Should Affirmative Action Focus on Class and Wealth, Rather Than Race?

April 10, 2009 — On Thursday at 8 p.m., the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in partnership with MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, will host a debate on the future of affirmative action — the third event of its National Discussion and Debate Series' 2009 season, "Priorities for a New President."

The resolution: "Affirmative Action should focus on class and wealth rather than race and ethnicity."

Moderated by Ray Suarez, senior correspondent of "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," the debate will take place at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and will be webcast live and archived at  
Supporting the resolution will be Dalton Conley, University Professor of the Social Sciences and chairman of sociology at New York University; and John H. McWhorter, senior fellow at Manhattan Institute.

Opposing it will be Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP and a history professor at U.Va.; and Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University

Produced for broadcast on PBS stations by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, all of the events are webcast live and archived on the Miller Center's Web site. More information, including biographies of the debaters, research, video, audio, transcripts, research and middle- and high-school lesson plans, is also available online. The conversation continues online via interactive group pages on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.

The first event, "America's Energy Future," featured Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, discussing how the federal government should balance infrastructure policy with energy, environmental and economic priorities. It is online at, and aired as another of PBS's "Blueprint America" programs (

The second event featured former Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk on how America must resolve the Iranian nuclear threat. It is online at

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. Debaters included Frederick W. Kagan, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, Douglas W. Kmiec, Marc Rotenberg, Rev. Barry Lynn, Chuck Colson, Dick Armey, Regina Herzlinger, Tamar Jacoby and Mark Krikorian. All of the debates are available on the Miller Center's Web site.

The National Discussion and Debate Series aims to examine some of the 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.

About the University of Virginia's 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 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.