- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

RICHMOND — While much of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the English settlement of Jamestown focuses on history and tourism, part of it will involve examining the underpinnings and future of democracy.

Several Virginia universities will hold conferences on democratic principles and ideals, which took hold in America among British settlers who established themselves in Virginia in the early 17th century.

The series, sponsored by the federal Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission, starts tomorrow with a gathering of worldwide youth leaders at the University of Virginia and will end in September 2007 with an international forum at the College of William & Mary.

Commission Chairman Frank B. Atkinson said that the “American experiment in democracy” at Jamestown is notable because it started the spread of modern representative government and the subsequent emergence of the United States as a world power.

The seminars target political and government leaders, scholars and teachers and will “look forward and contribute something to the thought process on how to advance democracy throughout the world,” Mr. Atkinson said.

At the University of Virginia’s four-day International Youth Democracy Summit, about 300 student leaders from around the world will examine civic engagement and the future of democracy, and explore historic sites such as Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and nearby Monticello — Thomas Jefferson’s home.

Starting in January, other seminars will address such topics as: democracy’s classical origins in ancient Greece and Rome; the rule of law in democracies and current international legal issues; globalization and terrorism; and challenges posed by racial and ethnic differences.

What was originally to be one event developed into a series after the 15-member federal Jamestown commission offered Virginia’s colleges an opportunity to come up with program ideas to “delve a little deeper into the aspects of democracy,” Mr. Atkinson said.

Other colleges holding conferences include George Mason University, Longwood University, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

George Mason’s Mercatus Center, which researches market-oriented systems, will host a seminar on the role of markets within modern democracies. The event will be held in conjunction with the center’s annual economic-policy retreat for senior congressional staffers.

The conference is scheduled for February and “will expose senior congressional staff to leading university faculty whose insights they can use when considering concrete issues in economic policy,” said Christopher Hixon, managing director of the Mercatus Center’s Capitol Hill campus.

The final World Forum on the Future of Democracy will be held Sept. 16 to 19, 2007, at William & Mary. It will offer academics and political and government leaders a chance to review the topics discussed throughout the year and tie them together in a discussion of the future of world democracy.

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