Speakers Forum meeting

Founding members of the East Texas Speakers Forum meet Friday at the Belcher Center in Longview, where former President George W. Bush will speak Dec. 3. From left are Brandon Reynolds of the University of Texas at Tyler; Amy McHaney of M. Roberts Media; Sam Forester; Jennifer Harris of Texas Bank and Trust; Ric Brack of the News-Journal; Gai Bennett of the Tyler Morning Telegraph; and Cynthia Hellen of LeTourneau University.

A full house is expected at Longview’s Belcher Center for the kickoff event of a new speaker series for East Texas, organizers said Friday.

Billed as “An Evening with President George W. Bush,” the Dec. 3 launch of the regionally led effort still has seats available, but they’re going fast.

“Just a few hundred of the nearly 2,000 seats remain for those who want to hear President Bush in Longview” said Cynthia Hellen, a founding board member of the East Texas Speakers Forum, which is being formed to promote speakers at venues across the area.

Added board member Amy McHaney: “An evening with the president would be a great early Christmas gift for friends and family members.”

They spoke as the regionally led board planning the event met Friday to go over arrangements at the Belcher Center at LeTourneau University, where Bush will speak and meet with sponsors of the event.

The series was founded to build on enthusiasm after other recent speaker events and to further cooperation among East Texas communities, organizers said previously.

According to a mission statement developed by the regional partners, other goals include increasing civic engagement and community education by “providing a platform for interesting people to talk about topics that inspire, challenge and concern our communities.” Speakers will be presented in venues across East Texas.

Bush, who served as the 43rd president from 2001 to 2009 and was the 46th governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, will share stories from his life in business and politics in a Q-and-A format.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit belchercenter.com and click “tickets,” call (903) 233-3080 or go to the box office.

The board-led nonprofit has commitments of financial support from individuals and corporations across East Texas, and fundraising efforts are nearly complete, said Sam Forester, a founding director of the Speakers Forum.

He said any individual or business interested in being a founding sponsor may contact the Speakers Forum via email to info@etxsf.com or by calling (903) 237-7755.

Along with Forester, other founding directors are: Mary Elizabeth Jackson, vice president, government affairs at Christus Health; Hellen, senior director of the Belcher Center at LeTourneau University; Ric Brack, editor of the Longview News-Journal; Jennifer Harris, senior vice president at Texas Bank and Trust; Gai Bennett, director of events at Tyler Morning Telegraph; Laura Jackson, assistant vice president at The University of Texas at Tyler, and McHaney, of M. Roberts Media.

Visit easttexasspeakers forum.com for more information.