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Clinton to speak next month on American progressive politics

President Clinton will visit campus this fall to give the keynote address for a conference on the progressive era in American history, the University announced last week.

The conference, "The Progressive Tradition: Politics, Culture and History," will be held Oct. 5 and 6 and is sponsored by the Program in American Studies and the Wilson School.

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Clinton will speak at Richardson Auditorium on the first day of the conference and will be on campus for only a few hours.

Tickets will be distributed to students, faculty and staff by lottery and the speech will be simulcast at locations on campus and on the Internet.

History professor and American studies program director Sean Wilentz, who is organizing the event, said he believes Clinton will bring unique perspective to the conference.

"He thinks about history," Wilentz said. "He is not someone for whom history is bunk. From him we'll get an eagle's eye view of what it means to advance the progressive tradition."

Wilentz said he considers Clinton to be a progressive president similar in many ways to Woodrow Wilson 1879, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt.

"He has tried to grapple with a rapidly changing international environment and a vastly changing technological world," Wilentz said, adding that presidents like Wilson and both Roosevelts were faced with similar problems in the early 20th century.

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Wilentz cautioned that the event will not be a political appearance by the president, but an academic and scholarly look at the progressive era.

"It's certainly not a partisan occasion. The progressives were both Democrats and Republicans," he said.

The second day of the conference will feature panel discussions, Wilentz said, with several leading scholars attending.

"We're really reaching across academic generations. It's an all-star list," he said, explaining that panel members would bring different backgrounds and viewpoints to the subject.

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The University hopes to admit as many students as possible to the event, said Ruth Miller, assistant dean for career services, alumni relations and public affairs at the Wilson School.

"The way we are hoping to allocate numbers, we're putting a greater emphasis on getting as many students in as possible," she said.

Miller said there will be a limited number of invited guests and members of the White House press corps, but the rest of the seats will be reserved for members of the University community.

For security reasons, the audience may have to be seated up to an hour before the President's scheduled 4:15 p.m. talk, Miller added.

Clinton last came to the University when he spoke here for the 250th commencement ceremony in 1996. He was in the area this summer when he spoke in South Brunswick, visited Starbucks on Nassau Street and went to a fund-raiser for Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) in Hopewell Township.

Public Safety Crime Prevention Specialist Barry Weiser said University officials are working with the president's security detail to prepare for his visit. He said that roads in and around campus may be closed but that final arrangements will be made in the coming weeks.