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Porter’s ‘call to men’ at MTSU: Change attitudes, stop domestic violence

A leading anti-domestic violence activist donned a wireless microphone and took his message directly to men in an appearance at MTSU.

Stepping out from behind the podium and walking in the audience, Tony Porter issued “A Call to Men: The Next Generation of Manhood” Oct. 21 in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.

Porter, whose presentation bore the name of the national violence prevention organization he co-founded, is a life skills trainer and consultant for the National Football League. His other clients include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the National Basketball Association.

Porter said he wanted to deconstruct the nature of violence by men against women, nonjudgmentally dissecting the behavior of even well-meaning men to reveal disregard for the women in their lives.

The event, which was sponsored by the Distinguished Lecture Fund and the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, was part of MTSU’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence and create a safer environment for all members of the campus and surrounding communities.

Anti-domestic violence activist Tony Porter makes his points during “A Call to Men: The Next Generation of Manhood” in an Oct. 21 presentation at MTSU. (Photo by MTSU News and Media Relations)

But rather than holding an event with the traditional focus on women, who are usually the victims of such violence, the June Anderson Center brought in Porter to specifically address the role that men play in creating this problem and offer ways to combat it.

Open to the public, the event drew a sizable number of men that included students, MTSU staff and community members from whom Porter solicited feedback throughout his remarks.

Referring to peer pressure to adhere to traditional notions of masculinity, he explained, “When we as men begin to develop an interest in the experiences of women outside of sexual conquest, our manhood is called into question.”

Porter used video sketches, PowerPoint slides and audience interaction to drive home his points. He described in detail what he called “the man box,” a collection of destructive behaviors men are socialized to treasure as manly. They include suppressing emotions, making decisions without asking for help and viewing women as property.

“These rigid notions of manhood are killing us as men,” said Porter.

He also noted that even men who never would hurt women physically “help create a fertile ground” for men who are violent by devaluing women, regarding them as property and objectifying them.

In pointing out men’s lack of awareness of women’s safety issues, Porter asked how many men check the back seat for intruders when they get into their cars. Only four men raised their hands, but numerous women raised their hands.

“They’re thinking about how to survive while we’re simply thinking about what’s next,” Porter explained.

Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, director of the MTSU Women’s and Gender Studies Program, suggested during the question-and-answer period that men who wish to explore the subject more deeply should take the program’s classes.

Kim Reynolds, a counselor for the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program in Murfreesboro, said that nearly 500 orders of protection for domestic violence victims have been issued so far this year.

The event was part of MTSU’s observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For more information, contact the June Anderson Center at 615-898-5812 or jacwns@mtsu.edu.

“A Call to Men” is a “national violence prevention organization” with the goal of shifting “social norms that negatively impact our culture and promote a more healthy and respectful definition of manhood,” according to the organization’s website, www.acalltomen.org.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Noted ‘green’ chemist to speak at MTSU Science Building Oct. 24

An expert in green and renewable chemistry will appear at MTSU Friday, Oct. 24, to talk about how science can help reduce waste and create more environmentally friendly processes and products.

Dr. William B. Tolman, chair of chemistry at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, will conduct a seminar on “Plastic from Plants: The Chemistry of Sustainable Polymers.”

Dr. William B. Tolman

The seminar, a continuation of the grand opening celebration for the new Science Building, will begin at 3:15 p.m. in amphitheater Room 1003 on the first floor of the facility, located at 440 Friendship St. on the south side of campus.

The public is invited. To find parking and the Science Building, a printable campus map can be found at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParking14-15.

MTSU assistant professor Keying Ding said Tolman, who leads the Tolman Group Laboratory at his university, was invited so he can “share his great knowledge on sustainable and green chemistry development.”

“Dr. Tolman has led the whole department with faculty members, researchers and students toward a successful story on addressing sustainability issues with the focus on chemistry research, education and public outreach initiatives,” Ding said.

