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Morning Lecture Previews

Linda P. Fried to Discuss Benefits and Challenges of Increased Life Spans

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When Linda P. Fried earned her Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in 1984, she didn’t expect to enter the emerging field of geriatric medicine. A fellow doctor recommended she look into the topic, and she did — more out of respect than interest.

Thirty-six hours later, she had decided to change the course of her career.

The data were overwhelming,” she said. “We had added all these years to the length of our lives, but we were forecasting all this gloom and doom about what it meant. … I thought, ‘You know, there are other questions we should be asking and answering first, before we decide this is a disaster,’ … and I’ve been trying to figure it out ever since.”

Fried is the dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

She will speak at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, July 17 in the Amphitheater as part of Week Four, “The New Map of Life: How Longer Lives are Changing the World — In Collaboration with Stanford Center on Longevity.”

Fried said that in the last century, humans have added 30 years to the average life expectancy.

“Through intentional societal investment, we have created a whole new stage of human life,” she said. “This is unprecedented in the history of the world.”

She has spent decades studying the science of healthy aging. Among her accomplishments, she developed an assessment tool to test for frailty in the elderly, helping to define what was a formerly ambiguous medical term.

Fried believes that restructuring society to make room for this new stage of life has the potential to benefit everyone.

I think there is more to say about how (longer lives) could change the world, than how they are already changing the world,” she said, “but we have unprecedented and unique human capital that older people bring, and we are learning a lot about the assets that people bring in older age, and how actually to invest in that so people are healthy in older age and can do the things that would matter to them and the world around them.

In her talk, Fried will discuss some of the programs that already exist, and more that she believes should be created, to adapt the world to increased human longevity.

Although her field of study is geriatric medicine, Fried doesn’t want younger Chautauquans to think this topic is not relevant to their lives.

“I think the people who have the most to gain are actually younger people,” she said. “By the time we accomplish (societal change) they’re going to be ready to use it. It takes 40 years to build the next stage of a society, and by that time 25-year-olds will be 65.”

Fried said that besides climate change, addressing increased human longevity is one of the most critical issues facing the world today.

If we do it well, everybody of every age will be better off,” she said, “And if we don’t, … everyone will lose.”

Stanford Researcher Laura Carstensen to Explore ‘New Map of Life’

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Life expectancy has met an all-time high — but how can culture accommodate it? Laura Carstensen has some ideas.

Carstensen, Stanford University professor and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, leads the “New Map of Life” project, a study of the new directions people can take as they age. She will open Week Four with a lecture at 10:45 a.m. Monday, July 15 in the Amphitheater.

“What most excited us about the collaboration is Stanford Center on Longevity’s comprehensive approach to longevity, with a ‘New Map of Life’ project that challenges our assumptions and identifies interdisciplinary collaboration and public engagement as key to having the greatest impact and finding solutions to the problems — and opportunities — that longer lives present us with,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “In other words, the work of the Chautauqua community this week, and beyond, will inform and provide some direction for the ‘New Map of Life’ project.”

The National Institute on Aging has supported Carstensen’s work for over 25 years. She has received prestigious awards for her work and has published several academic articles.

In a Chicago Ideas Week talk, Carstensen said the new landscape of aging has received lots of attention.

People are living longer, and societies are getting greyer. … You read about it in newspapers, we see it on television,” Carstensen said in her Ideas Week talk. “Sometimes I worry that we hear about aging so much, so often, that we’ve come to accept it with a kind of complacency.”

Humanity has new odds at survival, Carstensen said. Better nutrition, public health, education and medical care in many countries has led to a huge, sudden growth in human life expectancy. In the 20th century, human life expectancy grew more in years than it had in all past millennia combined. Carstensen said today’s lifespans are unprecedented.

“In historical terms, in a blink of an eye, we nearly doubled the length of the lives that we’re living,” Carstensen said in her talk.

In the early days of humanity, Carstensen said, life expectancy was estimated at 18 to 20 years. That grew to about 35 in the mid-19th century in the United States, to 79 years in the present day. And it is still growing.

On the other side of the coin, Carstensen said, fertility rates have dropped. Over the course of the 20th century, fertility rates fell by half.

So we have people growing older, and fewer children being born,” Carstensen said in her talk. “Those two phenomena together lead to an aging society.”

This aging society comes with new demographics. By 2030, Carstensen said, approximately 20% of Americans will be over 65. Proportions abroad are also changing; in that same year, approximately 28% of Japanese citizens will be over 65.

Carstensen said these new demographics mean a new society — one where multiple generations can live together.

“We are at a point in human history where four, five, and conceivably six generations will be alive at the same time,” Carstensen said in her talk. “(This is) a stunning accomplishment of culture.”

But not everyone is celebrating this new era.

“We’ve got more time to spend with the people we love and to realize our goals and to pursue our dreams,” Carstensen said in her talk. “But that’s not the response that we’re hearing today. Instead, individuals are worried. They’re worried about their own aging, their own futures, their bodies, their minds, their financial security. Policymakers are worried about the sustainability of social programs.”

Carstensen attributed these anxieties to humans’ reliance on cultural norms — many of which are changing in the new demographics.

“We look to culture to tell us when to get an education, when to marry, when to start families, when to work, and when to retire,” Carstensen said in her talk. “And life expectancy increased so fast that culture hasn’t caught up.”

This culture, Carstensen said, is designed by and for young people: flights of stairs, miles-wide airports, medical research that focuses on acute diseases and injuries rather than the chronic ones associated with age.

Carstensen’s research focuses on the cultural changes associated with an aging culture: medical research, social support systems, accessible infrastructure. A society that supports older people, Carstensen said, will lead to an unprecedented social resource: experience.

We need to do this because, if we build a culture that supports long life, top-heavy with experienced older citizens, we will have a resource never before available in human history,” she said in her talk. “We will have millions of older citizens with deep knowledge about practical matters of life, interested in younger generations and motivated to make a difference.”

Rae Wynn-Grant Emphasizes Importance of Preservation Over Extinction

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Having grown up in cities, Rae Wynn-Grant attributes her career interests in wildlife to the television shows she watched as a child.

Although she steered away from her dreams of hosting a National Geographic nature show, Wynn-Grant still found a way to make a difference for wildlife, particularly in areas where carnivores and people engage one another.

Wynn-Grant, carnivore ecologist and National Geographic fellow, spoke at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, July 10 in the Amphitheater, continuing Week Three, “A Planet in Balance: A Week in Partnership with National Geographic Society.”

The interesting thing to me about nature shows was that it was pure entertainment,” Wynn-Grant said. “It was just a joyous experience to watch them. What I didn’t realize was that I was being introduced to science. I was watching science, in action, on the screen.”

Because Wynn-Grant had no first-hand experience in nature, she initially found herself uninterested in her environmental science major. To give it another chance, Wynn-Grant chose the most environmentally based study abroad program her school offered: a semester camping in Kenya.

