In past years the Institute has sponsored weekend symposia of national
significance. The symposium begins on a Friday evening, continues
all-day Saturday, and concludes Sunday afternoon. Ten speakers convene
with the participants to discuss in depth the subject and questions at
hand. Approximately 200 people attend each symposium, but a sense of
closeness is maintained by being together all weekend, by having no two
events scheduled at the same time, and by breaking into groups of ten
for luncheons which are hosted by Salado volunteers in their homes.
Each symposium addressed a powerful topic, one that lends itself to exploration from multiple perspectives. Past symposia have included:
• Understanding Vietnam (1982)
• Texas Mythology (1985)
• Understanding Evil (1987)
• Closeness (1989)
• Dream: One-Third of Your Life (1991)
• First Nations: a Current Event (1992)
Two of these programs have had extensive national impact. "Understanding Vietnam" was one of the first public conferences that countered the silence that overtook America after the fall of South Vietnam. For three extraordinary days in October 1982, the standing room only audience of 200, meeting in the Longhorn Room of the Stagecoach Inn, were taken back to this turbulent period in American history. Outstanding scholars of U. S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War joined former public officials of the Johnson Administration, several military generals, a dozen or so foot soldiers, a poet, and several journalists in discussing the impact of the war on the soldiers who fought it and the nation that was torn apart because of it. Journalist Philip Geyelin wrote the following for The Washington Post on November 6, 1982:
"Salado is a far piece from the places where policy is made. But it might not be a bad place for the policy makers of the moment to repair to from time to time to contemplate their handiwork."
"Understanding Evil," a 1987 symposium, also drew a standing-room only crowd. The major participants in this weekend program included Rollo May, Maya Angelou, Jeffrey Burton Russell, Sir Laurens Van der Post, Phillip Hallie, Herbert Abrams, Chungliang Al Huang, M. Scott Peck, Tony Schwartz, Raul Hilberg, Barbara Jordan and Samuel Proctor. The 90-minute Bill Moyers video produced in conjunction with the symposium, "Facing Evil", was twice broadcast nationally on PBS and is still in circulation (Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Princeton). The documentary offers the intimate testimonies of many of the symposium participants as they discuss their dramatic confrontations with the force of evil and the discovery that exploring evil leads to revelations about goodness. Among those featured are Maya Angelou, who speaks of being raped as a child; scholar Raul Hilberg, who discusses the Holocaust; philosopher Philip Hallie, who speaks of his experiences as a soldier in World War II; and Samuel D. Proctor, minister and educator, who tells of the racial hatred he has experienced. They are joined by dancer and Taoist interpreter Al Huang and former U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan. Facing Evil: Light at the Core of Darkness, published by Open Court Press and edited by University of Texas philosopher Paul Woodruff and Harry Wilmer, served as a companion to the PBS program. The book includes essays by additional scholars.