an incendiary way.

“There are many avenues to intellectual diversity and freedom of speech. And those advantages have mainly to do with allowing a university … to fulfill its mission,” George said That mission is three-part: seeking knowledge of truth, transmitting knowledge of truth once it’s obtained (and everything we believe on a campus should be open to challenge), and preservation of knowledge.

He said the best experience he has had in more than 30 years of teaching are the times he has teaching with Cornel West — working, teaching "and disagreeing, civilly and thoughtfully, but really disagreeing. And letting the students see that." That’s why having viewpoint diversity among the “grown-ups” is so key, he said. And as a result, the professors are better able to represent the other viewpoint more sympathetically.

RELATED: 2 professors, political opposites, urge concept of 'civic friendship'

Allison Stanger, Russell J. Leng ’60 Professor of International Politics and Economics, Middlebury College:

“I don’t think we have a First Amendment crisis. … I think what we’re really having is a debate over the purpose of higher education.”

Setting the ground rules for free expression is how colleges will get greater diversity, “without quotas or mandates from on high.” And also a problem are those who are rejecting ideas without even examining them.

“Group think, people mindlessly repeating what other people say … is the antithesis of liberal education,” Stanger said.

When you stop listening to other viewpoints, it is far easier to treat fellow human beings as a means to an end, rather than as humans, she said. 

She also emphasized the importance of free thinking in a big-data world, her latest area of research. “There are companies that want to reduce people to algorithms,” she said — don't let them. It's the same reason she rejects the bell curve in favor of focusing on the individual.

Universities should be teaching students to harness emotion in service of truth seeking, Stanger said — to better resist fight-fire-with-fire tactics. 

“Extremism has no place in liberal education.”

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

FB Live: 'Crisis in Higher Education?'

10:38 a.m. Monday, March 12

The second panel, "Crisis in Higher Education? Free Speech, Intellectual Diversity, and Civil Dialogue on Campus" will be livestreamed on ASU's Facebook page at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Panel: Group discussion at 'Future of War and U.S. National Security'

10 a.m. Monday, March 12

Future of War panel at Barrett and OConnor Washington Center

(From left) Candace Rondeaux, Daniel Rothenberg, Sharon Burke and Peter Bergen take part in the Center on the Future of War panel discussion on U.S. national security during the launch of the new Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center on Monday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Peter Bergen, co-director of the Center on the Future of War and professor of practice at the School of Politics and Global Studies:

“We had an interesting choice on the morning of 9/11 to describe what happened,” he said. What if only 17 people had died? That's what happened a year before, and we didn't respond in the same way and with the same language. “How we describe things helps determine how we react to them.” We called 9/11 an act of war. “I don’t think we still have the language to describe what happened.”

Candace Rondeaux, senior fellow at the Center on the Future of War and professor of practice at the School of Politics and Global Studies, spoke on the strategic pillars and tactical issues in today's Afghanistan.

“If you look today at Afghanistan, the stories that we’ve been telling ourselves have been largely defined by the violence over the past 17 years. ... How did we get here? That’s the big question. We often focus so much on the violence itself … but we forget the political piece.”

We must redefine what winning there means.

“If the U.S. can take itself out of this battlefield focus and reassert a focus on politics, there’s a good chance things could stabilize,” Rondeaux said.

Daniel Rothenberg, co-director of the Center on the Future of War and professor of practice at the School of Politics and Global Studies, talked about fake news, alt facts and echo chambers. Even if this issue doesn’t seem like it plays off the future of war, he said, it does — it's at the heart of the discussion.

He talked about research reviewing Twitter feeds. The findings: “Falsehood consistently dominates truth.” Those tweets that present things that aren’t true get much more engagement — why? “These sort of stories are more novel and more interesting. Fake news is compelling and draws you in. ... These are emotionally evocative claims.”

We are over-invested in the divide between what is true and what is false, Rothenberg said. “One way to overcome that is to think about narratives.” People come up with stories to explain their circumstances. We need not outrage and hysteria but an attitude really tuned toward understanding the motivation behind fake news, he said.

Sharon Burke, senior adviser of the International Security Program and Resource Security Program at New America, quoted Voltaire as saying that air, earth and water are “arenas of destruction, in the natural state of perpetual war.” 

True, Burke said, but they are also the drivers of war — and the elements that help nations recover from war.

Our demand on resources is growing. “Humans are remarkably ingenious” and we find new ways of finding what we need, she said, but everything involves tradeoffs.

There's room to improve on dealing with and distributing resources. The U.S. is the world's leading energy producer, which no one would have guessed 15 years ago (despite what some people claim now, she said). China produces almost all of world’s rare-earth elements, key to technology — “They own the resources of the future.” That will make pressure on resources more severe, or more unpredictable. And climate change will interact with resources, poverty and other issues that affect war in upexpected ways.

That has led to a new project at New America with ASU — “Phase Zero” (referring to Pentagon jargon about the phase before a war begins, when there's still time to make changes to head off war). They're looking at where the U.S. can make investments to promote resilience. 

Barbara Barrett welcomes crowd

9 a.m. Monday, March 12

Ambassador Barbara Barrett welcomed the crowd at the "Future of War" panel Monday morning.

