McCall Center director: Facility will promote civic engagement, debate

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The Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation is in its first year of existence, but it builds on a long history at Pacific. 

In the early 1980s political science professor Russ Dondero and the president of Pacific, Bob Duvall, conspired to begin the Tom McCall Forum. Named after the most influential Oregon governor in the past 50 years, the forum’s goal was to bring policy makers to the Pacific community for a debate on big issues of the day.

Over the years the McCall Forum became one of the most important policy events in the Pacific Northwest. National figures, always one liberal and one conservative, came to debate. In 2005, newly appointed chair of the Democratic Party Howard Dean debated one of the architects of the Iraq War, Richard Perle. A protester threw his shoes at Perle. Quite exciting! Dueling syndicated columnists Molly Ivins and William Kristol zinged the issues with one-liners in 2004. The last McCall Forum in 2007 pitted Republican former UN ambassador John Bolton against one of the co-chairs of the 9/11 commission, Lee Bolton.

Pacific students, usually about five or six, played a major role in hosting and introducing the participants. For many of those students, that contact was one of the highlights of their undergraduate years.

With the retirement of Professor Dondero, Pacific decided to re-examine the McCall Forum. While it had been wildly successful at capturing the public’s attention with the Portland debates, the Forum participants were spending only about an hour on campus in a Q&A session with students. There was a feeling that larger numbers of students needed to be able to interact with the Forum headliners.

The McCall Center is our plan to do just that. Building on the long success of the Tom McCall Forum, the Center will encourage exploration of different political points of view and will provide public forums at which policy proposals will be explored. The Center will foster relationships between policymakers and Pacific to explore issues that are important to Tom McCall’s legacy and to the region’s future.

In addition to bigger events, the Center will coordinate with Pacific’s Civic Engagement Center to create experiences that fulfill the Civic Engagement cornerstone requirement. 

Look for events beginning in Spring 2011. There would have been a big event this past September, but Oregon’s gubernatorial candidates agreed to only one debate, leaving Pacific (and about 35 other groups statewide) out in the cold. 

The McCall Center is a great opportunity to blur the boundaries between Pacific and the larger community within which we live. It is an idea that has central to Pacific students’ experiences for almost 30 years. 

I hope to talk with many of you in the coming months as the McCall Center comes into shape and begins to make connections between Pacific and policy makers in many fields. It is an exciting idea—I’m looking forward to making it happen.

Jim Moore is the Director of the McCall Center and a professor in the Department of Politics and Government.


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