By ABBY BIESMAN
This year’s lineup for the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium was announced Saturday. This year’s theme is “Voices that Shaped Today, Visions that Frame Tomorrow.”
Speakers include the following: Joe Lieberman was the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential candidate and is a former senator from Connecticut. D. Watkins is a writer and activist from Baltimore. Dershowitz is the author of New York Times bestselling book The Case for Israel. DuVerna is the director of the Academy Award Best Picture nominated movie Selma. Ostrovsky is a Jewish comedian known as the “Fat Jew.” Lauren is the CEO and founder of FEED, an organization that combats world hunger.
Senior Ariel Zahler, the symposium’s finance chair, discussed that past themes had been analyzed before choosing this year’s theme.
“I think the first thing we did is we looked back at all the past slogans and brochures within the past MSE, and there’s many different themes,” Zahler said.
Junior Nicole Michelson, programming co-chair for the symposium, spoke about the development of this year’s theme in comparison to previous years.
“A broad theme like ‘Voices that Shaped Today, Visions that Frame Tomorrow,’ allowed for us to include a wide variety of speakers,” Michelson said. “And, on that note, we have speakers that can speak to the recent events in Baltimore, someone who can speak to the Iran deal and the current crisis in the Middle East, someone who can talk about
incorporating community service as part of her livelihood.”
The diversity of this year’s topics was partially designed to help increase the diversity of the speakers.
“If you look at past years, there’s only one type on figure, so we couldn’t speak to the diversity on the student body, and our goal this year was to improve on that point,” Michelson said.
There are different ways to go about contracting speakers, whether through booking agencies or by reaching out personally.
“This was the first year we tried to stay away from booking companies as much as possible because at the end on the day we have to deal within a strict budget, and speakers are extraordinarily expensive,” MIchelson said.
Using booking companies entails paying processing, speaker, and bureau fees. This year, the symposium wrote personal letters to different speakers to try to make personal connections.
“We compiled a huge spreadsheet on all the speakers we were targeting, and we had members of our staff write personal letters to each speaker, so half our speakers this year are results of these letters, and the other half, we did have to go through booking agencies,” Michelson said.
Junior Jeremy Fraenkel, co-programming chair for the symposium, discussed the process of compiling potential speakers.
“We had a Google spreadsheet, and people would add names overtime,” Fraenkel said.
As current events unfolded, staff would add different members to the list. All of the presidential candidates were contacted. For a variety of reasons, presidential candidates were unable to attend. Maryland also typically votes democratic, so there was also less draw.
“It grew overtime and was a reflection on the staff’s interests, the school’s interests, and what’s going on in the world around us,” Michelson said.
Each year, MSE collaborates with the HOP and brings in a comedian. This year, the comedian is Ostrovsky, the “Fat Jew.”
“Of course, the Fat Jew is an interesting choice, but one that I personally love. It’ll be a comic relief from the rest of the speakers,” sophomore Anisha Anand said.
Zahler also commented on the Ostrovsky’s presence in this year’s lineup.
“He connects with students in a social media aspect,” Zahler said. “It’s so tangible and within a post, he’s reaching millions and millions of people our age.”
The first speaker for this year’s series is Lauren Bush Lauren. Her talk will be followed by a FEED supper. Instead of bringing something, guests are asked to donate to the FEED foundation. Lauren would like to spread this initiative to university campuses. There will be a $5 entry fee for an all-you-can-eat meal featuring food from Baltimore vendors and Bon Appetit. The event will be held in the Glass Pavilion and will offer students the opportunity to interact with MSE staff as well as Lauren.
All the MSE events are free to the general public. Reserved seating is $25, and a season pass costs $90.
Sophomore Anisha Anand appreciates the variety of MSE speakers.
“I think there’s a fantastic lineup this semester with the MSE Symposium. There’s a wide range of people with a very diverse range of opinions,” Anand said. “From politicians to political activists who offer different viewpoints on politics, and especially with Dwight Watkins who was a political activist in Baltimore. I think that’s going to be very relevant and interesting to us as college students in the Baltimore areas, as well as students who participated in the protests a few months ago.”
Sophomore Molly Brambil also commented on the range on this year’s speakers.
“It makes me proud to go to school where we can get big names like Joe Lieberman to come,” Brambil wrote in an e-mail to The News-Letter. “It also seems like a lot of the speakers in the lineup can speak to issues that are very relevant right now, like Dwight Watkins on Baltimore and Alan Dershowitz on Israel.”
Sophomore Joanna Schneider noted the significance of the individual speakers.
“They’re people who are trying to change the world,” Schneider said.