Topic: Speakers

August 20, 2009

Two figures prominent in the last U.S. presidential election, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean and Meghan McCain, daughter of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, are among the speakers scheduled to appear on campus at Ball State during fall semester 2009.

Dean, one-time governor of Vermont and himself a candidate for president in 2004, will talk about the importance of student participation in politics and government on Wednesday, Nov. 4, a year to the day after the election of President Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American chief executive. His address in Emens Auditorium will begin at 7 p.m., and, as with all of the semester's other major speaker events, is free and open to the public.

Obama's electoral landslide victory in the 2008 election is widely attributed to Dean's creation and implementation of the now-famous "50-state strategy" that challenged the previously prevailing "red state-blue state" model of largely Republican or Democratic territories and a handful of "battleground" states where most presidential contests of the past few decades were decided. He stepped down as DNC chairman following Obama's inauguration but remains an influential voice in Democratic and national politics, particularly — with his early background as a practicing physician — regarding the current debate about health care reform.

"The system we have right now is broken. We need to fix it," says Dean, who, while acknowledging his party affiliation, nevertheless told the independent TV and radio program Democracy Now in July that he takes issue with the mainstream media's treating the debate as merely a Republican versus Democrat or conservative versus liberal issue.  "It's not. When 72 percent of the American people … believe they ought to have the choice between a public or a private system, this is not a liberal-conservative thing. That is what this vote is about."

Also away from the campaign trail, McCain now is a contributing writer for the popular news and opinion Web site The Daily Beast. She will discuss "Connecting the Next Generation with Government" on Monday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. in Pruis Hall.

A self-described Republican who is "liberal on social issues," the pro-life McCain admits to having voted for Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry in 2004. She also concedes to supporting gay marriage, a position that recently has sparked the ire of conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, the latter moved so much as to try to dismiss McCain as an "idiot" and a "Valley Girl."

For her part, McCain has suggested there is "a war brewing" over the future of the Republican Party, lately dominated by personalities such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — her father's vice presidential running mate in 2008 — and ex-White House political strategist Karl Rove, whom she has characterized as "creepy."

A graduate of Columbia University with a degree in art history, McCain is a former intern with Newsweek and "Saturday Night Live." Earlier this year she signed a reported six-figure deal with Hyperion Books and says she hoped to write a "satirical account" of her experiences during her father's run for the presidency.

Both Dean and McCain will appear as guests of the university's annual Student Life series, co-sponsored by Excellence in Leadership and the Department of Political Science as well as (for Dean) the Office of Housing and Residence Life and the Division of Student Affairs.

Actor/activist and "Apprentice"

Edward James Olmos is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor considered one of the leading voices of Latin America in Hollywood for his many efforts promoting greater social awareness, cultural diversity and opportunity in both the film and television industry and the greater Los Angeles community, where in 1992 — in the aftermath of riots sparked by the videotaped police beating of black motorist Rodney King — he took to the streets, broom in hand, and worked to clean up and rebuild shattered neighborhoods.

He will discuss the idea that "We're All in the Same Gang" on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 8 p.m. in Pruis Hall, also as part of the Student Life series and with support from the College of Communication, Information, and Media, Excellence in Leadership, Building Better Communities, the Career Center, Miller College of Business and the Latino Student Union.

Recognized, as well, by two generations of science fiction fans for his memorable roles as Gaff in director Ridley Scott's 1982 futuristic classic "Blade Runner," with Harrison Ford, and later as Admiral William Adama in the Syfy's reworking of the "Battlestar Gallactica" series (2003-09), Olmos received his Golden Globe and Emmy statuettes in 1985 for his role as the taciturn Lt. Martin Castillo on the NBC mega-hit "Miami Vice." He was nominated for an Academy Award as best actor in 1988 for his portrayal of real-life math teacher Jaime Escalante in the feature film "Stand and Deliver."

Olmos' other humanitarian activities include acting as a United States Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, being the national spokesman for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and serving on the boards of the Miami and Los Angeles Children's Hospitals. He also is the founder or co-founder of Latino Public Broadcasting (funding public television programming focusing on issues affecting Latinos), Latino Literacy Now and the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.

Opening this year's Student Life series, however, will be Bill Rancic, the first winner of tycoon Donald Trump's reality program "The Apprentice" in 2004. He will examine "How to Use Challenging Times to Your Advantage" on Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

More than 27 million television viewers nationwide watched as Trump selected Rancic, a former toy store security guard, as the inaugural winner of "The Apprentice." Since then, the cum laude graduate of Loyola University Chicago has worked as a financial consultant, real estate developer and motivational speaker. He also authored the book "You're Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life."

His talk at Ball State is being sponsored by Building Better Communities, Excellence in Leadership and the Career Center.

Letterman lectures

There will be two installments of the David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecture and Workshop Series this fall, beginning with Ball State alumnus Jason Whitlock, '90, who is scheduled to speak about "The Importance of Developing a Distinctive Voice in the New Media" on Wednesday, Sept. 9. (Details concerning the time and place of his presentation still are being finalized and will be announced.)

A respected sportswriter for The Kansas City Star and analyst for FoxSports, Whitlock's 2007 column following the Don Imus/Rutgers women's basketball team controversy thrust the former Cardinals football player further into the ongoing national debate about race relations. As a result of his "ability to seamlessly integrate sports commentary with social commentary and to challenge widely held assumptions along the racial divide," the Scripps Howard Foundation awarded Whitlock its National Journalism Award for commentary in March 2008, making him the first sportswriter to win the award and its $10,000 prize.

Then, on Thursday, Nov. 5, Tom Kelley, author of the best-seller "The Art of Innovation" and general manager of IDEO, the widely admired design and development firm responsible for giving us the Apple mouse, Palm V PDA, and other cutting-edge products and services, will lead a discussion of "Designing for the Future" at 7:30 p.m. in Sursa Performance Hall (Music Instruction Building).

Under Kelley's leadership, IDEO has grown from a modest firm employing 20 or so designers to one now boasting a staff of more than 350. And though much of his time today is taken up by executive responsibilities in such areas as business development, marketing, human resources and operations, he still enjoys occasionally "cutting foam core" alongside clients and the company's designers during regular brainstorming and prototyping sessions. As a much sought-after speaker, he also addresses scores of business audiences annually on how to use innovation to transform a business' culture and strategic thinking.

Additional authors

The university's Freshman Connections program and Department of English also are sponsoring appearances by, respectively, writers Ishmael Beah and Harvey Pekar.

Beah, who penned this year's Freshman Common Reader, "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" will speak on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Emens Auditorium about his experiences as a former child soldier in the war-torn African nation of Sierra Leone.

According to his account, Beah fought for nearly three years as a government soldier in Sierra Leone's 1990s civil war before finally being rescued by the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) and making his way to refuge with a foster family in New York City.  He later graduated from the United Nations International School, and, in 2004, Ohio's Oberlin College with a degree in politics.

Meanwhile, underground comic book writer and social commentator Pekar will ruminate on "Ordinary Life Can Be Pretty Complex Stuff" on Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Arts and Journalism Building (AJ) Room 175. He is the creator of the autobiographical series "American Splendor," based on his experiences as a veterans hospital clerk and records collector in Cleveland, which earned an American Book Award in 1987.  A subsequently produced feature film of the same name premiered in 2003 to critical acclaim, eventually winning the Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.