“There I went from the urban space in Atlanta, all the way to southern Kenya where I was able to pitch my first tent, take my first hike and see my first wild animal,” she said. “That moment, at 20 years old, completely changed my life.”

During her semester abroad, Wynn-Grant was assigned a male lion, the head of a local pride, to follow for the entirety of her stay.

“I learned firsthand its predation patterns, what it eats and where,” she said. “I got to learn how much lions sleep. I got to learn about the different female lions he interacted with, the cubs in the pride, absolutely everything.”

Near the pride’s usual residence was a group of Mossi people, an “iconic” East African tribal group. The Mossi herded cattle, and therefore frequently came into conflict with the wildlife. This created what ecologists call a human-wildland interface, a space where people and animals begin to overlap.

That was fascinating to me because it wasn’t necessarily a danger zone, but there was a lot of potential for human wildlife conflict there,” she said. “It was in that moment, in East Africa, that I developed my expertise.”

 

Thinking her career path was set, Wynn-Grant returned to Africa during her graduate program to study female lions. However, her doctorate advisers sent her in a different direction.

In ecology, scientists are supposed to spend an extended period of time studying one animal without any conservation intervention, so studying an endangered species, like lions, was too risky.

Enter the black bear. Wynn-Grant began studying black bears in western Nevada, a state that had only recently accumulated a black bear population.

“There are bears all over the place,” she said. “There are bears probably a few miles from where we are sitting today, but the state of Nevada is very unique in that throughout the history of this continent, there has never been a black bear population (there) until about five or 10 years ago. It’s brand new.”

Climate change brought the bears into Nevada. In its neighboring state of California, there are roughly 40,000 black bears, many of them living in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. During climate-induced drought years when it didn’t snow and the peaks weren’t icy, black bears went over the mountains and started colonizing.

The bears became so abundant in Nevada that a big portion of Wynn-Grant’s work was going into communities, sedating the bears and taking them back into forests.

Just like working in East Africa with Mossi tribal people, working in Nevada, I was living with very, very local people living off the land,” she said. “There is a tremendous community aspect to doing wildlife ecology there. So often, I was working with homeowners and with police.

After a few years of working with black bears, Wynn-Grant started tracking female bears using satellite collars. According to her, knowing where a female hibernates is vital because female bears give birth during hibernation.

“These young ladies are not eating anything for about six months, they’re not drinking any water for that time, they recycle their own waste within their body, they don’t urinate or defecate throughout the entire winter and they have to nurse cubs from six inches long into full size cubs that can leave the den and experience the forest,” she said.

Along with measuring the growth of the cubs, tracking the hibernation locations also impacts local development projects.

“There is always a highway to be built or a resort area to be built or a ski lodge to be constructed in the forest,” Wynn-Grant said. “If I am able to advise developers as to where there is important female den-site habitat versus where is not important den-site habitat, we can make decisions about developing landscape that protect people, but also protect sleeping mother bears.”

After 10 years of studying ecology, Wynn-Grant was ready to challenge herself — and National Geographic Society offered an opportunity to study biodiversity in an unexplored rainforest in Madagascar.

Wynn-Grant agreed and was tasked with looking for ring-tailed lemurs, seemingly impossible because the species had only been found in dry places with low elevation and fruit-bearing trees.

But Wynn-Grant was in an area with high elevation, a tropical forest and very few fruit-bearing trees. Somehow, it also had ring-tailed lemurs.

I realized what I was doing was broadening my science,” she said. “It was tremendous and it resulted in, I’m happy to say, a very high-level scientific discovery because me and my team found a population of ring-tailed lemurs in this tropical rainforest that was unknown to exist to science.

After five weeks studying ring-tailed lemurs, Wynn-Grant was still struggling to balance ecology and conservation work in a time when “everything was feeling urgent.”

“Studying lions was urgent, studying lemurs was urgent, even studying black bears in the Western United States felt like there was an urgency because there wasn’t enough space for them,” she said.

Wynn-Grant realized she wanted to stop focusing on the extinction crisis and bringing back what isn’t there. Instead, she wanted to work on preserving what already exists. National Geographic Society’s Last Wild Places does just that.

“There are tremendous expanses of land — whether it is grassland, forestland, ocean habitats — that are huge, they are unfragmented, they are intact and they have tremendous promise — that if we keep protecting them starting today, in 50 years, 100 years, 200 years into the future, we’re still going to have them around,” she said. “We won’t be finding an extinction crisis in these places.”

Another National Geographic project is Pristine Seas, which aims to designate protected areas in the ocean.

Marine protected areas are a beautiful way to set boundaries in the ocean where no one is going to go and make sure the aquatic life is healthy,” she said. “It is an awesome way to ensure the future of our planet’s survival.”

As a fellow with National Geographic Society, Wynn-Grant has partnered with a Last Wild Places project in eastern Montana called the American Prairie Reserve, the largest nature reserve in the continental United States.

Montana is currently populated by more cows than people, but before American farms took over the Great Plains, the grassland was filled with bison, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes and more wildlife. According to Wynn-Grant, those species are now returning.

“All of those wolves, black bears and mountain lions are moving out of Yellowstone and they’re trying to recolonize historic habitat,” she said. “I like to say that they’re coming home.”

The American Prairie Reserve aims to be the biggest and only place in North America, outside of national parks, with healthy populations of all native species. But there’s an obstacle in the way of that goal. The reserve is in a triangle between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, and hundreds of cattle ranches are standing in their way.

The danger to the wildlife is not the cows, but the culture that created the ranches they live on. Wynn-Grant said the cattle ranchers’ ancestors were responsible for grizzly bears going extinct in Montana and therefore, they feel it’s a sign of disrespect to them to bring the species back.

The culture of cattle ranching is not necessarily wildlife-friendly,” Wynn-Grant said. “It’s changing; there are a lot of groups that are changing it and there are a lot of cowboys themselves that are changing that mindset, but historically and traditionally, it’s very anti-wildlife.”

Therefore, the solutions start with open-minded cattle ranchers. Wynn-Grant works one-on-one with ranchers to discuss alternatives that benefit people and wildlife.

For instance, when ranches go up for sale, National Geographic Society will bid on the land. If they win, National Geographic will allow the ranchers to continue living there under certain conditions.

The main condition is that they have to carry out the wildlife-friendly practices provided by National Geographic on a seven-step scale. The scale stipulates: no tilling; allow for an abundance of herbivores on the land, including deer and antelope; use only rain water and natural streams to hydrate the land; don’t disrupt the landscape with things like fencing; don’t harm bears; try not to deter species of conservation concern; and be mindful of ranch size, as the larger a ranch is, the more wildlife-friendly it is. 

“National Geographic Society and the Prairie Reserve will pay ranchers depending on what level of the scale they are on,” she said. “They are making money by continuing to have their cattle, along with doing this wildlife-friendly ranching.”

