The eyes of the nation
photos by Matthew Tennison
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U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton (pictured left) and Barack Obama (pictured right), democratic candidates for the U.S. Presidency in 2008, spoke on April 13 to an audience of more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff, religious leaders, elected officials, and other invited guests gathered in Messiah’s Brubaker Auditorium, and to an audience of millions through the live broadcast of the event by CNN. Republican candidate John McCain was invited but declined. The Compassion Forum was an opportunity for the candidates to discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on important issues.
The Compassion Forum was more than another stop along the campaign trail, and more than simply another chance for the candidates to garner attention. It was a chance for the presidential candidates to express their commitment to addressing humanitarian issues such as abortion, climate change, poverty, HIV, and the use of torture. The Forum also provided a venue for people of various faith organizations to voice to these policymakers the urgency of addressing these issues of moral significance.
Faith in Public Life (FPL) — a non-profit, non-partisan organization that serves as a resource for diverse faith leaders and organizations — sponsored the Forum in cooperation with The One Campaign and Oxfam America and served as the lead organizer of the event. According to FPL ’s director of communications strategy, Katie Barge, FPL “seeks to transform the faith and values debate in politics, promote justice and the common good, and amplify the efforts of faith leaders bridging ideological divides to address pressing moral issues.”
Newsweek magazine editor Jon Meacham and CNN anchor Campbell Brown moderated the Forum, which was broadcast live on CNN and drew more than 125 local and national journalists and photographers to campus.
D. Kelly Phipps, spouse of Messiah College President Kim Phipps, has been involved with Faith in Public Life over the past couple of years. He observed that Messiah, as a Christian college, was perfectly positioned to host the Forum, especially as the Pennsylvania primary grew in importance. He says, “Our nation has always injected faith into the political conversation — so why can’t we talk about it now, and what better place to do that than at a school that’s been infusing their education with faith for generations?”
“The Compassion Forum was a historic event for Messiah College and the nation. It is my hope that thoughtful and respectful conversations about significant moral issues will be central to our continuing dialogue,” says President Kim Phipps.
Weeks of planning and preparations on campus went into hosting this groundbreaking event, and in the next few pages we invite you to share in the experience of the days leading up to and including this momentous occasion— momentous for Messiah College, and for our nation.
—Susan K. Getty ’84