University announces 2022-23 speaker lineup


Courtesy of Rolling Stone

George Bush debates Al Gore in Wait Chapel in 2000. Bush will return to Wake Forest later this year for the Face to Face Speaker forum.

Kathleen Kerr, Staff Writer

 George W. Bush, Tom Friedman, Bryan Stevenson and Kristin Chenoweth will present to the Wake Forest and Winston-Salem communities on a diverse range of topics during the 2022-23 school year, as announced by the Wake Forest Face to Face Speaker Forum. 

“We have four pillars from which we select a speaker: political affairs, arts and culture, business and innovation and social justice and global issues. So when we put together our program, we are specific about a speaker supporting one of those four programs,” Face to Face executive director Sue Henderson said.

The first forum will be held Sept. 14 in LJVM Coliseum with a conversation between Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, and presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham. Together, they will discuss challenges the United States faces in the 21st century. 

“It is a huge deal for Wake Forest and our community in general that a former president will come,” assistant director of Face-to-Face Katie Wolf said. “Not only political science majors, but all students can glean knowledge from that kind of leadership.”

Later in the year, on Nov. 15, Friedman, a bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times foreign affairs columnist, will speak in Wait Chapel. He will discuss challenges such as transformative technology, globalization and climate change as discussed in his most recent book “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide for Thriving in the Age of Accelerations”.

In February, Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and New York Times bestselling author of “Just Mercy” will kick off the spring semester. From his experience with the EJI, he will speak on social justice issues the United States faces with its incarceration system.

“We are going to partner closely with the divinity school on this event at Wait Chapel,” Wolf said. “[Bryan Stevenson] is not on the speaking circuit. This is not something that he does often, so we’re really excited.” 

The forum will conclude with Chenoweth, Emmy and Tony-award winning actress and singer. Known for her role as Glinda in the musical “Wicked” and her roles in the series “Glee,” “Trial & Error,” “American Gods” and “The West Wing”, she will speak in LJVM Coliseum on April 12. 

Two of the speakers, Friedman and Chenoweth, will have student-only question-and-answer sessions before the main keynote addresses, which are open to the public. These student-only events are moderated and led by scholars from the Wake Forest Leadership and Character Program (L&C). 

These events allow L&C scholars an opportunity to ask the speaker questions submitted by students from Wake Forest and other colleges in the Winston-Salem area. Students can submit these questions through a link on the Face to Face website.

“I am a big fan of the Face to Face forum, and I am really glad they have partnered up with L&C because [the student-only events] allow me to get a bigger glimpse into the speaker’s perspective,” L&C scholar freshman Jenna Mcclelland said. “They make the events more accessible and student-friendly since they’re on a smaller scale. They encourage students to participate by submitting questions and attending the talks.”

Students that have attended the speaker forums this year are excited to attend next year’s lineup as well.

“The Face to Face forums are really beneficial for students because they get to hear from a wide variety of voices and opinions,” freshman Bellamy Koonce said. There is at least one speaker that every student can connect with.”

“I have been to most of the Face to Face keynote speeches and have been fascinated by each speaker,” freshman Alexandra Ensrud said. “Their incredible knowledge has made it a really unique experience, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue seeing these interesting speakers next year.”

To learn more about how to get involved with the Face to Face Speaker Forum, visit their website.