Camera traps capturing mountain lions, bison and other wildlife around the Great Plains prove that the conditions are working. The American Prairie reserve now serves as a model for conservation around the world, and although there are no black bears or lions in sight, Wynn-Grant said America’s prairies are where she’ll continue to be found.

It has helped me discover my place in this work,” she said. “Instead of the race to end the extinction crisis and reverse it, I found that my place is to preserve those areas that are in the best shape, to protect them, to do lots of long-term studies and to feed the world the science about it moving forward.”

Photographer Steve Winter to Talk Big Cats and Work in Small Communities

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Steve Winter

Mountain lions and tigers and cougars, oh my.

National Geographic wildlife photographer Steve Winter will discuss his work in the field with big cats and small communities during his lecture at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 9 in the Amphitheater, as part of Week Three, “A Planet in Balance: A Week in Partnership with National Geographic Society.”

Much of Winter’s work for National Geographic has revolved around endangered species of big cats like tigers, jaguars and cougars. One of his most iconic images, the Hollywood Cougar, sparked the creation of the largest wildlife overpass in the world, located in Los Angeles.

It’s a singular animal, but it has become a spokesperson for cougars and mountain lions, primarily in the LA area, but (also) animals all over that area,” he said. “So photography has immense power.”

Winter has photographed big cats all over the world, and has seen firsthand how people often misunderstand the importance of their relationship with these predators.

For example, when Winter was photographing jaguars in Argentina, he witnessed how local ranchers were killing the jaguars because they believed the cats were responsible for the deaths of their cattle. However, Winter said, when local scientists researched the issue, they found that only 1% of cattle deaths were due to the jaguars. Armed with this knowledge, the ranchers changed their attitudes and actions toward the predators.

With proper information, they could change that behavior by their cowboys, but they would need to know the facts,” Winter said. “And it turned out, the facts were vitally important.”

This is one of many experiences Winter has had concerning changing attitudes toward predators, especially in parts of the world where poaching for medicinal purposes, or wealth and status, occurs because of cultural and economic norms.

“There has to be a different way to look at this and a different way to approach the problem,” Winter said.

Working so much with big cats has made Winter an advocate for the protection of wildlife and the natural world. Putting political and religious differences aside, Winter said, humans are animals like any other, and the only ones intelligent enough to both cause and prevent their own destruction.

We are creatures that exist only because we live in a perfect world naturally,” Winter said. “Without the forces that give us oxygen, and the oceans — without the grasslands, mountains and forests that provide 75% of fresh water, we would not exist. We exist because of the planet in which we live, so that means we’re all in this together.”

Winter’s stories of big cats are the perfect example of how humans can find balance with wildlife, since big cats often live in populated areas as well as forested ones. Winter will talk about Siberian tigers, North American cougars, South American jaguars and other big cats.

Environmental issues often seem too big for any one person to face head-on, so Winter said his lecture will focus on the ability of the individual to connect with nature on a smaller level every day.

Because I work with big cats, I say if we can help save big cats, we can help save ourselves,” Winter said. “But you need to understand the importance of the natural world to our everyday lives.”

Winter would like his Chautauqua audience to consider the first time they went to a national park, or a time they took a walk through the woods on a day off, and the way being in nature made them feel and how it affected them on the most personal level. Protecting nature, he said, starts on a local scale.

“If I show a small village that can find an answer … then we can find that on a larger scale,” Winter said.

Despite the doom and gloom of much environmental news, Winter remains optimistic about humanity’s ability to fix environmental problems and said his talk “has plenty of laughs.”

The change is there already,” Winter said. “We have the technology, but there are roadblocks in the way, which are economies based on an old-fashioned way of powering the industries, our homes, and things like that. … We do have to realize that there is hope — and move towards that hope — and stay positive, because negativity does nothing but tear us apart. It does nothing.”

NatGeo Fellow Corey Jaskolski to Speak on Capturing World Through Technology

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Corey Jaskolski

Corey Jaskolski captures beauty, history and humanity through technology.

The National Geographic fellow, inventor, photographer, explorer and tech developer will open Week Three’s morning lecture platform — themed “A Planet in Balance: A Week in Partnership with National Geographic Society” — at 10:45 a.m. Monday, July 8 in the Amphitheater.

Jaskolski’s background is in technology; he specializes in creating devices — archaeology search drones, robotic underwater cameras, color night vision platforms, 3D scanning camera traps and underwater laser scanners — for researching the world’s most challenging environments, like deep-ocean ridges, dense jungles and arid deserts. He holds multiple patents for his inventions.

I’m an engineer primarily, and all of my work is focused on helping people see the world in a new light,” he said at the 2012 National Geographic Explorers Festival. “By that I mean developing technologies to help us peer into the world in a way we haven’t been able to before.”

His company, Hydro Technologies, builds sensing and imaging solutions for NASA and departments in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Special Forces. Additionally, Jaskolski co-founded Virtual Wonders, a company focused on capturing and sharing the world through 3D scanning. These efforts aim to make extraordinary images accessible and engaging to the masses.

“We’re so inundated by images,” Jaskolski said in a 2013 interview with MIT Technology Review. “What used to be so compelling in photography 30 years ago, these days people look at for only a quarter of a second on a mobile device.”

Moreover, Jaskolski’s imaging solutions aim to capture animals and places before the effects of climate change and human encroachment become irreversible. Jaskolski founded the nonprofit Digital Preservation Project, focused on preserving threatened archaeology through 3D scanning.

We really are at a tipping point; a lot of these things that are beautiful and important to us right now are going to cease to exist in our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes — whether it’s archaeology sites being destroyed or looted, or whether it’s animals going extinct,” he said at the 2012 National Geographic Explorers Festival.

Technology can also “stand where we can’t stand.” Jaskolski’s work has taken him into Antarctica’s frigid water, the reported tomb of Jesus, the Titanic wreckage, King Tut’s tomb, Chichen Itza and underwater caves containing the remains of Mayan human sacrifice victims — explorations made possible because of technology.

“What’s sitting 20 or 30,000 feet down there in places we haven’t been?” he said. “How many new species are down there to discover — ones that will rewrite our understanding of biology?”

Jaskolski’s work has appeared in National Geographic, on PBS and National Geographic TV channels, as well as in scientific journals; he serves on the Milwaukee Public Museum’s board of directors and holds degrees in physics, mathematics, electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jaskolski is one of six National Geographic Explorers on the morning lecture platform this week. National Geographic last partnered with the Institution for a week on “The Human Journey: Origins, Explorations and Preservation” in 2017.

National Geographic is thrilled to once again partner with Chautauqua Institution to host a week of National Geographic programming,” said Glynnis Breen, National Geographic Society vice president of marketing and engagement. “We look forward to another week together dedicated to pursuing knowledge, instilling curiosity and encouraging thoughtful conservations to better understand our world.”

