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Citizenship Organization Director Hails "The Age of the Offered Hand"

January 25, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

By Stratton Lawrence '03

Phil Duncan
Phil Duncan spoke about citizenship on January 22 at Davidson.

Philip D. Duncan '79, executive director of the National Conference On Citizenship (NCOC), told a Davidson audience recently that President Bush's election has ushered into Washington "the age of the offered hand."

Speaking in the College Union 900 Room on January 22 as an Alumni Lecture Series speaker, Duncan called the past eight years "the age of the clenched fist," because the presidency has been surrounded by scandal and controversy.

After a twenty-year career as a journalist, including service as the political editor for Congressional Quarterly, Duncan joined the NCOC in 1999. NCOC is a non-partisan, non-profit, public foundation chartered by Congress in 1953, "to encourage ever more effective participation in citizenship activities and to promote a spirit of cooperation on the part of all citizens."

Duncan applauded President Bush's plea for compromise between political factions in his inaugural address. Duncan also reviewed the events of Election 2000, and mused about its influence on the public and government.

900 Room crowd
Phil Duncan talks after the reception with (l-r) Andrew MacDonald '03 and Adam Hill '03

He said that virtually no one cared about the election until it became 'The Never Ending Story,' when suddenly both parties became adamantly determined to win. He believes that the flurry of post-election activity could positively affect voting patterns and turnouts in the future, but reminded young members of his audience several times that "it is up to you."

Duncan said that the ballot counting in Florida became an overblown public crisis, and said the public's insistence on a rapid final answer should have been more forcefully parried by officials in order to more carefully process the unprecedented events. He criticized the crossfire from the political parties, condemning television shows that gave voice to politicians whose goals were to prevent legislation, rather than seek compromise.

Born in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1957, Duncan was raised in a family tradition of civic involvement and public service. After graduating from Davidson as a political science major, he worked for The Charlotte Observer and The Knoxville News-Sentinel before moving to Washington, D.C., to join the staff of Congressional Quarterly. He was editor of the publisher's authoritative biennial reference book, "Politics in America," which analyzes the work of each member of the U.S. House and Senate.

One of Duncan's responsibilities with the NCOC is to organize "National Citizenship Day" each September 17. He talked about that in his closing comments to the Davidson audience, calling on students to take a stand in politics. "Citizenship is more than dead white males," he joked, reminding the audience that they should look forward to creating a heritage, rather than just studying the past. He cited the fact that in schools where children vote, their parents are more likely to vote as well, and urged all American to become active political citizens.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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