“This certainly is a timely matter, when we think about what’s going on globally, even just this week. ... We know have to think about beyond geography and beyond the global world into what’s going on cybersecurity,” she said.

She said she hopes this building and this partnershp will advance the work for more security — a future where “security is what we have and war is what we avoid.”

Barrett and OConnor Washington Center

Ambassador Barbara Barrett and her husband, Craig Barrett, give their nephew Ian McConnell, 15, of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, a tour on the roof of the new Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center on Monday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

Panel: Schmidle at 'Future of War and U.S. National Security'

8:45 a.m. Monday, March 12

Lt. Gen. Bob Schmidle speaks at opening of ASU DC center

Lt. Gen. Bob Schmidle (ret.) speaks during the first panel discussion on the Future of War and U.S. National Security at the launch of the new Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center on Monday morning in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

At the "Future of War and U.S. National Security," Lt. Gen. Bob Schmidle (ret.) said we often focus on the nature and character of war.

“But we ought to think about what is the essence of warfare," said Schmidle, a senior fellow in the Center on the Future of War, professor of practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies, and university adviser on cyber capabilities and conflict studies. "The essence of warfare in my mind is understanding what it is that holds sway over us in warfare. How does war administer violence? … How does a war develop? How does war decay?”

When using "war" in our language, he said: “We tend to think of periods of war and periods of peace. Peace are the interruptions where we hold our breath between periods of war.” But what if we think about war as just increases in the level of violence?

Peter Singer, senior strategist at New America, asked him whether we are organized for the future — do we "have the right people in the right boxes"? Schmidle said he didn't know, but that the game has changed from conventional setups. In the world of cybersecurity, everyone of us touches things. When you log onto your computer and open a link, you could infect the entire system.

“One of the challenges we’ve had with how we organized the system is that we’ve pushed the risk to the end user — and the end users are us, and we know we are the ones who make the most mistakes.”

On autonomous weapons: Imagine if an automated system determines a terror target is in a certain vehicle and destroys that vehicle, but a mistake is made and the wrong vehicle was hit.

“Who is it that owns that now? Who owns that risk and who owns that ethical decision?” Schmidle said. In the past, there was a commander who made the decision that that’s the vehicle and orders the strike. "But if we’re letting weapons do that on their own, is it the person who wrote the algorithms?"

As weapons become more autonomous, increased responsibility falls to policymakers, Schmidle said. It raises a lot of ethical and tactical issues.

“That’s one of the things about autonomous weapons that makes us most uncomfortable. We like to think that if there’s a decision to kill a person, that decision will be made by another human.”

Schmidle was asked what he thought of the president's and nation's current budget priorities and direction.

“Let’s see if I can make it through this without making the front page of the Washington Post,” he quipped.

The thing with budgets and innovation, he said, is that "the more money you have, the less incentive you have to innovate." But we must keep doing the research that might not result in anything tangible anytime soon, he said; "One of the hardest things to get money for is where scientists are looking at interesting things."

Good morning from ASU in DC

8 a.m. Monday, March 12

Barrett and OConnor Washington Center

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

FB Live: 'Future of War and U.S. National Security'

7:46 a.m. Monday, March 12

The first panel, "Future of War and U.S. National Security," will be livestreamed on ASU's Facebook page at 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Center namesakes: A primer on two ranchers

7:35 a.m. Monday, March 12

The Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center is named after two groundbreaking Arizona women. Sandra Day O’Connor made history in 1981 as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Barbara Barrett, a three-time ASU graduate, was the first female Republican candidate for governor in Arizona and is the former U.S. ambassador to Finland. The center’s renovation was funded in part by a Campaign ASU 2020 gift from Barrett and her husband, Craig Barrett.

Learn more about these two outstanding women:

Barbara Barrett

Barbara Barrett, three-time ASU graduate and former U.S. ambassador to Finland, speaks at the kickoff the final drive of Campaign ASU 2020 on Jan. 26, 2017, at Chase Field in Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

When Barbara Barrett was the U.S. ambassador to Finland in 2008, she rode her bicycle more than 550 miles to get to know the country, visiting dozens of Finnish towns and forming friendships among the appreciative Finns. Soon after, at the invitation of the Russians, she spent seven months training 12 hours a day outside Moscow as the back-up astronaut on a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station.

Barrett, then 59 and an instrument-rated pilot, ended up watching another trainee rocket to space, but that may be one of the few life experiences she has missed: A lawyer, banker, adviser to four American presidents on trade and defense issues, former president of the American Management Association, former candidate for governor of Arizona, former deputy head of the Federal Aviation Administration, former interim president of Thunderbird School of Global Management, 2013 appointee to the Smithsonian Board of Regents and trustee to the board of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Barrett was the first civilian woman to land in an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier.

These are just some of the highlights of a life that began on a modest Pennsylvania farm where she developed a passion for horses and learned from her dad about the value of hard work. In addition to earning bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from ASU, Barrett has garnered one other remarkable accolade: top hotelier. In 2014, readers of Travel+Leisure rated Triple Creek Ranch, a luxury resort in Montana with 23 log cabins, the No. 1 hotel in the world. Barrett owns this little hideaway with her husband, Craig Barrett, the former chairman of Intel Corp., who continues to be a vigorous advocate of education reform.