“As one of the investigators at the Center for Sustainable Polymers at the University of Minnesota, Tolman concentrates his research efforts on harnessing the renewable, functional, degradable and non-toxic polymers provided by nature for tomorrow’s advanced plastics.”.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said green or sustainable chemistry is a philosophy of chemical research and engineering that encourages the design of products and processes that minimize the use and generation of hazardous substances.

“Green chemistry represents the fundamental building blocks of sustainability,” Ding said. “The scientific and technological breakthroughs in green chemistry will be not only crucial to the global economy, but also have a great impact on the environment, such as consuming less energy for chemical production, limiting pollutants emissions and reducing waste disposal.”

Tolman is the Distinguished McKnight University Professor at Minnesota and has earned many honors in his career.

He is the second public speaker to appear at the MTSU Science Building this week.

Nobel laureate in chemistry Harry Kroto provided the first public lecture in the $147 million facility Oct. 20. Kroto shared the 1996 Nobel Prize with Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes, a series of carbon molecules, also known as “Buckminsterfullerenes.”

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

Nobel recipient drives creativity, science education in MTSU talk

As the first featured guest lecturer in MTSU’s new Science Building, Nobel laureate Harry Kroto mentioned the 1996 international award he received during his one hour-plus public lecture.

Harry Kroto utilizes a PowerPoint presentation to bring his message to the audience attending the first public lecture in the new Science Building Oct. 20. Kroto earned the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, sharing the award with two other men for their discovery of fullerenes, a series of carbon molecules, also known as “Buckminsterfullerenes.” (MTSU photos by News and Media Relations)

But at MTSU and virtually anywhere he goes nowadays, the dialogue is more about science in general, science education for young people and creativity rather than the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

At the invitation of MTSU chemistry professor Preston MacDougall, Kroto spoke at both the MTSU event to a near-capacity crowd Oct. 20 in the Science Building amphitheater and an overflow crowd attending the Oct. 16-19 American Chemical Society Southeastern Regional Meeting in Nashville.

“I want to tell students what science actually is,” said Kroto, 75, an English-born chemist who has been part of the Florida State University faculty since 2004.

“Science is not well understood. It’s a way of thinking, as much as anything else, about the world and what is actually true and correct. It’s the way the universe is.”

“What I like about science is the internationality of it,” Kroto told his captivated audience during his humorous and entertaining talk titled “Carbon and Nano in Outer Space.” International citizens are a part of his present and past research teams.

The crowd — MTSU students, faculty, staff and administrators including President Sidney A. McPhee, and people from the community — enjoyed his lecture and PowerPoint presentation.

“It was absolutely inspiring as a young chemist to see someone who is so passionate about everything they do,” said MTSU senior biochemistry major Robbie Mahaffey of Shelbyville, Tennessee.

“He was amazing. My professor asked me if I was going to be here. I had planned to study because I have an exam Wednesday, but this seemed like an opportunity not to miss, to hear someone speak who had won a Nobel Prize and has years of experience and wisdom to give out for free.”

Henry Bradley, a senior biochemistry major and MTSU Chemistry Club president from Newport, Tennessee, had the honor of introducing Kroto and spending time with him earlier in the day.

MTSU chemistry professor Preston MacDougall, left, 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipient Harry Kroto and MTSU Chemistry Club Preston Henry Bradley listen as university President Sidney A. McPhee provides introductory remarks.

“I think it is such a privilege to represent the student body and introduce Sir Harry Kroto,” Bradley said.

“It’s not every day when someone who wins the Nobel Prize comes to your school. They obviously did something to advance human knowledge.”

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in various fields of chemistry.

Kroto shared the 1996 Nobel Prize with Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes, a series of carbon molecules, also known as “Buckminsterfullerenes.”

The creative side of Kroto indulges in highly effective graphics and logos.

