OXFORD, Miss. – The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi will host 10 programs featuring well-known media members and political heavyweights, the first of which begins Friday (Sept. 16) and continues as momentum builds toward the presidential election.
The fall series begins with a speciadl appearance by U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at 6 p.m. Friday at the Overby Center.
Other programs include Tom Brokaw, longtime NBC correspondent; former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who also served chair of the Republican National Committee; Andy Lack, president of NBC News; and Stuart Stevens, a Mississippian who managed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Two programs include UM students who worked on projects in Africa and also among Mississippi’s Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes.
The fall offerings include a diverse set of speakers, said Charles Overby, chairman of the center.
“The fall lineup of programs ranges from serious to quirky, with a great array of interesting, accomplished personalities,” Overby said.
For the first program, Mabus will talk with Overby about his career. The Ackerman native, who graduated from Ole Miss in 1969, has a distinguished record of public service that may be matched by only one other Mississippian in history, 19th century statesman L.Q.C. Lamar. Mabus has served as state auditor, governor, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and as secretary of the Navy for the past eight years.
A reception follows the discussion.
The rich variety of speakers complement the university’s journalism programs, but also will draw attendance from the Oxford community, said Curtis Wilkie, UM Cook Chair and associate professor of journalism. The broad spectrum of guests is by design, he said.
“We also want to emphasize an important word at Ole Miss: diversity, so that the programs and panelists are not dominated by a bunch of old white guys pontificating but deal straight-up with race, still a critical issue in our state,” Wilkie said.
There’s also an emphasis on attracting opposing political ideologies to enrich the discussion, he said.
“We try to be scrupulously nonpartisan, inviting guests from all kinds of political backgrounds,” Wilkie said. “We hope we’re provocative and provide the kind of commentary that would have been forbidden on this campus 50 years ago – when I was a student – and political forces in Mississippi imposed a ‘speakers ban’ at Ole Miss, which denied a forum to forbidden voices.”
Overby and Wilkie, who were journalists during the civil rights movement, will also appear on a panel Nov. 1 with political science professor Marvin King to discuss James Meredith’s “March Against Fear” in 1966. The discussion also features Aram Goudsouzian, author of “Down to the Crossroads” a book about the march.
Meredith was the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss, which sparked deadly rioting in 1962, and four years later he was shot while protesting segregation by walking through Mississippi. The talk comes on the 50th anniversary of Meredith’s march.
“The civil rights movement of 1966 was different than in earlier years,” King said. “Decreased harmony, fraying of purpose and less solidarity marked 1966, and the Meredith march exemplified all this tension. Our panel will highlight this tension through focus on the Meredith march.”
All Overby Center events are free and open to the public, and arrangements are being made to provide parking for all evening programs this fall. Parking for guests will be available in the lot next to the Overby Center for the duration of the event. With the exception of a Sept. 30 forum at Nutt Auditorium, events will be held at the Overby Auditorium.
Here’s a rundown of the discussions that follow Mabus’ talk Friday:
— Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. – “A Critical Eye on the Campaign” with Stuart Stevens, a leading Republican consultant who has been outspoken in his condemnation of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
– Sept. 30, 6 p.m., Nutt Auditorium – “Election Countdown” with Lack and Brokaw of NBC News, along with special guest Barbour. The political discussion will be moderated by Maggie Wade from Jackson’s NBC affiliate. The program is co-sponsored by Mississippi Today, the state’s online news operation.
– Oct. 11, 6 p.m. – “Mississippi Freelance” an irreverent monthly that poked fun at Mississippi politicians and exposed many irregularities 50 years ago, will be fondly remembered by its founders, Lew Powell and Ed Williams, Ole Miss graduates who went on to careers at the Charlotte Observer.
– Oct. 14, 9 a.m. – “The Embassy,” a new book about earlier turmoil in Liberia, will be discussed by its author, Dante Paradiso, an American Foreign Service officer posted to its capital, Monrovia, at the time.
– Oct. 19, 8 p.m. – “The Last Debate” will be shown on the Overby Center screen, to be followed by a public discussion.
– Oct. 27, 2:30 p.m. – “Mississippi Indians” will be discussed by Overby fellow Bill Rose and students on his team in the latest in-depth reporting assignment, an annual course that has produced a series of prize-winning magazines.
– Nov. 1, 6 p.m. – “The March Against Fear,” James Meredith’s idea that led to an assassination attempt on him and a fractious finish by competing civil rights leaders in 1966, will be recalled on its 50th anniversary by Goudsouzian, King, Overby and Wilkie.
– Nov. 2, 6 p.m. – “Ole Miss in Africa” will feature UM journalism students who traveled earlier this year to Zimbabwe and Namibia on a photo expedition and study of wildlife management.
– Nov. 15, 6 p.m. – “The Outcome” of the 2016 presidential campaign – and its impact on the future of the two major parties – will be the subject for a final discussion.