- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will be honorary leaders of a yearlong series of conferences examining the future of democracy.

The series, to be held at several Virginia universities, is part of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of North America’s first permanent British settlement.

The conferences will address democratic principles and ideals, which took hold in America among British settlers who established themselves in Jamestown in the early 17th century.

“We are honored and delighted to have the support of former Presidents Bush and Clinton and Prime Minister Thatcher, each of whom has a distinguished record of accomplishment as a champion of democracy,” said Timothy J. Sullivan, former president of the College of William & Mary and head of the planning council coordinating the conference series.

The announcement was made Tuesday night at the International Youth Democracy Summit, a gathering of youth leaders from across the world at the University of Virginia and the first event in the democracy series.

Frank B. Atkinson, chairman of the federal Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission sponsoring the series, said before the announcement that his group will be working individually with Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mrs. Thatcher to define their respective roles in the effort.

“At a minimum, we’re appreciative to them for lending their names” to the series, Mr. Atkinson said.

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

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. 16-19, 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 the topics together in a discussion on the future of world democracy.

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