Special Speaker Makes Stop at Opening Ceremony of Democracy Conference

By: Autria Godfrey
By: Autria Godfrey

August 8, 2006

More than 300 students made their way to UVA to take part in the opening ceremony of the International Conference Series on The Foundations and Future of Democracy. This conference was designed for high school students to encourage them to take an active role in democracy while they're still young enough to have an impact.

It may have mirrored that of a concert, but Tuesday night was all about democracy. Students from all over the world came together for the opening ceremony of the 400th Anniversary Conference Series on democracy and those students have high expectations of what they'll get out of the four-day gathering.

"To improve relations between countries...how democracy can make a better future and can make a better world...and so that we know what's going on in the world," students said.

Serving as honorary chairs for the overall year long series of conferences are former Presidents George Bush & Bill Clinton, and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A special treat was Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Karen Hughes, who spoke to students about their role in our future.

"It's important that we face out to the world and that we offer that image of hope that we must continue to be that shining city on the hill that President Reagan spoke of, and that's why we speak out for democracy," Hughes said.

Even founding father, Thomas Jefferson, made an appearance, as well as Executive Vice President of UVA, Leonard Sandridge. He believes that with UVA's rich history, that this university was the perfect place to launch the series and hopes students realize the opportunities they've been given.

"I hope that they will recognize that they have an important role to play in ensuring democracy for the future. That they will see the benefits and they will value their experience here," Sandridge said.

The conference series will make stops at eight other colleges and universities across the Commonwealth and will culminate in September in Jamestown and Williamsburg for the World Forum on the Future of Democracy. The students come from 43 states and 24 different countries.

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