Contemporary Issues Forum

Judy Carter to Talk in CIF on Humor & Problem-Solving


There’s a morning lecturer in the Amphitheater wowing the audience and leaving them with a message so memorable that many Chautauquans will take it to heart, and even take action.

When this occurs, here’s something to ponder: Has the speaker been professionally trained by comedian, public speaking guru, NPR “All Things Considered” commentator, podcaster and best-selling author Judy Carter?

It’s happened here before, when Dalia Mogahed spoke at the Institution in 2013, and it will happen again — because Carter has the character, competence and charisma to transform good talks into great presentations.   

She also possesses the ability to coax people’s sense of humor and inner strength out of lethargy and despair. Ripple effects come from helping others turn their lives around. Often they, in turn, inspire the people around them. 

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Carter herself will grace the Hall of Philosophy podium as the Chautauqua Women’s Club’s Week Six Contemporary Issues Forum speaker. Her talk is titled: “Stress IS a Laughing Matter: The Power of Turning Problems into Punchlines.”

The “What’s Funny?” Amp speakers may have left the grounds, but at least one outstanding comedian remains.

“I have learned that I look at life as material, and certainly life is so stressful right now with our political divisions and … shootings, and the Kardashians are procreating, and (there’s) so much bad, that I’m here at Chautauqua to show people the trade secrets of comedians,” Carter said. “I’m going to show (Chautauquans) that even if they’re humor-impaired, they can lighten up.”

In part, Carter’s insight and wit come from having surmounted more than her share of challenges.   

“I grew up with a severe speech impediment (that was) so bad I couldn’t even say that word, ‘impediment,’ ” she said. “I grew up in a very unfunny house, in a Jewish family in Los Angeles. There was so much yelling and screaming we had a wailing wall in our living room. My sister was severely disabled. … So I had to be funny. What else was I to do, right?”

Carter’s older sister, Marsha, had cerebral palsy so severe that she was quadriplegic.

“It was painful,” Carter said. “It was very painful because (Marsha) was given away at 8, and she then reduced herself to one word: ‘home, home.’ And she’d say that over and over, and it became my life’s work to find her a home — and in California they institutionalize, so she was institutionalized. … At this point she was tube fed … and incontinent. But I did find her a home.”

As an 8-year-old, Carter went to the public library and Joe Berg’s Magic Store in Los Angeles for books on magic tricks. Practicing the patter that was recommended for performing these tricks improved her speech, and her proficiency at magic got her gigs.

In elementary school, Carter morphed into “Magica the Magician” at children’s birthday parties. She and P.G. Rognow, her assistant, presented three to four shows a weekend and put on a backyard benefit that raised more that $500 for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

During college at California State University, Northridge, and the University of Southern California, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in theatrical arts, Carter performed magic as “Judiwitch” at birthday and fraternity parties.

During the early 1970s, she studied with the Canadian magician, Dai Vernon, known for his sleight of hand technique. Carter and Tina Lenert, a mime and magician, formed an act

“I started as a magician,” Carter said. “I was the first woman to ever perform at The Magic Castle in Los Angeles, and I was kicked out. Thrown out. That was my school of hard knocks. I was actually lifted up and taken to the parking lot … because they said, ‘Women don’t belong here.’ ”

Along the way, Carter’s magic and tricks became more elaborate and involved.

“I toured the whole country,” she said. “I played Teddy Roosevelt in the Badlands, where they said, ‘Can you work Teddy Roosevelt into your act?’ ‘Sure.’ That’s when I was following Mr. Boodles and his Dancing Poodles.”

Then one day in Chicago, her trick materials didn’t show up.

“Chicago is a tough town,” Carter said. “I go, ‘I can’t go on (without) my tricks.’ They go, ‘Yo! You’re going on!’ And next thing you know, I had to go on, and that’s when I realized I could do comedy, and I didn’t need tricks.”

She said her first joke came from her show at the last of the Playboy Clubs.

“I was in the Bunny Room crying on this Bunny’s breast — although she said she was a feminist, this Bunny,” Carter said. “She said, ‘Don’t call us bunnies, we’re rabbits.’ And then I went, ‘Well that’s what I’ll open with. … And that was my first joke. And then I became a comic and let go of the tricks.”

In 1984 — five years after switching to stand-up — Carter created Comedy Workshop Productions at Igby’s Comedy Cabaret. Carter’s were the first comedy classes offered in Los Angeles. She began focusing on humor for corporate events and the workplace in 1989.

