Category Archives: Government & Politics

Reflections on the Inauguration

The News Service’s own (and recent Emmy winner!) Princine Lewis traveled to last week’s inauguration of President Barack Obama. She’s graciously agreed to share her personal thoughts and experiences with us:

I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that America has elected its first black president – even though I was one of the tiny specks you saw waving my American flag excitedly on the National Mall on Inauguration Day.

It has taken me some time to write this post because I have been thinking – “How can I capture the emotion of such an incredible experience?” Being on the mall that day is something I will remember and treasure for the rest of my life.

President Barack Obama – I just get a kick out of typing and saying this – has generated a lot of excitement among those thirsty for change and hope. But his election is especially poignant for me as the child of a father who fought in segregated troops in World War II and parents who attended segregated schools.

Words cannot describe the emotion and feelings of excitement and goodwill in Washington during the Inauguration. You almost forgot about the cold temperatures – almost. But it was worth braving the cold to join the diverse sea of humanity – from the Canadians waving their flags to the Jamaican drum band playing in celebration on the National Mall – to witness this unforgettable moment in our shared history.

I think sometimes we take for granted what it means to be an American – but I was bursting with pride as I joined more than a million people singing “America The Beautiful” and the “The Star Spangled Banner” – and how could you not be moved by Aretha Franklin singing “Let Freedom Ring?”

It gives me hope that Obama was able to connect with a wide variety of people. And as I continue to be struck and thrilled by those images depicting all of America’s presidents and the contrast of No. 44, I hope Obama’s election isn’t a brief anomaly but a sign that Americans can finally put aside their biases and elect whom they feel is the best leader for our country.

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Being part of the solution

Efforts to end illegal music downloading continue to point towards college campuses. This semester, Vanderbilt students are taking matters into their own hands in a class designed to come up with solutions to battle the practice and support musicians. What better place than Music City to have this discussion?

First-year students in the “Stealing in Music City” seminar at Vanderbilt University must devise a workable system for distributing music that delivers content for a reasonable price and allows songwriters, artists and other stakeholders to get paid.

“We are challenging the students to re-invent the music industry for a fair model of music distribution to compensate artists, consumers and labels,” said Holling Smith-Borne, director of the music library at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. The class, divided into three groups, will propose three solutions during class on Dec. 2.

Illegal downloading by students is the focus of new requirements for Tennessee’s public and private higher ed institutions signed into law by Gov. Phil Bredesen Nov. 12 and is addressed in the recently reauthorized Higher Education Act.

Vanderbilt has been working for several years to combat the problem by partnering with student leaders to educate the campus about intellectual property laws, offering multiple legal downloading alternatives, such as Ruckus and Joost, through VUMix, and including a policy against illegal downloading in the student code of conduct.

Read more on VUCast.

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Remembering and honoring our nation’s veterans

Photos of the Veteran's Day Iraq War Memorial of 4000 American flags arranged on Alumni Lawn in honor of those U.S. Armed Forces who have lost their lives in the conflict. (Vanderbilt University / Steve Green)

Veteran’s Day Iraq War Memorial of 4,192 American flags arranged on Alumni Lawn in honor of those U.S. Armed Forces who have lost their lives in the conflict. (Vanderbilt University / Steve Green)

Vanderbilt University students hosted a Veterans Day event today honoring those who have served the nation’s military and supporting those who continue to serve. Students placed 4,192 American flags on the university’s Alumni Lawn to honor those who have fallen in the war in Iraq. Throughout the day, donations were collected to benefit the Operation of Enduring Freedom Clinic at the Nashville VA Medical Center. Evert donor was given the name of a fallen soldier and asked to take a flag from the ground.  The students also invited Iraq War veterans to share their stories and experiences from noon to 1 p.m. on Alumni Lawn.

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VU on the election

A round up of VU commentary on last night’s historic election:

EFE (Spain): Obama sella la victoria tras una campaña de masiva movilización de votantes
This Spanish news wire analysis of Sen. Obama’s successful presidential bid credits the campaign’s ability to get out the vote. Erwin Hargrove, emeritus professor of political science, is quoted. Professor Hargrove is also quoted in a related story about the impact of Sen. Obama’s win on Civil Rights-era leaders: Las lágrimas del reverendo Jesse Jackson. (Español)

The Tennessean: Win thrills Nashville-area Democrats
An election-night party held by Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry and Bruce Barry, professor of sociology and management, is mentioned.

The Tennessean: McCain wins Tennessee by wide margin
It was a bittersweet Election Night for party loyalists in Tennessee as John McCain won the state, but Barack Obama won the night. John Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, is quoted.

