Newt Gingrich annouced as 2010 convocation speaker

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and prominent conservative speaker, has been selected by Missouri Western to speak at the 17th annual Convocation on Critical Issues. The convocation will take place on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 9:30 a.m. in the Looney Complex and will be free and open to the public. In addition, Gingrich will speak at the annual Convocation Dinner, which will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. at the Fulkerson Center in Spratt Hall. Founded in 1993, the Convocation on Critical Issues was designed to be an oral presentation platform through which students and the community at large could hear from a high-profile speaker on a timely issue in modern society. Past speakers have included Steve Forbes, Colin Powell and Bob Woodward, among many others. According to Dan Nicoson, vice president for university advancement, Western works with the Washington Speakers Bureau every year, looking at a list of potential speakers and trying to match the speaker with current pressing issues in the nation. From his perspective, Gingrich is a perfect fit for the convocation. “First of all he is … staying well informed on current issues,” Nicoson said. “Furthermore, his reputation is that he presents an intellectually challenging presentation. Both of [these attributes] fit our needs well.” Following a career as a college professor at the University of West Georgia and Kennesaw State University, Gingrich ran for a congressional seat in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. After two unsuccessful runs in 1974 and 1976, Gingrich won, holding the seat from 1979-1999. During this time, Gingrich also succeeded Dick Cheney as House Minority Whip from 1989-1995. Gingrich became a household name in 1994 as a co-author of “Contract With America,” a document outlining the Republican Party’s plans, were they to win the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. When the Republican Party won, Gingrich was made the Speaker of the House, a position that he held from 1995-1999. Following his career in Congress, Gingrich has remained a prominent figure in the political spectrum, authoring 19 books and serving as a political analyst. According to President Robert Vartabedian, the process of selecting a speaker for the convocation consists of four phases: determining who is available with the Speaker’s Bureau, who is affordable, who is available within the time frame and whether or not there is a critical issue at hand that is compatible with Western. Western’s President Vartabedian feels that Gingrich meets the University’s criteria and then some. “He offered us eight different alternative topics,” Vartabedian said. “That’s kind of unheard of; usually there’s just a basic speech. I think that was very attractive to some of the people in on the decision.” From Vartabedian’s perspective, there were two other key factors in the decision, the first of being the need to balance the convocation out politically, as last year’s convocation featured a democratic speaker, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Another factor that makes Gingrich unique is swirling rumors about his future in politics. “He may be a candidate for the presidency in 2012,” Vartabedian said. “This is the first time in the 17-year history of the convocation that we have someone who very well maybe running for the presidency in two years.” As of now, it is unknown as to what subject Gingrich will speak about. According to the Washington Speakers Bureau website,, Gingrich’s main speech topics include how to improve America’s economic standing, the Obama administration and leadership lessons. Regardless of what topic he chooses, it can be assumed from his prolific background and experience that Gingrich will provide the students of Missouri Western a critical take on a timely issue that is important to all. “[Gingrich]…has an experience and insight into critical issues which I think he can bring to [Western],” said R. Dan Boulware, the former Western regent for whom the convocation is held in honor of. “We like people who speak on college campuses and who are well received by students; that’s very important to me and Newt Gingrich fits that criteria.”

