Auburn University hosts first stop on national listening tour

Published: February 27, 2017
Updated: June 21, 2017
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Auburn University will be the first stop on a national tour discussing America's place in the world at a time of increasing concern about global competition abroad and population diversity within national borders.

Inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville's 19th century tour of the United States, the Asia Society has established “The U.S. and the World in 2017: A Listening Tour in the Footsteps of Alexis de Tocqueville,” which kicks off Wednesday, March 1, with a town hall meeting at Auburn University.

The Asia Society, founded by John D. Rockefeller III in the wake of World War II, is a nonprofit organization focused on promoting understanding between the U.S. and Asia. Its president and chief executive officer is Josette Sheeran, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme and a current member of the advisory board for the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University.

De Tocqueville did not visit Auburn when he came to Alabama in the winter of 1832. The French sociologist summarized his observations from his American tour in “Democracy in America,” arguably one of the most influential books of the 19th century.

Sheeran and Asia Society's Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski will visit Auburn and Montgomery to speak with public officials, community and faith organizations, manufacturing workers and business groups about what it means to be American and what role they see the U.S. playing in the world.

The tour is the first step in developing ideas and solutions that can be shared with policymakers and influencers in the U.S. and Asia. Additional tour cities will be added in the coming months.

Auburn's Hunger Solutions Institute is co-hosting the town hall from 5-7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. University and community leaders including Bill Ham, mayor of Auburn; Taffye Benson-Clayton, Auburn University's new associate provost and vice president for inclusion and diversity; June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences at Auburn; and Charles Pick, businessman and chairman of the Auburn University Research and Economic Development Advisory Board, will discuss various issues such as diversity, globalization and how to prepare tomorrow's leaders for an increasingly complex world. A special focus will be on the historic and future role of the land-grant university, especially in addressing the domestic and global challenges of food and nutrition security.

Auburn University is a national leader in the fight against hunger. Since partnering with the World Food Programme in 2004, Auburn has established the campus-wide War on Hunger initiative; Universities Fighting World Hunger, which has been active at more than 300 member universities worldwide; and Presidents United to Solve Hunger, a consortium of more than 85 university presidents from five continents.

The Hunger Solutions Institute, formed in 2012, houses Universities Fighting World Hunger, Presidents United to Solve Hunger and the statewide End Child Hunger in Alabama campaign. Auburn is one of two universities in the country with a minor in hunger studies.

The town hall is free; however, seating in the museum auditorium is limited. Reservations should be made in advance at

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.