2013 Breaux Symposium Heads to Washington

04/11/2013 04:04 PM

BATON ROUGE – The annual LSU John Breaux Symposium heads to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, May 15, for a daylong discussion among former members of Congress and congressional scholars on ways to make Congress work again.

This year’s symposium, sponsored by the Manship School’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, is co-sponsored by the United States Association of Former Members of Congress and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. The symposium will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the City View Room of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, from Louisiana, will moderate the symposium’s opening session, a discussion of practical ways for Congress to work more cooperatively. That session will include former Senate Majority Leaders Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Tom Daschle, D-S.D., former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., former Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., former Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla. and Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash.

“Most agree that Congress is broken and many members have either forgotten or never learned how to transcend party labels and ideology to get things done,” said Robert Mann, director of the Reilly Center. “The purpose of this symposium is to discuss and agree upon a series of practical steps that members, new and old, could take to break through the partisan gridlock.”

“Former members of Congress have a unique ability to share their perspectives on what works in Congress, and what doesn’t, without fear of political consequences,” Breaux said. “These former leaders will provide valuable ideas about what today’s Congress needs to do in order to be more effective.”

"We are thrilled to participate in this important and timely discussion,” said Peter M. Weichlein, CEO of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress. “Our membership includes about 600 former senators and representatives from both parties, many of whom are skilled practitioners when it comes to reaching across the aisle to get things done. We understand the challenges that come with the job and we hope that our contribution can be of value not just to the symposium, but also to current members in this Congress and the next.”

“Congress’ founding principle is to make democracy work for all Americans, but in an increasingly polarized environment this has become more difficult than ever,” said Kennedy, who currently serves as the director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. “This symposium will help lawmakers develop tools to move beyond partisan agitation to action on issues that affect the left, right, and center.” 

One outcome of the symposium will be the publishing of a book by LSU Press in the fall of 2014, which will be presented to each member of the new 114th Congress in January 2015.

In addition to the former Congresional members, the scholars participating will be:

“From the former members of Congress, we envision very practical ideas for how members of both parties can get along and work together on bipartisan solutions,” Mann said. “And, from the scholars, very specific proposals on systemic or institutional reforms to make Congress work more efficiently and harmoniously.”

The annual Breaux Symposium was established in 2000 as a core program of the Manship School’s Reilly Center. Its goal is to explore areas where little or no research has been conducted and/or to approach ideas from a fresh perspective – in other words, to turn issues on their head. Underpinning the Manship School’s focus on the study of media and politics, the Breaux Symposium’s central question is: How well is the public being informed, and what must be done to increase citizen awareness and constructive debate?

The inaugural symposium featured journalists Marvin Kalb, Walter Isaacson and David Broder discussing the role of the press at the turn of the century. In the past decade symposia topics have included new models for news, the role of advocacy groups in bypassing traditional media to reach voters, redefining public opinion polling in an age of segmented marketing and personalized communication, and the impact of propaganda on American democracy.

For more information about the symposium, contact Tara Brown in the LSU Reilly Center at thamme1@lsu.edu or Dava Guerin at the United States Association of Former Members of Congress at 215-262-9020.

Billy  Gomila 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013