Pepperdine has recently launched its President's Speakers Series. The series features distinguished scholars and thought leaders representing diverse points of view to examine topics and issues facing our communities and the world today. Driven by a desire to connect deeply with our community and inspire meaningful dialogue, the series provides opportunities to cultivate an engaged and impassioned collective through civil discourse.
The lecture will be hosted via Zoom and is open to the public. Attendance is free, but all guests must register in advance.
We are honored to be able to catch up with President of Pepperdine University Jim Gash for this exclusive interview.
Q: Jim, thanks for doing this interview with us. You have recently launched the "President's Speaker Series," what is this series about?
The speaker series is about modeling civil discourse at its best. As a deeply Christian university in the midst of a dramatically polarized society, Pepperdine is uniquely positioned to be a place for serious academic debate through thoughtful and respectful discourse on the most challenging issues of our day. This series is designed as an invitation to thought leaders around the world to come to Pepperdine to engage in important conversations marked by grace and truth.
Q: What are some of the topics that will be covered in this series?
The topics will be determined by the issues that divide us. We need to find ways to bring people together to find common ground and solutions through rigorous debate. At Pepperdine, we affirm that the truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be relentlessly pursued in every discipline. Accordingly, I can imagine we will host topics such as freedom of speech, academic freedom, race relations, faith and culture, faith and justice, and many more.
Q: Who are and will be some of the special speakers in this series?
Last week we opened our inaugural President's Speaker Series with Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Robert George discussing the absence of civil discourse in our country and how we can reclaim it in a session called, "Honesty and Courage, Hope and Humility." During Black History Month in February, one of our alums, Bernard Kinsey of the internationally renowned Kinsey Collection of African American Art, will speak on "What I Didn't Learn in High School History Class," which will touch on the African American experience in present-day America. We are in the invitation process for our April event but we hope to focus on the topic of overcoming the political and religious divide our country is experiencing.
Q: How often will these talks be available?
We hope to host one more event in April 2021 and then host approximately four events each year going forward.
Q: What are the goals of this series? How will these talks impact our society, our communities, and our own lives?
At my core, I believe that the best solution for bad speech is more speech. I believe that we can solve serious problems together if three things are present. First, we need talk to each other. With all of the bluster on social media, there is an abundance of chatter, but we are not talking to each other. We are talking at each other or about each other.
Second, we need to listen to each other. Most of us listen long enough to formulate our rebuttal and then we shut the other person off. This often takes only a few seconds. If we were to desire to understand each other first, and listen to understand, our country and our world would see that we share more common ground than disputed ground. Third, we need to adopt the humility to learn from each other.
With humility front and center, I believe we can formulate solutions to our biggest challenges. That is the purpose of this series--to model what it looks like to talk, listen, and learn from those with whom we disagree on important matters. I want to build a platform and reputation at Pepperdine that will become a light to our nation and bring people together to talk. The impact will speak for itself, but I believe we can lead people back to a common vision for humanity.
Q: Where and how can our readers watch these lectures?
The series and links to register are posted and will be updated on the Pepperdine University President's Speakers Series webpage.