Exactly four weeks before Americans choose their next president, The Travelers Cos. announced it has launched a national campaign to take its documentary about the national debt to university campuses across the U.S.
Travelers has said the company is only trying to raise awareness of a national public-policy issue, and it is not trying to influence American politics one month before Election Day.
Company spokesman Shane Boyd said in a written statement: “’Overdraft’ is nonpartisan in its nature, and the goal of the documentary is to elevate the discussion and raise awareness on the federal deficit as an important public policy topic confronting the country, and the academic community is a very natural venue for that discussion. At Travelers, we recruit and hire on college campuses, and therefore, this is also a good opportunity to engage with an important constituency.”
“Overdraft” features a series of interviews about the nation’s debt with public figures such as Bill Clinton; Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Indiana; Newark (N.J.) Mayor Cory Booker; Time magazine columnist Joe Klein; and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad.
The hour-long film will be shown at an invitation-only event Monday night at the University of Connecticut. In addition, screenings are scheduled for Northwestern University, the University of Kansas, American University, Columbia University, the University of Delaware, Stanford University and other colleges in a growing list of campuses. The tour will extend months beyond the presidential election into 2013.
Separately, the film was made available Aug. 25 to public television stations across the U.S., and it is distributed by WTVI-TV, public television in Charlotte, N.C. The entire movie is available on YouTube, where it had about 2,600 views Tuesday evening.
The film also includes business executives and people from various backgrounds in government and economics. The university tour started with a screening at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Travelers CEO Jay S. Fishman graduated from Wharton with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in accounting in 1974.
“We recognize that the stability and health of the U.S. economy is vital to the growth and success of all businesses, as well as to the preservation of the American Opportunity,” Fishman said in a prepared statement. “As one of the largest insurers of small- and medium-sized businesses, we feel an obligation to advocate for a thriving economic environment and to that end, to raise awareness of the significance and implications of the debt crisis.”
The New York-based property-casualty insurers, which employs about 7,000 people in Connecticut, has said it doesn’t advocate for either political party’s solution to the national debt.
“The goal of our university tour is to foster nonpartisan dialogue that raises awareness of one of the most pressing issues of our time,” said Joan Woodward, president of the Travelers Institute, the public policy arm of the insurance company, which paid to make the movie for an undisclosed amount. “Our goal is to facilitate conversation and stimulate public policy dialogue that will raise awareness of the nation’s looming fiscal crisis.”