Institution looks to capitalize on multigenerational gatherings during Week Two of 2013 Season

Leah Harrison | Staff Writer

Planning Chautauqua’s morning lecture platform themes begins more than a year in advance. After combing through submissions and ideas, a committee narrows the pool to nine themes by considering the arc of a week, the season’s arc and how they will fit together.

Nabbing and adapting Tom Brokaw’s book title, 2013’s Week Two theme will be “The Next Greatest Generation,” examining the younger adult generation’s values and social awareness. During that week, the Chautauqua community will consider the relationship between young people and their elders — how the young affect policy and effect change in the United States and around the world.

Guests for 2013’s Week Two have not yet been confirmed, but a plan is in action. Sherra Babcock, director of the Department of Education, wants to enlist four people who will likely be leaders in some way for years to come. The four speakers will present individually on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and they will have a conversation together Wednesday.

“We’ve got to have them in conversation as a way to observe the collaborative style of this generation,” Babcock said. “That’s an example of the way things are going to get done as these young people lead in the future.”

The theme was slated for Week Two because it coincides with the week of the Fourth of July, which brings a higher rate of multigenerational visitors to Chautauqua, with families gathering to celebrate the holiday.

“We think it’s really important and helpful to let families see what is possible for the next generation,” Babcock said.

Likely to appear as speakers are representatives from a political field, whether it be a politician or someone working in the background; someone involved in a nonprofit; a voice from the field of science, math or medicine; and an educator or someone in the humanities.

The average age of invited speakers will fall under 35, and a platform balanced in age and gender is important to the committee.

“In crafting this theme, we are making sure to represent different fields, different points of view,” Babcock said, “but young people who we think are going to make a difference in our upcoming world.”