A Semester to Remember

As 2009 draws to a close, GW Today looks back on some highlights of the fall semester.

December 22, 2009

By Jamie L. Freedman

The excitement never ebbed at GW this semester, as national and world leaders; Supreme Court justices; top media, entertainment and business personalities; and leading policymakers flocked to campus to serve as keynote speakers and guests at a wide range of events.

First Lady Michelle Obama paid two visits to campus this fall. On Veterans Day, she and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, addressed the GW community at Lisner Auditorium at an event sponsored by Service Nation.

Earlier in the semester, during the first National Day of Service and Remembrance on Sept. 11, the first lady offered a challenge to the GW community as part of the inaugural Freshman Day of Service: if students, faculty and staff perform 100,000 hours of community service this academic year, she will speak at the 2010 Commencement on May 16. At the Veterans Day event, she praised the University for already clocking a substantial number of community service hours, stating, “If you keep it up, maybe I’ll see you in May.”

On Nov. 28, President Barack Obama and the first family made the quick jaunt from the White House to GW’s Charles E. Smith Center to watch the Colonials take on Oregon State, coached by the first lady’s brother. GW President Steven Knapp greeted the first family prior to the game and presented President Obama with a Colonials jersey, shorts and a signed basketball. Sen. Mark Warner, B.A. ’77, also hit the basketball court in November for his annual pickup basketball game at GW — a tradition going back to his days as a GW student.

Other U.S. senators visiting GW this fall included John Kerry (D-Mass.), who keynoted a conference at the Elliott School of International Affairs on Sept. 10, and Mike Enzi, B.B.A. ’66 (R-Wyo.), who shared career advice with students at a Sept. 29 event hosted by the Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity and the GW College Republicans.

In a Nov. 5 visit to campus, cosponsored by GW and the D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose, former vice president and Nobel laureate Al Gore discussed his new book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.

Two of the country’s most influential policymakers, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, came to campus Oct. 5 for a CNN-aired roundtable on the reach and limitations of American power. The sold-out event, moderated by CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno, was the second installment of the 2009-2010 GW Public Affairs Project Conversation Series.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale kicked off this year’s conversation series on Sept. 23 with a discussion of his life in public service and the direction of the Obama-Biden White House.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the seventh Supreme Court justice to visit GW in recent years, delivered the keynote address Oct. 15 for the opening event of the George Washington Law Review Symposium. In another well-attended event, Kenneth Feinberg, who oversees executive compensation for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) at the Treasury Department, keynoted a Law Symposium on regulatory reform Oct. 23 at GW Law School. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary also delivered a keynote at the symposium.

The Law School also welcomed Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, on Oct. 21, who delivered a policy speech on the department’s goals and challenges. That same day, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush outlined his vision for the Republican party at a GW event.

On Oct. 15, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, M.B.A. ’71, presented the inaugural Colin Powell Public Service Award to Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, M.A. ’92, at a “Celebration of Service” dinner at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. At the event, Ms. Duckworth commended GW for being the first institution of higher education in the District and one of the nation’s first to offer significant commitment under the Yellow Ribbon program. President Knapp announced GW’s investment in the program at an event in Kogan Plaza on April 28, alongside Ms. Duckworth and former Virginia Senator John Warner.

On the entertainment front, comedian Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, headlined Colonials Weekend with two crowd-pleasing shows Oct. 17 at the Smith Center poking fun at politics. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore urged GW students to remain politically active during a town hall-style discussion Sept. 29 in the Dorothy Betts Theatre sponsored by the GW College Democrats and the Program Board. In another College Democrats event on Sept. 21, David Plouffe spoke about his experiences as President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager. Musician Lupe Fiasco was interviewed by GW professor Frank Sesno for the History Channel’s “The People Speak” on Nov. 9 in the Jack Morton Auditorium.

Legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who has covered every president since John F. Kennedy, regaled GW students with a talk on presidents and politics Nov. 17 at an event hosted by WRGW News, GW Television and the School of Media and Public Affairs. Alumni Weekend brought another veteran journalist, ABC News’ Sam Donaldson, to campus Oct. 4 for a “Sunday Conversation” and brunch with some 125 alumni at GW, and hosted a conversation on global imbalances with Washington Post columnist Steve Pearlstein. CNN Senior Correspondent Dana Bash, B.A. ’93, and presidential adviser David Gergen spoke at a Luther Rice Society event on Sept. 15. Ms. Bash also delivered the keynote address at Colonials Weekend.

Some of the world’s top thinkers, analysts and policymakers gathered at GW Dec. 6-7 for a two-day conference on trends, issues and ideas affecting the world in the upcoming year and beyond. Hosted by The Economist, “The World in 2010” examined issues ranging from the economy and education to politics and sports. Panelists included David Gregory, host of NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), B.A. ’85, and Austan Goolsbee of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

On the other side of the globe, nearly 200 GW faculty, alumni, friends and Asia experts gathered in Hong Kong Nov. 13-14 to exchange insights on political, economic, security and foreign policy issues facing the United States and Asia today at GW’s inaugural Global Forum. At the forum, Susan C. Schwab, Ph.D. ’93, former U.S. trade representative, and William A. Owens, M.S. ’76, an admiral and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered keynote addresses.

A number of leaders from around the globe visited Foggy Bottom this fall. Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat laid out his vision for Jerusalem Nov. 6 at a well-attended event hosted by the Middle East Policy Forum at the Elliott School. World-famous Russian Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko recited a selection of his renowned poems to a packed crowd of more than 300 people Oct. 21 at GW.

It was an equally unforgettable semester in the awards department, with the University collecting top honors in a range of categories. GW was the proud recipient of the Washington Business Journal’s Green Business Award for Innovation for its Green Move-out program, a multifaceted effort by students, administration, staff, local businesses and nonprofit organizations to make the move-out process environmentally friendly. In December, GW was the inaugural recipient of the Educational Visionary Award, part of the Hispanic Leadership Awards sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America, in recognition of its commitment to educating and encouraging future public servants and its academic outreach efforts focused on Hispanic populations.

GW ranked seventh (tied with Harvard and Columbia Universities) on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of “Top U.S. Producers of Fulbright Students” for research institutions. G.I. Jobs magazine recognized GW for its students’ service and added GW to its 2010 list of “Military Friendly Schools,” which honors the top 15 percent of institutions of higher education that are “doing the most to embrace American’s veterans as students.”

George Washington University students ranked first in the nation for “Most Politically Active Students” in the 2010 Princeton Review: The Best 371 Colleges. GW also earned top honors as the most active university on Twitter, with staff members posting some 58 tweets per day on GW’s 17 accounts. Finally, the University ranked as one of the Top 25 “Best Neighbor” Colleges and Universities in a study by Westfield State College recognizing schools that have a positive impact on their urban communities.

As the calendar turns to 2010, GW anticipates yet another year of prominent visitors and high-profile events—including the return of the first lady for Commencement. GW Today looks forward to providing full coverage of the events in the months ahead.

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