Haiti tragedy hits close to home

To some people, the tragic earthquake in Haiti may seem like an issue millions of miles away. But for long-time Western employee Andrew McGarrell, the incident hit much closer to home. McGarrell, a cataloging librarian at Missouri Western for 22 years, lost his only sibling—Flores McGarrell—in the Haitian earthquake on Jan. 12. Thirty-five-year-old “Flo” was born female, but was transgender. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the McGarrell family learned that Flo was trapped in a building. He had been having drinks at the Peace of Mind hotel with a friend when the quake hit. Thursday morning, his family received news that his friend had survived, but Flo did not. The McGarrells visited Baltimore last weekend for his memorial service. [caption id="attachment_2646" align="alignright" width="402" caption="His brother, Andrew McGarrell, cataloging librarian at MWSU, honors his brother in a remembrance blog he started after Flo’s passing. Photo by Sara Baum"][/caption] Flo began working in Haiti in 2008 for a year and a half, directing a non-profit art center for local artists to collaborate and learn from each other. Andrew started a blog shortly after his brother’s passing, in order to share a little about Flo’s history, education, work and travels. ( “Flo had a longtime fascination with Haiti, making some visits and conducting workshops at the FOSAJ (Fanal Otantik Sant D’a Jakmel) arts center in Jacmel,” Andrew wrote. “He decided to fully commit to that, and learn the Kreyol language.” Kreyol—formally known as Creole—is the dialect of French that is spoken in Haiti. Flo’s passion for and interest in Haiti revolved around a combination of things. “He really wanted to let Haitian people (know how to) conserve their (resources) and learn things like composting, but he also made artwork that demonstrated those things,” Andrew said. Some samples of his work can be viewed at Kiku Langford, the exhibition coordinator at the Alliance for Visual Arts Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, became friends with Flo through their experience working together at AVA. She laughed as she shared a about how serious he was about his work. “His exhibition actually included a lot of plants on hangers, and he was worried about them getting watered,” Langford said. “He would drive down to water them (even though it was several miles away).” She said he would also create inflatable sculptures, and described one particular incident. “Somehow, whatever they were using to inflate it, they used flammable gas and not air,” Langford said. “It kind of seemed like he was always flirting with disaster.” One particularly fascinating aspect of his work was the fact that he did not spend any money on his materials. “It was all items he would go dumpster diving for,” Langford said. “His goal, I think, in what he seemed to do, was to make his life kind of an art project.” As an artist, he was a risk-taker, but as a person, he made people feel safe. “He was just the kind of person that made you think you’ve known them forever. I remember immediately feeling totally comfortable with him,” Langford said. Born in Rome, Italy, Flo could speak Italian even before he picked up the Kreyol language later in Haiti. The McGarrell family moved to St. Louis after its full-time residency in Italy when Flo was 8 years old. The move seemed to bring out Flo’s true character. “Flo’s fearlessness came into evidence: my mother remembers picking (him) up at school with darkened, ominous skies; while other students were huddled inside, Flo was out dancing in the rain,” Andrew wrote in his blog. Andrew recently learned of a collective blog dedicated to Flo, which includes input from several close friends and people who worked with him.[

Students react to VP speech

A long line of students, faculty and others anxiously waited to see Obama’s vice presidential candidate for the first time in person. The entire campus had been talking about his arrival since Tuesday night, when everyone first learned he would be coming on Thursday.

Aside from the group of protestors standing outside with signs, people did not seem disappointed after Biden’s intense and inspirational speech.

When the intro music started, audience members gradually clapped along, eventually yelling, "Go, Joe!"

During the high points of his speech, people rose from their seats to clap and cheer with escalating enthusiasm.

Erika Baker, a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University, has watched Biden’s speeches on television, but never in person.

"I really, really enjoyed it," Baker said. "I think that Joe Biden is a great speaker."

This was the first time Baker has been to a political rally.

"I thought it was a whole new experience to be that close; I was right on the aisle – two rows back," Baker said. "I shook his hand and everything afterwards, so it was exciting."

Nathan Bowman, also a student at Northwest, was amazed by Biden’s tone.

"My basic thoughts were that Senator Biden did a terrific job getting people going," Bowman said. "You could tell he was very passionate."

Bowman believes Biden really projected towards the climax of his speech.

Heather Fields, a Western student, actually got a picture taken with Obama’s vice presidential candidate.

"I was more excited than I expected to be," Fields said.

Janie Bland, who traveled from Spickard, MO, has been campaigning for Barack Obama, and thoroughly enjoyed the speech as well.

"That was a wonderful speech and he really spoke to the middle class people," Bland said.

The opinion of Western student Andrew Trautmon, who is a Republican, differed slightly. He is not a huge fan of Obama or McCain.

"I went in with an independent mind," Trautmon said. "Really, I’m not leaning with either one."

Trautmon was not as impressed with Biden’s speech as others were.

"I was a little bit upset with Biden… the first part of his speech seemed like an attack against McCain," Trautmon said.      



Looney locks down for VP visit

If you sneezed at the event featuring Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, a dozen well-trained eyes sharply focused on you. Biden was well protected when he delivered his campaign speech to a crowd of approximately 1,200 people on Oct. 9, in the M.O. Looney Complex. Security was in full force as local law enforcement officers teamed up with Secret Service agents to ensure the safety of the senator and everyone in attendance.

Such security is necessary—and standard—at all public events that feature a presidential or vice presidential candidate, especially this election year. This is an historic election with Barack Obama being the first black candidate for the office of U.S. President.

Secret Service officers were visible near Biden and around the complex, while others were invisible as they mixed in with the crowd.

Around 20 SJPD officers, including the Special Response Team (SRT), four commissioned MWSU police officers and 11 Police Academy cadets were on the team along with an undisclosed number of Secret Service agents. Also on the team was a German shepherd that sniffed purses and backpacks as they entered the building. A metal detecting wand was in use at the entrance as well.

