Sen. Bernie Sanders will take the podium at Fulton’s Westminster College at 11 a.m. Sept. 21, the college’s Facebook page announced at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Acting college President Carolyn Perry and Hancock Symposium director Kurt Jefferson announced the decision over Facebook Live in front of students and faculty. The Hancock Symposium is an annual, two-day event featuring lectures, panel discussions and presentations on global interests.
“I can just tell you that if the lecture is anything like the initial reaction from our students, then it’s going to be an exciting time,” Westminster spokesman Rob Crouse said. “There were mouths and eyes wide open with students jumping and hugging each other.”
Crouse said ticketing and media availability procedures will be announced sometime next week. He said that because Sanders is a public servant, he will not receive payment for his lecture.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont and a former candidate for president, will address the college through the John Findley Green Lecture Series, a foundation that works to promote speakers of international reputation, according to the National Churchill Museum’s website.
His lecture will focus on his beliefs in progressive American foreign policy, according to a Westminster news release.
“If you look at the history of our Green lecturers, there has been a procession of various figures who were prominent in the world and who had a passionate and important message that they felt they needed to share,” Crouse said.
Crouse said Mark Boulton, chairman of the Hancock Symposium, deserves much of the credit for getting in touch with Sanders.
“He was very persistent in just researching people that he could contact that might be able to get word to Sen. Sanders,” Crouse said. “He obviously was successful.”
The foundation was established in 1936 in memory of a St. Louis attorney and graduate of Westminster. The lectures are designed to encourage understanding of international economic and social problems.
Sanders will be the 58th speaker in the series.
Westminster was the site of Winston Churchill’s famous “Sinews of Peace” speech in 1946, at which he coined the term “Iron Curtain” as the European divide between East and West. Churchill’s speech is historically seen as a prediction of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall. Other well-known speakers at the college include former U.S. presidents Harry S. Truman, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, whose 1992 speech was regarded as the end of the Cold War.
“Ever since Winston Churchill, Westminster has seemed to be the ideal place because of its symbolic nature to deliver these addresses of global concern,” Crouse said.
The college uploaded a “Special Announcement” video to its YouTube channel Thursday in anticipation of Friday’s announcement. After Westminster posted the teaser video, several Facebook users tried to guess who the speaker might be. The predictions included Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter, Justin Trudeau and Mariah Carey.
Friday’s announcement comes after Sanders delivered a speech to a sold-out Iowa City crowd on Thursday evening promoting his book “Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution,” according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. In the speech, Sanders reprimanded President Donald Trump over his threats to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
In 2016, Sanders, 75, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination bid, eventually losing to Hillary Clinton. Sanders has participated in politics since serving as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from 1981 to 1989. While in college, he was heavily involved in the civil rights movement, including the 1963 March on Washington and a sit-in against off-campus housing segregation in 1962.
On April 30, 2015, Sanders announced he would seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. In a record-breaking fundraising campaign, Sanders relied heavily on individual donations instead of political action committees and garnered an unexpected progressive following, according to biography.com.
Along with the college’s international lecture series, Westminster College’s campus is home to the National Churchill Museum and the “Breakthrough” sculpture, built from slabs of the Berlin Wall. Founded in 1851, Westminster is a private, coeducational college about 25 miles from Columbia in Fulton.
“Once again, all eyes are on this small, liberal arts college in Fulton, MO,” Crouse said.