Nearly 200 students, faculty and community members packed the Nutt Auditorium Friday to listen to four prominent figures discuss American politics.
Panelists included NBC News long-time anchor and special correspondent Tom Brokaw, chairman of NBC News Andrew Lack, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr.
The event, co-sponsored by Mississippi Today and the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, covered topics such as the 2016 presidential election, the use of social media in campaigns and current issues plaguing the state of Mississippi.
The panelists began by discussing the uniqueness of the 2016 presidential election.
“None of us have ever seen anything like this,” Barbour said. “A lot of this has to deal with the fact that the American people are mad and they’re scared.”
Barbour said voters are looking for the candidate of change.
“Hillary Clinton can no more be the candidate for change than I can be the spokesperson for Weight Watchers,” Barbour said.
Fear has been the underlying theme throughout this election cycle, Brokaw said.
“There’s a lot of good news going on in America, but people have an anxiety that America is no longer the place of the American dream,” Brokaw said.
Toward the end of the event, audience members were given the opportunity to ask panelists their questions.
One audience member, freshman public policy major, Benjamin Payne asked what his generation should be most concerned about.
Ford said it is important for college students at Ole Miss and across the country to communicate and work with the other side.
“I hope that we can get to a point in our political culture where in order to get things done in politics and public policy making, you actually have to not only work together but listen to one another,” Ford said.
According to Brokaw, Ole Miss has successfully created a dialogue about racial relations.
“What I like about coming to Ole Miss is that you’re on the cutting edge of a lot of the big issues today and you’re talking about them” Brokaw said. “When I was a young reporter in the South, I never thought I would come to Ole Miss because of racial attitudes, but now I do like coming back and it’s a really terrific state university.”
Barbour said it is important to create a respectful dialogue amongst members of different political affiliations.
“This was a very special event because of Tom Brokaw, but it also was special because it was about politics the way it ought to be,” Barbour said. “Harold Ford Jr. and I have been friends for thirty years and we disagree on a lot of stuff, but we disagree agreeably as I think was evident tonight and that’s the way politics needs to be conducted.”
Senior marketing major Sam Rhodes said it was great to hear the panelists’ unique and interesting perspective on politics and the current election.
“I came here to see what they had to say about the election so far and get some candid personal opinions from people who are in that world,” Rhodes said. “There were some things I never thought I would hear, especially after the questions from the audience, so it was great to get that insight of what was going on in their head.”