Carter toured extensively as a headlining comic. She said she opened for Prince and many others, and performed in hundreds of television shows.

“After 17 years of (headlining) — it’s a rather lonely life for a single woman on the road — I quit and I wrote a book,” Carter said. “The book was rejected by 59 agents. It’s called Stand-Up Comedy: The Book.”

On Saturday afternoon, she will tell the story of how her 60th book submission transformed her career and her life.

Since Stand-Up Comedy was published in 1989, Carter has written three more books. For The Homo Handbook: Getting in Touch With Your Inner Homo — A Survival Guide for Lesbians and Gay Men, she won the Lambda Literary Award for best humor book in 1996.

Her other books are: The Comedy Bible: From Stand-up to Sitcom — The Comedy Writer’s Ultimate How-To Guide and The Message of You: Turn Your Life Story Into a Money-Making Speaking Career. She is currently working on a fourth book.

According to Carter, eight years ago, about 100 people attended her sister Marsha’s funeral.

“Even though (Marsha was) someone who couldn’t talk and walk, she gave me motivation for my book (The Message of You) and podcast, called ‘The Power of Purpose,’ ” Carter said. “Because I realized … that even though she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t talk and she could communicate just with facial expressions, (there were) … people at her funeral who got up and said, ‘Marsha gave my life purpose; she made me feel needed.’ And I realized, we all have a purpose in life, even though we might not even be able to see it.”

One of Carter’s purposes is to transform pain — hers and many others’ — into positive, healing power, as well as into punchlines.   

“I guarantee after my talk, (for those who) attend, they will have lost five pounds, because stress and negativity can weigh you down,” she said. “Life doesn’t show up funny, you have to do something with it.”

Former Congresswomen Barbara Mikulski to talk about building zone of civility

Barbara Mikulski

In New York state, in preparation for the 2018 U.S. general election, official postcards with polling location information arrived in the mail this summer. Candidate mailings for the Sept. 13 state primary election and the No.6 general election will soon follow.

In recent elections, voters in some states, including Montana and Wisconsin, received postcards of mysterious origin containing false, lurid statements trashing Democratic and Republican candidates three to 30 days prior to elections.

The Nov. 6 general election will be the second in which the name Barbara A. Mikulski — longest-serving woman in Congressional history, longest-serving senator from Maryland and first female chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee — will not appear on the ballot in Maryland.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, August 11, in the Hall of Philosophy, Mikulski will deliver an address that is directly relevant to the issue of freedom of speech and expression. It is titled, “The First of Many: Building a Zone of Civility.”

Having run in and won 17 of 18 elections since 1970 — enabling her to serve in the Baltimore City Council for five years, represent Maryland’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years (five two-year terms) and represent the state of Maryland in the U.S. Senate for 30 years (five six-year terms) — Mikulski became a seasoned campaigner.

Her perspectives about change over time in public discourse while she was campaigning, participating fully in high-level government decision-making after winning elections, and advising academic scholars and students about government after retiring from the U.S. Senate in January 2017, are particularly  well-grounded.

The last year in which Mikulski ran for election was 2010. The U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in January of that year.

This will be the fourth general election since the Citizens United decision. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court held that the free speech clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment allows independent and indirect contributions to political parties and candidate campaigns by for-profit corporations, not-for-profit organizations, labor unions, and other associations.

Some of the democracy-challenging ramifications of the Citizens United decision are depicted in the award-winning 2018 documentary “Dark Money.” This film examines the influence of largely untraceable corporate funding on state elections and elected officials — judges included. It also raises concerns about untraceable foreign funding.

Chautauqua Cinema hosted two Meet the Filmmaker screenings of “Dark Money” on Monday, followed by discussions led by filmmaker, Kimberly Reed.

In her December 2016 “summing-up speech” on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Mikulski called for a return to civility in politics. Known in the Senate as the “Dean of the Women,” she was a mentor to newly elected women Senators and built coalitions of women who worked together “to get things done.”

Upon retiring from the Senate, Mikulski — who majored in sociology at Mount Saint Agnes College and earned her master’s degree in social work at the University of Maryland — began the next phase of her career as the Homewood Professor of Political Science and adviser to President Ronald J. Daniels at Johns Hopkins University.

A recipient of the highest civilian award in the United States in 2015, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she has also been speaking nationally about leadership, innovation, advocacy an women’s empowerment.

More than 25 years ago, Mikulski and Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison initiated regular dinner meetings for women senators.