Sandra Day OConnor

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor greets Frank Conor Armstrong (left) and his brother William Carey Armstrong at the new Beus Center for Law and Society on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus Aug. 15, 2016. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (by President Ronald Reagan in 1981), an achievement that followed an unlikely journey. Born in 1930 in El Paso, Texas, she lived her first seven years mostly on an Arizona cattle ranch without electricity or running water and with the nearest neighbors 25 miles away. First earning a degree in economics and then a law degree from Stanford University, she struggled as a woman in the 1950s to find a law firm that would hire her, which eventually led her to public service.

In Arizona, she became a state senator (first appointed to fill a vacancy, then elected) and became the first woman majority leader in the U.S. Before joining the U.S. Supreme Court, O’Connor was a county judge and an appellate judge, declining a push for her to run for Arizona governor. After 35 years on the highest bench and seen as a nonpartisan centrist, she came back to Arizona to care for her husband coping with Alzheimer’s.

This American icon has continued to lend her name and involvement particularly to groups concerned with civic education, civil discourse and the advancement of the law, including iCivics, the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute and ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. 

Katherine Reedy and Penny Walker contributed to this blog. Top photo: The lobby of the new Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center is filled with alumni, faculty, administration and patrons following the first day of the launch of the new facility Monday in Washington, D.C. The center will be a large presence in the nation's capital, with academic programs and intellectual insights to national and global issues. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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Diverse minds to celebrate opening of Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center

March 5, 2018

'Our job is not to argue politics. ... Our job is to talk about the future,' Crow says ahead of weeklong series of panels showing breadth of ASU presence in Washington, DC

Many universities have a presence in Washington, D.C.: a lobbyist, an internship coordinator, or a few folks who hand out swag and try to wrangle money out of federal agencies.

But Arizona State University is a presence in Washington, D.C., a place where top researchers share their insights with leaders who create policy and a catalyst for tangible change in an environment that is often synonymous with partisan dysfunction.

“Our job is not to argue politics, or to argue for this or for that,” Michael M. Crow, ASU’s president, said. “Our job is to talk about the future. The one place you need to be to carry out the conversation, to think about new ideas and to bring everyone together is Washington, because everyone is there from everywhere, all over the United States and all over the world.”

ASU’s presence, though already many years in action, is getting a tangible symbol of its commitment to turning academic research into motion, with the grand opening of the Ambassador Barbara Barrett & Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center at Arizona State University.

The 32,000-square-foot, eight-story center is in a historic building at 1800 I St. NW, adjacent to the World Bank and two blocks from the White House. The new building, and ASU’s overall work in Washington, will be celebrated with a series of events the week of March 12.

A resource for policymakers

ASU has long hosted students, faculty and staff in Washington, D.C. With the new building, the university will have space to expand the offerings of the initiatives based there, including the McCain Institute for International Leadership, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS Washington Bureau, the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership, the Center on the Future of War and the Global Security Initiative, among others.

The McCain Institute convenes prominent politicians and academics from around the world to focus on new models for character-driven global leadership. Through a series of talks, debates and forums, the institute, which identifies itself as a “do tank,” as opposed to a think tank, plays a unique role in the Washington establishment, bringing fresh thinking to seemingly intractable problems.

“Being centered in a cutting-edge, stand-alone building in downtown D.C. concentrates attention from outside the ASU family while bringing together all sorts of possibilities from within — that’s helpful when you want to make waves and impact in Washington with meaning far beyond,” said Luke Knittig, senior director of communications for the McCain Institute.

Also in the building is the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, which is focused on bridging the gap between academic knowledge and real-world practice by fostering interaction with decision makers and also with the public. The nonprofit think tank was co-founded by Crow and Daniel Sarewitz, the current co-director.

The consortium studies how regular people can play a role in scientific research and technology, according to Mahmud Farooque, the associate director.

“We are trying to move from what is called ‘input-output science policy,’ meaning how much money and postdocs or papers are published, versus what kind of real impact are we having in society for which we’re making this public investment?” he said.

“What it amounts to is engagement with a very long-term goal,” Farooque said. “We’re not looking for a change overnight. We’re talking about how we improve the architecture of our design so we have a long-term positive impact.”

HYSA opening

Farooque said that being in Washington, D.C., is a natural fit for the center, which runs a popular series of breakfast seminars.

“One of the challenges with the old building was that we could not host large events,” he said. The additional classroom space will allow more workshops for science and engineering graduate students, called “Science Outside the Lab.”

“We are very excited to be in this location, where the action is,” he said.

The newly renovated building, which will be referred to as the “Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center,” is named after two groundbreaking Arizona women. O’Connor made history in 1981 as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett, a three-time ASU graduate, was the first female Republican candidate for governor in Arizona and is the former U.S. ambassador to Finland. The center’s renovation was funded in part by a Campaign ASU 2020 gift from Barrett and her husband, Craig Barrett.

