Grassroots Populist Joins President’s Forum – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Grassroots Populist Joins President’s Forum

Commentator and columnist Jim Hightower joins the President's Forum Series at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. Frequently dressed in his trademark jeans, work shirt and white Stetson, Hightower will present “Thieves in High Places: How to Take Our Country Back.” For those who cannot attend, the event will be broadcast live on WEOS 89.7/90.3 FM.

A self-proclaimed “grassroots populist,” Hightower says he has spent three decades “battling the powers that be” on behalf of the “powers that ought to be,” namely consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses and just plain folks. Radio stations across the country air his daily two-minute commentaries, and his column appears in several national newspapers. Hightower is the author of “If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates.”

Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top.

Hightower also devotes much of his energy to revitalizing grassroots progressive politics with his nationwide “Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour.” Sort-of like a county fair of progressive activism, these festivals include top-notch speakers, great music, how-to workshops, food, drink, games, clowns and fun for the whole family.

Hightower was raised in Denison, Texas, in a family of small business people, tenant farmers, and working folks. A graduate of the University of North Texas, he worked in Washington as legislative aide to Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas; he then co-founded the Agribusiness Accountability Project, a public interest project that focused on corporate power in the food economy; and he was national coordinator of the 1976 “Fred Harris for President” campaign. Hightower then returned to his home state, where he became editor of the feisty biweekly, The Texas Observer. He served as director of the Texas Consumer Association before running for statewide office and being elected to two terms as Texas Agriculture Commissioner (1983-1991).

During the 90s, Hightower became known as “America's most popular populist,” developing his radio commentaries, hosting two radio talk shows, writing books, launching his newsletter, giving fiery speeches coast to coast, and otherwise speaking out for the American majority that's being locked out economically and politically by the elites. An article, titled “Jim Hightower battles the right with humor and courage” about Hightower was in the Houston Chronicle.

A book signing and reception will be held immediately following the talk in the atrium of the library.

The President's Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by President Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as interested community members. The talks are free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Before his President's Forum talk, Hightower was a guest on Plato's Cave, broadcast Thursday on WEOS 89.7/90.3 FM. Plato's Cave is hosted by Iva Deutchman, professor of political science, and Linda Robertson, professor of writing and rhetoric.