On Thursday 6th November, Professor Samantha Power and Professor Cass Sunstein, newly appointed adjunct Professors in the Faculty of Law, delivered their (joint) inaugural lecture. Both Professors have acted as advisors to the President elect and are distinguished public commentators as well as highly respected academics. The title: â€˜Whither America: Law & Human Rights in the next US Administration?â€™ provided the audience not only an insight into the role of the rule of law and human rights in the forthcoming US Administration but also reflections on Barak Obama and the road to his historic win in the Presidential election this week.
Professor Sunstein opened the lecture with some personal reflections of Obama the man; his thoughtfulness, stillness and his intellect. This set the scene for his examination of Obama as a â€œvisionary minimalistâ€. The minimalist element is Obamaâ€™s rejection of â€œstandard social divisionsâ€ â€“ liberals/conservatives, Democrats/Republicans. The need to respect competing views and forge policies that will attract support from all sides is a central element of Obamaâ€™s approach. At the same time, Professor Sunstein characterised him as a visionary because he is â€œwilling to think bigâ€ with ambitious energy plans and reform of key public services. The result will be a President in a different mould than that which has been witnessed in recent years.
Professor Power considered
The reinvigoration of the role of American on the International stage was picked up by Professor Sunstein in the questions and answers session in particular in relation to the role of the
Neither Professor Power not Professor Sunstein were speaking directly for President Elect Obama in their lecture, but they were able to point to the themes that came from the presidential campaign which showed the scope for real change for America in the new presidential era. The appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court, the protection of human rights, the closing of
One issue that was raised but left unanswered was what happens now with the sense of civic responsibility and democracy that had been energised by the grass roots movement mobilised so effectively by Obama. How can the new energy and activism be harnessed for real social change at the grassroots level?
The sense of history being made was however very clear to the audience, as was the sense of excitement for a new phase in Americaâ€™s history, the idea a renewal of America, both domestically and internationally. The lecture encapsulated that mood, felt far beyond the shores of the
A podcast of the lecture will be available on the UCC website soon.