“Our agreement was to do legislating with intellectual rigor, civility, and open debate, and when it was over, we would still be friends,” Mikulski said.

Initially she and Hutchison focused on mammograms.

“There were no national mammogram standards,” Mikulski said. “In some offices they used a TB machine. There was also the question of radiation. We introduced legislation and had the full support of all the women and many fine men. It passed.”

Consequently, “now a woman knows that the mammogram in the (medical) office is safe and effective,” she continued. “The workers, too. … One of the earliest companies to meet the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) standards was GE (General Electric). They made mammograms far more desirable to sell around the world. They saved lives, protected workers, and resulted in jobs in our own country.”

For Mikulski, “the first acts of citizenship” are registering to vote, voting and making sure one’s family does likewise.

“I’m pretty sure the largest voting block is ‘no show,’ ” she said. “In order to make democracy work, we have to work at democracy.”

Working within one’s community is another important act of citizenship.

“I’m a big believer in education from K through 12, as well as civic engagement,” Mikulski said. “Be a lifelong learner and a lifelong participant in your community. … Everyone can do something.”

Before joining the Baltimore City Council in 1971, she served as a social worker and as a community organizer and activist who successfully opposed the construction of a 16-lane highway — Interstate 95 — through two Baltimore neighborhoods. Her efforts saved Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Fells Point. Consequently, they are thriving residential and commercial communities.

For the candidates who win their races this November, Mikulski’s advice is as follows: “When you win, … view yourself as a champion of the people. You need to take what you learned from listening to the people before and on the campaign. Learn from the people, including academia, business and nonprofits. The best ideas will always come from them.”

MJ Marggraff to discuss dream chasing, catching at midlife


For many, midlife is synonymous with crisis, and crises are to be avoided or prepared for with trepidation.

For others, midlife represents a significant turning point. It’s a reminder that lifespans aren’t infinite and that there may be no time like the present to figure out what they should do with their lives if they don’t already know.

Nearly 15 years ago, when Mary Jo – M.J. –Marggraff was 45, she began chasing her childhood dreams and rocketing them into outer space in ways she could never have conceived of when she was young.

“I’ve done some really fun, cool stuff,” Marggraff said. “When I went down to Hollywood (for the Hallmark morning show) and I took my Uber to the gate, I just thought, ‘OMG, how did I get here?’ ”

Now a pilot and project leader of experiments on the International Space Station, Marggraff will fill everyone in at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21, in the Hall of Philosophy during the Contemporary Issues Forum when she gives a talk with the same title as her book, “Finding the Wow: How Dreams Take Flight at Midlife.”

Marggraff said that when she was a child, she left all of her cousins behind and moved with her family from Maryland to California, where she lived a middle-class suburban life. What she didn’t leave behind were her dreams.

“My room was filled with stars and planets and aircrafts,” Marggraff said. “This was the heart of a young child, but it didn’t intersect with the heart of my parents.”

Nobody in her family was the least bit comfortable with air flight. She said that her parents believed that if a person was smart, they took a train. The couple of times she flew as a child, she reveled in walking up and down the aisles, taking individually- wrapped soap as souvenirs and talking to the airline attendants (“stewardesses”) and the pilots.

Marggraff said her face was glued to the television screen as CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite covered the extraordinary Apollo 11 spaceflight live. On July 21, 1969 – exactly 49 years before her talk for the Chautauqua Women’s Club – she watched as astronauts Neil Armstrong (mission commander) and Buzz Aldrin (pilot) became the first people to walk on the moon.

Other challenges she confronted were that she “didn’t know a female pilot,” and that during her undergraduate years at the University of California, Santa Barbara — where she majored in developmental psychology — she couldn’t afford flying lessons.

“I hung around with the scientists, facilitating their ideas,” Marggraff said. “I think that’s where my creativity came out.”

Intrigued by the business aspect of the educational world, she earned a master of science in education at Indiana University Bloomington in 1980.

With her unique background, Marggraff landed a job working for the University of California, in her “L.L. Bean look,” to “reimagine the UC campus at Santa Cruz.”

“UC, Santa Cruz was a very new campus,” she said. “It was out of step with where the traditional campus wanted to go. It was the hippie generation but with students with environmental and tech interests.”

Marggraff said that the dean of admissions was a great marketer.

“He said to his team, ‘Here’s what we need to do to get to this number (of students).’ He had everyone get up to speak,” Marggraff said. “He told me to get my hand out of my pocket. He shaped us up and had us help faculty learn how to be versatile. UCSC was strong in tech and the humanities.”

