Campus News

House Speakers to Honor Clay in Lexington

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 31, 2011) — Lexington will mark the 200th anniversary of Henry Clay's place as America's first speaker of the House with a historic gathering of its own.

The city and its universities will welcome a group of former speakers of the House to Transylvania University (where Clay taught law) at 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 24 for a commemorative celebration in conjunction with the 2011 Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship Student Congress.

"Don’t be surprised if you run into some policy activists, public officials, foreign ambassadors or even speakers of the House wandering about UK’s campus in June," said Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, director of University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. "In the past, the student congress has drawn celebrities like actor Richard Dreyfuss, NBC journalist John Harwood, and Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, but this year we have pulled out all the stops. With John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) participating, students will hear firsthand about the need for bipartisanship and the challenges of finding common ground and achieving compromise in America’s rarified political environment.”

Former speakers Jim Wright (D-Texas) and Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) have also confirmed their attendance.

UK and the Patterson School play a pivotal role in this organization that seeks to help foster the ideals advanced by Clay —constructive dialogue, compromise, reconciliation and peacemaking — in the next generation of American leaders.

The speakers event is one of more than 20 being held in conjunction with the 2011 Congress.

Each year the Henry Clay Center brings 51 rising university seniors (one from each state and the District of Columbia) to Lexington for a week. The students start their week at Henry Clay’s Ashland estate and Transylvania University learning about the life of the “Great Compromiser” and focusing on state and local issues. They then spend a day in Frankfort at the State Capitol before coming to UK for two days to concentrate on national and international concerns.

At UK, the major focus is political engagement and peacemaking. "Students will hear from current and former politicians, as well as activists, about the need for genuine dialogue and compromise," said Cavanaugh, a former State Department peace negotiator. “This is essential when it comes to the ultimate questions of war and peace."

Key speakers at UK include Ambassador Dick Solomon, president of the U.S. Institute of Peace and John Marks, president of the Search for Common Ground, an international conflict resolution organization, as well as a few foreign ambassadors whose countries are now the focus of active peace efforts.

While the program will include major U.S. political leaders, Cavanaugh predicts that the most inspirational figure this year will in fact be a man from Burma.  Home Box Office has given the Patterson School permission to screen their recent documentary “Burma Soldier.”

This film recounts the story of Myo Myint, an extraordinary man who joined the Myanmar Army, was severely wounded in fighting with ethnic insurgents, and then risked everything to join Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy movement to advance peace in his homeland.

"We are excited that Myo Myint will come to UK and talk about his incredible journey from soldier to peace activist to prisoner to refugee," said Cavanaugh. "His moving tale underscores the power of an individual to rise above himself and take brave, bold steps for the common good."

The speakers of the House event is open to the general public. Tickets are available from the Lexington Center Box Office for $15 ($7.50 with Student ID).