Forum focuses on economy, military

As part of the continuing effort to raise students’ political awareness before the 2008 election, the University of Miami hosted an Opportunity ’08 forum Monday night in the Storer Auditorium.

The forum, which attracted a student audience that filled every seat in the auditorium, was sponsored by the Brookings Institution and ABC News.

President Donna E. Shalala introduced the guests, who spoke for about two hours, and emphasized that this election is like none before.

“This is a change election; this is not a time for continuity,” said Kenneth M. Duberstein, panelist and co-chair of the project. “The next few months will be absolutely fascinating, and it is certainly not anything we have seen in our lifetimes.”

Duberstein and co-panelist Thomas E. Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, spent the first hour of the evening discussing the important issues in the upcoming election and their opinions on what is ahead.

Both panelists see Barack Obama winning the Democratic nomination after the final primaries in June.

“The fight between Hillary and Obama is taking quite a toll on the Democratic Party,” Duberstein said. “Everything I see points to Senator Obama, but there is no sign that Senator Clinton is getting out anytime soon.”

The panelists also agreed that the economy will be the most important issue this year.

According the National Bureau of Economic Research, over the last century the economy has been in a recession four times in the early part of an election year. In each of those four years, the incumbent party has lost the election, Duberstein pointed out.

The second half of the forum featured panelists Peter Singer, Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at Brookings; June Dreyer, a political science professor specializing in Chinese politics; and Michael O’Hanlon, director of Opportunity ’08. They discussed the state of the U.S. military.

According to Singer, the military is currently having a difficult time recruiting and is underequipped. However, Dreyer pointed out that the recession will help the military as unemployment increases and people turn to the armed forces.

Still, Dreyer said that “we won’t be able to expand the military until we find a way to exit Iraq.”

Many of the students who attended the event are also in Shalala’s Wednesday night Health Policy class, and received extra credit for attending the event.

Martín Giangreco, a senior in Shalala’s class, said June Dryer’s discussion on China’s growing military was the most interesting part of the event.

“I think it’s scary. They have a bigger military than I thought. Who knows what could happen in the future if relations lessen with China.”

Nick Maslow also contributed to this article.

Kiersten Schmidt may be contacted at