1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship works to improve diplomacy; center moving to Transylvania University

Portrait of Henry Clay by Matthew Harris Jouett

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Many would agree that if the country ever needed a good compromiser, now is the time. The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship hopes to improve the climate for political negotiation in the future through its prestigious summer Student Congress, which promotes the ideals of enlightened compromise and civil discourse that Clay championed throughout his distinguished political career in the 19th century.

Historically, the center has brought top college students from across the nation to Lexington for its one-week academic immersion into Clay’s principles of debate, diplomacy, communication and beneficial compromise. Beginning in 2014, the program will instead bring outstanding high school students from all around Kentucky to participate in the event. By educating these potential leaders, the center aims to have a positive impact on the nation’s public conversation.

The center’s core mission is to promote the ideals of statesmanship that Henry Clay exhibited in his public life from 1806 until his death in 1852. Clay was Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams, a senator and representative (Speaker of the House for six congresses) from Kentucky and a three-time presidential candidate. His skill at diplomacy earned him the title of the Great Compromiser.

A recently signed agreement between the center, Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky makes Transylvania the primary location for the center and the Student Congress.

“We are thrilled to be working in association with the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship and the University of Kentucky on this important project,” Transylvania President R. Owen Williams said. “Few Americans from the 19th century are more closely associated with the art of political compromise than Henry Clay. We are delighted to be part of a program that advances greater civility in public discourse, especially given the many challenges in the current political arena.”

“Our nation’s current stalemate known as the ‘fiscal cliff’ is an excellent example of why America needs to rally around Clay’s ideals, developing win-win solutions for all,” said Robert Clay, co-chair of the center.

“Much of the Henry Clay Center’s success during the last five years can be attributed to its partnership with UK and Transylvania,” Clay continued. “Both universities’ re-commitment to our mission and Transylvania’s willingness to become a managing partner will not only enhance our programs, but will provide the stability for our long-term future.”

“We’ve had a tremendous partnership with Transylvania for the last several years on this wonderful educational initiative and we look forward to continuing our support long into the future,” said University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto. “Given Henry Clay’s close and storied association with Transylvania University, it is entirely appropriate to have the program that bears his name permanently housed there.”

Clay’s close connections with Transylvania throughout his entire adult life warrant this new arrangement with the center. He taught in the university’s pioneering law department beginning in 1805 and served on the Board of Trustees on several occasions. He oversaw construction of Old Morrison in 1833, now Transylvania’s administration building. Regardless of his national career and world travels that took him far from his hometown of Lexington, he remained a loyal friend and counselor to the university until his death in 1852.

The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship is a part of the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3), located in Lexington, Kentucky, at Ashland, the historic Henry Clay estate.  

The search for a program director will begin soon.