PROVO — Senator Joe Lieberman's refusal to drive on Saturdays almost rivals the rigidity of a Mormon rejecting alcohol at a party.
That may be one reason BYU has scheduled the Connecticut senator, Al Gore's running mate on the Democratic ticket in the 2000 presidential election, to speak at a campus devotional on October 25. Lieberman recently published a book titled "Gift of Rest," which he co-wrote with David Klinghoffer about the importance of the Sabbath.
"I know some people will think it is unusual for a United States senator to write a book about a religious subject like the Sabbath," Liebermann told Politico.com in February. "… I have done so because of all the Sabbath has meant to me as a person and as a senator."
For devout Jews like Lieberman, Sabbath begins Friday sundown and lasts until Saturday sundown, and they are advised against driving and other activities that would violate the day of rest.
The four-term senator has said he does not plan on running for re-election after this term.
BYU is known to serve up some big names for campus devotionals and forums, high-profile speakers like Condoleeza Rice, Ken Burns, Harry Reid and many more. The university has also hosted Dick Cheney, who spoke at commencement in 2007 while he was the sitting vice president.
The full schedule for this school year's devotionals hasn't been released yet, but President Cecil O. Samuelson and his wife, Sister Sharon G. Samuelson, are scheduled to speak at the semester's first devotional on Tuesday. Renowned author and lecturer Gregg Easterbrook is scheduled to speak Sept. 20.
BYU schedules most of its forums months in advance and has a strict form to qualify for nomination. According to the forums section on the BYU website, "Speakers should be among the most competent, accomplished, and therefore highly respected leaders in their fields. Those invited should be able to speak in an effective (appealing) manner."
Speakers can be nominated by the committee in charge of selecting speakers but can also be nominated by the university community at by filling out a form about a speaker who fills the requirements to speak on campus. BYU looks for speakers who will appeal to the general BYU audience and who will present perspective for the students, along with sharing similar values as BYU students.
"Well I think they want to have people who model integrity," said BYU political science professor Richard Davis. "Someone who has been involved in a scandal — they probably wouldn't be invited."
Speakers are paid an undisclosed fee for their services.
"I think all the people who have come to speak at devotionals or forums have valued education," said Sara Jenkins, a BYU student studying communication disorders from Las Vegas. "It's something they feel really strongly about. A lot of the speakers speak about service to others and helping the community, even if they're not LDS."
For Davis, having prominent political leaders, businessman and other reputable speakers visit BYU's campus is a blessing and a lesson for students.
"I think students appreciate having these people come and getting their perspective and asking them questions," Davis said. "I wish we had more of this."
Davis suggested those planning on attending the Lieberman forum should go with an open mind and be ready to listen to a prominent political leader and family man.
"I don't know how much he's going to talk about his faith," Davis said. "One would hope he would talk about his career. It's useful for BYU students to see there are people from other religious beliefs and try to apply that in their own life."