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Vanderbilt to launch project on Unity and American Democracy

The project debuts with a conversation series featuring Al Gore and Condoleezza Rice, led by Vanderbilt faculty member Jon Meacham. It's set to stream Jan. 14

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Tuesday, Vanderbilt University announced it is launching a new project on Unity and American Democracy. 

The project will debut Thursday, Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m. ET via streaming with a conversation between Vanderbilt faculty member Jon Meacham and former vice president of the United States Al Gore. 

Vanderbilt University said the project aims to "strengthen the nation’s democratic institutions by advancing evidence-based research into the national discourse on unity."

Gore will discuss the importance of evidence and reason in political discourse. 

“At a time of deeply troubling division within our country, universities are uniquely positioned to help unite our country through the advancement of research, scholarship and compelling dialogue,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. “There is an urgent need to supplant ideologies and inflammatory rhetoric with facts and evidence to advance our democracy and restore legitimacy to the institutions that support it.”

The conversation series will also feature former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

Rice will discuss her experience in assembling bipartisan support for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the largest global health program focused on a single disease in history. 

According to Vanderbilt University, the program has saved more than 18 million lives. 

The project will also highlight key moments in American history that can educate and inform potential solutions to our current problems. 

“American life is at a particularly fraught moment as the nation struggles to find its footing amid polarization, the pandemic, concerns about economic and racial justice, and loss of faith in institutions,” said Meacham, who holds the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in American Presidency at Vanderbilt. “By creating a uniquely compelling platform for thought leaders to deliver empirical findings, Vanderbilt can advance the national discourse and strengthen American democracy." 

The project is meant to create a dialogue across the political spectrum and stimulate an opportunity for new discourse among students and alumni. 

“Tennessee has a long-standing tradition of electing candidates focused on solving problems rather than scoring political points,” said Haslam, who served as mayor of Knoxville before his two terms as governor and was a distinguished visiting professor of political science at Vanderbilt.   

“Unity does not mean that we always agree on solutions or that fundamental philosophical differences will not continue to animate passionate Republicans and Democrats. However, we can aspire to a national consensus of a unified and abiding faith in America’s ongoing democratic experiment,” he added.