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   from the issue of August 25, 2005

Theologian to open Thompson series

In 1988, E.N. "Jack" Thompson, leader of the philanthropic Cooper Foundation, conceived of a public lecture series that would bring prominent international speakers to UNL.



Through a cooperative effort between the Cooper Foundation, the Lied Center for Performing Arts and UNL, the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues has brought the world to Lincoln over the last 17 years.

That dedication to promoting a better understanding of world events and issues continues into an 18th year, as theologian Elaine Pagels opens the new forum season on Sept. 15.

Pagels will deliver a talk titled, "Beyond Belief: A Different View of Christianity." Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community regarding early Christianity and scriptures that were not adopted into the bible.

A new facet to the forum this year is the creation of a student learning community that draws upon forum presentations. The goal is to develop a cohort of high-ability students who come to see themselves as global citizens. In addition to being involved in the forum, the students will take two honors classes, one taught by Patrice McMahon, assistant professor in political science, focusing on international relations, and another seminar taught by Patrice Berger, professor of history, that will explore political, social, and economic issues throughout the world.

In addition to addressing global issues in a formal setting, each student will have an English conversation language partner. These pairs will spend time talking to one another about issues ranging from current events to the daily life of a college student. Learning community organizers see this as an ideal way to help students whose primary language is not English hone their skills while helping English-speaking students learn from someone from a different culture.

Beginning later this semester and continuing in the new year, the learning community will also be in a real-time environment with students from Spain. At the start of the second semester, once the students are more at home within the university community, they will be asked to begin conducting service learning projects.

Community members will also be encouraged to take advantage of a related movie series offered through OASIS and the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.

Other speakers in the 2005-06 series include: Nov. 2 - Michael Walzer, a leading American political theorist; Feb. 15 - T.R. Reid, the Rocky Mountain bureau chief for the Washington Post; and April 12 - Peter Peterson, chairman of the Council of Foreign Relations and founding president of The Concord Coalition.

The series is named in honor of Thompson (1913-2002), a 1933 NU graduate who served as president of the Cooper Foundation (1964-1990), and as foundation chairman from 1990 until his death.

The world issues forum has established itself as one of the preeminent speakers series in higher education. Past events have featured, among others: Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; Elie Weisel, Holocaust survivor and peace activist; Maki Mandela, daughter of the former South African president; Robert McNamara, secretary for defense for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and Bono, AIDS activist and musician.

The forum seeks out forceful speakers who are committed to the issues they address, seeking balance over the range of its programs rather than in each presentation. The forum does not endorse the views of the individual speaker nor limit their freedom of expression.

All talks, part of the Lied Center season performance series, are free and open to the public.

They can also be heard on the Web at, KRNU radio (90.3 on the FM dial) and television channel 21.

'Exploring our Common World'

Sept. 15 - Elaine Pagels

Opening the series Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. is Elaine Pagels, who will deliver the talk "Beyond Belief: A Different View of Christianity." Co-sponsors of the Pagels lecture are Westminster Presbyterian Church and the Cotner College through a project grant from the Eli Lilly foundation.

Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community regarding early Christianity and Gnostic scriptures.

Her research findings were published in The Gnostic Gospels a book which sold 400,000 copies and won both the National Book Critic's Circle Award and the National Book Award. It was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best books of the 20th century.

In, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, Pagels focuses on religious claims to absolute truth. She contends, as Christianity became increasingly institutionalized, it became more politicized and less pluralistic.

Nov. 2 - Michael Walzer

Michael Walzer will deliver the talk "The Paradox of National Liberation: India, Israel, and Algeria." on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. The talk is the Kripke Lecture, a collaboration between the E.N. Thompson Forum and the UNL Norman and Bernice Harris Center for Judaic Studies. Jim LeSueur, associate professor in history, will be the pre-forum speaker at 6:30 p.m. in the Steinhart Room at the Lied Center. Walzer is a leading American political theorist and has been a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., since 1980. Walzer has written about a wide variety of topics: political theory and moral philosophy: political obligation, just and unjust war, nationalism and ethnicity, economics, justice and the welfare state.

He is currently working on the tolerance and accommodation of "difference" in all its forms and also on a collaborative project focused on the history of Jewish political thought. His recent books include Arguing about War and Politics and Passion, and Just and Unjust Wars. Walzer receive his doctorate from Harvard University.

Feb. 15 - T.R. Reid

T.R. Reid will deliver the talk "The United States of Europe." He will appear Feb. 15, 2006 at 7 p.m. Patrice Berger, professor of history, will be the pre-forum speaker at 6:30 p.m. in the Steinhart Room at the Lied Center. T.R. Reid is the Rocky Mountain bureau chief for The Washington Post. He has become one of the nation's best-known correspondents through his coverage of global affairs. He has written and hosted documentary films for National Geographic TV and for the A&E network and is a commentator on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Previously Reid was The Washington Post's London bureau chief and their Tokyo bureau chief. Reid has written six books in English and three in Japanese. His new book The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy, a national best-seller, was published in 2004.

April 12 - Peter Peterson

Peter Peterson will deliver a talk April 12, 2006, at 3:30 p.m. A pre-forum lecture will be given. The talk is sponsored by the Lewis E. Harris Lecture on Public Policy and the E.N. Thompson Forum, topic to be announced. Peterson is chairman of the Council of Foreign Relations, founding chairman of the Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., and founding president of The Concord Coalition, a bi-partisan citizen's group dedicated to building a constituency of fiscal responsibility.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon named Peterson assistant to the president for international economic affairs and was named secretary of commerce by Nixon in 1972.

He was appointed U.S. chairman of the U.S.-Soviet Commercial Commission. In 1994, President Clinton named Peterson a member of the bi-partisan commission on entitlement and tax reform, co-chaired by Sens. John Kerrey and Richard Danforth. Peterson is the author of Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting our Future and What Americans Can Do About It.



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