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Fairbanks Symposium hosts debate, lectures and announcements

Posted on 10.11.2013

Indiana statesmen and political experts gathered at the University of Indianapolis for The Richard M. Fairbanks Symposium on Civic Leadership Oct. 8-9. The symposium was organized by UIndy faculty members and Indiana Humanities.

University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel announces the launch of the "Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis" website from the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Mayoral Archives.

University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel announces the launch of the “Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis” website from the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Mayoral Archives.

The symposium started with “The Great Debate,” which discussed the ongoing civil war in Syria and what role the U.S. should play. The symposium continued the next day with a series of talks and a keynote speech by Former Sen. Richard Lugar. The symposium then concluded with an announcement by University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel about the launch of a new website for the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Mayoral Archives. Manuel also announced a new partnership with History IT, the company that digitized the mayoral records.

Director of the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Mayoral Archives and Associate Professor of History and Political Science Edward Frantz was one of the main organizers of the symposium. Frantz said that the symposium was a huge success, and he was glad to be able to cover a wide variety of topics.

“It was a dream for me,” he said. “We got to focus on foreign policy one night and state and local politics the next day. To be able to bring in this many high-talent people for the UIndy community, especially students, to see, was fantastic. So much credit [belongs] to our staff and Indiana Humanities for making that possible.”


The Great Debate


Former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton moderated “The Great Debate,” which centered on U.S. foreign policy regarding the ongoing civil war in Syria, on Oct. 8 in the Christel Dehaan Fine Arts Performance Center. The four debaters were Lugar; policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative Robert Zarate; senior fellow at the Cato Institute Doug Bandow; and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma’s School of International and Area Studies Joshua Landis,

Hamilton introduced the panelists and said that everyone in attendance should know much more about the crisis in Syria by the end of the debate.

“It is without a doubt one of the world’s most daunting humanitarian problems,” he said.

Hamilton posed four main questions: How will the conflict end? What should the foreign policy of the United States be in Syria? What immediate actions should the United States take to help opposition forces, and what are the good opposition forces? And what is the impact of the Syrian conflict on other Middle East countries?

Former Sen. Richard Lugar presents his keynote speech during the second day of the symposium. Photo by Zefeng Zhang

Former Sen. Richard Lugar presents his keynote speech during the second day of the symposium.
Photos by Zefeng Zhang

Lugar said that solving the crisis is a matter of bringing together every group that holds an interest in Syria—not just the groups we endorse—and having them talk it out. He said that he did not rule out U.S. military involvement, but he certainly did not endorse the idea.

“Maybe we should have left it to this group to say, ‘Let’s have a table at which all kinds of people are invited.’ That sounds as if we are going to have an interminable negotiation, but the need for inclusiveness right now—of not only the various rebels and fighters in Syria but the various other nations stationed neighborly—to me seems reasonable,” Lugar said.

Bandow said that becoming involved militarily would be a disaster for the United States. According to him, the outcome of this conflict is unlikely to be a stable Syrian government, no matter who wins. He said that this confusion is reflected in President Barack Obama’s seeming indecision to act for good reason.

“Obama’s policy is to build the middle class and stay out of Syria—it’s to build at home and not nation-build in Syria,” he said.

The most vigorous debate took place between Landis, who strongly discouraged any kind of U.S. involvement, and Zarate, who argued that we cannot ignore the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, so becoming involved is in everyone’s best interest.

Landis said that when foreign countries get involved in someone else’s civil war, it makes the situation more complicated. He also said that we do not understand what is happening in the Middle East, but neither do the people who live there.

“We need to let the Middle East figure out what it is going through, and that’s very painful—to sit on the sidelines,” Landis said. “America can’t get involved; we don’t have the money. We saw in this last vote about intervention in Syria that the Republicans are going to vote no to intervene, even more than the Democrats.”

Zarate said that there are ways to get involved that can help without sending U.S. troops to Syria.

“We cannot control what happens on the ground, but the U.S., working with our partners, can influence what happens,” Zarate said.

According to Zarate, it is important for the U.S. to be firm when it sets a red line, especially as the country heads toward a confrontation with Iran over its growing nuclear capabilities.

Hamilton ended the discussion, joking that it was time to hand out blue books for an exam.

“Well, I began all of this by saying you and I are going to learn a lot in the hour on Syria,” he said. “And if you haven’t learned something, you’re pretty dense.”


Leadership talks


The symposium continued the following morning, Oct. 9, with a series of leadership talks from prominent Indiana political leaders, as well as some UIndy faculty members.

At the “Young Guns Roundtable Discussion,” Indiana mayors Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Blair Milo of Laporte and Chris McBarnes of Frankfort—all younger than 35—discussed several questions posed by Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Buttigieg spoke of how his love of numbers and technology has helped South Bend grow, and he discussed his approach to politics. He said that governance should be done the hard way: by sitting down and having conversations with constituents.

McBarnes, who became Mayor of Frankfort one month after graduating from Butler University, said that he hates politics but loves good leadership. McBarnes said he encourages his constituents to contact his office or inquire on social media about how they can get civically engaged in the city.

Milo, who threw her hat in the LaPorte mayor’s race after writing a series of articles about the city’s problems and possible solutions, said she is known for her active presence on social media. She said that social media has revolutionized the way mayors can reach their constituents.

There were several other discussions at the symposium, such as “Debunking the Civility Myth.” This talk featured Professor of History and Political Science James Fuller and Ray Boomhower of the Indiana Historical Society and discussed the history of incivility in politics.

“Behind the Scenes of City Government” featured a panel of deputy mayors from Indianapolis’ last four mayoral administrations—Michael Huber, Mike O’Connor, Anne Shane and Dave Frick. Former Deputy Mayor and Director of Economic Development Melina Kennedy moderated the discussion, which examined the city’s politics.

During lunch, Lugar and Buttigieg spoke at the keynote conversation.

Sophomore international relations major Allie Cast said that the symposium was a good way to give students a look at politics and that it helped make UIndy more visible to the community.

“It shines a light on an issue that most people do not normally get to see,” Cast said. “It has shown students opinions and views that they are not really exposed to otherwise.”


Mayoral Archives announcement


Later that day, Former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut, CEO of HistoryIT Kristen Gwinn-Becker, and Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward joined Frantz, Lugar and Manuel to announce the launch of a new website from the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Mayoral Archives, called “Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis.” The new website uses documents from the Mayoral Archives to tell the story of how Hudnut brought the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis during his administration—in one night.

Manuel showed some of the pieces in the “Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis” collection on screens next to the stage.

“The two items we’ve shown today, shown digitally, are part of the 1.5 million piece collection that we host in our library,” Manuel said. “It’s our university’s goal to digitize all of those pieces to make them available for researchers around the globe, to use them as teaching tools in our own classrooms and to connect people who are passionate about history and political science and other areas of the humanities to emerging careers that blend technology and the humanities.”

Manuel and Gwinn-Becker also announced a formal partnership between the university and HistoryIT, which develops software to organize and display historical documents digitally.

Gwinn-Becker said that the company, which has its headquarters in Portland, Me., will open a branch near campus and create 20 jobs, some of which will be internships for UIndy students.

“We are absolutely excited to be partnering with UIndy. We are excited to be in Indianapolis, for one, because there are so many exciting collections to work on,” Gwinn-Becker said. “Our relationship to the university is exciting, not just for the mayoral collection but for access to faculty with expertise and to the student body, so we can provide jobs for professional development and training.”


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