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Ezra Klein, Ari Fleischer slated to appear at student-run forum

By Allison McGillivray
On January 24, 2013

Miami University will host Washington Post writer Ezra Klein and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in the first JANUS Forum Feb. 6.

These speakers will address the question "Is democracy in America working?" This question was posed by the students of the JANUS Forum organization, according Eric Buller director of the Wilks Leadership Institute. Buller is one of the faculty advisors of the JANUS Forum organization.

"[The forum] is about having a civil discourse, kind of leaving the emotion out of it and bringing some logic and perspective into it that we can make reasoned and well informed decisions about what we believe as opposed to listening to the rhetoric," Buller said.

Buller said the speakers will be able to offer two viewpoints on democracy in the United States.

"I think you have two very different perspectives, two very different backgrounds and as a result two very different opinions and ideas about the direction we're headed as a country," Buller said.

Fleischer worked as press secretary under former President George W. Bush.

"We think [Fleischer is] an interesting choice to look at 'this is how Washington works and has worked for a long time' and he probably has very strong feelings about its ability to continue doing things the way it does," Buller said.

Klein provides a more youthful perspective of a non-Washington insider, according to both Buller and JANUS Forum advisor and Professor of Political Science, Patrick Haney.

The lecture, which is open to the public, will consist of both speakers presenting a 20-25 minute answer to the question. The speakers will then field questions from students.

One of the aspects of the JANUS Forum that makes it unique from other types of lectures is that it is student run, according to Haney.

"This is all student driven," Haney said. "There are students that select these topics, that select the speakers, and it's a student who is going to moderate the event, and it's going to be students that ask questions at the event."

The event is focused around the idea of students being able to ask questions of the speakers, according to graduate student Tyler Sinclair.

"[Questioning the speakers] is the central component of [the forum] what sets it apart from other things is for the students to openly challenge what either speaker has said," Sinclair said.

Sinclair is also a member of the steering committee of the JANUS Forum, which decides on both the question debated in the forum and the speakers who are invited to lecture.

Sinclair, Buller and Haney all want the steering committee to consist of diverse set of students who have an interest in political and social issues.

After the first event, the JANUS Forum will be held once a semester.

Both Buller and Haney agree that the Forum provides an excellent opportunity for students to engage in political discussion.

"I think we've chosen the right topic," Buller said. "It's very timely. And I think we've chosen the right speakers."

Haney said he hopes that students with diverse opinions take the opportunity to engage with the speakers.

"We have big speakers here that come one at a time but to have two big speakers here at once, this is really neat and I hope that a broad set of Miami students will turn out," Haney said.

The forum will be held in Taylor Auditorium and will be followed by a reception with the speakers.

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