Biden’s entourage while in St. Joseph included one unidentified officer from the SJPD and an unidentified local highway patrol officer.

According to Capt. Jeff Wilson the SJPD and the secret service worked together for a week before the event.

"The Secret Service gave us ample notice to prepare," Wilson said.

"They notified us last week and invited us to a planning meeting."

With the number of officers needed, some worked on their day off. SJPD officer Scott Vanover didn’t mind working.

"It’s my day off," Vanover said. " I’m working for overtime."

The event offered a good opportunity for Police Academy cadets to see national security agents at work. Cadet Chase Pollard believed in the need for security and the need for the event.

"It’s essential for Americans to speak their minds," Pollard said. "It’s important for both sides to be heard."

Despite the fact that Biden was late, the entire event occurred with no security incidents. When the crowd was clearing after the conclusion, one of the officers, who would not give his name, said the day "went very well."  

Couple Commentators enlighten crowds

She was a high school homecoming queen, and he starred in the 2007 flick "The Assassination of Jesse James." She is a Libertarian Individualist who served as a political director for President George H. Bush’s re-election campaign in 1992, while he served as Clinton’s. They were married shortly after that election. 

The two political rivals known as Mary Matalin and James Carville spoke at Western’s 15th annual Convocation on Critical Issues at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 30 in the Looney Complex.

One may think a relationship like theirs would never make it, but former Western alumni Dan Boulware believes otherwise.

"You might think they throw barbs in a mean-spirited way, but they don’t," Boulware said. "I think after you hear them today, you’ll know why their relationship works."

Matalin spoke first and told the audience how previous convocation speakers have praised Western.

"This [Convocation] is the favorite speaking event they’ve ever been to," Matalin said.

Previous Convocation speakers have included Sam Donaldson,
Bill Bradley, Steve Forbes, David McCullough, Dr. Joseph Nye and Dr. Colin Powell.

She proceeded to share her opinions on the present election.

"The big picture is that the candidates have been three points apart throughout this whole race," Matalin said.

The former host of CNN’s debate show, Crossfire, stressed that no matter which views one follows, they should always keep an open mind.

She believes there are four things everyone should study, no matter what their major is.

The first one was history.

The next was our Constitution.

"It is used worldwide as a prototype," Matalin said. "It is a document that holds for the ages."

The third subject was journalism and the fourth was communications.

"It is imperative that you learn how to have clarity of thought," Matalin said. "If you can learn to communicate, you will be our future."

After Matalin shared a few closing thoughts, she introduced her husband and political rival, James Carville.

"He is my dearly beloved," Matalin said. "Just because he thinks wrongly doesn’t mean he’s not smart."

Carville began by stressing that college was an important part of his life.

"The best four years of my life were spent as a sophomore," Carville said.

He believes history is taking place right in front of us, considering the ethnicities and genders of our current political candidates.James Carville


"Do you want to watch history, or do you want to help make history?" Carville asked. "Do you want to lead our nation eating chips and wiping salsa off your mouth?"

This author, actor, producer, talk-show host, speaker and restaurateur believes people need to get involved and be aware of what is going on around them in order for change to actually happen.

When it comes to Carville’s marriage with Matalin, Carville has no problem getting along with someone who does not share his political views.

"It’s not so important that you be around people that think like you, but that you be around people that think," Carville said.

Though they do have these opposing views, they were still able to co-write a book entitled All’s Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, which was on The New York Times bestseller list for eight weeks.

Both speakers answered questions that were pre-submitted by Western students and faculty.

When asked about the importance of voting, Carville shared a voting statistic.

"Normally, 12 out of 100 people vote [who] are 18-29," Carville said.

Matalin believes parents should encourage their children at a young age to vote when the time comes.

"I take my kids to the voting booth," Matalin said. "I get choked up; I don’t take voting for granted."

One submitted question asked how each of them would react to someone who believes one should vote for the lesser of two evils.

"That’s why you have to participate," Matalin said.

She said people do not trust the system.

"You can’t bring trust back to the system overnight," Matalin said.

Though they do not see eye-to-eye politically, neither Matalin nor Carville has influenced the other’s views.

"I made a pretty good choice when I was 16 years old and I’m gonna stick with the same one," Carville said.

Freshman Rachel Jackson enjoyed this year’s convocation.

"I thought that the speakers were strong and lively, and I think that they focused well on their audience," Jackson said.

Boulware believes Matalin and Carville bring a well-informed perspective from both sides of the political spectrum.

"They are passionate in their beliefs," Boulware said. "They both want what is best for our country."