Miller Center National Debate Series Launches with Infrastructure Discussion at National Governors' Meeting

February 17, 2009 — On Saturday, the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, in partnership with MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, will launch "Priorities for a New President," the second season of its National Discussion and Debate Series. The conversation, focused on balancing the nation's infrastructure policy with energy, environmental and economic priorities, will take place at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Panelists include Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; JayEtta Hecker, senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former director of physical infrastructure for the U.S. Government Accountability Office; and Douglas Foy, former Massachusetts secretary of commonwealth development and former executive director of the Conservation Law Foundation.

The last half-hour of debate will be a question-and-answer session among all governors. Their topic: "Government at all levels must work together to create a comprehensive infrastructure policy in concert with national energy, environmental, and economic priorities."

The conversation will take place before an audience of the nation's governors, moderated by Robert MacNeil, founder and former co-anchor of the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour". It will be webcast live and archived at, and will air as another of PBS's "Blueprint America" programs.

This is the first of the Miller Center's four "Priorities for a New President" discussions. Throughout the spring, the series also will examine the Iranian nuclear threat, affirmative action and energy. Produced for PBS broadcast stations by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, an award-winning leader in public affairs programming, all of the events are webcast live on the Miller Center's Web site. The site is also home to video, audio, transcripts, research and middle- and high-school lesson plans on each issue. The conversation continues online via interactive group pages on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.

The five debates of the first season, in 2007–08, focused on U.S. troops in Iraq, privacy in post-9/11 America, religion in public life, health care and immigration. All of the debates are available online.

The National Discussion and Debate Series aims to examine some of the most important issues facing our country in depth, and to contribute to the national conversation with a genuine, thoughtful give-and-take that will both enlighten people and provoke dialogue.

Modeled on Oxford-style debates, the Miller Center National Debates look at issues surrounding America's role in the world, its responsibility to its citizens, and the way its policies fulfill its founding principles.

The debaters, two on each side, are drawn from the ranks of practitioners, public intellectuals, business and religious leaders, and academics. While the issues are vitally important to voters and key to the national dialogue, the debates remain focused on policy, not partisan politics.

The Miller Center calls upon its own scholars and others at the University of Virginia and other institutions to provide comprehensive background and information for the debaters, the moderator and the public — including a "white paper," primary source documents, links to journal articles, news clips, and other video and audio.

"The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" airs highlights from each debate.

The 2009 season:

•    Infrastructure — How should the federal government balance a comprehensive infrastructure policy with energy, environmental and economic priorities?
Moderator: Robert MacNeil, founder and former Co-anchor, "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour"

•    Iran — How should the U.S. prevent a nuclear Iran? Moderator: Margaret Warner, senior correspondent, "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer"

Participants: Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security advisor for global democracy strategy; Joshua Muravchik, former resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Martin Indyk, director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution, and former ambassador to Israel; Karim Sadjadpour, associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

•    Affirmative action — Should affirmative action policies focus on class and wealth, rather than race?

Moderator: Ray Suarez, senior correspondent, "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" Participants: Dalton Conley, chairman, Sociology Department, New York University; John McWhorter, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute; Julian Bond, chairman, NAACP; Lee Bollinger, president, Columbia University

•    Energy — Must the U.S. end its dependency on carbon-based fuels?

Moderator: Jim Angle, chief Washington correspondent, Fox News Channel
Participants include: John Podesta, president, Center for American Progress, former White House Chief of Staff; James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence; Christie Todd Whitman, co-chairwoman, CASEnergy Coalition, former EPA administrator, former governor of New Jersey.

About the Miller Center of Public Affairs

Founded in 1975, the Miller Center of Public Affairs is a leading nonpartisan public policy institution that aims to fulfill Thomas Jefferson's public service mission by serving as a national meeting place for engaged citizens, scholars, students, media representatives and government officials to research, reflect, and report on issues of national importance to the governance of the United States, with special attention to the central role and history of the presidency.