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The Post-Racial World in the Age of Obama Credit: Lin Zheng

After a year of planning, the University’s first annual Penn Spectrum finally came together last weekend.

On Friday afternoon, a panel titled “A Post-Racial Society in the Age of Obama: Fact or Fiction?” kicked off the first annual conference — an alumni gathering focused on recognizing the University’s diversity.

According to 1995 Wharton alumna Nicole Maloy, event organizer and director of multicultural outreach for Penn Alumni Relations, approximately 65 people attended the preconference panel, which doubled as the fall meeting of the James Brister Society, an alumni group that works to promote diversity on campus.

The panel discussion was moderated by 1980 College alumnus Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans. Throughout the hour-and-a-half discussion, Morial raised various issues — including post-racial identity and politics of color — for the four panelists to discuss.

The alumni panel consisted of professors and community leaders actively involved in debating and resolving race-related issues. Although often at odds with each other, the panelists came to the conclusion that the country is moving toward a post-racial society. “It’s a scale, not a dichotomy,” said panelist and Political Science professor Daniel Gillion.

According to Maloy, the society selected the discussion topic to be of interest to both members and the Penn community at large. As a result, Maloy believed the event was a rousing success. “Every single person I spoke to after the event wished it had gone on longer. [The society] was able to put together a slate of people that had such complementary areas of experience,” she said.

Calvin Bland, a 1972 Wharton alumnus, echoed Maloy’s sentiments. “I think it was a very informative discussion on race, perceptions of race and how one copes or doesn’t cope [with them],” he said. Bland was particularly impressed by panelist Farah Jimenez, a 1990 College and 1996 Law alumna, and the panel’s diversity of ideas. “Her clarity of thought was enlightening and it helped to hear a point of view that I don’t embrace but that I can respect,” he stated.

Penn Spectrum officially began at a welcome reception held immediately after the panel and lasted until Sunday evening. According to conference co-chairwoman Cecilia Ramirez, approximately 430 alumni registered for the conference beforehand, although there were many walk-ons.

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