Miller Center

National Discussion and Debate Series

The Miller Center's latest debate series, titled, “Beyond Gridlock: Seeking Solutions to the Crisis in American Politics”, completed filming in August 2014. A timely and important debate series on crucial national issues, the four-part series is part of the Miller Center’s American Forum program. read more →


You can read about and watch previous debates using the links below.


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The Miller Center is a nonpartisan institute at the University of Virginia that seeks to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, providing critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges. more →

  • Iraq
  • Privacy
  • Religion
  • Health Care
  • Immigration

Iraq continue reading →

The National Discussion and Debate Series' premier debate took place Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007,, in the historic Dome Room of the University of Virginia Rotunda in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Four debaters had one hour to debate the proposed resolution: "Keeping troops in Iraq is vital for America's national interests in the Middle East." Frederick W. Kagan, lead architect of the "Surge" plan and Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Reuel Marc Gerecht, AEI Resident Fellow, argued in favor of the resolution; Jessica Tuchman Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Chas Freeman, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, argued against. Margaret Warner, senior correspondent of PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, moderated.

Privacy continue reading →

On Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007, four participants argued the resolution: "In the war against terrorism and with advances in technology, Americans need to lower their expectations of privacy" in a debate moderated by Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Supporting the resolution: Douglas W. Kmiec, Professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine; and K.A. Taipale, Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy. Opposing: John, Lord Alderdice, terrorism specialist and former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly; and Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Georgetown law professor. The debate took place at the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Religion continue reading →

On Thursday, March 6, 2008, in Richmond, Virginia, the National Discussion and Debate Series examined the role of religion in the public square. Four participants debated the resolution: "Religion should have no place in politics or government."

Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Jacques Berlinerblau, Associate Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, spoke in favor of the resolution. Chuck Colson, Founder and Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church, argued against it. Evan Thomas, Editor at Large of Newsweek, moderated the debate.

Health Care continue reading →

On April 9, 2008, the National Discussion and Debate Series debated the right to universal health care at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall. Four participants examined the resolution: "Americans have a fundamental right to health care, and it is the obligation of government to secure that right."

JudyAnn Bigby, MD, Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Regina Herzlinger, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, spoke in favor of the resolution. Dick Armey, Chairman of FreedomWorks and former House Majority Leader, and Richard Epstein, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, argued against. Susan Dentzer, Health Correspondent for PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, moderated the debate.

Immigration continue reading →

On May 15, 2008, the National Discussion and Debate Series hosted the final debate of its 2007-2008 season in the New York Public Library. Four participants had one hour to debate the proposed resolution: "Our national interests require a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants presently here." Tamar Jacoby, CEO and President of ImmigrationWorks, and Eliseo Medina, International Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, argued for the resolution. Vernon Briggs, Emeritus Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, and Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, argued against. Eminent award-winning journalist Robert MacNeil moderated the debate.

  • Infrastructure
  • Iran
  • Affirmative Action
  • Energy

Infrastructure continue reading →

Discussion: Government at all levels must work together to create a comprehensive infrastructure policy in concert with national energy, environmental, and economic priorities.
Date: February 21, 2009
Location: JW Marriott, Washington, DC
Moderator: Robert MacNeil, former co-anchor of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
White Paper: Paul Posner, former Director of Federal Budget & Intergovernmental Relations at the Government Accountability Office; professor and director of the Master's in Public Administration program, George Mason University
Discussants:

  • Edward G. Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania; co-chair, Building America's Future
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California; co-chair, Building America's Future
  • JayEtta Hecker, former Director of Physical Infrastructure, Government Accountability Office
  • Douglas Foy, former Secretary of Commonwealth Development, Massachusetts; former Executive Director, Conservation Law Foundation

Iran continue reading →

Resolved: America cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran and must go to any lengths to prevent it.

Date: March 25, 2009
Location: Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, Washington, DC
Moderator: Margaret Warner, Senior Correspondent, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
White Paper: John M. Owen, IV, Associate Professor of Politics, University of Virginia
Debaters:

  • Pro: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy (2005–09)
  • Pro: Joshua Muravchik, Visiting Scholar, John Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
  • Con: Martin Indyk, Director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution; Amb. to Israel (1995–97, 2000–01); Asst. Sec. of State for Near East Affairs (1997–2000)
  • Con: Karim Sadjadpour, Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Affirmative Action continue reading →

Resolved: "Affirmative Action should focus on class and wealth rather than race and ethnicity"

Date: April 16, 2009
Location: Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Moderator: Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
White Paper: Douglas N. Harris, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin
Debaters:

  • Pro: Dalton Conley, Chair, Department of Sociology, New York University
  • Pro: John McWhorter, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
  • Con: Julian Bond, Chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • Con: Lee Bollinger, President, Columbia University

Energy continue reading →

Resolved: "The United States must end its dependency on carbon-based fuels"

Date: May 14, 2009
Location: Newcomb Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Moderator: Jim Angle, Chief Washington Correspondent, Fox News Channel
White Paper: Jonathan Z. Cannon, Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program, University of Virginia Law School
Debaters:

  • Pro: John Podesta, President, Center for American Progress
  • Pro: James Woolsey, Venture Partner, VantagePoint Venture Partners
  • Con: Christine Todd Whitman, Co-chair of CASEnergy Coalition
  • Con: Karen Harbert, President and CEO, Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Education and the Economy
  • End-of-Life
  • Cost of Higher Education
  • Internet

Education and the Economy continue reading →

Resolution: To remain a world class economic power, the U.S. needs more college graduates in the workforce.

