By Greg Russell
In a year already filled with heated presidential political rhetoric, the University
of Memphis Student Government Association is bringing to campus two former high-profile
presidential candidates March 27 for what is expected to be a lively political debate.
Fred Thompson, who earned degrees from the U of M in political science and philosophy
in 1964 and who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, will join 2004
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean in Rose Theatre (tentatively at 7:30
p.m.) for a discussion of the upcoming election and other political issues. A reception
for students to meet the candidates will follow the event.
"We’re excited to bring them in," said SGA president Tyler DeWitt. "Both are still
influential in the political world and both had bids for president. And what better
speaker to start off with than an alumnus of the University, especially during our
DeWitt said he hopes this will be the start of a yearly political speaker series at
the U of M.
"The University isn’t always known for bringing in big-time political speakers on
a consistent basis. That is what we are hoping to do. We want to be a player nationally
in this sort of thing."
DeWitt said a goal is "to bring in a Clinton or a George Bush" in future years.
Thompson served as a U.S. Senator from 1994 to 2003. Campaigning primarily from his
red pickup, he rebounded from a 20-point deficit in the polls to win the Senate seat
by a 20-percent margin. While in the Senate, he served on several committees, including
the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the Finance Committee and
the Intelligence Committee.
On a Sept. 5, 2007 episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Thompson announced, "I’m running for President of the United States." In early 2008,
he withdrew his candidacy.
Thompson also is a noted actor. He appeared in The Hunt for Red October and No Way Out on the big screen. He was also a mainstay on the TV series Law & Order.
Dean served six terms as Vermont governor before unsuccessfully running for the presidential
nomination in 2004. He was considered the front-runner in early 2004, but eventually
lost the nomination to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. He was chair of the Democratic
National Committee from 2005 to 2009.
Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are among several other national politicians to appear
on campus in the past two decades.