Former President Bill Clinton to give keynote address at Miller Center’s inaugural Presidential Ideas Festival in May

Clinton last visited the University in 1989 for a national education summit


The last time Clinton visited the University was in 1989.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Former United States President Bill Clinton will be delivering the keynote address at the inaugural Presidential Ideas Festival at the University’s Miller Center. Hosted by University alum and CBS host John Dickerson between May 21-23, “PrezFest” will focus on the notion of “Democracy in Dialogue” and spend three days examining challenges in America today from a presidential perspective. 

Over 60 White House veterans, journalists and scholars will be present at the festival in order “to inspire and rejuvenate nonpartisan conversations about the presidency that demonstrate the civil dialogue critical to sustaining a functioning constitutional democracy.”

The festival will consist of keynote speeches, panel discussions and breakout sessions all focusing on the state of the American presidency. Speakers and discussion leaders include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, as well as former chief of staffs Mack McLarty, Andrew Card, Denis McDonough, Anita McBride and Margot Rogers. 

According to the Miller Center, the inaugural festival was chosen to align with the University’s Bicentennial, which celebrates the school’s founding and continuation of carrying on Thomas Jefferson’s mission to shape “leaders of tomorrow through ... the candid exchange of ideas.” The Bicentennial kicked off in fall 2018 with a community celebration on the Lawn and will last for two years. To the Miller Center, the festival’s focus on the presidency and American democracy is fitting for the University, as it is a higher education institution having been heavily influenced by three U.S. presidents — Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison. 

William Antholis, the director and CEO of the Miller Center, said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily that the University is able to bring former President Clinton to Grounds due to the connection between him and the center in the past. Antholis himself worked as director of international economic affairs for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration and has stayed in touch with Clinton and his team through the years. 

“We have had a strong working relationship with President Clinton’s foundation and library, as we have conducted the official oral history of his administration,” Antholis said. “That has involved interviews with 135 senior Clinton Administration officials — including cabinet secretaries such as Madeleine Albright and Robert Rubin, who also will appear at the Presidential Ideas Festival.” 

Antholis said that having bipartisan opinions was an important factor in determining conference speakers in order to align with the Miller Center’s goal to “bring future leaders into conversation … creating a unique environment in which discourse is turned into action.”

“President Clinton fondly mentions his visit to UVA thirty years ago in 1989, when he was Governor of Arkansas and then-President George H.W. Bush and then-Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles hosted a national educations summit here,” Antholis said. “President Clinton mentions that first visit to UVA as an important, bipartisan moment that is in fitting with the Miller Center’s own mission.”

The festival is free and open to the public. A limited number of tickets were available for Clinton’s keynote speech in Old Cabell Hall starting March 29. The tickets and waitlist spots to see this final keynote session are already sold out, but there will be two overflow watch spaces on Grounds. 

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