by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am


While sharp partisan differences block a productive national debate on issues ranging from economic recovery to energy policy, fifty-one rising college seniors from across America gather in Lexington, Kentucky this week at the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship's (HCCS) third annual Student Congress, where they will hear from award-winning actor, Richard Dreyfuss about the importance of civil discourse.

Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, Director of the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy noted, “Richard Dreyfuss' passionate promotion of teaching civics is a perfect match with the Congress' mission.  Marshalling the oratory skills he mastered on stage, Mr. Dreyfuss has dedicated himself to building support to better educate students to be engaged, informed citizens,” he said.

Dreyfuss, who will have just come from a White House meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama, will be speaking at Three Chimneys Farm on the same day students will release the “Threat Index” on Thursday, June 24th at the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy.  In the spirit of Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay, the students will determine and debate the three top global threats—a new generational point of view that has been absent from the national dialogue on our country's future—while meeting in the Old House of Representative Chambers in Frankfort, Kentucky on June 23rd.

In a significant departure from a year ago, when the 51 student leaders identified “rampant consumerism” followed by “nuclear proliferation” and “pandemics” as the three most threatening issues facing their generation, an off-the-radar concern, the BP oil spill, is weighing heavily on the minds of young leaders.  Preliminary surveys of these “Gen Y” statesmen show that an over-dependence on oil is followed by the development of green energy sources as the top two concerns.

“While the BP oil spill proved itself to be one of the most horrific disasters in recent history, it's only one glaring example, showing why we need practical and responsible energy solutions—right now,” said Emily Jo Beyer, a senior at American University representing the District of Columbia.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, co-chair with Nancy Landon Kassebaum-Baker of the Center's National Advisory Committee, said she's proud to be part of the Henry Clay Center “because I think it's important to pass on his principles to an emerging generation of future leaders. Injecting rationality into the debate on public policy is a very sound goal. It will also be interesting to see what these future leaders come to consensus on as the three most pressing problems facing our nation.”

 “Henry Clay stood for an important principle: that through civil debate, a consensus is a reachable and more sustainable goal. This Center is introducing 51 next generation leaders to a more intellectually honest and calm way of debating the great issues of tomorrow than the rancor that we so often see on television today,” said Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Co-Chair of the HCCS National Advisory Committee and former Senator of Kansas.

In addition to hearing from Mr. Dreyfuss and other experts, the students will explore US policy toward Iran with Ambassador John Limbert, review the importance of Supreme Court justice selection with US Court of Appeals Judge John Rogers, and dissect foreign policy leadership with author and former Washington Post diplomatic correspondent, Michael Dobbs.

The Student Congress is being held at the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and Transylvania University as well as Ashland, the historic Henry Clay Estate, in Lexington, Kentucky. The students, who are all leaders in their states and the District of Columbia, were nominated either by their U.S. Senator or their university. The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship provided full scholarships to all student attendees.

For more information, please visit the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship Web site at here

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