WEST PLAINS, Mo.– Missouri State University-West Plains will participate in Missouri State University’s 2017 Public Affairs Conference, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: Perspectives on Self-Government” April 4-7 by offering area residents the opportunity to hear conference speakers via interactive television (ITV).
Local campus officials joined forces with conference organizers at the Springfield campus to make arrangements for area residents to see and hear several of the event’s addresses on the local campus, said Brenda Polyard, director of Missouri State-West Plains’ University/Community Programs (U/CP) Department, which is hosting the event locally.
This year’s conference, the 13th hosted by the university, will serve as a vehicle for exploring both our rights and our responsibilities as citizens in a modern democracy, according to information on the conference website,
“American society in the 21st century has little in common with the era when the founding fathers crafted plans for the foundling republic,” said Dr. Kevin Pybas, associate professor of political science at Missouri State University in Springfield and this year’s provost fellow for public affairs. “Ever changing demographics, cultural mores, values, technologies, and understanding raise important questions for our nation… Are our rights endowments from the Creator, as the founders believed? Or are they best understood as positive rights, as bestowed upon us by government? What are the costs and benefits of the freedom our democracy affords? How do we balance majority rule with individual rights? What are the limits of free speech, of religious liberty, and of other rights we enjoy? What are the causes of political and social apathy? How have partisan politics impacted the conduct of our government? To what extent does government promote, or impede, economic equality? How does technology influence our understanding of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Should the United States seek to export democracy to foreign nations? Is the way America practices democracy the best way, or can we learn lessons from other democracies around the world? Is access to health care an unalienable right? These questions, and more, will be explored as we consider life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the 21st century.”
The keynote and plenary addresses that will be provided via ITV to the West Plains campus include:
• “How Did We Get Here? An Historical Perspective on Our Wild 2016 Election” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 4, Melton Hall Room 112. The world-renowned presidential historian will shine a spotlight on the changes in our political system over the past 150 years, bringing us to today and the most exhausting, electrifying and acrimonious presidential campaign cycle in recent history.
• “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Age of Global Terrorism” by Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, professor of physics and mathematics at FC College in Lahore, Pakistan, from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, in Lybyer Technology Center Room 214. Hoodbhoy, a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Affairs, will share how religious revivalism – Islamic, Hindu, Christian – is shaking three of the mightiest pillars that have sustained human progress since the European Enlightenment – humanism, science and nationalism.
• “Defending Free Speech for All: From Right to Left, and From Right to Wrong” by Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at New York Law School, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, in Lybyer Technology Center Room 214. A former president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Strossen will discuss how public opinion surveys, as well as countless recent incidents, demonstrate that attitudes toward freedom of speech/press on the part of the public and politicians are too often ignorant at best, hostile at worst. Speech does pose risks of fueling harmful conduct, from terrorist violence to discriminatory hate crimes, yet experience confirms that even greater risks would result from increased government power to suppress speech.
• “Is It Possible to Become Happier, and If Yes, How?” by Sonya Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, in Lybyer Technology Center Room 214. Happiness not only feels good, it is good. Happy people have more stable marriages, superior health and higher incomes. Fortunately, experiments have shown that people can intentionally increase their happiness. Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness” and “The Myths of Happiness,” will discuss how small and simple activities can transform people into happier and more flourishing individuals.
• “Hillbilly Elegy: A Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance, No. 1 New York Times best-selling author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, April 7, in Lybyer Technology Center Room 214. A former marine and Yale Law School graduate, Vance will give a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis – that of white working-class Americans.
All presentations are free and open to the public.
A number of other keynote sessions, panels and special events also are planned on the Springfield campus. Complete program information can be found online. All events are free and open to the public.
For more information about the local presentations of plenary addresses, call the U/CP Department office at 417-255-7966.