Westminster symposium features James Baker, other interesting speakers

Saturday, September 18, 2010 | 7:27 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The effects of nuclear war and the role of natural resources in conflict and peace are among the topics of a public symposium coming up at Westminster College in Fulton.

The fifth annual Symposium on Democracy is Tuesday and Wednesday.

If you go


What: Fifth annual Symposium on Democracy, Westminster College

When: Tuesday and Wednesday. A schedule is here.

Where: Most events will be held in Champ Auditorium, Westminster Avenue, Fulton

Admission: Free

For information: 573-592-5319 or


The main event is the 52nd Green Lecture on Wednesday afternoon, one in a series made famous more than 60 years ago with Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech. The speaker this year is James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state during the administration of George H.W. Bush. He will present a lecture called "The Case for Pragmatic Idealism."

The focus of the symposium this year is global conflicts.

"The notion of conflict and conflicts is something that affects us all," said Rob Havers, executive director of The National Churchill Museum and the Churchill Institute. Havers is in charge of the symposium, which will feature more than two dozen speakers and break-out sessions.

MU professor Steven Starr will discuss the threat of nuclear war to human civilization and existence. He will explain how 1 percent of the world’s operational nuclear arsenal could surround the Earth with smoke, destroy the protective ozone layer, cause Ice Age weather and prevent agriculture for a decade.

In an interview, Starr said smoke from a large nuclear war would block enough sunlight to cause daily minimum temperatures in Iowa and Ukraine to drop below freezing every day for several years.

"The U.S. and Russia have 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, and their presidents can order the launch of the nuclear forces in less than a minute," Starr said. "Is it democratic to give that power to one man?"

This is just a taste of what the symposium has to offer. Other topics include creating a national policy for reconciliation, the relationship between religion and violence, and the development of insurgency groups. 

Westminster College classes are canceled on both days, so the whole community can attend these informational sessions.

Free tickets are still available to see Baker, from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday. Because of limited auditorium space, tickets are necessary.


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