There's a reason that it's possible to buy a 2-liter container of Pepsi-Cola for as little as 59 cents.

First Posted: 1/15/2009

It's not because the store is making a profit. The store is simply trying to get you through the doors.
That's philosophy drives -- at least in part -- the Distinguished Speakers Series at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, the brainchild of Chancellor Allen Meadors. The curtain dropped last week on Year II of the series and, like the inaugural series, it was quite a show.
Although there was a cancellation, this year's series put the following people behind the podium:
-- Erin Brockovich, the inspiration of the movie by her name whose investigative work uncovered a chemical leak at a utility company in California.
-- Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2000.
-- Maya Angelou, whose titles include author, poet, historian, conductor, actor, singer, songwriter, playwright, film director and civil rights advocate.
-- Sherman Alexie, an American Indian novelist, poet and playwright.
UNCP spent $70,000 getting these four on campus, and for the previous series, the cost was $68,000. More than 5,000 people turned out to see this year's speakers, but many of them paid nothing and no one paid more than $5. So, like the store selling the 59-cent Pepsi, UNCP took a loss -- a big one.
But that's not the point. Meador’s goal is to expose people in and around the UNCP community to what these speakers have to say, while also exposing some of them to UNCP. On both counts, Meadors is succeeding.
Next year's lineup has already been established. You can go ahead and make a date with:
-- Lynne Russell, the anchor of CNN Headline News and author of “How to Win Friends, Kick Ass and Influence People.” She will appear Sept. 24.
-- Henry Winkler, also known as “The Fonz,” an actor and director who will speak on Nov. 12.
-- James Earl Jones, the voice of “Darth Vader” who also appeared in “Clear and Present Danger” and “Patriot Games.” Jones will be in Pembroke on Feb. 18, 2003.
-- Rito Moreno, a regular on the HBO original series “Oz.” Moreno, the only woman to win an Oscar, Tony and a Grammy, will be in Pembroke on March 11, 2003.
That leaves one slot unfilled, but the university is working to return Kelvin Sampson, the Oklahoma Sooner basketball coach, to his hometown and alma mater.
We look forward to next year's series and telling those of you who cannot attend what these thoughtful and successful people have to say.

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