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg to Discuss Need for Shared and Community-Building Spaces

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Eric Klinenberg

During a brutal heatwave in Chicago in July 1995, which killed 739 people, some areas of the city fared better than others.

In Englewood and Auburn Gresham, two neighborhoods that border each other in Chicago’s South Side, the number of people who died in the heat wave varied drastically, despite the fact that both neighborhoods had high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime.

In Englewood, there were 33 deaths out of 100,000 residents. In Auburn Greshman, there were just three deaths out of every 100,000 residents.

In his book, Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, published last year, sociologist Eric Klinenberg argues that the dramatic difference in the death rate in these two seemingly similar places can be attributed to the presence or lack of social infrastructure in the community — places like libraries, playgrounds and coffee shops.

Klinenberg will discuss the effect of social infrastructure on communities at the 10:45 a.m. lecture Friday, July 5 in the Amphitheater, closing out Week Two, “Uncommon Ground: Communities Working Toward Solutions.”

People forge bonds in places that have healthy social infrastructures — not because they set out to build community, but because when people engage in sustained, recurrent interaction, particularly while doing things they enjoy, relationships inevitably grow,” Klinenberg wrote in Palaces for the People.

These relationships are incredibly helpful in disaster situations, such as the 1995 Chicago heat wave. When people feel more connected to their communities, they are more likely to check in on each other. This is especially helpful when it comes to residents who are elderly, sick or live alone, and might be in need of help.

“During the heat wave, the people of Englewood were vulnerable not just because they were black and poor, but also because their neighborhood had been abandoned,” Klinenberg wrote. “The residential blocks looked and felt ‘bombed out,’ and the social infrastructure that had once supported collective life had deteriorated.”

Klinenberg is a professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. His research focuses on cities, climate change, culture, politics, media technology and social policy. He has published work in a number of journals, and his writing has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Before Palaces for the People, Klinenberg authored Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone; Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media; and Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago.

Klinenberg argues that there are myriad benefits of people living in more interconnected communities.

While social infrastructure alone isn’t sufficient to unite polarized societies, protect vulnerable communities or connect alienated individuals, we can’t address these challenges without it,” he wrote.

Rev. Jeffrey Brown to Share Boston Success Story of Reduced Youth Violence

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Rev. Jeffrey Brown

The Rev. Jeffrey Brown has said he learned some of his most important life lessons, not in the “hallowed halls of a seminary,” but from drug dealers, prostitutes and gang members.

Continuing Week Two’s theme, “Uncommon Ground: Communities Working Toward Solutions,” Brown, a pastor and co-founder of Boston TenPoint Coalition, will speak at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 2 in the Amphitheater.

Brown’s work, along with others, led to what The New York Times coined the “Boston Miracle,” a 79% decline in violent crimes involving youths from 1990 to 1999, and a 29-month streak of zero youth homicides.

He now serves as president of RECAP — Rebuilding Every Community Around Peace — working with faith groups and city officials to end gang violence. Additionally, Brown is the co-founder of My City at Peace, where he collaborates with housing authorities to rebuild distressed communities.     

For his efforts, Brown was named the 2016-17 Brandeis University Richman Distinguished Fellow in Public Life, citing his “model of social responsibility” which “(ensures) the right of every young person to live in an urban community without violence.”

“As we approached the broader theme of communities working across difference toward solutions to our most-pressing problems, we felt it important to highlight notable case studies, providing those gathered in the Amphitheater with lessons that meaningful change through community building is possible,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “Brown has not only done so through his efforts in the ‘Boston Miracle’ but also in his working with communities through the U.S. on building partnerships between neighborhoods and police departments to end violence and strengthen communities.”

In his 2015 TED Talk, which garnered over 1 million views, Brown said the catalyst for his community work was the murder of Jesse McKie, a 21-year-old student who was attacked by six young men blocks from Brown’s parish.

“There were young people who were killing each other for reasons that I thought were very trivial, like bumping into someone in a high school hallway, and then after school, shooting the person,” he said in his TED Talk. “It got to the point where it started to change the character of the city.”

From there, Brown volunteered at a high school, but quickly realized he wasn’t targeting at-risk youths. Instead, he and a group of clergymen began walking through notoriously dangerous neighborhoods at night, interacting with drug dealers and gang members.

“One of the biggest myths was that these kids were cold and heartless and uncharacteristically bold in their violence,” he said. “What we found out was the exact opposite: Most of the young people who were out there on the streets are just trying to make it on the streets. We stopped looking at them as the problem to be solved, and we started looking at them as partners, as assets, as co-laborers in the struggle to reduce violence in the community.”

The “Boston Miracle” approach has since been replicated in cities across the world, including Louisville, Kentucky; Milwaukee; Rio de Janeiro; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Johannesburg.

“I believe that we can end the era of violence in our cities. I believe that it is possible and that people are doing it even now,” Brown said, concluding his TED Talk. “It can’t just come from folks who are burning themselves out in the community. They need support. Because the old adage that comes from Burundi is right: ‘That you do for me, without me, you do to me.’ ”

Hugh Hewitt to Draw on U.S. Political History and Reflect on Theme

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Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt has conducted more than 10,000 interviews in his radio career — now, it is time for him to do all the talking.

As part of Week One’s theme, “Moments That Changed the World,” Hewitt will speak at 10:45 a.m. today, June 27 in the Amphitheater. Hewitt hosts “The Hugh Hewitt Show” on the Salem Radio Network, is an NBC News and MSNBC political analyst, a professor of law at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law and a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.

As a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, he began his career as a research assistant for David Eisenhower and then went on to join the staff of President Richard Nixon as an editorial assistant. He finished his government career in the Reagan Administration as deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Hewitt said in an interview with C-SPAN in 2013, that Nixon was the “best boss I have ever had.”

“President Nixon had been very good to me,” he said. “He would spend an endless amount of time answering questions. I wasn’t a very good writer when I started; I was a very good writer when I finished. He was a great editor — he taught me how to read, he taught me what to read; he invested a lot of time in young people who are still around.”

During a press conference at the The Richard Nixon Library and Museum, a reporter in attendance made a phone call to the program director of KFI, an AM radio station in Los Angeles, to tell him Hewitt was “pretty doggone good on his feet.” Hewitt landed his first radio job shortly after.

“I got a call out of the blue from a radio program director — it never happens in the major market — offering me a weekend talk show,” he told C-SPAN in 2013. “I said, ‘Well, I guess that sounds like it beats working.’ ”

In addition to his jobs in the media industry, Hewitt has also authored a dozen books and is a Constitutional law professor at Chapman.

“I just love the business of being around the Constitution when you have people who know what they’re doing with it,” Hewitt told C-SPAN. “I like to teach it and I love, very much, the fact that everything that happens in America can be taught in Constitutional law. There is not anything that doesn’t come through the Court, there’s not anything that doesn’t show up in opinion that is interesting for my students.”

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said Hewitt’s experiences with Reagan and Nixon made him a good fit for Week One’s theme, “Moments That Changed the World.”

