MICHIGAN CITY — Purdue University Northwest has landed controversial ex-FBI Director James Comey as the opening speaker to kick off its highly regarded Sinai Forum series Sept. 9.
This year’s Sinai Forum season will host five speakers through December, leading off with Comey, whose New York Times best-selling book set off a President Trump-led White House firestorm last week and is set for an official release Tuesday.
“(Comey) was a big catch,” Leslie Plesac, executive director of the Sinai Forum, told The Times Friday.
“When you look at the roster, it’s pretty impressive,” Plesac said. “We have had speakers in politics, journalism, sports, in foreign policy and in world affairs, but James Comey is up there. And it couldn’t be a more timely.”
Even before his high-profile firing by Trump on May 9, Comey had already become somewhat of a household name in the lead-up to the 2016 election, where he was heavily criticized for his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Comey was leading the FBI's investigation into Russian election meddling until Special Counsel Robert Mueller took over in May.
Since that time, Comey has penned a book titled, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership," appeared Sunday in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and embarked on a whirlwind of a press tour to publicize the new tell-all book.
Plesac said while not all with agree with what Comey has to say, she hopes his appearance in the Sinai Forum will promote a healthy dialogue and challenge people to think critically.
“Our goal with the Sinai Forum is to bring people together, to create a welcoming environment and promote critical inquiry through conversation, not just with students and faculty, but with our community,” Plesac said. “The forum is an opportunity to come together, be challenged, learn something new, and to share in conversation in a climate of mutual respect.”
Plesac said Urschel Laboratories, Inc., the global leader in food cutting technology based in Chesterton, agreed to sponsor Comey’s speaking engagement.
Urschel Laboratories’ CEO Rick Urschel says the employee-owned company shares the forum’s vision of bringing together a diverse and interesting array of speakers in an intimate setting.
“Regardless of political affiliation, ethics is something I hold in high regard,” Urschel said in a university news release. “When presented with the opportunity to bring former (FBI) Director Comey to the forum, we immediately wanted to help so people could hear him tell his story.”
Comey opens the speakers series 4 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Stardust Event Center at Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa in Michigan City.
His speech, “The Ethical Leader," will detail his experience in public service, according to the university.
Hosting prominent speakers has been the cornerstone of PNW Sinai Forum’s renowned history, entering its 65th season this fall, according to Plesac.
The forum provides audiences a unique opportunity to hear notable speakers in an intimate, town-hall style setting.
Speakers typically speak 50 to 55 minutes, leaving time for a 30-minute question and answer, Plesac said.
The remaining four speakers for the 2018 season will be announced in late May and season series tickets go on sale in early June.
Since 1953, the Sinai Forum has hosted countless prominent figures, celebrities and world leaders, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Cronkite, William O. Douglas, Oprah Winfrey and Mike Ditka.