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Four living speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives — three former and the incumbent — are visiting Lexington Friday to talk statesmanship, policymaking and bridging partisan differences.
The event honors historic Kentucky lawmaker Henry Clay, a former House speaker himself, who taught law at Transylvania University. The speakers will convene in Transylvania’s Haggin Auditorium to speak on “The Role of Speaker of the House: A Tribute to Henry Clay.”
Current speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Democratic leader and former speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and former speakers Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Jim Wright (D-Texas) will engage the public with a moderated informal talk about their time in office, said Shaye Rabold, executive director of the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship.
“The fundamental part of it is to pay tribute, to take a moment and step back and look at Henry Clay’s legacy,” Rabold said.
“We’re very honored to have these four come together.”
Students from the UK Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce will attend, along with students from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., who are in Lexington and on the UK campus for a weeklong leadership conference called Student Congress, in conjunction with the Center for Statesmanship.
Sponsored by the Patterson School, the program brings students to learn about Henry Clay and his legacy, while tackling issues like climate change, peacemaking, and political compromise and reconciliation, said Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, director of the Patterson School.
Rabold said Kentuckians have the duty to preserve Clay’s legacy.
“The reason why it’s such a big deal is because historians agree that it was Henry Clay who made the role of the speaker, the office of the speaker, the powerful position that it is today,” she said.
Also while on campus, students will get an exclusive look at the HBO documentary “Burma Soldier,” which will be screened in the Lexmark Room of the Main Building at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
The film tells the story of a man wounded in inter-ethnic fighting while part of the Myanmar Army, who eventually joins the pro-democracy movement, becomes a prisoner and later a refugee.
After the screening, the film’s producer, Julie leBrocquy, and its subject, Myo Myint, will hold an hourlong discussion.
Cavanaugh said he thinks Myint’s tale will be the most inspirational part of the program’s activities.
Other speakers from Washington will visit as part of the 200th anniversary of Clay’s becoming speaker of the House.
The big event will be the gathering of House speakers at 7:30 Friday. Four of the six living speakers are participating. Also involved is the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, which oversees Ashland, his Lexington estate.
“We felt like we could put together an event that’s not political,” Rabold said. “The intent of this evening is to really reflect on the role of the speaker; what the speaker is supposed to be doing.”
Cavanaugh said former speaker and current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was asked to participate, but was ultimately unable to come.
Tickets are the speakers event are sold out.