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Finding Common Ground: Senator John Kerry Describes the Unifying Potential of Faith in Public Life

by Pamela Leavey

On Monday, John Kerry delivered a speech on “Service and Faith,” to a standing-room-only audience in Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre. In the speech, which I wrote about here earlier in the week, Kerry “shared his personal faith and perspective on the role of faith in public life.”

The video is available now on Pepperdine’s website, you can watch it here.

The video includes the “questions posed by a panel of five Seaver College students as well as Professor of Great Books Paul Contino,” after the speech. The Q&A session was powerful and equally as moving as the speech.

The questions addressed such topics as how Democrats can reach out to more voters, how Kerry reconciles his anti-abortion stance with his personal faith, his willingness to support the new Elizabeth Cady Stanton bill, Christian responsibility in the immigration debate, and the senator’s position on the interrogation of enemy combatants.

John Kerry’s appearance at Pepperdine University kicked off their 2006-2007 Dean’s Distinguished Lecture series. Pepperdine University is a conservative, Republican leaning university, that is religiously affiliated with the Churches of Christ. Kerry stepped into the heart of the beast speaking at Pepperdine and stood his ground.

Shannon Kelly, the Perspectives Editor for the Pepperdine Newspaper – The Graphic, offers her partisan, but complementary views on the speech here — Doors closed at politicized Kerry speech:

A Public Safety officer made a huge mistake on Monday. Somehow he let a liberal through the guard gate resulting in a Smothers Theatre appearance by a Democratic (read β€” not Republican) senator β€” John Kerry (gasp).

It is about time Pepperdine opened its doors to more people who do not fit the stereotypical conservative mold that so many associate with this university. Inviting such a high-profile Democrat verifies respectable efforts to bring balance and diverse perspectives to the school.

Despite Pepperdine’s inherent conservatism Kerry’s appearance was so well received that students, faculty and even some Malibu locals began lining up more than two hours before his speech began. Those who had classes opted out of going to snatch a first-come-first-serve ticket, but many students were turned away since the theater was full. This is not surprising despite some people wrongly predicting a negative reception or foreseeing a low turnout.

It was an unfair misjudgment for anyone to think that so many students would turn down a rare opportunity to attend an address made by a past, and possible future, presidential candidate. Read on…

Samantha Blons, a news assistant for the The Graphic has more here: Kerry speaks to overflow, including coverage of the reception with the Young Democrats club after the speech. Both pieces are well worth the read. Regardless of political leanings or faith, John Kerry received a warm reception at Pepperdine, and it was heartening to witness in person.

The Pepperdine Young Democrats were thrilled to have some time with John Kerry after the speech. It was like a flashback to the ’04 campaign to hear “It’s A Beautiful Day” blasting behind the screams of a 150 or students, as he entered the room. The students crowded around to listen to him speak, and it was hard to get close enough in the cramped, overcrowded room to get any photos. The best I could was from a few rows back holding my camera in the air…

While I was speaking with some of non-students in the room, the remark was made that Kerry had the rock star vibe going on. A throng of adoring students hung on until Kerry slipped down the stairs to head back to Los Angeles to catch a red-eye back to D.C.

7 Responses to “Finding Common Ground: Senator John Kerry Describes the Unifying Potential of Faith in Public Life”

  1. Rock Star?!?! The aloof, cold, Northeast liberal who can’t “connect”? Well, if we can’t get an accurate image of Kerry, a positive is far better than the negative. πŸ˜†

  2. Ginny

    Rock Star indeed. πŸ™‚

  3. Now that was a great speech! I don’t recall JK ever giving a talking like that before.
    To be honest, I wish he would have given a speech like that back in ’04 – like he said, it helps to define one’s self, not letting someone else do it for you.

  4. Blue W

    I must say it was pretty special to be among the audience. Knowing how conservative Pepperdine is it was very received. I’m glad the video is online now. I hope more will watch it.

  5. Blue Washington,
    He did give a moving talk on a similar theme, in Florida, late in the election (I think it was in October 2004) . Reportedlyl, people in the audience were moved to tears. Little or no national coverage, of course . πŸ™

    Still, the Pepperdine speech does seem to me more comprehensive, more pointed, and more personal.
    I hope lots of people get to see it.

    Pamela, was there decent coverage in LA times? Globe coverage was very shallow.

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