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August 7, 2007

World Forum brings together world leaders, scholars and government officials from around the world

Two of the major players in the dramatic global events impacting the future of democracy will be among the leaders addressing a gathering of international delegates from 16 countries and other scholars and political figures at the World Forum on the Future of Democracy in Williamsburg, Va., on Sept. 16-18. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Senator John Warner (R – VA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are among the participants in the event, which is hosted by the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission in partnership with Colonial Williamsburg, the College of William and Mary, and Virginia's Jamestown 2007 organization.

The final conference in a year-long series that has brought national and international figures to 10 Virginia university campuses, the World Forum will bring together at the Williamsburg Lodge noted scholars on democracy, government officials, political practitioners, advocates and commentators from around the world to examine the global advance of democracy, the challenges that emerging democracies face and democracy’s prospects for the future.

“An outstanding group of panelists will address the critical issues relating to sustaining and advancing democratic values and institutions. It will be an important and stimulating occasion,” Sandra Day O'Connor, Honorary Chair, America’s 400th Anniversary and Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, (retired), said. “I am looking forward to being in Williamsburg and, in particular, to welcoming our international delegates.”

The international delegates include advocates for democracy and current and former government officials from countries as far flung as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Peru and Tunisia. Their participation has been coordinated by the U.S. Department of State, which has helped support the conference. A youth summit on democracy held at the University of Virginia last summer to open the year-long series similarly attracted delegates from more than a dozen countries and many U.S. states.

"The international participation in the World Forum, including both speakers and delegates, is among the most striking aspects of the event," said Timothy J. Sullivan, Democracy Conference Series Planning Council Chair and President Emeritus of the College of William and Mary. "Representative government began in America and spread worldwide because of a chain of events that trace their roots to the planting of Jamestown 400 years ago. That journey changed the world, and it is fitting that democratic activists from around the world are now journeying to the Historic Triangle for a dialogue on democracy's future."

The World Forum on the Future of Democracy is also the final Signature Event of America’s 400th Anniversary honoring Jamestown, Va., as America’s first permanent English settlement.

“Delegates to the World Forum on the Future of Democracy conference will be given the rare opportunity to hear a distinguished group of international speakers who bring a wealth of experience and insight into the opportunities – and challenges – facing democratic institutions around the world,” commented Frank B. Atkinson, chairman of the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission. “The conference will also serve as a medium to learn from key leaders and scholars of the global march of democracy, and to reflect on how democracy can continue to flourish in the years to come.”

In addition to O’Connor, Gates and Warner, speakers, panelists and moderators will include Timothy M. Kaine, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia; William P. Barr, 77th Attorney General of the United States; Thomas S. Foley, 57th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives; James C. Lehrer, Anchor, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer; Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General and CEO, CIVICUS; Chang Heng Chee, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the United States; Ali Ansari, Director, Institute for Iranian Studies, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, Ambassador Choi Young-Jin, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, New York Times Columnist David Brooks and Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson.

“Colonial Williamsburg is pleased to co-host the culminating signature event of America’s 400th Anniversary,” said Colin Campbell, vice chairman of the Jamestown 2007 Steering Committee and president of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “The World Forum on the Future of Democracy complements well Colonial Williamsburg’s focus on the critical role of citizen participation in a functioning and effective democracy. We are gratified that, among other subjects, speakers will address the vision of the Founders and its relevance in our 21st century global society.”

The World Forum program will feature a variety of formats, including addresses, panel presentations and discussion groups.

Monday, Sept. 17, the first full day of the conference, will focus on “Architecture of Liberty,” addressing the American framers’ development of a structure for deliberative democracy, the evolution of the American system over the ensuing centuries, and the contemporary relevance of democracy in a global age.

On Monday evening at the College of William and Mary, Jim Lehrer, executive editor/anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, will host an international dialogue entitled "The Future of Democracy: Why Does It Matter?" The event is open to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. at the William and Mary Hall on campus.

"William and Mary was, more than two centuries ago, the literal cradle and wellspring of an American Enlightenment political philosophy,” Gene R. Nichol, President, the College of William and Mary, commented. “Still today our students, faculty, staff, and alumni carry forward the promise of democracy beyond our walls. Their service to others, and to their country, makes us proud to be a part of this landmark event exploring the history and future challenges of democracy the world over."

The second day, Tuesday, Sept. 18, will concentrate on “Global Issues and Challenges to Democracy,” including vital topics such as terrorism and security, protection of religious liberty and minority rights, and world markets and sustainable development.

Media Contact:
Tom Shrout
(757) 220-7265