Take three Supreme Court justices, 12 members of Congress, the director of the FBI, a couple of cabinet members and a governor; throw in various journalists and other government officials, and you've got quite a powerful lineup—especially since this is not for some political fundraiser but for a public-service campaign.
C-SPAN teamed up with Comcast last year for a public-affairs initiative called Students & Leaders, which, over the course of a month, took that impressive roster to Washington-area schools to talk to students about leadership and life in public service.
C-SPAN also provided schools with curriculum suggestions related to leadership, government and journalism. The network then created a series of hour-long educational programs from the events, ran them and made them available for free through the project's Web site. Afterwards, the 13 students who most eloquently described the impact of the program received scholarships totaling $25,000.
"Our chairman, Brian Lamb, wanted to do a project in our own backyard," says Joanne Wheeler, director of community relations and education. "And we wanted to give students a voice to ask questions about how the leaders got where they are and what mistakes they made along the way. They were told to do research and ask what they wanted to; they were told it did not have to be a love fest."
The program was such a smash that it won the Golden Beacon, the highest award given by the Cable Television Public Affairs Association (CTPAA).
Although the logistics of coordinating with a school system and the famous and powerful was "the part that gave us all gray hair," Wheeler said, C-SPAN knew it had to repeat the program. So this year, the network teamed up with Time Warner Cable in New York for a one-week program. This one brought out not only local politicians but also author Frank McCourt, Broadway director Harold Prince, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa.
Wheeler thinks every local market has enough "stars" to make the program work, and she aims to find out: "We are a long way from running out of options on this."
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