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Inauguration-related story ideas


January 12, 2009

SMITHSONIAN EVENT FOR PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION TO FEATURE WAKE FOREST DEBATE TEAM — Two members of Wake Forest’s debate team will join students from five other universities to debate the priorities of the Obama administration at a Smithsonian Institution event tied to the presidential inauguration.  The debates will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan 19 at the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium.  The Inaugural Debate Series is presented by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in cooperation with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Debate Consortium, with support from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.  Top collegiate debaters will debate key issues facing the new administration.  Wake Forest students will face students from Michigan State University to debate energy and climate change at 9:30 a.m.  “We're thrilled and proud to be a part of the activities surrounding this historic inauguration,” said Ross Smith, director of debate at Wake Forest.  “Outreach and promotion of debate in the public sphere is an important part of our mission.”  Media is invited to cover the event in Washington. The debaters are also available for interviews on campus before they leave Jan. 17.

Contact:  Cheryl Walker, walkercv@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF OBAMA PRESIDENCY – For African-Americans, the election of a black president is not only a historic milestone but may represent a psychological catharsis akin to South Africa’s election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, says Anthony Parent, professor of history at Wake Forest.  “African-Americans went to the polls in record numbers to demonstrate their support for Obama,” Parent notes.  “They see within him the embodiment of hope for a brighter future that has eluded generations of their ancestors who had to endure enslavement, second-class citizenship and institutional racism.  Obama promises a transformative presidency.  At the very least, one that would begin to break down the great racial divide.  His personal story — raised by his white grandparents and mother — offers him a unique perspective to address this most pressing American problem.”  Parent, an expert on African-American history, world civilizations, colonial America and the civil rights movement, is available to talk about the historical significance of the Obama presidency.

Contact:  Eric Frazier, frazieef@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237

WHAT MAKES INAUGURAL SPEECHES MEMORABLE? – Presidents can put their personal stamp on a number of different Inauguration Day events, but this is especially true during the inaugural address, according to John Dinan, associate professor of political science.  Inaugural addresses have usually been an occasion to unify the country, express continuity with founding principles and chart a course for the future.  The most memorable inaugural addresses were delivered by:

  • Jefferson – “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists”
  • Lincoln – “With malice toward none, with charity for all ...”
  • Franklin Roosevelt – “... the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
  • Kennedy – “... ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”
  • and Reagan – “In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Dinan is available to comment on Inauguration Day events, including the inaugural address.

Contact:  Audrey Fannin, fannin@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

PRESIDENTS AND PRAYER – The choice of Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery to pray at the inaugural ceremony reflects important dynamics in public religion past and present, says Bill Leonard, dean and professor of church history at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.  “Lowery represents the prophetic, civil rights ministerial presence in the U.S., a powerful symbol of how far the nation has come since the days of segregation and Jim Crow,” says Leonard.  “Rick Warren's presence reflects issues related to bridging the gap between evangelicals and Democrats – a considerable divide across the last two or three decades.  His selection also refocuses attention on the role of ministerial celebrity in the public square, a role long held by various ministers who have formally or informally advised presidents.  This was especially evident in the presence of Billy Graham as ‘national chaplain’ or America's most public Protestant minister.”  Leonard is available to talk about prayer and public piety at presidential inaugurations, and implications of the absence of a non-Christian voice at this year’s event.

Contact:  Audrey Fannin, fannin@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

COMMUNICATION PROFESSOR CAN ANALYZE INAUGURAL SPEECH –“Inaugurals are meant to heal, which has oddly been going on already in this election,” said Allan Louden, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University.  Louden regularly provides expert analysis of political speeches and debates for dozens of national media outlets from Fox Business Network to USA Today to The Politico.  He is available to provide post-inaugural analysis on the power and effectiveness of Obama’s speech, including the content and delivery.  Leading up to the election, Louden provided commentary on the major speeches at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions for the Charlotte Observer.

Contact:  Cheryl Walker, walkercv@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237.

WAKE FOREST TO WATCH, REFLECT ON INAUGURATION – Wake Forest will mark the significance of President-elect Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration with public viewings of the televised proceedings and a panel discussion.  The community is invited to attend.  Members of the media are welcome, and interviews with participants can be arranged. 

  • The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Student Union will host viewings of the inauguration at 11:30 a.m. in Brendle Recital Hall and Benson University Center’s Pugh Auditorium. 
  • Several Wake Forest faculty members, staff and students will present personal reflections on the inauguration at 4 p.m. in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library atrium. The event, titled “The Dream Realized? What Barack Obama’s Election Means to America,” will include senior Fred Parent reading an essay, “What to the African-American is the Fourth of November?” written by his father, Anthony Parent, a professor of history.  Other speakers will include Rhon Manigault, assistant professor of religion; two members of Wake Forest’s Student Government, Jermyn Davis, president, and Matt Triplett, speaker of the house; Wanda Brown, associate director of the ZSR Library; and James Bryant, visiting assistant professor of American ethnic studies.  Richard Heard, associate professor of music, will sing to close out the program.  Speakers will be available for comment at a reception following the event.

Contact: Pam Barrett, barretpm@wfu.edu or (336) 758-5237.

Press Contacts:

Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237


Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237


The United States Capitol, center, the Capitol Reflecting Pool, foreground, the U.S. Supreme Court, back left of Capitol, the Library of Congress Jefferson Building, back right of the Capitol and the RFK Stadium, center background, Wednesday, May 31, 2006, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The United States Capitol, center, the Capitol Reflecting Pool, foreground, the U.S. Supreme Court, back left of Capitol, the Library of Congress Jefferson Building, back right of the Capitol and the RFK Stadium, center background, Wednesday, May 31, 2006, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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