Rove, Markey, Burke, Andrés to headline Distinguished Speaker Series

The inside wall of Tisch College is pictured on Feb 13, 2018. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives

Tisch College of Civic Life announced its fall events, including who will speak at its Distinguished Speaker Series, in an email on Tuesday. According to Jessica Byrnes, the special projects administrator at Tisch College, previous events have included former vice presidents and business leaders.

This year’s speaker series will include political consultant Karl Rove, U.S. Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey, activist Tarana Burke and food justice advocate José Andrés.

According to the Tisch College website, Rove was the senior adviser to former President George W. Bush from 2000 to 2007. The email states that Rove worked in several different offices, including as Deputy Chief of Staff, and worked with Bush in his gubernatorial and presidential elections. Rove will be at Tufts on Sept. 25.

Markey, according to Jennifer McAndrew, the director of communications, strategy and planning at Tisch College, has represented Medford for his entire political career. He was a co-author, along with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of the Green New Deal resolution. Markey received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Tufts last year. Markey will speak at Tufts on Oct. 7.

Burke, who founded the #MeToo movement more than a decade ago, will come to Tufts on Nov. 7. Burke has advocated for justice for victims of sexual violence, particularly women of color, for 25 years and was featured in TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year 2017 issue as a “Silence Breaker.”

José Andrés is a chef and food justice advocate. The email states that he is the owner of the ThinkFoodGroup, which includes the World Central Kitchen, and he has delivered millions of meals to people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He will be at Tufts on Dec. 10.

Byrnes said in an interview with the Daily that the Distinguished Speaker Series began in the fall of 2014 at the initiative of Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont when Senator Elizabeth Warren came to campus.

“We launched [the Distinguished Speaker Series] with that event, with the intent to host public leaders and a realm of different fields: journalism, media, government, private sector that are somehow related to civic life, to engage with students, to inspire them to showcase different pathways to civic engagement and talk about really important issues that we’re facing today,” Byrnes said.

According to Byrnes, Tisch College relies heavily on recommendations of students, faculty, staff and alumni as well as  current events to find interesting and relevant speakers. She added that the college makes selections based on diversity of opinions, pointing particularly to Rove, a conservative speaker.

“We’re always looking to get speakers who represent opinions on the ideological spectrum, and I think it can be a challenge for Tufts to find conservative speakers to come just because Tufts tends to be a more liberal campus,” she said.

McAndrew stressed that ideological diversity made up only one part of the search for speakers, emphasizing that for all events, including those outside of the Distinguished Speaker Series, Tisch College seeks younger speakers such as Congressman Will Hurd, who will speak at Tufts on Friday.

Byrnes elaborated on this point, saying that gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and differing academic and professional fields are considered in measuring the diversity of the events over a semester. In particular, Byrnes mentioned that Tisch College has never hosted a chef as one of its speakers.

“I think that’s a really cool opportunity to talk about food policy and some of the incredible work that’s coming out of the Friedman School of Nutrition and a lot of undergraduate groups on-campus and at the Fletcher School that work around food policy,” she said.

In an emailed statement to the Daily, Solomont emphasized the importance of the Distinguished Speaker Series.

“As we approach the 2020 national elections, we are keeping our eye on opportunities to bring candidates — of both parties — to campus, prioritizing event formats that allow students to ask questions directly. To that end, we are kicking things off with Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke this week, and we expect to add others this semester and next,” the statement said. 

According to McAndrew, 3,700 people attended last year’s Distinguished Speaker Series events.

“I think this lineup is particularly ambitious, and particularly diverse in a way that makes me really proud,” McAndrew said.

In addition to the Distinguished Speaker Series, the email announced several other events hosted by or that involve Tisch College, including the Beto O’Rourke town hall event which will happen later today, and a visit by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which will occur on Sept. 12.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Senator Ed Markey has represented Somerville during his entire political career. Markey has not always represented Somerville, but he has represented Medford. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.


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