The Tennessean: 2008 election stirs emotions of Midstate voters
Holly Spann, administrative assistant in the pathology department and active member of the League of Women Voters and the Democratic Party’s Women’s Caucus, is one of the voters interviewed in this election story.

Associated Press: Sen. Lamar Alexander re-elected in landslide
Student Sean Tierney was among the voters mentioned in this election analysis.

NPR interviewed David Lewis, professor of political science, about what comes next now that the United States has elected Sen. Obama to be the next president. The story is available online here.

CNN.com interviewed John Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, on the presidential election. The live interview was conducted using VUStar, Vanderbilt’s on-campus broadcast facility.

BBC World News interviewed John Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, on the presidential election. The live interview was conducted using VUStar, Vanderbilt’s on-campus broadcast facility.

BBC World News did a live interview with Carol Swain, professor of law and political science, on the presidential election.

Federal News Radio interviewed David Lewis, professor of political science and law, about what to expect during the presidential transition. The live interview was conducted using VUStar, Vanderbilt’s on-campus broadcast facility.

WTVF, Channel 5; WKRN, Channel 2; WSMV, Channel 4; and WZTV, Channel 17, included  reports on Vanderbilt students’ voting turnout at Eakin Elementary School.  WKRN also reported on an election results watch party at The Commons in its report.

Get full Vanderbilt coverage of the election here.

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Guest blog: A view from inside the debate by Mark Dalhouse

Mark Dalhouse, director of the Vanderbilt Office of Active Citizenship and Service and faculty head of house at East House, was one of the lucky few to have a ticket to last night’s historic presidential debate at Belmont University. Below are his impressions, written last night after the debate:

Tonight was every political junkie’s dream–I was able to attend the McCain-Obama debate at Belmont University thanks to the generosity of a Vanderbilt parent connected with one of the campaigns. We were seated in the Curb Center quite early; early enough for me to engage in some shameless spotting of the famous: there was Lamar Alexander and Harold Ford engaged in earnest conversation; Al and Tipper Gore walking to their seats shaking hands and stopping to have pictures taken; John Seigenthaler and Bernie Shaw from CNN greeting each other with backslaps and hands clasped; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention talking with Fred Thompson; and Bill and Karyn Frist (who I knew from my days as a St. Albans faculty member with their son as my student) stopping to greet me. Knowing that we had some time before the debate, I had brought along Jonathan Alter’s wonderful book on FDR’s 1932 campaign The Defining Moment but with all of these people to see I quickly found my interest elsewhere (though I still recommend Alter’s book).

The candidates emerged to applause and it is always thrilling, even if one has read extensively about a campaign and the candidates, to see them in person and to feel the palpable sense of excitement that comes with a political rally. So caught up in the 24 hour news cycle of internet and cable, perhaps we have lost something from the days of the torchlight parades of the closing days of campaigns.

The emotions of experiencing first hand the actual playing out of this quadrennial exercise notwithstanding, I felt neither candidate scored a knock out blow; nor were there any moments approximating President Ford prematurely liberating Eastern Europe in 1976 or Lloyd Bentsen admonishing Dan Quayle that he was no Jack Kennedy. I come away with gratitude for this experience. And eager to see my students in the morning.

Mark Dalhouse

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Debate ’08 tonight

Well, the big day is finally here – motorcades, flashing lights and snipers have all been spotted. Obama is staying across the street at Loew’s and McCain is nearby at the Marriott. The biggest surprise so far is it’s raining. It’s all, really, so exciting to be in Nashville right now. Here on campus we just wrapped up a forum for students with leading national journalists and Harold Ford Jr., John Geer and John Siegenthaler at the First Amendment Center (video to come), and our pundits are being scheduled left and right for interviews. Check with Belmont for all the news you could possible need about tonight’s schedule here.

Kudos to our Belmont colleagues for organizing what seems to be from all indications a truly stellar event that is making their university and Nashville shine.

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Seven years later

A sampling of Vanderbilt experts in today’s headlines, discussing the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon seven years later.

McClatchy News Service: McCain, Obama call a truce for 9/11 anniversary
In a departure from the increasingly nasty environment of the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain will make a joint appearance on Thursday in New York to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. John Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, is quoted.

Dallas Morning News: Candidates should extend 9/11 truce
This editorial about how the presidential candidates should comport themselves on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, quotes John Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science.

The Tennessean: 2 Nashville men still ache from losses on 9/11
Two Nashville residents remember loved ones and former students lost in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Ted Adderley Jr. and Davis Sezna Jr., both Vanderbilt alumni, died. Their professor, Peter Rousseau, vice chair of economics, is quoted.

The Tennessean: U.S. resolve has put terrorists on the run
Mike Newton, professor of the practice of law, wrote this opinion piece evaluating U.S. efforts to address global terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

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