Student opportunities

ASU’s base in Washington, D.C., offers unique opportunities for students. Jordan Brunner, a third-year student in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU, is hoping to launch a career in Washington after spending a semester there last year in the International Rule of Law and Security program (formerly known as the Rule of Law and Governance program). He interned at the Brookings Institution, a research think tank, and took classes at night, including a course in which the students learned to function as embassy staff.

“We simulated what it would really be like to give reports, to be ready to understand and respond with the correct information,” said Brunner, who acted as the general counsel. The class presented to State Department employees and got feedback on their performance.

At his Brookings Institution internship, Brunner wrote articles about national-security issues such as climate change and the National Security Agency.

“I worked with people who had been in D.C. a long time and were able to put in perspective what was happening. One of my bosses would say, ‘This is how this operates in real life.’ ”

Brunner said the experience was eye-opening.

“A lot of people think everything in D.C. has to be related to being a Democrat or a Republican, but the skills I learned were not political.”

ASU student journalist Noelle Lilley at work in Washington

ASU student journalist Noelle Lilley reported from the Cronkite News Washington, D.C., bureau last summer and got to see the political process up close. Courtesy of Noelle Lilley

ASU senior Noelle Lilley was the only journalist on site when shooting broke out at a baseball practice attended by members of Congress last summer. Lilley, reporting from the Cronkite News Washington, D.C., bureau, was interviewing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.

The shooting was dramatic breaking news, but Lilley also got to cover events like the national spelling bee and to see the political process up close.

“It gives you a much clearer perspective,” she said. “People wonder, ‘Why doesn’t Congress just fix this problem?’ But you get to see the intricacies and nuances behind U.S. politics and you don’t know all those things until you’re there to see it.

“Very few students can say they spent their summer interviewing congressmen and sitting in committee hearings.”

The Cronkite News bureau is the only Arizona-based news organization with full-time, year-round coverage in Washington, D.C., according to Chris Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at ASU.

The students in the bureau cover issues that are important to residents of the Southwest, including border politics and water policy.

“We think it’s critically important that the Cronkite School of Journalism has a major presence in D.C. for the simple fact that Washington, D.C., is the news capital not only of our country, but really of the world,” he said.

“We are trying to be, and we believe we are, the preeminent professional journalism school in the country. Therefore, to have a working news bureau for our students to come from Phoenix and spend a semester immersed in the coverage of Washington issues is critically important not just for their learning, but, we think, for the readers and viewers in Arizona and the Southwest.”

Benefits for all

The students and professionals all benefit from the partnerships in D.C., according to Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America, a think ​tank and civic-engagement institution that partners with ASU in a number of ways, including through the Center on the Future of War.

“We benefit from being able to teach and have access to tens of thousands of fabulous students,” she said.

“I think for the students, what they get is real-time connection to national security professionals who are doing their job. It's a real-time set of connections that immerses them in what you might think of as lived national security, not just national security in books.”

Placing ASU students and faculty in Washington, D.C., opens the door to a lot of career opportunities, said Sarewitz, of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes.

“It’s not like medical school, or business school, or engineering school, where there’s a clearly defined career path,” he said. “You have to be creative, you have to be willing to invent your own career.

“One of the reasons there’s fantastic opportunities is there aren’t a lot of people that think the way we think, and people find that very attractive and interesting.”

The nation’s capital is the perfect showcase for the innovative thought leadership fostered by ASU, Slaughter said.

“One of the things I love about partnering with ASU is, there's an atmosphere of what I think of as the presumptive ‘yes,’ ” she said.

“If somebody comes up with an idea, it doesn't automatically happen, but ASU is much more, ‘Well, let's try that,’ than, ‘Why should we do that?’ ”

Artist rendering of the new Washington Center

An artist's rendering shows the 32,000-square-foot, eight-story Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center housed in a historic building at 1800 I St. NW, adjacent to the World Bank and two blocks from the White House.

Barrett and O’Connor Washington Center launch

ASU Now will be covering the events celebrating the opening of the Ambassador Barbara Barrett & Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center at Arizona State University. Check in at for blog updates; some panels will also be available via Facebook Live at To register to attend events in person, visit

Monday, March 12

810 a.m.: “Future of War and U.S. National Security” panel discussion sponsored by the Center on the Future of War, highlighting core faculty: Peter Bergen and Daniel Rothenberg, co-directors, and Lt. Gen. (ret.) Bob Schmidle and Candace Rondeaux, senior fellows. 

11:30 a.m.1 p.m.: “Crisis in Higher Education? Free Speech, Intellectual Diversity and Civil Dialogue on Campus” panel discussion sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

3:305 p.m.: “Exploring the Cronkite School” sessions that will include information about the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s award-winning professional programs in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington as well as a tour of the Cronkite News – Washington Bureau. Mark Lodato, associate dean of the Cronkite School, will moderate a panel featuring Washington Post reporter Samantha Pell; Lisa Ruhl, senior video producer at The Hill; and Marisela Ramirez, media intern at Edelman Public Relations.

67 p.m.: “Covering Washington in the Age of Trump” keynote panel, sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, featuring Leonard Downie Jr., the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the school and former executive editor of the Washington Post. 

77:15 p.m.: Tour of the Barrett and O’Connor Washington Center and Cronkite News Bureau.

