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26 April 2005

An international student panel will quiz US congressman Xavier Becerra about cultural diversity in a Talkback Classroom forum tomorrow.

In a live video link between the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, Congressman Becerra (Democrat - California) - who is of Hispanic background - will be asked about the development of the Hispanic American identity, immigration issues, and religion and culture.

The students will also ask him to draw comparisons and note differences between US and Australian approaches to civil rights, immigration and multiculturalism.

Three American high school students will question Congressman Becerra at a studio at the Smithsonian Institution. Three Australian students will grill him from the National Museum's broadcast Studio, in front of an audience of students, teachers, and others.

The Talkback Classroom interview takes place at 9.45am EST on Wednesday, April 27.

Talkback Classroom is a National Museum project linking students from across Australia and the world with key politicians and public figures. Earlier guests have included Prime Minister John Howard and the US ambassador to Australia, Tom Schieffer.

Each student panel has been briefed by key journalists, academics and advisers.

The Australian panel, all Canberra students, is: Ann MacKay, Mathew Bock, and Laura Jones.

The Talkback Classroom interview will be broadcast on ABC Radio National's Life Matters. Talkback Classroom can also be seen on the SBS TV program, School Torque.

The interview can be heard at:

NOTE: Talkback Classroom goes overseas again next month when a panel of New Zealand high school students questions Prime Minister Helen Clark at Te Papa Museum, joined by Australian students linked from the National Museum's Studio. The Helen Clark interview takes place on May 11, at 9am EST.

For further information please contact Sandy Forbes on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or email

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