“In our conversations about his lecture at Chautauqua, Hugh reflected on our weekly theme, explaining that there are moments we watch from afar, moments we read about and moments that we participate in,” Ewalt said. “And, indeed, in his career working in the Reagan administration and his leadership of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, Hugh has played a significant role in shaping and understanding American political history.”

Ewalt recognized that Hewitt is far more conservative than most lecturers at Chautauqua Institution. However, he thinks Hewitt’s lecture is a vital step in creating more “diversity of thought” on the platform.

“Throughout last summer, Chautauqua leadership engaged in conversation with community members around our renewed commitment to diversity of thought and pursuit of a mission that calls for an honest exploration of the world’s most pressing issues dependent upon welcoming critical voices from across the political spectrum,” he said. “Indeed, Hugh is a leading conservative voice in American politics, but equally important, someone who has demonstrated a deep intellectual curiosity and an eagerness to engage in conversation across difference.”

Writer Dan Egan to Examine Economy and Ecology of the Great Lakes

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Dan Egan

Dan Egan may not be writing about a subject that “jumps off the shelves,” but he still gets recognized. The two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Death and Life of The Great Lakes was dropping off his daughter for a canoe trip when one of her trip leaders stopped him. The young man was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Egan’s book had been chosen for a program that invites all members of the campus community to read the same book and participate in discussions and events.

“My daughter looked at me and said, ‘Maybe I should take a look at this,’ ” Egan said. 

Egan will be interviewed by Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Chief Brand Officer Emily Morris at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, June 26 in the Amphitheater as part of Week One, “Moments That Changed the World.” The conversation also serves as the season’s first Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Author Presentation. A readable convergence of scientific history and reporting, The Death and Life tells the rich history of the Great Lakes and reckons with their contemporary threats. Today, Egan will be discussing his work within a broader ecological and economic context.

“We’ve asked Dan to share his journalistic work in The Death and Life of the Great Lakes that examines the unintended consequences of the attempted transformation of the Great Lakes into an international seaport, from the devastation of the Great Lakes ecosystem to the action now being taken to restore and preserve the lakes,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

In discussing the health and ecology of the Great Lakes, connections — on a smaller scale — can be made to the health and ecology of Chautauqua Lake. In one of four objectives in 150 Forward, the strategic plan created to guide decision-making for the Chautauqua over the next 10 years, the Institution plans to “drive the implementation of a comprehensive, science-based approach to improving the health and sustainability of Chautauqua Lake and elevate its conservation as the centerpiece of the region’s economic prosperity.”

The Death and Life is Egan’s own call for revitalization. He adapted more than a decade’s worth of clips from his career reporting on the Great Lakes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The beat allowed Egan to write long-form pieces that translated fluidly into chapter-like sections. Repurposing old stories for the book, Egan sometimes found himself feeling “shackled” by his original reporting and wishing that he could build his book more organically.

Now writing a biography of phosphorus from scratch, Egan said he felt “lucky” that he had a robust trove of clips from which to cull. Still, making the leap from Journal Sentinel reporter to book author required some recalibration. 

It’s a different beast, writing a book,” he said.

With his extensive background in local reporting — he is also a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism — Egan described his writing style as like “a busker on a street corner … earning every paragraph.” An editor advised Egan to instead think of himself as a performer on a stage in front of an audience.

“They have paid the price of admission,” Egan said. “It’s OK if you’re not delivering something punchy every paragraph. They’ll trust that there’s a payoff.”

Confronted with writer’s block, Egan would turn to works by creative nonfiction giant John McPhee and Marc Reisner’s 1993 book Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water.

“It would just depress me because I was like, ‘There’s no way I can do this,’ ” Egan said. “I aspired to do something like that. (Reisner) spent a decade on his, but I guess I spent a decade on mine.”

The Death and Life has enjoyed a slow build, with an audience beyond that of University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduates. According to Egan, the book has done better in its second year.

“Writing is a lonely process, one that’s thick with self doubt,” he said. “I was too close to the material for too long that, by the time (the book) came out, I was just happy it was done.”

On May 23, 2017, Robert Moor picked The Death and Life as The New York Times Book Review’s Book Club pick for April, writing that the book is “bursting with life.” In October 2017, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” had Egan on to talk about the threatened lakes, a pre-recorded segment complete with “Daily Show” correspondent Michael Kosta, sporting a captain’s hat, cruising around in a boat. A year after The New York Times’ April selection, the PBS NewsHour-New York Times book club chose Egan’s book as one of its own picks.

Such publicity gives Egan hope that the lakes — a staple of his life both professionally and personally — can be preserved for posterity.

I think we need to appreciate what we have and not dwell on what we’ve plundered or squandered,” Egan said. “Because (the lakes are) still spectacular; they’re still worthy of every bit of protection we can give them. It can always be worse. It’s an ongoing story and we’re in the middle of it.”

Egan is a bonafide author now, but he said he remains inspired by other newspaper journalists “doing good work.”

“I still got that busker in me,” he said.

Griffiths, National Geographic Photographer, to Open Lecture Series With a Talk on Connectivity

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Annie Griffiths

Forty years have passed since Annie Griffiths picked up a camera for the first time. She has now traveled to nearly 150 countries with one in hand, finding it hard not to think about how her life differs from that of those she photographs.

But Griffiths isn’t one to dwell on the discomfort — instead she focuses on what she has in common with her subjects to tell a story far beyond what her lens can see.

Griffiths, National Geographic photographer and founder of Ripple Effect Images, will open the 2019 morning lecture series at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater with a lecture on the theme “Moments That Changed the World.”

“I am always professional, but that doesn’t mean I am devoid of emotion, contact or intimacy with my subjects,” Griffiths said. “How can I tell an intimate story without investing the time, the energy and the heart it requires?”

Griffiths had always planned on becoming a journalist, but the photo aspect took more time to develop. While attending the University of Minnesota, she decided to take a class to learn how to use a camera. Within two weeks, she changed her major to photojournalism and embarked on a journey she said felt just like “falling in love with a person.”

“When you fall in love, or you find your passion, you just pour everything into it,” she said. “At that time, I figured I was late to the party, so I very much threw my full attention at trying to become better, get published and make a career out of it.”

She started her career in newspapers, first as a staff photographer for The Minnesota Daily and then The Worthington Daily Globe. When she was hired by National Geographic at 25 years old, she was one of the first female photographers and the youngest to have been hired in the publication’s history, an honor she said was both “terrifying and exciting.”

“I think when you have an extraordinary opportunity, before you have real confidence, you are just sure you’re going to blow it,” Griffiths said. “I think that is true of any profession. There is a part of you that says ‘OK, they’ve made a terrible mistake. I hope they don’t figure it out, but I can’t do this. I should not be here.’ ”

The transition from traditional newspapers to National Geographic, a magazine with a “legacy of trust to uphold,” came with a great deal of responsibility.

