March 13th, 2008
Messiah College has been selected to host the Compassion Forum, an event in which the leading presidential candidates of both political parties have been invited to discuss compassion issues that bridge the theological spectrum. The Compassion Forum is scheduled for the evening of April 13.
President Kim S. Phipps sent this announcement to campus on March 13, 2008:
Dear Messiah College Students and Employees:
I am excited to inform you of an unprecedented opportunity that has been extended to our campus community to contribute to the dialogue surrounding significant issues of the 2008 presidential election.
Messiah College has been selected to host the Compassion Forum, an event in which the leading presidential candidates of both political parties have been invited to discuss pressing moral issues that bridge ideological divides within our nation. Invitations are being actively considered by Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, and Senator Barack Obama. The Compassion Forum is scheduled for the evening of Sunday, April 13, in Brubaker Auditorium, and will be covered by mainstream media and religious media outlets alike—including the Church Communication Network, which will broadcast the event to tens of thousands of people of faith in at least 1,000 congregations nationwide on April 20, the Sunday evening before the Pennsylvania primary. In anticipation of the candidates’ acceptance, officials from Faith in Public Life, the Washington, DC-based resource center for faith leaders that is organizing the event, and members of the Secret Service visited campus last week to tour our facilities and to begin planning the logistics for the event.
The Compassion Forum is sponsored by the faith community, represented by the Compassion Forums Board, which includes nationally prominent religious leaders from across the faith and ideological spectrum. Organizational sponsors of the forum include the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities; the ONE Campaign (an effort to rally Americans to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty); and Oxfam America (an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice).
The Compassion Forum will be a unique event—not another traditional debate. Each candidate will participate in a separate substantive conversation. The Forum will be moderated by Jon Meacham, editor of “Newsweek,” author of “American Gospel,” and a respected scholar on faith and American politics. Conversation topics will focus on compassion and social justice issues such as U.S. and global poverty; AIDS; climate change; Darfur; and human rights.
The compassion, reconciliation, and social justice issues to be discussed at this forum are relevant to the mission and values of Messiah College. As host organization, Messiah will be able to create important educational opportunities for our students related to this event. However, due to space limitations and security constraints, attendance at the forum will be by-invitation only, and a limited allocation of tickets will be made available for members of the Messiah College community. We are also pursuing strategies to simulcast the Compassion Forum to other on-campus venues where student and employee “watch parties” will be held.
Because the Compassion Forum is scheduled only nine days before the Pennsylvania primary, we expect to have considerable interest from the national media, and the nationwide network of churches and general public audience that will have access to the forum broadcast. This is an exceptional opportunity to create national visibility for Messiah College among important constituent groups while influencing critical conversation about significant cultural and societal issues.
I want to thank Kelly Phipps for his role in utilizing his contacts with Faith in Public Life and for consistently advocating that Messiah College would be an excellent host site for this event. I also want to express appreciation to Kathie Shafer, vice president for operations, and Carla Gross, director of marketing and public relations/special assistant to the president for communication, for co-leading the campus team that is planning and implementing Messiah’s involvement in the Compassion Forum. The success of this event will only be realized because of their leadership and the volunteer efforts of many campus community members.
Due to the rapid timing of this opportunity, the College will need to reschedule numerous campus events that were previously scheduled to use campus facilities and public spaces. I am in conversation with the people and organizations that will be affected by this change, and I am grateful for their cooperation. We are currently determining many logistical details, including ticketing, facilities, and technology and security arrangements. These decisions will likely affect many aspects of campus life and operations in the weeks preceding the Compassion Forum. Details of the forum planning will be shared with the campus community as they are confirmed (the College will soon launch a Compassion Forum web site).
As president, I welcome the opportunity of demonstrating the distinctiveness of Messiah College’s mission and the excellence of our educational program, students, and employees to a national audience.
Kim S. Phipps