7:158:30 p.m.: Cronkite School reception.

Tuesday, March 13

810 a.m.: “The Importance of University Researchers Partnering with Mission Focused Government Agenda” panel discussion sponsored by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, moderated by Nadya Bliss, director of ASU’s Global Security Initiative.

11:30 a.m.1:30 p.m.: “How Will Self-Driving Cars Reshape Our Cities?” panel discussion sponsored by Future Tense, a partnership between Slate, New America and ASU. 

47:30 p.m.: Knowledge Enterprise Development showcase and reception. This is an opportunity to explore research prototypes and mingle with some of the top research thought leaders of the future from ASU.

Wednesday, March 14

810 a.m.: “Transformative Knowledge by Design: Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellows’ Research Impact” panel discussion sponsored by the Graduate College in partnership with the Council of Graduate Schools.

11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.: “Restoring Trust in American Policing” panel discussion sponsored by the College of Public Service and Community Solutions featuring Cassia Spohn, professor and director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. 

6-8 p.m.: “Expanded Opportunities through ASU’s International Rule of Law and Security Program” panel sponsored by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law moderated by former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and Distinguished Professor of Practice Clint Williamson.

Thursday, March 15

11:30 a.m.1:30 p.m.: “Communities in a Transborder World” film and photography presentation by the School of Transborder Studies at ASU, showcasing the community-embedded research of students. 

6–6:45 p.m.: Reception for alumni of the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

7:15-8:45 p.m.: “Globalism in the Age of Nationalism” discussion sponsored by Thunderbird School of Global Management featuring Allen J. Morrison, CEO and Director General of the Thunderbird School, and panelists.

Friday, March 16

810 a.m.: “For the Win: Innovative Approaches to Athlete Education” panel discussion sponsored by the Global Sport Institute at ASU. 

11:30 a.m.3:30 p.m.: “How the Public Can Inform Science and Technology Policy: The Case of Planetary Defense,” sponsored by the School for the Future of Innovation in Society; the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes; the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and the Museum of Science.

15 p.m.: “Redesign School: The Future of Design Education” roundtable, sponsored by the Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in partnership with the National Building Museum.

5–6:30 p.m.: Arts and Design at ASU reception with The Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, in partnership with the National Building Museum.

Monday, March 19

57 p.m.: “The McCain Institute at ASU: How Do We End Terrorism?” discussion from the McCain Institute for International Leadership. Executive Director Kurt Volker will host former Homeland Security Adviser (and McCain Institute trustee) Fran Townsend, former Director of the U.S. National Counter-Terrorism Center Nick Rasmussen and special guests as they describe the evolution of global terrorism since 9/11 and discuss long-term approaches for overcoming it. 

Tuesday, March 20

5:30–7 p.m.: Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology reception, convening leading African-American women in STEM and providing a forum for women to strategize and build coalitions, continue discourse from previous gatherings that have led to grant funded projects, share job announcements and explore opportunities to support and lead interagency functions.

Learn more about ASU in Washington, D.C., at

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Experts at inaugural ASU conference tackle campus free speech

February 25, 2018

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership welcomes students, faculty and guests to discuss challenging topics

Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership held its inaugural spring conferenceThe conference was co-sponsored by ASU’s Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Friday and Saturday on the Tempe campus. “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education: Implications for American Society” welcomed students, faculty and experts from across the nation to discuss such topics as the meaning of the First Amendment on college campuses and free inquiry and intellectual diversity in higher education.

Robert Post, former dean of Yale Law School, opened Friday with a keynote address that looked at the classic interpretation of the First Amendment and what that means about how it should be interpreted on college campuses, where many feel free speech is currently under attack.

Post pointed out that within days of being confirmed, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos said that the real threat to modern universities is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.

But, Post said, “if we’re going to assume the First Amendment applies on college campuses, we need to agree on what it protects” and what it doesn’t.

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Robert Post, Yale Law School professor and former dean, delivers the keynote address at the inaugural conference of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership on Feb. 23 at the Student Pavilion on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Post laid out three basic rules that, in its most classical interpretation, ensure the First Amendment stands as a guardian to our democracy: 1) The state, in regulating speech, cannot engage in content or viewpoint discrimination. 2) All ideas are equal from the point of view of the government. 3) The state cannot compel you to speak or pledge allegiance to a particular government or candidate.

At a university, though, Post argued, people are not sovereign citizens; faculty, staff and students are all there to fulfill the function of the university, which is not to allow for airing of public opinion but to teach, to learn and to create knowledge. At universities, there is content discrimination — professors have to stick to whatever subject it is they’re there to teach, professors’ viewpoints have to be considered more valuable than students and individuals can be compelled to talk.

“So why are people talking about the First Amendment when they talk about free speech on college campuses?” Post asked. “What they have in mind are those aspects of the university in which its mission is most clouded,” such as when students invite an outside speaker — a sovereign citizen not beholden to the university’s mission — to speak on campus.

So how do we determine when and where free speech is applied on college campuses? It’s not black and white, Post said, but it is a discussion worth having, and schools such as SCETL are recognizing that and attempting to foster those kinds of discussions.

