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Donation Paves Way for More Big-Name Speakers, Starting With Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe

The Broe family has made a three-year donation to Pomona College consisting of $50,000 per year to bring influential speakers to the school.

This year ’s $50,000 donation will bring David Plouffe to Bridges Auditorium on Mar. 25. Plouffe is a political strategist best known as the chief campaign manager for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, but has been a campaign consultant for the Democratic Party since 1990, when he worked for Senator Tom Harkin’s re-election campaign. Obama calls him “the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the...best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.”

This gift lays the groundwork for the speakers program outlined in the college’s strategic plan. Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum created a working group last year to plan this program, which she says hopes to bring “two exciting speakers a year to discuss national topics with great relevance to Pomona and the surrounding community.” The speakers will be “big names,” Feldblum said, and will be distinguished leaders in their fields.

“This program is in response to students asking for two things,” said Feldblum. “The first is for exciting, high-profile speakers. We got Clinton and Bono, but that was the Athenaeum, not Pomona College. Where are we? The second is for them to be substantive. We don’t just want a name for a name, but someone who engages the community in a meaningful way.”

Feldblum hopes the program will be permanently funded in the future so that one or two prominent speakers can be brought to campus each year. The overarching goal, Feldblum said, is to “go beyond what’s being brought here now.” Plouffe, for example, will be part of a dinner and a public reception that will bring Pomona and the surrounding community together for discussion. Students from selected relevant classes will spend time with Plouffe for additional discussion time.

Bonnie Snortum, director of the Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College, says that “this very generous gift...is quite wonderful. The creative energy that this gift will inspire can only help to enhance the intellectual life of the entire Claremont community. It will also become increasingly important for program planners to communicate with one another to avoid scheduling major events on the same day.”

The coming years’ events will have greater involvement from the members of the Pomona community. A committee of students, faculty, and staff will be created to flesh out the details of the program. They will help to choose the speakers, and perhaps even a theme to unite them. Feldblum suggested visionary politics, creative geniuses, or living on the edge as possibilities. The decision will, she hopes, be made by those who are most invested in the speakers—the Pomona College community itself—and said that she looks forward to input from the college regarding future speakers and the program’s development over the coming years.--Emily Miner, TSL Staff Writer.

This article was originally published in the March 13, 2009, edition of The Student Life.