Democracy Symposia Archive | Kent State University

Democracy Symposia Archive

Check Out Past Symposia

The university hosts a biennial symposium on democratic values to commemorate the events of May 4, 1970.  Below is a brief summary of the symposiums, as well as the Keynote Addresses.

2014 symposium: voices of the american experience

Brought together three key national figures, including celebrated American documentarian Ken Burns; scholar and theorist Shannon E. French, Ph.D.; and poet, essayist, editor and translator Martín Espada, to engage participants around issues of democracy, civic discourse and voice. Burns gave the keynote address, “Sharing the American Experience.” The event also featured a legislative theater workshop with Katherine Burke, a student poster exhibit and panel, a lecture by Shannon E. French, Ph.D., and a dramatic reading of the play May 4th Voices by Cleveland actors. Participants also enjoyed a lecture and a reading by poet Martín Espada and an art exhibit of selected works from the May 4 Collection, curated by Victoria Bocchicchio.

2011 Symposium: Democracy and Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Brought national and international experts to Kent State to examine the critical issues of war-related sexual violence, the representation of women, extractive industries and existing and potential democratic grassroots efforts in the conflict zones. The keynote speaker was René Lemarchand, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Florida. Lemarchand is an expert on the genocides and ethnic conflicts in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

2009 Symposium:  Remembering, Framing, Embracing, Revising History

Featured Presenter Chris Triffo, director of the Emmy Award-winning documentary, Thirteen Seconds: The Kent State Shootings. Moderator: Drew Tiene, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Foundations, Kent State University

Keynote Address "Remembering Injustice and the Social Construction of Silence," by Jay Winter, Ph.D., D.Litt., Charles J. Stille Professor of History, Yale University

2007 Symposium:  Democracy and Peace? Historical Links and Implications for World Order

The symposium featured a keynote address by well-known Vietnam political activist and author Tom Hayden, a student essay competition and panel discussions by leading scholars on the relationship between democracy and world peace.

While democratic governments often fight wars against authoritarian regimes, historical patterns suggest they maintain peaceful relationships with other democracies, a concept known as the “democratic peace.” American leaders have explicitly cited this historical pattern in exporting democracy throughout the world — by force in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. How successful is the United States in promoting such reforms overseas and how does this effort sometimes clash with the nation’s own democratic values? Could the democratic peace stem instead from other sources, such as the spread of global capitalism and consumer culture? 

The symposium confronted these and additional questions, which are critical to the success of U.S. foreign policies, the advancement of human rights and the prospect for stable world peace during the 21st century.

Keynote Address, "Kent State: Memories of the Future" by Tom Hayden, Political Activist and Author

2006 Symposium:   Irreconcilable Differences: Democratic Policy Deliberations in Science, Religion and Politics

The symposium featured discussions on how the public forum facilitates deliberation on issues derived from different political, religious and scientific positions.

Keynote: “Democratic Debate in the Public Forum,” presented by David Zarefsky, Owen L. Coon professor of argumentation and debate and professor of communication studies, Northwestern University

Keynote: “Science, Religion and Democracy,” presented by Philip Kitcher, professor of philosophy, Columbia University

Keynote: "Darwin, Democracy and Public Education: Is There a Constructive Way to Put This Issue on a Path to Extinction?" John Campbell, professor of communication, University of Memphis

The Symposium on Democracy and the Center for Student Involvement also co-sponsored a presentation by Paul Rusesabagina whose life story was the basis for the Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda. Rusesabagina risked his life protecting more than 1,200 Rwandan refugees in his hotel in 1994 during a three-month siege, while trying to negotiate assistance from an international community that stood by and watched.

The premiere of a locally produced video and a theatrical performance are also scheduled.

2005 Symposium:  Democracy and the Arts: Voices and Choices

The symposium featured a wide range of artistic and cultural programs.  Special attractions include scholarly papers, gallery talks, poetry readings, dance and musical performances, and interactive sessions with Animating Democracy, an initiative that promotes artistic responses to contemporary issues.