Date: February 26, 2010
Location: National Press Club, Washington, DC
Moderator: Paul Solman, Business and Economics Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
White Paper: William Zumeta, Professor, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs and College of Education, University of Washington
Debaters:

  • Pro: Margaret Spellings, Pres. and CEO, Margaret Spellings & Company; former Secretary of Education
  • Pro: Michael L. Lomax, Pres. and CEO, United Negro College Fund
  • Con: Richard Vedder, Distinguished Professor of Economics, Ohio University
  • Con: George Leef, Director of Research, John William Pope Center for Higher Education

End-of-Life-Care continue reading →

Resolution: The United States must ration costly end-of-life care.

Date: March 24, 2010
Location: National Press Club, Washington, DC
Moderator: Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-Chief, Health Affairs
White Paper: Dr. Lois Shepherd, University of Virginia
Debaters:

  • Pro: Arthur Caplan, Emmanuel and Robert Hart Director of the Center for Bioethics; Sydney D. Caplan Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Pro: Ira Byock, Director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; Professor at Dartmouth Medical School
  • Con: Ken Connor, Chairman of The Center for a Just Society; former President of the Family Research Council
  • Con: Marie Hilliard, Director of Bioethics and Public Policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center

The Cost of Higher Education continue reading →

Resolution: The business model of higher education is broken.

Date: April 27, 2010
Location: National Press Club, Washington, DC
Moderator: Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
White Paper: David W. Breneman, University of Virginia
Debaters:

  • Pro: William E. Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland
  • Pro: Gail O. Mellow is President of LaGuardia Community College
  • Con: Richard C. Levin, Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Economics and President, Yale University
  • Con: Daniel Hamburger is President and Chief Executive Officer of DeVry Inc.

Internet and Democracy continue reading →

Resolution: Democracy is threatened by the unchecked nature of information on the Internet.

Date: May 18, 2010
Location: National Press Club, Washington, DC
Moderator: Paul Solman, Business and Economics Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
White Paper: Bruce A. Williams, University of Virginia
Debaters:

  • Pro: Andrew Keen, author, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture
  • Pro: Farhad Manjoo, journalist for Slate, author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society
  • Con: Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia
  • Con: Micah L. Sifry, editor, Personal Democracy Forum
  • Big Government
  • Economic Recovery
  • Bankruptcy?
  • Presidential Debates

“There’s too much government in my life”

Date: December 18, 2011
Moderator: Christiane Amanpour, Anchor, "This Week"
Participants:

  • Paul Ryan, U.S. Congressman (R-WI)
  • George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator and syndicated columnist
  • Barney Frank, U.S. Congressman (D-MA)
  • Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor
Scholars' Reactions:
White Paper: Patricia Sykes, Associate Professor of Government, American University.

Transcript and video →

“America’s Economic Recovery: Is It Built to Last?”

Date: April 29, 2012
Moderator: George Stephanopoulos, Anchor, "This Week"
Participants:

  • Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO, Hewlett Packard
  • Jennifer M. Granholm, former Governor of Michigan
  • Paul Krugman, New York Times op-ed columnist, Nobel Prize-winning economist
  • Eric E. Schmidt, executive chairman, Google
  • David Walker, founder, president and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative
  • George F. Will, Washington Post opinion writer, Nobel Prize-winning columnist
Scholars' Reactions:

White Paper: Derek S. Hoff, Assistant Professor of History, Kansas State University

“Is the U.S. Headed Toward Bankruptcy?”

Date: August 19, 2012
Moderator: Jake Tapper, Senior White House Correspondent, ABC News
Participants:

  • Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Congressman, D-MD
  • Pat Toomey, U.S. Senator, R-PA
  • Austan Goolsbee, former chair, Council of Economic Advisors
  • Grover Norquist, founder, Americans for Tax Reform
  • Neil Barofsky, former TARP Special Inspector General
  • Kimberley Strassel, Wall Street Journal columnist

White Paper: “Is the U.S. Headed Toward Bankruptcy?” By Julia Ott, Assistant Professor of History, The New School

Scholarly Reactions: “Remember the 1990s? Partisan Rancor, Volatile Electorate, and Balanced Budgets” By Jasmine Farrier, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Louisville
“Tax Increases Essential to Fiscal Balance” By Molly Michelmore, Associate Professor of History, Washington and Lee University

“Do Presidential Debates Change Elections?”

Date: October 14, 2012
Moderator: Jake Tapper, Sr. White House Corresp., ABC
Participants:

  • Richard Norton Smith – eminent presidential historian
  • Martha Raddatz – ABC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent (and moderator of 10/11 VP debate)
  • Jon Huntsman – former Utah Governor; 2012 GOP presidential candidate
  • Christopher Dodd – former U.S. Senator (CT); 2008 Democratic presidential candidate
  • George Will – Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator
  • Donna Brazile – Democratic strategist; Gore 2000 campaign manager
White Paper: David S. Birdsell, Dean, School of Public Affairs, Baruch College
Scholarly Reactions:
“The (Imperfect) Value of the Debates,” Michael Nelson, Fulmer Professor of Political Science, Rhodes College
“No-bama Drama: Putting the Denver Debate in Historical Context,” Barbara Perry, Senior Fellow in the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program
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