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, www.washingtonspeakers.com, 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.”

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