“When you’re working in the Western world, people know that National Geographic is quality stuff, but when you’re working in the developing world, most people have never heard of it, so it is a different challenge to earn their trust through the way you present yourself and how you enter their world with respect,” she said.

This will be Griffiths’ third time lecturing at Chautauqua Institution. The positive feedback she received from her first lecture in 2009 inspired her to found Ripple Effects Images, a nonprofit collective of top photographers and videographers dedicated to covering aid programs that empower women and girls in the developing world.

Her team has defined seven different areas to address in their coverage: water, food, health, education, economic empowerment, energy and climate change.

“From those areas of expertise we work really hard to find organizations that are doing a great job and that need a little boost,” she said. “We try to bring in a representative look at the globe and try to cover all of those seven pillars that we feel are essential for women to move forward.”

Griffiths believes her perspective as a woman is what allows her to gain access into the lives of the women she’s capturing. 

“I understand gestures and body language and humor and fear, all things that help me navigate women of different cultures,” Griffiths said. “Then I just try to listen really well and learn about the things I don’t understand. Even though I am a woman and I am a mother, I am bizarre. In most cultures, I am the only white person there, we don’t speak the language, often they have absolutely no idea why I would be there. There are a lot of unknowns, but at least there is that common thing that helps earn their trust.”

When deciding on a topic to present for her visit to the Institution, Griffiths chose a ripple effect in her own life that she hopes will represent the way people across the world are unknowingly connected.

“There was a tragic moment in my life that then had a ripple effect that very few people knew about, but I experienced it because I travel and because I am reporting from other parts of the world,” she said. “To my surprise — and my horror — that ripple effect was happening to people that had nothing to do with anything going on. It is that kind of connectivity that I am going to talk about, about how we really are connected to everyone else on the planet.”

In addition to Griffiths’ adaptation of the Week One theme, Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said he believes her role as a photojournalist is world-changing in and of itself.    

“As we looked to open our 2019 season and frame our week on ‘Moments that Changed the World,’ we were interested in how photographs bear witness to history and can serve as a catalyst for change,” Ewalt said. “Her work has great impact not only on the magazine page but also by her using the medium in support of aid organizations and to empower women and girls throughout the developing world.”

Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday to break down documentary filmmaking in golden age

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In 2017, the top-grossing documentaries were Disney’s “Born in China” and Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro,” earning more than $13 million and $7 million in the United States, respectively, according to The Numbers.

But those numbers have already been surpassed in 2018. The documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” has grossed more than $22 million, and “RBG” is the second-highest documentary, having earned more than $13 million at the box office, according to The Numbers. While the dollar amounts for the 2017 year have been finalized, these box office numbers for 2018 come before the second-run push most movies make during Oscar season.

Ann Hornaday

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “RBG” have been some of the most-talked about movies of the year, and Chautauqua’s Week Nine theme, “Documentary Film as Facilitator: Storytelling, Influence and Civil Discourse” has come at a ripe time, said Ann Hornaday, film critic for The Washington Post.

“The timing could not be more perfect to be talking about documentaries at Chautauqua this summer,” Hornaday said.

During her lecture at 10:45 a.m. Wed., Aug. 22, in the Amphitheater, Hornaday will speak about documentary filmmaking and how it has evolved to its current form and how people should watch the genre.

“By that time in the week, people will have heard from Ken Burns,” Hornaday said. “They will have had full-body immersion into documentaries, and especially Ken Burns’ approach to documentary filmmaking. So what I would like to do on Wednesday is kind of pull the lens back a little bit.”

In 2009, Hornaday embarked on a journey to explore what makes a movie good or bad through the eyes of the audience. The Washington Post series was titled “How to Watch a Movie,” thus giving her a launching pad for her 2017 book, Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies. 

In the how-to guide, Hornaday breaks down a movie production into seven subsets: screenplay, acting, production design, cinematography, editing, sound and music, and directing. In each chapter, she poses questions viewers should be asking and provides insight into the filmmaking process. Hornaday draws on the copious interviews she has done with industry leaders in her career spanning four decades.

One chapter of the appendix focuses on documentaries and fact-based dramas, such as biographical pictures. In her lecture, Hornaday hopes to explore that area more.

When it comes to documentaries and biographical pictures, Hornaday said people should be wary of taking the content at face value.

“Everything is mediated,” Hornaday said. “The filmmaker is choosing what to film; the filmmaker is choosing what to leave out; the filmmaker might be scrambling chronology in a way that we might not be aware of.”

There are certain components Hornaday is looking for when she watches documentaries, and one of them is transparency.

Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” is a good example of being transparent, Hornaday said. In the autobiographical documentary, Polley uses footage that appears to be archival and home videos. She later reveals those scenes were staged.

“She let (viewers) fall under the spell of the movie, then she very gracefully and kind of gently eases out of that at the end,” Hornaday said. “She kind of shows her hand, like, ‘Here’s what I did.’ I just think it’s such an elegant way to do that transparency I was talking about, and not at all compromise the emotional power of the movie.”

The inception of director’s commentary on DVDs and Wikipedia pages with innumerable facts has given way to a more active audience, Hornaday said. When viewers watch a documentary or a biopic, they can research the real-life events the film is based on.

Though audiences are engaging with the material more, Hornaday believes people need to think more critically and question what they’re watching on screen.

“When (filmmakers) fudge facts, if they’re doing so for whatever reason — to make a smoother narrative or a more dramatic narrative — I would like to see a little more transparency on their end,” Hornaday said. “But I do think it’s ultimately incumbent on the viewer to just be skeptical and just remember, even in the case of a documentary, and surely in the case of a biopic, that this is not the ‘truth.’ This is storytelling; this is somebody’s point-of-view on events. We can value it, and we can derive meaning from it, but that’s different than taking it as the ungarnished truth.”

Ken Burns, Geoffrey C. Ward, Dayton Duncan to discuss process, collaborative work in documentary films

Ken Burns

There is an old adage that history repeats itself. Mistakes and triumphs cycle again and again on an endless reel.

Documentarians Ken Burns, Geoffrey C. Ward and Dayton Duncan have worked to bring these stories out of the tattered folds of history through film.

The trio will hold a conversation about the work they’ve done in their collaborative careers at 10:45 a.m. Mon., Aug. 20, in the Amphitheater as part of the Week Nine theme, “Documentary Film as Facilitator: Storytelling, Influence and Civil Discourse.”

Ken Burns

Burns said he looks for projects that reflect us back to ourselves, saying he considers both the simple two-letter pronoun, “us,” and its capitalization, “U.S.,” as in the United States.

“Each film, maybe at a distance, may look the same,” Burns said. “They have a certain style to them. But they all represent up close, or minutely, sometimes hugely different calibrations of all the elements of our effort trying to wake up the past, our kind of trying to shake the dead, saying, ‘Tell us your stories again.’ ”

For more than 40 years, Burns has produced some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries of all time, garnering numerous awards and nominations.