After a few years, Marggraff said she went “over the hill” to Cupertino to work for six years as a training manager at Hewlett-Packard. There she measured change in workplace performance, improved manufacturing processes, managed external training consultants and led training programs for management teams that focused on business mission, strategies for success and company culture.

She moved to Concord, Massachusetts, in 1991 with her husband Jim Marggraff, an MIT grad, serial entrepreneur, and patented inventor who co-founded StrataCom in 1986, which Cisco purchased for $4.5 billion a decade later (according to The Rotarian magazine).

At Genetics Institute, a biotech research and development firm in Cambridge, she managed employee, management and leadership training.

“It got gobbled up by the pharmaceuticals, as did other small genetics companies,” Marggraff said. “During that time, I’m having babies, and they let me go part-time, which was unheard of then.”

After five years at Genetics, however, Marggraff said she made another cross-country move.

“Jim had an opportunity — he’s an East Coaster — and we moved to the East Bay. He had to practically peel my fingers off the doorknob,” she said. “I loved Concord, and I didn’t want to move.”

Her husband’s opportunity would lead to the founding of LeapFrog — the second of a total of six companies he has founded, co-founded and/or led to date — and the invention of the LeapPad Learning System of interactive talking books for children.

“We like to say we left as two for the East Coast and came back as four,” Marggraff said. “When we moved, the kids were 4 and 6.”

After returning to California in 1996 and building a house, she asked herself: “What do I do? I can do the PTA, but I’m not really a PTA person. What I want to do is so unusual. People are saying, ‘You’re crazy.’ If I’m an outlier, what do their lives look like?”

Marggraff said that for a couple of years, she was a full-time stay-at-home mom. She did the PTA, cookie making, and school drop-offs and pick-ups. She said she liked to “demo projects.”

“The coup de gras was losing my planner,” Marggraff said. “It was a paper planner, but (change) had been coming.”

Saturday afternoon, she will share her story of turning her childhood dream of flying airplanes into a reality and becoming both a ground and flight instructor.

Moreover, Marggraff will talk about reawakening her interest in space. She has served as a mission support rep and space agent for Richard Branson’s commercial space line Virgin Galactic, led the team of STEM students that designed StarCatcher (a game for astronauts to 3D print and play on the International Space Station), founded GravityGames, which “inspires students for space,” co-founded Sunspot and wrote an inspirational memoir.

In addition, she may well share some of the findings from her research on “isolation that astronauts experience during long space flights.” Currently, Marggraff is a doctoral student at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.

Steven Osgood to discuss the pull that opera has on kids and adults at Chautauqua Women’s Club


When a much admired and beloved leader moves on — in this case, Jay Lesenger — the successor confronts an especially daunting transition. Happily,  during his first two seasons, Chautauqua Opera Company’s “new” general and artistic director, Steven Osgood ably demonstrated that he is up to the challenge.

Under Osgood’s leadership, a collection of 24 talented Young Artists not only perform indoors and on the Amphitheater stage on sets and in costumes, wigs and make-up crafted by the Chautauqua Opera’s world-class designers — but also outdoors wearing themed T-shirts during seemingly spontaneous “opera invasions.” They introduce Chautauquans throughout the grounds to a range of operatic music and engage with them through the sheer fun and versatility of opera.

This season, over 30 unique operatic events that are indicative of the splash that Osgood has been making by connecting opera’s past, present and future. They include six Opera Invasions, three Young Artist Open-Mic sessions and a series of celebrations: the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, the 50th anniversary of the Young Artists Program and the third anniversary of Chautauqua Opera’s Composer-in-Residence Program.

Clearly, young adults and children are opera’s future.

At 9:15 a.m. Thursday, June 28 at the Chautauqua Women’s Club, Osgood will talk about “What happens when something is sung: Why all the kids today want to write opera,” as part of the CWC’s Chautauqua Speaks program.

Osgood isn’t kidding. Before the 2018 season even began, four of his 2018 Young Artists performed the fairy tale, The Bremen Town Musicians, for students in more than half of Chautauqua County’s approximately 30 elementary schools.

As a father of two children, aged 14 and 10, Osgood understands the importance of sharing opera with the young and the young at heart. Growing up as the son of a United Methodist pastor in the greater metropolitan New York region, he said he began “pounding on the piano” of his father’s first church, in Dix Hills, Long Island. Although he dabbled in others, the piano became his main instrument.

