Drew Westen speaks at the National Press Club.


Courageous inquiry leads to D.C.

The 2008 election. Health care. American values.

These are topics so hot and divisive that merely addressing them runs the risk of alienating large swaths of the public. Indeed, President James Wagner’s keynote address on April 25 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., was appropriately titled “A Time for Courageous Universities.”

Wagner was one of more than a dozen speakers from Emory’s faculty and administration who visited the nation’s capital for two days of bonding with alumni and reaching out to the D.C. media. That effort reached its pinnacle during “Where Courageous Inquiry Leads: Emory Day at the National Press Club,” a half day of Emory-led discussions cosponsored by the Emory Alumni Association and Emory’s Department of Communications, which Wagner kicked off with an address centered on why Emory isn’t afraid to enter into “impossible conversations” that might scare off less-inquisitive participants.

Three panel discussions featuring eleven of Emory’s top faculty followed Wagner’s address, and although they were not impossible conversations—the faculty panelists didn’t so much debate as ask thought-provoking questions related to their innovative research—the subjects they tackled were among the most contentious of our time.

“America Decides: Shifting Political Tectonics in 2008,” featured three political science faculty—Alan Abramowitz, Merle Black, and Andra Gillespie—and psychology professor Drew Westen, who explored the already wild race for president, current electoral trends, and even how voters tend to behave.

“Partisan minds are closed, and closed early,” said Westen, whose forthcoming book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, explores how voters’ feelings frequently override everything else. Logic, for instance. “[Voters] turn off all reason and turn on all emotion” once they decide on a political candidate,” he said.

“American Values in a Changing World” included Woodruff Professor of Law Martha Fineman, Senior Vice Provost Claire Sterk, and Provost Earl Lewis discussing topics ranging from human rights to how universities can play a leading role in furthering higher education’s values of accessibility, affordability, and accountability.

The previous night, April 24, Wagner and several of the faculty mingled with more than 250 Emory alumni at the residence of Tae-Sik Lee, ambassador from the Republic of Korea.—Eric Rangus



© 2007 Emory University