Burns said he has always looked at what a particular subject tells viewers about not only who Americans were or are now, but what the country might be in the future.

“More often than not, I feel like the subjects choose me,” Burns said. “They’re quintessentially American things that I hope will be helpful to us in complicated times — which is, of course, all times.”

Burns’ style involves an integration of different mediums, dense research and storytelling.

“The grist of our mill is inevitably these old photographs, the diaries, the journals, the film footage, the paintings, the sketches, the newspaper headlines,” he said. “It just became a way for me to to work out a way to tell these dramatic stories without getting into the dramatic filmmaking and the fictionalization and the licenses that (feature film style) takes.”

Burns said he learned from photographer Jerome Liebling at an early age that there is more drama in the world than the human imagination could ever come up with.

Burns said he loves giving a new dimension to eras that have been visited in so many of his films. The effort became to reveal the film and research crews’ own process of discovery through complex stories, rather than to introduce audiences to things they didn’t already know, or things the teams wished them to know. Burns said it becomes a different form of storytelling entirely.

“No hero is perfect,” Burns said. “No villain is absolutely bad. Nothing is ever only one thing. Wynton Marsalis told us during ‘Jazz’ that sometimes a thing and the opposite thing are true at the same time.”

Although Burns might be the household name known for those films, he said he can’t imagine where he might be in his career if it weren’t for his professional collaborations with Duncan and Ward.

“I seem to have found what I’m supposed to be doing in this short tenure that we have,” Burns said. “I work, most importantly, with extraordinary people, particularly extraordinary writers that have helped me finish the films that I’ve made.”

Geoffrey Ward

Geoffrey Ward, author and scriptwriter, has worked with Burns for 36 years, writing companion novels for eight of the series the pair has collaborated on, including A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Of Ward’s writing on the team’s upcoming project centered around author Ernest Hemingway, Burns said he stopped numerous times to ask who was the superior writer, the subject or the scriptwriter. Burns said Ward, as a writer, stepped his work up beyond an already high level when working on this script.

“It was just a pleasure and a joy,” Burns said. “That has a huge effect on how we film, how we edit and how we do it.”

Ward said he has enjoyed every film he’s been able to work on with Burns, saying the pair seem to agree on how to tell a story.

“It’s a wonderful team,” Ward said. “Ken is terrific. He likes words, which is a huge advantage as a writer. And he’s not scared of complexity.”

Dayton Duncan

Filmmaker and author Duncan said he has the best job in the world, working alongside one of his best friends. He said being able to work on a project and learn everything about a topic he’s already passionate about or profoundly curious about is a “joy that thrills the reporter inside him.”

“We do this — and I think it’s true of Geoff and Ken as well — we do it because we love doing it,” Duncan said. “It’s part of our DNA, our interest in American history and people, known and unknown, that tapestry of American history. That’s what we live for. The audiences we attract, that’s just an extra bonus.”

Duncan said he’s always humbled by the audiences the films reach. As a storyteller, he said he always wants to share these topics with as many people as possible.

Having spoken at the Institution before, Burns described Chautauqua as the “pursuit of happiness” personified and embodied.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, 240 years, trying to figure out the inscrutability of that last phrase of Thomas Jefferson’s second sentence of the Declaration of Independence,” Burns said. “A lot of people mistakenly think it’s the pursuit of material objects, a marketplace of things, when in fact, happiness with a capital ‘H’ is about lifelong learning and the improvement of the brain, the heart, the body and the soul throughout one’s lifetime. And there is no place on Earth that embodies that rigor and that joy more than Chautauqua Institution.”

Jesse Jackson, with Joan Brown Campbell, to close week on MLK’s legacy, civil rights movement

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Photo by Roger J. Coda

Thus far, the Week Eight morning lecture platform and the Interfaith Lecture Series have explored different issues: “The Forgotten” and a remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr., respectively. Fri. Aug. 17, they converge.

At 10:45 a.m. in the Amphitheater, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Joan Brown Campbell will join the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion, to close both morning and afternoon themes for Week Eight.

Jesse Jackson

Matt Ewalt, Institution chief of staff, said Jackson and Campbell’s conversation is an “opportunity to bring both the morning and afternoon platforms together in a powerful way.”

“Through the work of Department of Religion leadership — both past and present — we close with the reflections of the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Joan Brown Campbell on King’s legacy and the legacy of the civil rights movement,” Ewalt said.

Both Jackson and Campbell are longtime proponents of social justice and civil rights.

As a student in the 1960s, Jackson rose to prominence as one of the foremost leaders of the civil rights movement, working closely with King on various initiatives. He is the founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the recipient of several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Joan Brown Cambell

Campbell is a former director of religion at Chautauqua. During her tenure, she established key programs within the Department of Religion, including the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults and designating the 2 p.m. religion lectures as the Interfaith Lecture Series. She was the first woman in that position, as well as the first woman to be associate executive director of the Greater Cleveland Council of Churches; executive director of the U.S. office of the World Council of Churches; and the first ordained woman to assume the position of general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States. Her many awards include the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award from the Interfaith Alliance.

Robinson, who will moderate today’s discussion, said Jackson and Campbell each bring a  different perspective of King’s legacy and can speak to the differing impacts of his work.

“One of the ways we honor Dr. King in this 50th anniversary of his assassination is to connect as personally as we can with both his experience, but also the experience of those around him,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he’s interested in hearing Jackson’s thoughts on not only the legacy of the civil rights movement, but also how modern movements like Black Lives Matter compare to the work King did.

“So where does the movement stand now, and how is it different now?” Robinson said. “We can point to some gains, in terms of an emerging black middle class and African-Americans being named to all kinds of rather grand positions, but going back to our theme — what should we have learned that we didn’t? What did we learn momentarily that we actually forgot?”

Robinson said Campbell will speak to the impact King had on her own life, as well as the “indirect impact” King had on various communities he visited. As pastor of the first white Cleveland church King visited, Campbell witnessed the “enormous effect on that community,” Robinson said.

“Just his presence, just the announcement that he was coming, sent people into a flurry of activity,” Robinson said.

Robinson said an important part of today’s conversation will be a point that has echoed throughout the Week Eight interfaith lectures — King was more than his “I Have a Dream” speech or his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” To honor the legacy of the man is to “dwell not merely on how Dr. King died, but also on how he lived,” as Jackson wrote in an April opinion piece for The New York Times.

“We owe it to Dr. King — and to our children and grandchildren — to commemorate the man in full,” Jackson wrote in the Times, “a radical, ecumenical, antiwar, pro-immigrant and scholarly champion of the poor who spent much more time marching and going to jail for liberation and justice than he ever spent dreaming about it.”

Writer, scholar Abby Smith Rumsey to talk on archiving digital memory in the modern era

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When Abby Smith Rumsey started working at the Library of Congress, she was worried about the amount of information being produced digitally.