Jehmu Greene, president of the Rock the Vote Foundation, delivered the keynote address. The nonpartisan foundation has partnered with recording artists to encourage young people to participate in the democratic process and make informed decisions.

2004 Symposium:  Democracy and Homeland Security: Strategies, Controversies and Impact

Dr. Nawal H. Ammar, associate professor of justice studies, is chaired the universitywide symposium planning committee.

Keynote Address, "Homeland Security: Preserving Our Freedoms, Protecting America," by Admiral James M. Loy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary.

Closing Keynote Address, “Enemy Aliens and American Freedoms: Double Standards and Civil Liberties in the War on Terrorism,” by David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, a volunteer staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, and a commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

Several panels, presentations, critiques and discussions of scholarly papers, which were selected through an international call for papers, were also part of the symposium.

2003 Symposium:  Democracy and Globalization

Opening Keynote Address "The Unrealized Hope, America," was presented by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, an independent filmmaker who is widely known for championing the voiceless and the oppressed. Her imprint of humanizing the storytellers and inventive format mark her films.  Showing her documentary film Wet Sand: Voices from LA Ten Years Later was also a feature of the symposium.

Keynote Address "The Future of Freedom," by Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International.  Esquire has described him as "the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation," and named him "one of the 21 most important people of the 21st century."

Closing Keynote Address "Can Democracy Live With Capitalism?" was presented by William Greider, Author and Journalist William Greider, has been a reporter for more than 35 years for newspapers, magazines and television.

Four panels were also featured.  Each panel included the presentation, discussion and critique of three papers.

2002 Symposium:  Democracy and Religion: Free Exercise and Diverse Visions

This year's program will include the presentation, critique and discussion of 13 papers selected through an international call for papers. The featured speakers for the program were:

Opening Keynote Address, "The Theo-democratic Vision of Religious Fundamentalists," by R. Scott Appleby, John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and professor of history at the University of Notre Dame.

Keynote Address, "Dealing With the Unfinished Business of America: Fighting Bias, Bigotry and Racism in the 21st Century," by Sanford Cloud, president and chief executive officer of the National Conference for Community and Justice.

2001 Symposium: Media, Profit and Politics

This symposium looked at questions arising from the clash of those societal forces in an attempt to learn from the past some important lessons for the future.

Opening Keynote Address "Mega Media: How Markets Are Changing News" by Ms. Nancy Hicks Maynard, President of Maynard Partners Inc., a consulting company that focuses on media economics and its impact on the future. She recently published Mega Media: How Market Forces Are Transforming News.

Keynote Address, "Whose News Is It?" by Hodding Carter III, President, CEO and trustee of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

2000 Symposium:  The Boundaries of Freedom of Expression and Order in a Democratic Society

This multidisciplinary symposium is part of Kent State's 30th commemoration of the events of May 4, 1970, when a confrontation between the Ohio National Guard and demonstrators left four Kent State students dead and nine students wounded. The symposium explored the limits of freedom of expression in American society and the appropriateness of these limits. Dr. Thomas Hensley, Ph.D., professor of political science, chaired of the symposium planning committee.

The program included addresses by three nationally known First Amendment experts, and the presentation, critique and discussion of nine papers selected through an international call for papers.

Opening Keynote Address, "Freedom of Expression in the United States: Past and Present," by Kathleen M. Sullivan, dean of the Stanford Law School. Sullivan is also Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Stanley Morrison Professor of Law. A graduate of Harvard Law School and constitutional law scholar, Sullivan has taught at the Harvard and Stanford law schools and received awards for teaching excellence from both schools. She is co-author with Gerald Gunther of the 13th edition of the Constitutional Law classic casebook and the First Amendment Law casebook.

Closing Keynote Address "Freedom of Expression in the United States: The Future," by Cass Sunstein, Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence at The University of Chicago Law School. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and served as a law clerk for Justice Benjamin Kaplan of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the US Supreme Court. He is the author of many books, including Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech and One Case at a Time.