Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 5, 1996

Juniors Capece, Shalom Set Sights On "Defining 
Generation X"

Steve Libowitz

     No sooner had juniors David Capece and Jeff Shalom been
selected as co-chairs of the 1996 Milton S. 

     Eisenhower Symposium than they met with their first
obstacle. It had nothing to do with funding or speakers or any of
the myriad details that await them in the coming year. It had to
do with unflattering peer perceptions. And they didn't like it

     Capece and Shalom will present "Defining Generation X," the
30th Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium, organized in 1967 to honor
Hopkins' eighth president. They believe the topic provides great
opportunities for both intellectual discussion and entertainment,
two key ingredients, they say, intended by Eisenhower. However,
upon hearing this year's topic, an editorial in the student
newspaper, The News-Letter, questioned whether "such a
'McSymposium' [is] really in keeping with the goals of an
institution of higher learning."

     "Definitely," Shalom says. "We selected this topic because
it has great flexibility to both educate and entertain, which is
our goal. We will bring top speakers to discuss a wide range of
issues: politics, sexuality, culture, technology."

     The two Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity brothers distilled the
idea for the symposium from hours talking at the Hutzler
Undergraduate Library. As they discussed their generation, which
is as much a media creation as it is any sort of definable cohort
of those born between 1960 and 1981, they focused on questions
that interested them: How has the absence of war affected the
attitudes of our generation? How has AIDS altered sexual values?
How are we being affected by computer technology? 

     "It's interesting to be labeled something," says Shalom, a
political science major. "I pretty much agree with it though. I
mean, fashions and music. Every day I run into aspects of this
generation. I can't avoid them. So, we think these are serious
issues to raise."

    And Capece and Shalom are serious too. They have to be.
Putting on the symposium, a popular, big-budget multinight
program that endeavors to attract top names and large audiences,
is almost a full-time job. That suits these two just fine.

     "During the intersession we worked every day 9 to 5," Capece

     "We've been told that as we get closer [to the first
lecture] it's more like 24 hours a day," Shalom says. "We'll just
live it. I love it."

     Part of the attraction for Capece and Shalom, like chairs
before them, is that the symposium is more than just an
extracurricular activity.

     "It's a real honor and privilege to be selected," Capece

     "When I was accepted to Hopkins," Shalom says, "I think one
reason was to contribute to the school because my numbers were
not that high. I had two frat brothers who did the "Sexuality in
America" symposium [1993], and I was just in awe of them. I knew
that I wanted to do it."

     Two months into the nearly yearlong planning process, Capece
and Shalom are finding out just what it means to "do it."

     The symposium is totally managed by undergraduates. Every
year a team of two or three is chosen by the student council to
arrange the entire event, which features prominent speakers
addressing an aspect of an important national or international
issue. Previous figures include former ambassador Averell
Harriman, former Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren, former
U.S. senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, newscasters
David Brinkley and Carl Bernstein, economist John Kenneth
Galbraith, psychologist Jean Piaget, sex researchers Masters and
Johnson, and authors Marshall McLuhan, Kurt Vonnegut and Taylor

     So expectations are high. Perhaps more so because last
year's symposium, on a century of movies, did not attract large
audiences, and often speakers addressed barely three dozen. But
besides lining up speakers and attracting an audience, symposium
chairs are also expected to raise somewhere between $30,000 and
$50,000 to supplement a modest student council allocation. That
takes dozens of hours of soliciting funds from the Alumni
Association, private donors, corporations, foundations and from
grants. Other than informal input and support from whoever the
chairs feel appropriate, the success or failure of the annual
event falls on students' shoulders, which is one of the most
unique aspects of the symposium.

     "I don't really feel the pressure, yet. I'm interested in
business, so this is a lot of what attracted me to the
symposium," says Capece, a biology major. "But the work is a
little more than I expected, but it's nothing we can't handle."

     With eight months to go, the two have been handling a lot
already, meeting with administrators, writing grant proposals and
letters to potential donors, and contacting agents for a wide
range of possible speakers. Although the two have not signed
anyone to date, their proposal to the student council suggests
they have set their sights on some of the country's most familiar
names, among them talk show host David Letterman, editor John
Kennedy Jr., model Cindy Crawford, designer Ralph Lauren, first
lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, House speaker Newt Gingrich, Olympic
diver Greg Louganis, musicians Bono, Sheryl Crow, Boyz II Men and
Queen Latifah, Microsoft president Bill Gates, and the man who
first dubbed his generation "X," author Douglas Coupland.

     Capece and Shalom have yet to finalize the format, other
than to aspire to bring to the Homewood campus six to eight
speakers and sprinkle other activities--such as a concert and a 
film screening--throughout the symposium, which they plan to kick
off in early September.

     A lot has to be done between now and then, including Shalom
and Capece's course work. But the one thing they say they don't
have time for is worrying about critics. 

     "Eisenhower's legacy was to get people out and to have fun,
and that's what we are planning," Shalom says.

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