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RNC Chair Michael Steele to speak at Princeton University

Princeton University's Center for African American Studies will host Michael Steele, the chair of the Republican National Committee, in a conversation with the center's leadership at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22, in McCosh Hall, Room 50, on the University campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The center will engage Steele about his vision for the nation and his understanding of race in the 21st century, in keeping with one of the central public roles of the Center for African American Studies, which is to convene conversations across a wide range of issues.

Center Chair Eddie Glaude explained that, just like the election of Barack Obama, Steele's election on Jan. 30, 2009, was historic. He is the first African American to lead the Republican Party.

"Whether one agrees with Michael Steele or not, his chairmanship of the RNC is historic, and his voice is shaping the course of our nation in these challenging times," said Glaude, who also is Princeton's William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies. Glaude will participate in the one-on-one conversation with Steele.

In the past, the center has hosted conversations with: actor and social activist Harry Belafonte about the role of the arts in politics; Bishop T.D. Jakes about the changing role of black churches; and environmental justice advocate Majora Carter about her views. In each instance, the center's aim has been to set an example of civic conversation.

"The conversation with Michael Steele demonstrates the center's commitment to modeling a form of engagement that cuts across ideological divides, that recognizes and revels in the differences that enrich our public discussion, and makes partisanship an object of consideration instead of an obstacle to conversation," Glaude said. "In providing the opportunity for this type of engagement, we believe our conversations are -- in the spirit of Princeton's unofficial motto -- 'in the nation's service.'"

"So much is happening politically in this country today, and Michael Steele is at the center of the storm," Glaude added.

Glaude will discuss with Steele the 2010 elections, the intersection of race and poverty, and the role of partisanship in Washington. In addition, the center's leadership hopes to get to know Steele and learn the personal story that has led him to his historic role.

As chair of the Republican National Committee, Steele has expressed a goal of setting a new direction for the Republican Party. A self-described "Lincoln Republican," Steele in 2003 was elected lieutenant governor of Maryland, becoming the first African American elected to statewide office there.

He most recently served as chair of the GOPAC Republican organization and also held posts on the National Federal Election Reform Commission and the NAACP Blue Ribbon Commission on Election Reform.

In addition to serving as chair of the Center for African American Studies, Glaude is a senior fellow at The Jamestown Project at Harvard University. Glaude is known as a public intellectual who offers a critical and insightful view on the problems currently facing black America, as well as the nation at large. He is the author of several books, including "In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America."

Members of the news media who would like to attend the event should RSVP to Jennifer Loessy at the Center for African American Studies no later than 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, by e-mailing jloessy@princeton.edu or calling (609) 258-3216.

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