Board of Directors
Current and Proposed Projects and Programs of the international Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy
The Presidential Nominating Process
This project continues the Center’s highly successful Inaugural Program: The Presidential Nominating Process—Then and Now. Panelists for the program included Senators Adlai E. Stevenson III, George McGovern and Richard Lugar; Representative John Anderson; Reverend Jesse Jackson; Alderman Edward Burke; presidential historian Richard Norton Smith and journalist Bill Kurtis. The program was carried on C Span; a DVD recording of the program will be made available to schools and researchers. In keeping with the Center’s Mission, the project aims to bring authorities with political experience together with scholars, journalists and other experts to address weaknesses in the presidential nominating system. Practices in other countries will be studied. More than $1 billion will be contributed to presidential candidates in the current election cycle, most of it for media and marketing. The Center is planning a meeting to refine the on going project which is expected to include more panel discussions, experts in residence and cooperative efforts with institutions in the U.S. and foreign countries. Planning will also focus on ways to communicate findings and impact the political process.
Media, Information and Democracy
As James Madison explained, a self governing people will be empowered with knowledge or their democracy will become a farce, tragedy or both. This is fundamental. How can people be empowered with truth in the information age? For Governor Stevenson, democracy was not a means of achieving power – it was an end in itself, a means of informing the people. Surveys indicate that the people of other developed democracies – and some less developed – are better informed than Americans. One Center project examines differences in media in the United States, Europe, Canada, China, Russia and other countries. It will compare media ownership and financing, broadband access and non-profit media in other countries. Project director Ron Orol is a Canadian journalist working in Washington. The project is a discrete part of a wide ranging, long term Media, Information and Democracy project involving U.S. and foreign institutions, inter alia, examining evidence of media bias in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.
The Judicial Selection Process
The U.S. is the only developed country that elects judges. State Supreme Court judicial contests are beginning to attract millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Studies begin to correlate the rulings of justices with the interests of contributors. Judicial contests lengthen ballots, diluting the attention of voters. The Stevenson Center, plans a conference to define issues and refine a project to improve judicial selection and indirectly strengthen the U.S. democratic system of government. With guidance from this planning session, the Center will develop a detailed proposal and budget for an on going project, again emphasizing practical results. All Center projects are aimed at the political blood stream.
Ad hoc Programs
In addition to in-depth projects, the Stevenson Center is responding to ad hoc requests and opportunities. For example, a delegation from Russia was briefed at the historic Stevenson home on the implications of the 2008 election. (A large percentage of visitors to the home are foreign tourists.) Other projects will be open to the general public and pursue the Center’s mission of public outreach and involvement. Potential partners include the Lake County Discovery Museum, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, universities and research institutes, the Chicago History Museum. The Center is already working with teachers at the nearby Adlai Stevenson High School and involving faculty and students in its programs. The Mikva Challenge is another illustrative possibility. It works with high school students throughout Chicago and challenges them to be involved in the political process. A speech contest has been suggested for students at the historic site. It might feature an introductory talk and recordings to convey the power of political speech in American politics, highlighting those of Governor Stevenson. The service buildings include an exhibit on Stevenson, lecture hall and residence for visiting scholars.
The Democracy Portal
The Stevenson Center plans to develop a web site that will serve as a portal to other centers world-wide exploring democracy and other political systems. The site will include links to these sites and provide a public forum for the discussion of political issues, events and theories. The site will archive relevant materials (documents, audio and video files) and be a clearinghouse. The purpose is to provide access to information and be a focal point for discussion. This will be a highly interactive site useful for journalists, students, policy-makers, analysts and others. The Portal will also highlight the work of the international Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy.