Michael Steele, who has worked with The Lincoln Project, will be the second person to visit Webster as part of the Spring 2021 Virtual Headliner Series.
Jennifer Stewart, director of the Office of Student Engagement, felt Michael Steele would have an interesting story to share with Webster students when he virtually visits on Feb. 4. He is the second guest in Webster’s Spring 2021 Virtual Headliner Series.
Steele became the first Black person in Maryland to hold a statewide office when he was elected Lt. Governor in 2003. In 2009 Steele became the first Black chairman of the Republican National Committee and currently works as a political analyst at MSNBC. Steele became involved in the Lincoln Project – a group of former Republicans dedicated to defeating Donald Trump and “Trumpism” – in August 2020.
“He definitely has a different political story to tell, and maybe a little different viewpoint than a lot of folks at Webster,” Stewart said. “[Steele is someone] who’s willing to work across both parties to support the idea of democracy and to support what, you know, what he believes the constitution says.”
Stewart said the inspiration for this year’s speaker series began after she learned Symone Sanders was available to speak at Webster before Inauguration day. Webster wanted to offer students perspectives from both sides of the political aisle, according to Stewart. She felt this was an important part of Webster’s job in educating students.
“You can’t have a true education without understanding multiple sides of a story and being able to think critically about those things and make decisions about it,” Stewart said.
The event will have a moderated question and answer segment, led by Student Government Association President Sarah Hill. Students will then be able to submit any additional questions.
Scott Jensen, who is teaching the keystone course The Democratic Process, already submitted some questions for his class. He said the course focuses on political speech, communication strategies and advocacy.
With Steele’s history with politics and the Lincoln Project, Jensen hopes the event will be very informative and beneficial for his students.
“I’m hoping that he will spend some time talking about just the communication culture in politics today and how that’s influenced by a two party, very polarized context,” Jensen said. “How he navigated that as party chair [and] what his perspectives are on today’s communication climate.”
Stewart remembered Sanders talk about how it was important to be able to work with others, but how it was also alright to call out things you are strongly opposed to. Stewart felt Steele portrayed this in his work with the Lincoln Project.
“I think he’s someone who shows that you can still stick to your, you know, your kind of core political, truly political beliefs, you know, whether that’s he describes himself as a Lincoln Republican …” Stewart said. “So really to kind of have an understanding politically of, you know, of where you are, but still denounced those things that you feel are wrong.”
During the event, Stewart hopes Steele will discuss the future of the political parties. She also said Steele could discuss how the nation should move forward and repair itself.
Jensen said being able to have civil conversations with people on both sides of the aisle is important in politics. He said his class looks at how to have political discussions in a way that allows for disagreement.
“I think we’ve left civility. I mean civility is what we have to find our way back to, but I hope not at the expense of continuing to debate and disagree,” Jensen said. “I think we need to work on finding that balance and I think people like Michael Steele are important figures in that.”
Students can register for the event at – (webster.edu).