“To be creative, you need freedom,” he said during his talk. “For me, creativity is not just pulling a new rabbit out of the hat. It’s bringing things from various areas together in a new way, sort of a synthesis.”

Pushing his personal project GEOSET, or Global Educational Outreach for Science Engineering and Technology, Kroto takes science education worldwide — and GEOSET helps students find jobs by inserting a Uniform Resource Locator, or URL, in a resume.

“At least 50 percent of my time now is trying to get universities such as MTSU to consider how modern communication techniques can be helpful to not only the university in teaching but also to the students, to the propagating of their careers,” he said.

“It turns out that students are very good at contributing to GEOSET,” Kroto added. “”We’re recording short presentations on projects by students on things that fascinate them. And they’re getting jobs and scholarships and awards because we’ve essentially revolutionized the resume by including a recording (through the URL link) in the resume.”

Earlier Oct. 20, Kroto toured the Science Building and visited the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, where CEO Tara MacDougall, wife of MTSU faculty member Preston MacDougall, presented Kroto with aDiscovery Center T-shirt that he wore the rest of the day.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

 

Hear from renowned music manager Peter Jenner at MTSU event

MTSU and the campus community can glean plenty of music-industry knowledge Tuesday, Oct. 21, from the man who’s helped guide the careers of musicians ranging from Pink Floyd to Billy Bragg.

Manager and producer Peter Jenner will speak at 5 p.m. in Room 221 of MTSU’s McWherter Learning Resources Center as part of the Department of Recording Industry Chair’s Speakers Series. Doors will open at 4:30 p.m. for the free public lecture, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

A searchable campus map with parking notes is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParking14-15.

Peter Jenner

Peter Jenner

Jenner, who earned his degree in economics from Cambridge University and lectured at the London School of Economics, left academia to manage a new band he’d heard called Pink Floyd. His music career has spanned more than four decades and includes work with groups ranging from Marc Bolan and T. Rex and the Edgar Broughton Band to Ian Dury and the Blockheads, the Clash and Michael Franti.

He has served as manager for more than 25 years for singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, who visited MTSU in September 2013 as the inaugural guest speaker for the College of Mass Communication’s Americana Music series.

Jenner is president emeritus of the International Music Managers’ Forum and a former director of the UK Music Managers’ Forum and also worked with the Featured Artists Coalition. He’s also been involved in efforts to build a music rights registry at the European Union level and has argued for an international music registry to help equalize future digital music delivery systems and payments to artists.

“I think the mass market model of music we have now is in crisis, and the new inspiration will come from individual creative musicians and new people and structures that develop to support them,” Jenner wrote for Co-Operatives UK.

“People are into the major labels because they have the money, and at the moment they have the advantage so they drive a very hard bargain, but that doesn’t work best for artists, and doesn’t work for our cultural future.”

For more information on MTSU’s recording industry program, visit http://recordingindustry.mtsu.edu.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

‘MTSU On the Record’ ponders liberty, personal freedom with Lawler

A political scientist will dissect the sometimes competing values of personal freedom and furthering the greater good on the next edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Dr. Peter Augustine Lawler

Dr. Peter Augustine Lawler

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Peter Augustine Lawler will air from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ).

Lawler will deliver a presentation, “The Future of Our Liberty is Confusing,” at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, in the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building’s auditorium.

Click on this lecture poster to see a larger version.

The event is free and open to the public.

Lawler, who serves as the Dana Professor of Government at Berry College in Berry, Georgia, is also executive editor of the academic journal “Perspectives on Political Science.”

He was a member of President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics and is the author of more than 15 books, including “Allergic to Crazy,” a compilation of some of his essays.

“I want to somehow keep what’s good about the modern world, which is basically freedom, technology and justice, while adding on to it a better understanding of love and death and relational responsibilities, what it means to be a being who was born to know love and die,” Lawler said.

Lawler’s lecture is sponsored by MTSU’s Department of Political Science and the university chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.

To listen to previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com/ontherecord/.

