By WGBH News
Mar. 2, 2012
BOSTON — As Barack Obama runs for a second term, academics have gathered at Tufts for their third conference assessing his presidency.
History professor Peniel Joseph said that Obama has become an international symbol of African American achievement even though "if anything, he's been reluctant to dip his toe into race matters."
Still, Joseph wondered whether the symbol can pull together a strong enough coalition to keep the presidency this year, asking, "Is 'hope and change' dead on arrival in 2012?"
The conference marks the creation of a new multidisciplinary center at the university that will study questions of race and politics year-round. "Race and democracy are really two of the most pressing issues for the 21st century globally," Joseph said, playing a role in everything from the Arab Spring to the success in Boston of city councilor Ayanna Pressley.
In addition, Tufts is launching an Africana studies major — something many universities created in the 1970s. "Top, elite institutions … they all offer degrees in Africana Studies so in a way we were behind the curve," Joseph said.
WGBH News' Phillip Martin is a panelist at the conference Saturday morning, discussing civic engagement and media in the Obama age.
> > LISTEN: Race, democracy and a new center at Tufts on "The Emily Rooney Show."