For Osgood, an awareness of opera did not occur until shortly before he earned his undergraduate degree in theater arts — which included just one music theory course — from Drew University and headed to New York to work in theater.

“I was going to be an actor, I was going to be a director, I was going to be a designer — all of those things. I had had no exposure to opera at all. And just reading about it in theater history textbooks, I said, ‘Wait a second, that sounds really interesting because it’s all of the music that I’ve loved for the last 16 years of my life and all of the theater that I love; I should look into that.'”

Steven Osgood, General and Artistic Director, Chautauqua Opera Company

In New York, Osgood interned and then became a company member with the Irondale Ensemble, an experimental theater company that uses improvisation in developing its own company-generated works.

“That gave me … a lot of leeway to just play with things,” Osgood said. “So I was reading about opera and exploring opera, and then (Irondale) needed a music director, so I became music director of the company, and I could create the company members’ musical events, and those became more operatic.”

After five years with Irondale, Osgood wanted to move from experimenting with operatic material to becoming an opera director. Deciding he should just go try it, he said he essentially jumped ship. He’d found the art form that gave him an outlet for all of the artistic in influences that had been a part of his life all along, but he just hadn’t known it.

Osgood said that his jump to opera “coincided with a real kick in American opera — the art form, the industry — for new American works.”

“And my theatrical background, where you basically do new theatrical works and you also do Ibsen, Chekov and Shakespeare, well, I was very well versed in the language of new works and creating and developing them,” Osgood said.

Without having pursued graduate studies in either opera or conducting, Osgood made his own way within the opera world via the old European apprenticeship model. He said he started out by playing the piano at Opera North, a summer music festival in Lebanon, New Hampshire — the only full-time professional opera company in the states of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Thus began his career to date as a freelance opera conductor.

“Opera is an art form for today. The people writing (operas) are facing the same issues and thoughts about life and the world, as are audience members,” Osgood said. “What I love about the balance of my career and repertoire is that by spending so much time with today, when I go historically, I’m programmed to look at it as a new piece.”

Nuland speaks on technology’s effect on med school training

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Lori Humphreys | Staff Writer

Sherwin Nuland
Sherwin Nuland

It’s unfortunate for modern Greece that there wasn’t an ancient resident who was interested in economics. If modern Greek financiers seem dicey, ancient Greek philosophers continue to influence modern thought. Why? Perhaps because they were first; perhaps because they were wise, and perhaps because as technology alters society, the question of what it means to be human, as opposed to machine, is being asked again. Arguably, the ancient Greeks began that conversation.

Sherwin Nuland will begin with the thoughts of Greek physician Hippocrates during his 3 p.m. Saturday Contemporary Issues Forum presentation, “The Goodness of the Physician: From Hippocrates to Hi–Tech” at the Hall of Philosophy. Nuland, former Yale-New Haven Hospital surgeon and professor at Yale University School of Medicine, will discuss his concern that, in Hippocratic terms, the role of “the goodness of physicians” is being leeched away by the emphasis on technology in current medical school training.

“In this age of high tech, objectivity, distancing, we forget that the physician has always been seen by the patient as an ideal,” Nuland said. “Patients look to the physician as a strong, comforting figure.”

He will point out that this historical view of the physician is used less and less and suggests “what we can do to bring it back.” Nuland speaks with conviction formed not only by personal experience but from a study of the history of medicine. If Nuland needs an historian credential, consider that the title of his first book is Doctors: The Biography of Medicine. A condensation of his historically aware, humane view of the practice of medicine is found in the commentary ending the first chapter of Nuland’s book, The Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside.

“Science changes, but human nature does not. As long as one human being is called upon to treat another, bits of story will repeat themselves, similar dilemmas will be confronted and repetition of seemingly new challenges will appear as though for the first time.”

No wonder he begins with Hippocrates!

This is Nuland’s fourth visit to Chautauqua. He spoke at the Amphitheater in 1995, 1999 and 2003. He was founding member of the Bioethics Committee of the Yale- New Haven Hospital and since his retirement teaches undergraduate seminars in medical history and ethics at Yale University. He is the author of numerous books including the 1994 National Book Award winner The Way We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, an international best-seller. These books and others are available at the Chautauqua Bookstore and Nuland will do a book signing after the lecture.

The Contemporary Issues Forum is sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club.