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.

Baden brings focus on medical examiner training for Oct. 21 lecture

Veteran medical examiner Michael Baden has played a role in some of history’s most celebrated investigations, and now he’ll share his knowledge with the MTSU community Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Baden, a former New York state medical examiner known for his work investigating high-profile deaths, will speak on “Out of the Grave: Case Studies in Decomposition and Exhumation” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 21 in the second-floor ballroom of MTSU’s Student Union.

The free public talk is part of the university’s renowned William M. Bass Legends in Forensic Science Lectureship. A searchable campus map with parking details is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap14-15.

Dr. Michael Baden

Dr. Michael Baden

During his nearly 50-year career, Baden, a host of HBO’s “Autopsy,” has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies; chaired Congressional forensic pathology panels reinvestigating the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King; provided expert testimony in the deaths of John Belushi, Medgar Evers and Nicole Brown Simpson; and performed a family-requested autopsy on Michael Brown, who was fatally shot Aug. 9 by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.

Baden, who has worked to publicize the tasks of forensic pathologists and has called for specialized training in pathology for all physicians who conduct autopsies, continues to push for national standards for death investigations and to keep medical examiners’ offices science-focused and uninvolved in politics.

He’s also the author or co‐author of more than 80 professional articles and books, including “Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner” and “Skeleton Justice,” and is a Fox News forensic science contributor and reviewer for the New England Journal of Medicine.

The community also can hear a preview of Baden’s talk during a special interview set to air Monday, Oct. 13, from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on MTSU’s award-winning weekly radio program, “MTSU On the Record,” on WMOT-FM  (89.5 and www.wmot.org ). The interview will be rebroadcast from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, on WMOT-FM.

MTSU’s Forensic Institute for Research and Education, or FIRE, is sponsoring Baden’s lecture. The Bass Lecture Series, named for renowned University of Tennessee forensic anthropologist Dr. William M. Bass, brings forensic-science experts to campus each fall and spring.

FIRE’s co-sponsors for Baden’s lecture are the MTSU Distinguished Lecture Fund, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, the College of Graduate Studies, the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, the University College, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Department of Criminal Justice and the Middle Tennessee Forensic Science Society.

In addition to the Bass lecture series, MTSU’s FIRE, established in 2006, provides regular educational and training opportunities for law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, attorneys, social workers, and other groups in forensic science and homeland security.

For more information on this lecture or other FIRE programs and events, please contact the FIRE offices at 615-494-7713 or visit www.csimtsu.com.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

Click on this lecture poster to see a larger version.

Click on this lecture poster to see a larger version.

Holocaust survivor and Watergate journalist Rosenfeld visits MTSU

From the war-torn streets of Berlin to the monument-lined streets of Washington, D.C., Harry Rosenfeld has been an eyewitness to history.

The survivor of Nazi Germany and former managing editor of The Washington Post’s metro desk during the Watergate scandal will recall anecdotes from his fascinating life in “From Kristallnacht to Watergate,” a free public event, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, in the State Farm Lecture Hall of MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building.

Harry Rosenfeld

Rosenfeld will discuss his memoirs with Gina Logue, producer for the university’s Office of News and Media Relations and host of WMOT-FM’s “MTSU On the Record.”

The son of a furrier, Rosenfeld was only 9 years old when his father was rousted out of bed in the middle of the night by Nazi officials and taken away on Oct. 28, 1938.

For three days, the family did not know whether Solomon Rosenfeld was dead or alive. Finally, the elder Rosenfeld called from Warsaw to say he and other Jews had been expelled to Poland, their country of origin.

Harry Rosenfeld also saw his family’s synagogue in Berlin destroyed on Nov. 9, 1938. This time of rampant coordinated destruction of Jewish stores, temples and homes became known as Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.”

“We can read a thousand factual books about the Holocaust, but we can viscerally understand the horror of the Holocaust only by understanding the people who experienced it,” said Dr. Nancy Rupprecht, chair of the MTSU Holocaust Studies Committee and a history professor at the university.