Students offer their perspective

Post’s keynote was followed by a student panel, which included remarks from ASU journalism students Gabriel Sandler and Tea Francesca Price on the question: Why do students need free speech on campus?

As a student at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Sandler covered much of the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s the responsibility of universities to promote and protect free speech,” Sandler said. “And ASU gave students the resources to elevate free speech in a time that really mattered both on and off campus.”

Price also praised the university, saying, “When you go to college, you’re going to be presented with perspectives that are very different from your own, so you need to learn effective communication. … It’s imperative to teach students that in college, if not earlier. ASU is the first place I’ve never felt limited to express myself freely.”

Matthew Foldi, a guest student speaker from the University of Chicago, shared an anecdote from his time with the school’s Students for Free Expression group to illustrate his opinion on the matter. He and others in the group, who held mostly conservative viewpoints, met with a member of the Black Lives Matter movement to learn more about the reasons behind his activism. What they discovered was they had more in common than they realized.

“The open exchange of ideas left everyone better off,” Foldi said.

Finally, Williams College student Zachary Wood talked about his role as president of the student group Uncomfortable Learning, whose mission it is to invite speakers with controversial views to campus.

“What we’re really trying to do is deepen our understanding of the world and humanity,” he said. “We can always gain something by thinking about perspectives that are unfamiliar to us.”

scetl conference

Around 200 people attended a student panel at the conference of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership on Feb. 23 at ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Experts weigh in on opinion diversity

Following the student panel were two faculty expert panels, “Free Inquiry and the Philosophy of Higher Education,” moderated by Rhodes College Professor Daniel Cullen, and “Intellectual Diversity and Higher Education: A Crisis?” moderated by University of Texas at Austin Professor Cristine Legare.

Panelists discussed topics that included the value of diversity, euphemism and dissent in free speech.

Legare, in introducing her panel, said, “One thing that’s useful as a first step in my classes is to teach students how to have a debate.”

All panelists agreed to some degree that introducing students to a range of perspectives and guiding them on how to respond is essential to a true education. The crisis, some said, lies in the fact that you can’t have a range of perspectives if universities are made up of majority liberal professors, which they agreed seems to be the case.

Professors make up “one of the most liberal occupations in the U.S.,” said panelist and Colby College Professor Neil Gross. “About 60 percent identify as either liberal or far left. Only 13 percent identify as conservative or far right.”

The solution to that, fellow panelist and University of Notre Dame Law School Professor Rick Garnett posited, is for universities to accept their role as a crucial part of the infrastructure of public discourse, allowing many voices and viewpoints to have a place to be heard.

Surprising plenary address on heckling

Friday’s events ended with a plenary address from Jeremy Waldron of New York University, which focused on heckling at universities.

Waldron speculated that although some may claim heckling, often seen in the form of shouting down a speaker so as to stop them from being heard, is a direct assault on free speech, it may actually be an exercise of free speech itself.

“Heckling interferes with a persons’ ability to convey their message,” he said. “The provocative thing I’m going to propose is that that is sometimes a good thing.”

In fact, heckling used to be common, acceptable behavior at public speeches. Nowadays, we see hecklers being immediately removed from the audience. Waldron wondered, why is it not as tolerated nowadays?

Some would say it’s an issue of public order, that it disturbs the peace and presages disorder and the chance for violence. But, Waldron said, we need to distinguish between disorder and disruption.

He pointed out that, as with most things in life, there is a spectrum, with disconcerting questions from audience members at the less obstructive end and whole groups of people shouting over a speaker at the more obstructive end. Along the spectrum, there are of course shades of gray.

“Disturbing the composure of a speaker … is sometimes a good thing,” Waldron reiterated. “The speaker must take his audience as he finds them … [the speaker] is not entitled to exclude dissident choruses.

“Even though heckling is impolite and discourteous, it can nevertheless advance the values of free speech.”

More from SCETL

The conference continued Saturday at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, with discussions such as “Negotiating Controversial Speakers on Campus,” “Freedom of Speech and Thought on Campus: What Role for the First Amendment?” and “State Legislative Remedies to Free Speech Challenges on Campus: Are They Consistent with Academic Freedom?”

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership’s free-speech series continues April 2 on the Tempe campus with Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago Law School giving an address titled “Free Speech on Campus: A Challenge of Our Times.”

Top photo: ASU journalism graduate student Gabriel Sandler (left) speaks on the topic, "Why Do Students Need Free Speech on Campus?" at the inaugural annual conference of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership on Feb. 23 at the Student Pavilion in Tempe. Around 200 people attended the two-day program that culminates a yearlong series of discussions on "Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education" and its implications for American society. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Editor , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

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Free-speech discussion at ASU highlights universities' responsibility to the pursuit of truth

"Point of a liberal education is not to hold up mirrors, it's to open windows."
February 12, 2018

Middlebury and Reed professors — who've dealt with ugly side of campus protests — argue why diverse viewpoints are so crucial

As recently as January of this year, yet another college was in an uproar over a controversial speaker when University of Chicago students, faculty and alumni demanded the school rescind its invitation to former Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to speak on campus.

