Luminaries from across cultural and political
spectrums will once again journey to Johns Hopkins'
Homewood campus as part of the annual Milton S. Eisenhower
Symposium, a student-run lecture series
that this year celebrates its first four decades.
Author, journalist and literary critic Christopher
Hitchens will lead off the year's symposium
with a talk at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18, in Shriver Hall
Auditorium. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and a
reception in the Clipper Room follows the event.
Hitchens, a pundit whose nonfiction often courts
controversy, is the first of seven speakers in
this year's symposium, the theme of which is Renewing
American Culture: The Perspectives That
Shape Our Identity.
Jonathan Collins, a senior engineering student and
co-chair of the event, said that the
organizers wanted an expansive theme that could incorporate
many ideas and grand social issues.
"We are trying re-examine what it means to be American
and how people value their everyday
lives and American ideals," Collins said. "But like always,
we wanted to bring in national figures who had
something important to say and would draw crowds."
Collins said that the event's planners also wanted a
local feel. To that end, the symposium will
feature a talk on Sept. 26 by David Simon, creator of HBO's
The Wire, author of Homicide: Life On
the Streets and a former reporter at The Baltimore
Sun, and one on Oct. 10 by Maryland Gov. and
former Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Other scheduled speakers are actor Danny Glover on
Oct. 12; award-winning documentary
filmmaker Rory Kennedy (daughter of Robert F. Kennedy) on
Oct. 17; Bill Nye, the Science Guy, on
Oct. 23; political satire troupe the Capitol Steps on Nov.
2; and actor Edward James Olmos on Nov. 8.
All lectures will take place in Shriver Hall, last
approximately 45 minutes and be followed by a
question-and-answer period and a reception.
Collins said that each talk will deal with a timely
social issue or perspective.
"Bill Nye, for example, will talk about climate
change, and Danny Glover will discuss his role with
UNICEF," he said. "We want people to come and just listen,
and hopefully these talks will inspire more
discussion, whether that means coming to some sort of
conclusion on a topic, or just a deeper
Established in 1967 to honor the university's eighth
president, the annual MSE Symposium is an
undergraduate-run lecture series, free and open to the
public, that brings to campus renowned
speakers with a variety of perspectives on issues of
national importance. The symposium has drawn a
star-studded roster that includes Nelson Mandela, Aaron
Copland, Kurt Vonnegut, Maya Angelou, Spike
Lee, Charlton Heston, Carl Bernstein, George McGovern,
Eugene McCarthy, Russell Simmons, Bob
Woodward, Patricia Ireland, Wesley Clark, Isaac Asimov,
Antonin Scalia, Ben Stein, Howard Zinn and
This year's co-chairs are Collins, Jon Bernhardt, a
junior majoring in international relations, and
Nora Krinitsky, a junior majoring in history.
The chairs receive some funding from Student Council
and raise the balance from university
departments, corporations and foundations. They are also
responsible for everything else, a daunting
array of tasks that includes booking auditoriums; arranging
for hotels, dinners and receptions for the
guests; securing the sound system; and publicizing the
Leadoff speaker Hitchens has been a regular guest on
politically themed cable TV shows like
The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher. His newest
book, a New York Times bestseller, is God
Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. His
other titles include The Missionary Position:
Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice; a book about
President Clinton's family titled No One Left to
Lie to: The Values of the Worst Family; A Long Short War:
The Postponed Liberation of Iraq; and The
Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favorite Fetish.
He has written columns for Vanity Fair, The
Nation and Slate, and he contributes to The
New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The
New York Times Book Review, The Los
Angeles Times Book Review, The Atlantic Monthly and
Collins said he is looking forward to meeting all the
speakers, several of whom he and other
symposium staff will be dining with the evening of their
talks. He said that the opportunity to meet
such distinguished guests will make the long hours
"This has been a great responsibility and a lot of
hard work," he said. "But it's also been fun."
While admission to all the events is free, a seat near
the stage at all events can be secured with
the purchase of a $50 season pass. For a pass or more
information about the talks, go to the MSE
Symposium Web site at