In 1939, when Harry was 10 years old, the Rosenfeld family made it to America. His journalism career began in 1948 as a shipping clerk in the syndicate department of the New York Herald Tribune.

With the exception of U.S. Army service during the Korean War and a brief stint writing for CBS News, Rosenfeld worked for the Herald Tribune until the newsroom’s demise in 1966.

Initially hired for the night foreign desk at The Washington Post in 1966, Rosenfeld was transferred to the metro section in 1970.

R As head of the metro desk, Rosenfeld’s instincts told him that little-known reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were up to the challenge of unearthing the facts about the Watergate scandal. It was Rosenfeld’s job to keep them on course and make sure they were accurate.

Only in their 20s when burglars broke into the Democratic Party’s national headquarters in 1972, Woodward and Bernstein’s reportage connected the crime to other illegal activities and a cover-up that extended into the highest levels of the federal government.

Ultimately, their revelations and those of other journalists sparked congressional investigations and prompted President Richard Nixon to announce his resignation on Aug. 8, 1974.

“America was fortunate that a journalist as vigilant and committed as Rosenfeld was at the helm of local news reporting when the Watergate break-in occurred, initiating an investigation that truly fulfilled the First Amendment mission of a free press,” said Ken Paulson, dean of MTSU’s College of Mass Communication.

Following the Oct. 8 conversation with Rosenfeld, the audience can participate in a question-and-answer session.

Now editor-at-large for the Albany Times-Union, Rosenfeld also will autograph copies of his book, “From Kristallnacht to Watergate: Memoirs of a Newspaperman.” MTSU’s Phillips Bookstore will have available for purchase.

Rosenfeld’s appearance at MTSU is sponsored by the University Provost, the Holocaust Studies Committee, the College of Mass Communication, the College of Liberal Arts and the University Honors College.

For more information, contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or gina.logue@mtsu.edu.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

‘MTSU On the Record’ examines dead bodies with Dr. Michael Baden

The forensic pathologist who autopsied Michael Brown’s body at the request of his family is the guest on the next edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Michael Baden, the former medical examiner for the city of New York, will air from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ).

Dr. Michael Baden

Dr. Michael Baden

Baden will deliver the William M. Bass Legends in Forensic Science Lecture at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21, in the Student Union ballroom. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by MTSU’s Forensic Institute for Research and Education.

Baden has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies in his career, including an autopsy on the body of Brown, who was shot to death by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Aug. 9.

High-profile cases in which Baden has provided expert testimony include those of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, comedian John Belushi and Nicole Brown Simpson, the wife of former football star O.J. Simpson.

In addition, Baden chaired congressionally appointed panels probing the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

“We have to deal with the science and what the science says, and we cannot be influenced by what makes one side happy and one side not happy,” said Baden. “That’s always a problem, but it’s more public when it’s a high-profile case.”

To listen to previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com/ontherecord/.

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.

‘Breaking Bad’ star RJ Mitte amuses, inspires MTSU audience

One of the stars of TV’s “Breaking Bad” offered an evening of uplifting advice in a conversation with fans at MTSU.

RJ Mitte, who portrayed Walter “Flynn” White Jr. on the Emmy-winning AMC cable network drama, discussed his battle with cerebral palsy and his acting career Oct. 1 at Tucker Theatre.

Actor RJ Mitte of the Emmy-winning television program “Breaking Bad” speaks to an audience at MTSU’s Tucker Theatre in an Oct. 1 appearance. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

The event was sponsored by MTSU’s Diversity and Access Center as part of a weeklong observance of National Disability Awareness Month.

“RJ Mitte’s presentation solidified our office’s philosophy that disability is a natural part of the life experience,” said Lance Alexis, center director.

“We hope that message will spread across campus so more students will grow comfortable with disability and approach our office to learn more about disability culture and/or to register with us.”

