By Danielle Kiefer
Sen. Chris Van Hollen was invited then to speak for the University of Maryland’s annual Anwar Sadat Forum, which took place in Stamp Student Union’s Hoff Theater Sept. 28 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
The Anwar Sadat Forum, titled “The American Partisan Divide: From the Travel Ban to Charlottesville,” is comprised of series of lectures established in memory of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
UMD’s Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, Shibley Telhami, moderated the forum.
“The idea [of the event] is to engage our audiences with issues of the day and to bring thoughtful personalities to campus,” Telhami said.
Sen. Van Hollen, began serving in the U.S. Senate in Jan. 2017, following 14 years serving as the U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 8th congressional district.
“It was important to think of a political leader who can engage both issues of foreign policy and domestic policy, who is credible to our community,” Telhami said. “We thought that Sen.Van Hollen would be that person, and fortunately he agreed to do it.”
During the forum, Telhami and Sen. Van Hollen engaged in a conversation related to partisanship, and discussed whether or not President Trump’s actions have contributed to gridlock and polarization.
“We are a divided nation in ways that I have never seen before,” Telhami said.
The forum also covered topics relating to foreign and domestic policy, including the travel ban and Israeli-Middle Eastern relations.
Before the forum, Telhami said that he “definitely want[ed] to probe the issue of race relations.” Sen. Van Hollen spoke about attending the funeral of Richard Collins III, and how the campus and country are facing this issue.
“I know that the University of Maryland’s been working hard to try to bring the community together, but more than that, we’ve got to figure out how to change some of these dynamics,” Sen. Van Hollen said. “As a country, we need to constantly be doing better. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
Toward the end of the forum, audience members were encouraged to ask questions for Sen. Van Hollen. Telhami hoped that the students, faculty and staff who attended the forum learned something new about the topics discussed.
“What we need is a conversation that’s thoughtful, and for people to come out having enhanced their perspective, or taken time to consider different aspects of the issues that concern us that we hadn’t considered before,” Telhami said.
The forum, alternatively called the Sadat Lecture for Peace, has hosted a number of notable speakers since it began 20 years ago. Previous lecturers include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1998, former South African President Nelson Mandela in 2001, former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright in 2000 and 2010, and the Dalai Lama in 2013.