February 11, 2020

‘Religion, Polarization, and the Public Space’ set for Feb. 19

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Five individuals from diverse religious viewpoints on Feb. 19 will discuss “Religion, Polarization, and the Public Space” as part of Purdue University’s “Democracy, Civility, and Freedom of Expression,” a series of events aimed to engage people in these important societal topics.

The moderated talk will start at 6 p.m. in Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse. Amy Goodman, a host and executive producer of “Democracy Now!” will moderate the panel discussion.

This event is free, but general admission tickets will be required and are now available at Purdue box offices located in Stewart Center and Yue-Kong Pao Hall, and online.

Panelists will discuss the role of religion in the pursuit of democracy, civility and the freedom of expression and the challenges posed by increasing polarization in public discourse as it relates to religious identity and expression. A religiously diverse panel of well-known leaders will explore this topic and others via conversation and contemplation. Panelists will be:

gandhi-a Arun Gandhi
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Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and president of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute. Gandhi is a board member of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, located at the University of Rochester in New York. He is involved in numerous social programs that address social and economic uplifting.

tutu-n Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu
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Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu, race and gender justice activist. The daughter of Archbishop Desmond and Nomalizo Leah Tutu, the Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu is an ordained clergy in the Episcopal Church. She serves as missioner for racial and economic equity at the Cathedral of All Souls, in Asheville, North Carolina.

hurwitz-s Sarah Hurwitz
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Sarah Hurwitz, who served as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and as chief speechwriter for former first lady Michelle Obama. She recently wrote “Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life — in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There)” about her rediscovery of Judaism. She also worked on policy issues affecting young women and girls as a senior advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls.

reagan-r Ron Reagan
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Ron Reagan, who identifies as an atheist. Reagan, the son of the late President Ronald Reagan, has worked as a media commentator for numerous network news shows. He has hosted shows and programs throughout the years.

aslan-r Reza Aslan
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Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar of religious studies, writer, professor, religious scholar and television host. His latest book, “God: A Human History” — a New York Times bestseller — investigates how people have historically understood the divine by assigning it human traits and emotions. His book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” has been translated into dozens of languages around the world and optioned for a film.

goodman-a Amy Goodman
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The moderator, Goodman, has co-authored six New York Times bestsellers and has received numerous awards for her journalism. “Democracy Now!”, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airs on more than 1,400 public television and radio stations worldwide.

 “We are excited to have six panelists with various backgrounds coming to talk about their faith beliefs and backgrounds and how it can help bring people together for civil discourse,” said John Gates, vice provost for diversity and inclusion. “This continues our focus and semester-long efforts on promoting and exploring what it means to live and behave civilly in our democracy. These discussions help us realize that we have more in common than what we often think we do. That’s what our democracy was built on.”

“Democracy, Civility, and Freedom of Expression” is the theme for 2020 and is sponsored by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion. Throughout the spring semester, students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members are invited to engage in conversations about and consider the importance of each element of the theme. Activities and events will include interactive workshops, performances, high-impact public speakers and innovative conversational gatherings.

This is the second in a series of events scheduled throughout the semester. The first was on Jan. 22 and featured Loretta Lynch, the 83rd U.S. attorney general, and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

Other events scheduled under the same theme of “Democracy, Civility, and Freedom of Expression” are:

  • March 3: “Beyond Labels: Addressing the Grand Challenge of Democracy Together.” 6-7:30 p.m. in Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse. This event is free, but general admission tickets will be required and will be available from the Purdue box offices on Feb. 12. Purdue President Mitch Daniels will host and moderate this armchair discussion featuring former U.S. Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
  • March 10: Joint performance by the Morehouse College and Purdue glee clubs.7:30-9 p.m. in Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse. This event is free, but general admission tickets will be required and will be available from the Purdue box offices on Feb. 12.
  • March 31: "The Role of the Media in Democracy Now."6-8 p.m. in Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse. This event is free, but general admission tickets will be required and will be available from the Purdue box offices on Feb. 12. Media professionals from multiple media organizations will convene for a conversation about the ever-changing landscape of the role of media in our democracy. Panelists include Charles M. Blow, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times; William Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard and founding director of Defending Democracy Together; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio; Juan Williams, political analyst at Fox News and award-winning columnist and author; and moderated by Soledad O’Brien, broadcast journalist and executive producer.
  • April 8: “Purdue in One Room.” 6-8 p.m. in Purdue Memorial Union Ballrooms.This event is free, but general admission tickets will be required and will be available from the Purdue box offices on Feb. 12. Near the culmination of the semester, the community gathering will celebrate constructive dialogue.

For more information, visit www.purdue.edu/diversity-inclusion/events.

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Sources: John Gates, jfgates@purdue.edu

Kate Walker, 765-494-9925, katewalker@purdue.edu  

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