Much of Mitte’s advice to the audience pertained to authenticity, individuality and refusing to allow others to impose labels.

“Make sure they’re seeing you, not what they’re trying to make you,” he said.

Mitte described a grueling childhood regimen of speech therapy, leg braces and counseling sessions at Shriners Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, a five-hour drive from his Lafayette, Louisiana, home. However, Mitte said his family and friends were available for him all the way.

“I never knew I was different until I went to school and someone said, ‘What’s wrong with your feet?,’” Mitte said.

Learning how to deal with bullies became a big obstacle, but Mitte persevered.

“You can’t let doubt control your emotions,” he said.

The 27-year-old actor said he was cast for his role on “Breaking Bad” because he had cerebral palsy. His character, the son of a chemistry teacher who makes and sells illegal methamphetamine to pay for his cancer treatments, has a more severe form of the condition.

Ironically, said Mitte, his first acting job was for a public service announcement about the dangers of methamphetamine.

Mitte also discussed his activism for the disabled as the youth spokesman for the National Disability Institute’s Real Economic Impact Tour, as well as his advocacy for the disabled with the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, also known as SAG/AFTRA, the National Center for Bullying Prevention and Actors’ Equity.

He said he doesn’t really have a problem with nondisabled actors playing disabled characters.

“I hate to tell you this, but we’re all disabled in some way, really,” Mitte said with a chuckle.

Mitte, whose other credits include “Switched at Birth” and “Hannah Montana,” referred to acting as a “very no-oriented business” when discussing the many rejections actors get when auditioning for work.

“Playing other characters is the only thing I like about this business,” said Mitte. “Money burns and fame is fickle.”

For more information about the MTSU Disability and Access Center, call 615-898-2783 or go to www.mtsu.edu/dac.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Gonzales talks politics, preparation, service during MTSU visit

A Sept. 25 talk anticipated as a recruiting tool for his law school turned out to be an opportunity for former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to talk politics and breaking news, reminisce about his days in the West Wing and encourage MTSU students to include community service as part of their career paths.

Gonzales, the dean of Belmont University’s College of Law, made his first trip to MTSU Thursday to speak on “Law School and the Legal Profession” at the invitation of MTSU’s Department of Political Science and the University Honors College.

Greeting an audience of students and staff inside the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building’s Simmons Amphitheatre, Gonzales fielded a few specific questions about Belmont’s program, established in 2011, and the availability of jobs for new law grads. The afternoon’s focus, however, remained more on what led him to the nation’s top legal job and the work he did in that office.

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales talks with an MTSU student after his “Law School and the Legal Profession” talk at the university’s Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building Thursday, Sept. 25. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

Gonzales served as counsel to George W. Bush when Bush was Texas governor, then joined him in Washington, D.C., as the first Hispanic White House counsel, serving as the 80th U.S. attorney general from 2005 to 2007. He also served as the Texas secretary of state and as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.

Gonzales even had empathy for the 82nd U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, whose resignation was rumored all day and was officially announced shortly after Gonzales’ MTSU visit ended.

“Anytime the attorney general announces that he or she is stepping down, it is a sad day,” Gonzales said. “A lot of people have worked very, very hard the last 5 1/2 years helping General Holder move forward his agenda, which is to reflect the agenda of the president of the United States.

“Not surprisingly, I’ll say that I do not agree with some of the decisions made by the Department of Justice under General Holder, but I have to honor his service,” Gonzales continued. “I know how difficult it is to be in the position of attorney general. The attorney general is invariably going to be involved in the most controversial decisions, and whichever way the attorney general goes, somebody is going to be unhappy.”

Gonzales’ White House tenure was marked by controversy related to the war on terrorism and his personnel decisions, prompting a peaceful protest of his visit outside the Honors Building by members of the MTSU branch of the national organization Solidarity and a brief interruption of his talk by students inside who disagreed with his views.