Glasser maintains bird’s-eye view on the world

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Lori Humphreys | Staff Writer

Susan Glasser
Susan Glasser

Is it so unreasonable to experience a Chicken Little “the sky is falling” response to the current cascading changes in the international order that Americans have expected since the end of World War II?

Even an informed, attentive response to news of the “Arab Spring,” the rise of China, the economic crisis in Western democracies, might include looking up to be reassured that the sky isn’t falling.

Susan Glasser, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine and, is the antithesis of Chicken Little.

Her description of  “What In The World Is Going On?” at the 3 p.m. Saturday Contemporary Issues Forum at the Hall of Philosophy reflects foreign policy of the “realpolitik” mode.

Glasser is unafraid to challenge popular orthodoxy. She said her comments will include what to make of the “Arab Spring” and what not to make of it.

“It is at our peril to imagine that democracy will be the result of the Arab revolutions,” she said. “Counter-revolutions have been as successful as revolutions. There is the example of Bahrain and the emerging authoritarian governments in the Russian states. Pakistan may be as realistic a model (for Egypt) as Poland.”

But what might prove most interesting to the audience is Glasser’s analysis of the important events reporters are missing. One is the possibility, indicative of her unwavering interest in Russia, of Vladimer Putin’s return as Russian president. Another is the hidden consequence of the “enormous rift” between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Continuing the avian metaphor, if there is anyone who has a bird’s-eye view of the world, it’s Glasser.

As editor-in-chief, she receives a daily update of world events. She was in charge of the 2009 launch of, which has grown dramatically in the past two years.

“We had over 20 million visitors to the site when Osama bin Laden was killed,” Glasser said.

Under Glasser’s guidance, Foreign Policy has won two National Magazine Awards. She was co-chief of The Washington Post’s Moscow Bureau for four years and covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the battle of Tora Bora.

Glasser and her husband, New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker, co-authored Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution, which was published in 2005.

Glasser is a graduate of Harvard University. This is her first visit to Chautauqua.

The Contemporary Issues Forum is sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club. Glasser’s presentation is underwritten by the Brown-Giffen Lectureship.

Brancaccio to give sobering assessment of economic future



David Brancaccio

Lori Humphreys | Staff Writer

David Brancaccio, host and senior editor of “NOW” on PBS, is a self-described “wiseacre.” But he is also described in the 2000 Kirkus review of his book, Squandering Aimlessly, as providing “surprisingly shrewd instruction and sound financial advice, all embedded in appealing reportage.”

This combination of candid observation and insightful economic reporting suggests that Brancaccio’s presentation “Fixing the Future” at the Contemporary Issues Forum at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Hall of Philosophy may be the impetus for energetic dinner table conversation.

Brancaccio does not tiptoe around his opinions; he is direct and clear. His first premise is the conviction that, “the current economy is a giant mess, and it’s not going to fix itself. It is failing so many people.”

Though a sobering assessment, “Fixing the Future” is an optimist’s blueprint. It is not utopian but rather visionary, hopeful and perhaps tinged, but just tinged, with romanticism. It relies on the building of a new economy based on sustainability, community and another measure, other than money, to assess a person’s value. Brancaccio has traveled the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific finding examples of an economic paradigm, which he thinks is “nibbling” at the old economy and will gradually replace it.

He envisions a world where programs like Sustainable Connections, a network that is developing regional and local economic relationships in Bellingham, Wash., will be the rule, rather than interesting and unique exceptions. He is seeking practical, economically feasible solutions, not utopian ones.

“These models are not inventing; they are remembering the idea of community,” he said.

Even a state government is exploring unorthodox possibilities. Brancaccio said he admires Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who has created a new instrument, the Genuine Progress Indicator, to measure Maryland’s economic and social health.

“We should not be serving the grinding machine of GDP,” Brancaccio said.

There is a challenge to these ideas, however, that Brancaccio acknowledges. If it’s true that our society has defined a person’s value in terms of dollars, how will the money or value convention change?

Brancaccio’s answer: “As the movement grows, the cultural values are going to evolve.”

But not without pushback.

“The winners in our existing economy will fight to the death to protect its privileges,” he said.

Brancaccio received a Peabody Award for PBS’ “Marketplace.” He graduated from Wesleyan College, where he earned degrees in history and African studies. He received a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University.

This is Brancaccio’s first trip to Chautauqua, and he is looking forward to the place and his conversation with Chautauquans. His wife is joining him.

The Chautauqua Women’s Club sponsors the Contemporary Issues Forum.