In a discussion Monday night on Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus, Middlebury College Professor Allison Stanger said to do so would be to subvert the very purpose of higher education.

Middlebury College Professor

Allison Stanger

“It’s important that administrators stand up for the university’s core mission: the pursuit of truth,” she said, “and allowing that to take place rather than endorsing certain points of view.”

Reed College Assistant Professor Lucía Martínez Valdivia agreed with Stanger, adding that to deny certain people the right to speak on college campuses is to deny students the opportunity to learn.

Both Stanger and Martínez Valdivia were at ASU to partake in the fifth event in a yearlong series of lectures hosted by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership titled “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society.” (Find details about an upcoming spring conference on the topic at the end of this story.)

The series, co-sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, began with a talk given by prominent First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams in September. At the time, Abrams said the one place free speech is most threatened now in the U.S. is the college campus.

Cronkite Associate Professor Joseph Russomanno, who moderated Monday evening’s discussion with Stanger and Martínez Valdivia, pointed out that they are two people who have lived that fact.

In March 2017, StangerAllison Stanger is the Russell Leng '60 Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. suffered a concussion and other injuries as a result of a protest that broke out on Middlebury’s campus in response to a scheduled talk by libertarian author and political scientist Charles Murray, and Martínez ValdiviaLucía Martínez Valdivia is an assistant professor of English and the humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. spent roughly a year lecturing in what she described as a hostile environment when students at Reed routinely hijacked her classroom to protest the content that was being taught (mostly Plato and Aristotle), which they deemed pro-white supremacist.

Both women went on to pen op-eds based on their experiences — Martínez Valdivia for the Washington Post and Stanger for the New York Times — but say they understand the legitimate emotions and real anger that led to them.

Reed College Assistant Professor

Lucía Martínez Valdivia

“With the election of Donald Trump, there’s a sense among students of disenfranchisement, disempowerment … that they’ve never experienced before,” Martínez Valdivia said, especially for a generation that grew up during the Obama administration.

She reported seeing students at her school self-segregating as a result, creating closed spaces where only some are allowed to speak or even listen. That kind of behavior, she said, stems from a rising fear surrounding current rhetoric and the power of words.

And a lot of students nowadays don’t understand just what is and isn’t protected by free speech, as Martínez Valdivia has discovered. Many of her students believe hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment.

“That’s not the case,” she said. “Hate speech is absolutely protected. That doesn’t make it right, but it is absolutely [protected]. And once you start censoring, that is a very slippery slope.”

A slippery slope that can lead to infringing on the rights of others to be heard, Stanger pointed out. And unfortunately, the actions of students at Middlebury, Reed and other colleges around the country did just that, essentially bringing about the opposite of what they were trying to accomplish, she said.

During a question-and-answer session that followed the discussion, journalism undergraduate Ariel Salk asked the women what might be a better way for students to channel their frustrations.

Stanger agreed with Martínez Valdivia that leading by example is a good start, but it’s also about teaching students “how to fight back with words, how to formulate killer questions. … I think having a really great argumentative technique is going to serve you much better than some other protest techniques. Not that protest isn’t important, but knowing how to reason and argue is also important.”

Getting students out of their comfort zones and forcing them to think differently is something both professors say they try to do in their classrooms.

“I tell all my students on the first day of class: if you’re comfortable, I’m not doing my job,” Martínez Valdivia said. “The point of a liberal education is not to hold up mirrors, it’s to open windows.”

Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education: Implications for American Society

What: The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, in partnership with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, hosts a spring 2018 conference featuring a range of engaged thinkers.

When: Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 24.

Where: Tempe (Friday) and Downtown Phoenix (Saturday) campuses.

Details: Continuing Legal Education Credit is available with this event. Find panel and registration information at ASU Events.

Top photo: Reed College Professor Lucía Martínez Valdivia (right) joins Middlebury College Professor Allison Stanger and moderator Joseph Russomanno, an associate professor at the Cronkite School, in addressing the topic "Speech on Campus: When Protests Turn Extreme" at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Monday evening. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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ASU launches 'Thought Huddle' podcast with discussion on Hamilton

February 8, 2018

New series will tell stories, provide in-depth look at a range of compelling topics

In a just-launched podcast series, listeners will hear that "one of the reasons Alexander Hamilton is so interesting for the 21st century is that he was a communications genius."

This — from Professor Paul Carrese, director of Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership — is one of many intriguing observations in the first episode of "Thought Huddle," a new production from ASU Now.

Here's another from Yale Professor Joanne Freeman: Hamilton, born in the West Indies, "sort of beams into the North American continent, the new American nation, out of nowhere." Describing him as an upstart, she said he "operated on a very high wire without a safety net."

"Thought Huddle" will highlight thinkers and doers who are devoted to creating meaningful impact. Each episode will explore big ideas, tell stories and help make sense of our complicated world. Each will be composed of three segments.

The podcasts will offer a mix in approach. Some will be in-depth conversations with a single expert, while others will draw on a collection of different voices to explore a topic. In the first episode on Hamilton, timed for the musical's run at ASU Gammage, listeners will also hear from the theater's executive director, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, and Kirk Ellis, the writer of the HBO miniseries "John Adams."  