“Controversial decisions? Right? That’s your legacy, man,” one young man said as MTSU Police escorted him and two friends out of the room.

“One of the things we do when we serve the government is fight for the right for people to speak out like that,” Gonzales said, turning back to the crowd after glancing at the protesters.

He then recalled his work days in the West Wing, going from the casual atmosphere of “never giving it a thought to pop over to the (Texas) Capitol building (in Austin), plop down on the couch and talk about policy, politics and baseball” with Bush to “going through four security checkpoints and past bomb-sniffing dogs every day … to stand in front of the same desk used by FDR as he negotiated with Winston Churchill to try to find an end to WWII, the same desk used by JFK as he wrestled with the Cuban missile crisis, the same desk used by Ronald Reagan as he worked to end the Cold War, to get to advise the president of the United States.”

Recalling at length his experiences on Sept. 11, 2001, and still sounding awed by the opportunity he had in Washington, Gonzales explained that “every day, every moment, is special when you get to work in the White House.” He admitted having some regrets about decisions he made, however.

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales emphasizes a point while speaking in the university’s Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building Thursday, Sept. 25.

“I’m asked sometimes if I have regrets about my time in service. Of course I do,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be great in life if we had do-overs? If you think about the degree of difficulty that an Eric Holder or a President Obama has every day and think they’re not making mistakes, you don’t understand how difficult these decisions are. But you identify them, you learn from them, you correct them if you can, and then you move on.

“I don’t like to spend a lot of time listing all the things I would ‘do over,'” he said after explaining the context of his “quaint” characterization of some prisoner-of-war privilege provisions of the Geneva Convention.

“We would all do things better, differently, if we had the benefit of hindsight, and that’s certainly true when you’re in these positions of power and authority.”

Gonzales is a native of Humble, Texas, and was one of eight children born to first-generation Mexican-American parents. Despite family hardships, Gonzales became an honors student and subsequently attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he continued his academic excellence.

He earned his bachelor’s degree with honors from Rice University and his law degree from Harvard and said he didn’t become involved in politics until he returned to Houston and began practicing law.

“I made a circle of friends who happened to be Republicans … and was given various leadership opportunities in the Republican Party in Harris County and Houston, so I became a Republican,” he said. “But I try to encourage people to look out for your own self-interests in deciding whom you want to support. Don’t just look at the party as a label. Look at what they’re saying. What are they selling you?”

Gonzales joined the Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden in 2011 and has served as the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law at the Belmont College of Law since moving to Tennessee. He was named to lead Belmont’s law school this past June.

Click on this poster to see a larger version.

He has a book on immigration law that will be available in November, “A Conservative and Compassionate Approach to Immigration Reform,” co-written with Texas immigration attorney David N. Strange, that he said is “going to make some conservatives angry and make some liberals angry, which tells me we’re on the right track with it.”

Gonzales encouraged the students to use their education to be ready to face any opportunities that arise, both personal and professional.

“You may go to law school, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to practice law,” he said. “You can do all kinds of things with a law degree. I love what I do, and having that law degree has been very helpful.

“I’m on the ground floor in working to prepare the next generation of leaders for this community, for this state, for this country. I want to help you get ready. I know what it takes to be successful. It could be tough, but if you prepare yourself with an education, by being proficient in a trade or profession, there’s going to be another George W. Bush who’s going to come along and give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, like he did for me. And the question is, are you going to be ready?”

He added that public service is the best way to ensure stability in the community as well as find personal satisfaction.

“You have a lifetime to make money, and you have a lifetime to pay back (educational) debt. Try to find time to give back to the community,” he said. “Lawyers have a special obligation and a unique opportunity to do something in the community.

“It will … surely make you a better person if you step into the arena of public service and give back. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and it’s made me so much happier. Go in with your eyes open and your armor on, but at the end of the day, you’re going to be so grateful that you’ve done something with your life.”

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)