Purcell to focus on role of local governments in serving common good


Bill Purcell

Nick Glunt | Staff Writer

Bill Purcell, former mayor of Nashville, Tenn., will speak at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater. He is the second speaker for the week focusing on “Applied Ethics: Government and the Search for the Common Good.”

This is Purcell’s second time speaking at the Chautauqua Institution. The last time he was here was in 2007; he spoke as both a morning and afternoon lecturer. He said he’s looking forward to speaking again and that it’s an honor to be speaking alongside the others for the week.

“Really and truly, (Chautauqua) is the best platform in this country for public address,” Purcell said. “And the audiences have a reputation of being incredible — and they are.”

His speech will focus more on the city aspects of the ethics and common good topics that are the focus of this week. In the face of issues such as money, politics and taxes, he said each one requires answers. He hopes his speech will, alongside the others, help Chautauquans to become better informed as to where to find those solutions.

“The common good would appear to require answers,” Purcell said, “and I think the question for all of us is where to find hope and, an even better (reason), for optimism.”

The area of ethics, Purcell said, is something that every politician at every level of government must face, be it regarding such issues as the passing or presentation of legislation, political issues, criminality or even more personal issues. He will give examples from his time as mayor during his lecture.

Purcell was elected into office in 2003 with a nationally record-setting 84.8 percent of votes. From 1999 to 2007, Nashville saw economic growth, a 50 percent increase in education funding and the building of 26,000 housing units. Governing magazine listed him in 2006 as “Public Official of the Year” for these accomplishments.

He currently is special adviser for Allston at Harvard University, where he advises on how to boost the effectiveness of the Allston facility as a campus environment. To date, Purcell has spent more than 30 years in the fields of public service, law and higher education.

“I don’t think there’s any question that this set of issues revolving around ethics is going, really, to the heart of the success of our governance,” Purcell said. “It’s much on minds of America right now.”