The first three episodes illustrate the range of inquiry: first, Alexander Hamilton — the man, the nation builder and the musical; then, innovative research into chemicals in the environment and opioid monitoring; and finally, a look at diverse sustainability efforts in urban settings.

Hosted by veteran radio broadcaster Mary-Charlotte Domandi, the podcast has been created to give listeners from both the ASU community and the general public insight into compelling subjects that deserve extended, thoughtful discussion.

Find this and future episodes at

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2 professors, political opposites, urge concept of 'civic friendship'

Two professors, political opposites, visit ASU to talk about civic friendship.
January 28, 2018

Cornel West, Robert George say at ASU talk that students must challenge their beliefs

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2018 here.

Going to college should be an unsettling experience.

University students should be challenging their closely held beliefs in the classroom and among their friends, even when it’s uncomfortable, according to two prominent intellectuals who agree on that point even though they are political opposites.

Robert George, a professor at Princeton University, and Cornel West, a professor at Harvard University, visited Arizona State University on Friday to give a talkThe event was co-sponsored by the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. It is the first 2018 event in the series, “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society.” titled “Truth-Seeking and Freedom of Expression,” sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

West, who describes himself as a “radical Democrat and socialist,” told the crowd at the Student Pavilion in Tempe: “If while you’re here you haven’t realized for a moment that your worldview rests on pudding, then you haven’t been educated.”

George, a conservative, agreed: “If your experience at ASU … from your friendship circle, in your classes, from your professors and from your readings is one of constantly being reaffirmed in what you already believe … then you’re not being educated.”

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

The value of differing opinions

Challenging one’s own beliefs is crucial to maintaining a democracy, said the two men, who are close friends.

“You can’t get at the truth — you just can’t — whether it’s the truth about physics or biology or politics or justice or human rights, if you’re unwilling to expose your beliefs to criticism,” George said.

That means listening to the views of people you disagree with, he said.

Last year, the two professorsGeorge is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. West is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy in the Divinity School and the Department of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. became alarmed at the protests breaking out on college campuses over speakers. In March, several dozen students at Middlebury College in Vermont shouted down a speech by Charles Murray, who had been invited to talk by a conservative student group. After the talk, several protesters began pushing Murray and a Middlebury professor, who suffered a concussion.

Shortly after the Middlebury incident, West and George published a public statement in support of “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression.” Their statement rejects what they said was an effort “to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities” and to exclude certain topics of discussion by “questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions.”

The two are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. West has called himself a “non-Marxist socialist” and has been harshly critical of President Barack Obama. George is a past chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and policies that allow transgender people to use bathrooms that accord with their gender identity.

At ASU on Friday, the two men acknowledged that the country is in the throes of factionalism and Americans need to embrace the concept of “civic friendship.”

Paul Carrese (left), founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, moderated the talk by Robert George (center) and Cornel West. Carrese said the two professors' statement last year on freedom of expression on college campuses was an inspiration for his school's lecture series. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“The sense of civic friendship is, ‘I’m here because something bigger than me is using me' — love of truth and a beauty that’s soul-stirring,” West said.

“It’s important that people exemplify in such a bleak moment in our civilization that love and friendship is not reduced to politics and policy.”

George said the country is being tested.

“It’s a special challenge today because our differences are so deep that they go to fundamental questions of justice, the common good, human rights and right and wrong,” he said.

“What do we share? One thing is the belief in self-government itself. But that’s not enough. We had better share a belief in civil rights and civil liberties.

“I would think we would share belief in freedom of speech and the need to treat each other with respect even when we disagree,” he said.

Taking lessons from the past

Earlier in the day, West and George spoke to several undergraduates in the class “Federalists, Anti-Federalists, and the Enduring Debate over American Constitutionalism,” taught by Zachary German, an assistant professor in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

George asked the students to consider Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.".

“Why was he willing to fight the war at a nearly incalculable cost of treasure and blood?” George asked. “Lincoln was talking about the preservation of Republican government ... government by the people.”

Lincoln understood that Republican government was an experiment that had already failed every time it was tried.

“‘Shall not perish from the earth’ indicates that Lincoln believed that if it failed in the United States, all mankind henceforth and forevermore would take that as the lesson that human beings are not fit to govern themselves,” George said.

West told the students that it was slavery as an economic system that allowed the United States to experiment with democracy.

“This very fragile democratic experiment begins with tremendous, overwhelming obstacles and yet begins to generate unbelievable possibilities. People around the world were invoking the Declaration of Independence, invoking the Constitution.”

West said that Huey Newton, head of the Black Panther Party, used to read the Declaration of Independence aloud in public.

“He’s reading the words of a slaveholder. He’s a descendant of slaves. But he sees in that document a spirit that stays in contact with the dignity of ordinary people.”

What was unique about the United States’ system of government was that the Founding Fathers built in the possibility for change.

“If the Constitution had been frozen and petrified, we’d be in a lot of trouble,” West said. “But the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. We can grow and mature.”

For more information on events by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, click here.

Top photo: Professors Cornel West (right) and Robert George spoke about civic friendship at the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus Friday in a talk titled "Truth-Seeking and Freedom of Expression." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News