'This Week' Launches 'The Great American Debates'

PHOTO: Great Debates logo

ABC News' "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia are partnering for "The Great American Debates," a series of debates on the key issues of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The series will kick off Sunday, Dec. 18 and continue with five additional debates through Election Day.

The debates, moderated by "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour, will take place before a live studio audience at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and air on Sundays as special episodes of "This Week."

The first debate will focus on the topic "There is Too Much Government in My Life" -- debating the role and scope of government on issues such as entitlements, taxes, and regulations. Participants for the first debate include House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and columnist George Will versus Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

"The Great American Debates allow us to really delve into the substance of this election and unpack the differing visions for the country," Amanpour said. "By talking to key thinkers, we hope to move beyond talking points and examine the ideological divide separating the two parties."

"Too often in this country, important issues are not discussed or debated as much as they are reduced to sound bites and slogans," said former Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, director and CEO of the Miller Center. "Our purpose is to educate and to elevate the level of understanding and civility when the issues of 2012 are discussed."

Founded in 1975, the Miller Center is a nonpartisan institute at the University of Virginia focused on the presidency, policy and political history that works to inform public debate and national decision-making. It is the leading organization in the country looking to provide historical insights for the policymaking challenges the country faces today.

The Miller Center will create and disseminate educational materials for the debate. Leading scholars will write white papers on each debate topic, which will be turned into lesson plans that middle school and high school teachers can use to educate students about election issues. The lesson plans will adhere to the standards of learning in all 50 states, with all white papers and lesson plans available at millercenter.org.

"I'm especially pleased that these debates will not only help inform voters but also help teach students across the country," Baliles said.

Viewers are invited to post their comments and questions on the topics during the week before each debate on Twitter, using the hashtag #GreatDebate, and at abcnews.com/this week, facebook.com/amanpourabc and facebook.com/millercenter. Some comments may be used on air during the broadcasts.

For more information on "The Great American Debates" and the first debate participants, visit the Miller Center debate website.

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