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Wake Forest to explore government secrets, free speech, national security

November 27, 2007

In January, Wake Forest University will present “Secrets vs. Security,” an opportunity for people to examine the issues of government secrets, free speech and national security.

Sponsored by the university’s Secrest Artists Series and Voices of Our Time speaker series, “Secrets vs. Security” will include two events: 

  • “Top-Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers,” a docudrama starring John Heard* at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 in Wait Chapel.  (*Cast subject to change.) The play is a factual reenactment of the legal battle between the U.S. government and The Washington Post over publishing the Pentagon Papers. A Secrest Signature Pre-Performance Talk will be held at 6:40 p.m. each night in the Balcony Room of Wait Chapel with Katy Harriger, professor and chair of the political science department at Wake Forest, and Kathy Smith, professor of political science.
  • Daniel Ellsberg, a lecture by the former military analyst who leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers, at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 in Brendle Recital Hall. 

According to organizers, the two events are being held in conjunction with each other to provide a more comprehensive view of the historical event. 

"The inherent conflict in a democracy between the government’s right to keep secrets and the interests of a free press is an ongoing tension,” said Lillian Shelton, director of the Secrest Artists Series.  “For those of us old enough to remember the Nixon administration, we remember the controversy over the Pentagon Papers and the surrounding issue of government secrets.  In light of the current controversial war on terrorism, this issue should also be of interest to a younger generation.  The drama and the lecture might serve as teaching tools for both sides of the debate and help us address stark questions like ‘patriot or traitor?’”

The docudrama will be presented by the L.A. Theatre Works company with Susan Albert Loewenberg as producing director.  The performance uses original source material, including interviews and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and presents a kind of living history through the old-fashioned format of a live radio drama.   The play is set in the home of Ben Bradlee, editor of The Washington Post, and follows the story of his staff sorting through the documents and trying to decide if publishing the Pentagon Papers violates national security.

Tickets to the theatre performance are $25 for the general public; $20 for non-Wake Forest students.  To purchase tickets, call 336-758-5295.  Tickets are free to Wake Forest students, faculty and staff.  

Ellsberg’s lecture is free and open to the public. 

Seating for the performances and the lecture will be on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The Secrest Artists Series is an annual cultural arts series that initially began at Wake Forest in the 1920s and presents renowned national and international performing artists to both the Wake Forest community and the general public.  Endowed in 1987 by Marion Secrest, a local performing arts patron, the series offers its programs free of charge to all Wake Forest students, faculty and staff and at modest ticket prices for the general public.

Voices of Our Time is an annual guest speaker series that exposes students, the Wake Forest community and the general public to some of the world’s leading thinkers for discussions on the important national and international issues of our time.  It was established in 2006 by Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch.

For complete event information, visit

MEDIA NOTE: High-resolution downloadable photos are available at Media are invited to attend. To arrange coverage or reserve media seating, contact the News Service at (336) 758-5237.

Press Contacts:

Pam Barrett
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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