“I was very aware that inside the library, people who knew about the technology and librarians and archivists understood that there was this avalanche coming of digital data that no one knew how to preserve and, in fact, this occurred very quickly,” said Rumsey, who worked with the Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. “ … Over time, I became more reassured that more people were aware of this — that more technology could solve some of the problems of preserving.”

Abby Smith Rumsey

Wanting to document that worry and ways to deal with it in the future led Rumsey to write When We Are No More: How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future. Rumsey will give the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Thurs., Aug. 16, in the Amphitheater as part of Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century.”

During her lecture, Rumsey will touch both on the fundamentals of memory and the artificial memory humans have created.

“As far as we know, no other species records and accumulates information and knowledge the way we do,” Rumsey said. “It’s actually one of the keys to our success as a species. Why we are spread across the planet is because we actually can accumulate knowledge and share it with other generations — and now with digital, across time and space.”

Now with social media and the 24-hour news cycle, people have been exposed to an information overload, but Rumsey said the world experienced a similar flood of information in the 1800s. When people created the technology to record sound, they couldn’t just hold up an LP and be able to hear what was on the disc; they needed a machine. The same goes for digital memory, Rumsey said.

The concept behind digital archiving is that there is an endless realm in which people can save information, but it’s difficult to know long-term value in the digital era, she said.

Now, Rumsey said, there is one question that is repeatedly asked: What should we save?

“There is very, very little surprises and hard lessons in the digital realm that humans have not experienced before,” Rumsey said. “We’ve always been able to solve the problems of how to manage too much information, how to organize it in such a way that we can find it and that, like today and the past, sometimes we invent technologies to solve one problem, then create an entirely new set of problems that we hadn’t anticipated.”

Rumsey spent time in Soviet-era Russia researching the country during the 17th century. She encountered some documents that had been made inaccessible by the Soviet government, and said it hadn’t occurred to her that the political happenings of tsarist Russia could warrant censorship during the Soviet era.

Rumsey knew it was routine for people in charge of totalitarian regimes, like that in Soviet Russia, to erase people in photographs or censor documents. That’s how leaders controlled the population. Even when people tamper with documents, that gives insight into society of the time, Rumsey said.

With digital memory, she said it’s harder to discern what has been manipulated, but that’s only because the technology to figure it out hasn’t been developed yet.

“It’s not as if this hasn’t happened before. People have solved these problems before,” Rumsey said. “People used to forge papers all the time until it became just a matter of vital importance to the state and other people that forgeries be detected. It will be the case with digital.”

Rumsey said there is no right answer to what people should forget or remember in the digital age because memories change.

“How we choose to remember people is fluid. It will change with time, and we are in charge of it. It’s we who remember,” Rumsey said. “We think our machines remember for us, but we are the ones who remember things. Machines don’t erase the past; humans erase the past, and they do it all the time.”

Kent State President Beverly Warren to speak on lessons from May 4, 1970, shooting

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On May 4, 1970, members of the National Guard opened fire on a group of Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam War. Four were killed, and nine were injured.

On April 27, 2018, Kent State students staged an on-campus demonstration with various firearms in support of open-carry gun laws. One might have expected “tense confrontations,” said Beverly Warren, president of Kent State. What happened instead was “meaningful conversations.”

Beverly Warren

“The May 4 shootings still speak to us about the dangers of polarization,” Warren said, “the price we pay for shouting at one another in place of civil discourse.”

At 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the Amphitheater, Warren will give her lecture, “Kent State Beyond the Shootings: Journey of the Wounded Healer.” Her speech, which marks the first time a Kent State president has spoken publicly about May 4 outside of Kent’s campus, is part of the Week Eight theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the
21st Century.”

Her topic is a bit of both. As the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shooting approaches, Warren and others at the university have used the event to frame “Kent State’s unique answer to a common challenge: how do we keep history relevant?”

The answer, which Warren will share with Chautauquans, involves how Kent State “use(s) our history to drive positive change in the world.”

That journey has led the university to undertake a number of initiatives to reflect on and learn from the May 4 shooting. In addition to an annual commemoration of the date, a visitors center was built in 2013 to host exhibits that “tell the story of the decade leading up to May 4, 1970, the events of that day, the aftermath and the historical impact,” according to the center’s website. The site of the shooting was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2016. Plans for the 50th anniversary include a series of events throughout the 2019-2020 academic year.

“For many members of the Kent State family — including me — the events of May 4, 1970, remain a vivid and emotional memory,” Warren said in a June press release. “ … As we honor and remember the lives lost and those lives forever changed, we reflect on the lessons of May 4 and renew our commitment to lift our collective voices to affect positive change.”

Since taking the helm at Kent State in 2014, Warren has launched a six-year plan that includes a “global exploration” of the lessons learned from the incident.

Although it was not understood at the time, Warren said many now consider the Kent State shooting to be the “pivot point that turned mainstream American public opinion against the Vietnam War once and for all.” The incident was a spark that ignited similar events at universities across the country — such as the nearby Ohio University, where National Guardsmen were also summoned on May 15, 1970. The school closed for the remainder of spring quarter.

Despite that importance, there are many questions about May 4, 1970, that are still unresolved.

“Who gave the order to open fire? Why did those rifles have live ammunition?” Warren said. “We have to make peace with a certain lack of closure.”

This presents another challenge, Warren said. Although the lessons of the shooting have “never been more useful,” the majority of Americans now were not alive to witness it.

“The shootings are embedded in our history,” she said. “It is vital for Kent State to keep the memory alive … Sharing the painful lessons of May 4 is a vital path to healing and renewal.”

Silkroad Ensemble will lecture on collaboration, ‘listening across differences’

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The Silkroad Ensemble abides by the notion that “embracing difference leads to a more hopeful world,” according to its website.

Playing into Week Seven’s theme, “The Arts and Global Understanding,” members of the group will speak at 10:45 a.m. Monday, August 6, in the Amphitheater. The discussion will be moderated by Steven Seidel, Harvard University’s director of Arts in Education Program.

Jeffrey Beecher, co-artistic director of Silkroad Ensemble, said Seidel and the group “are intent on opening up this idea of listening across differences and what that means. … We can see those separations, whether it’s a different culture, or a different instrument or a person you’ve never met before, as dealbreakers, or as hurdles.”

“Or,” Beecher said, “you can take that difference and find a pathway to connect with that musician or a different culture.”

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma began assembling Silkroad Ensemble in 1998. The group’s name and purpose comes from the Silk Road, an ancient trading route between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Symbolically, Silkroad Ensemble hopes to do the same thing — bring worldwide cultures together and help them to understand one another.

“I founded the Silk Road Project because I believe we’re not as isolated as we think we are,” Ma told World Literature Today in a 2006 interview. “One of the ideas we talk about at the project is how important it is to know our neighbors, both our next-door neighbors and our halfway-around-the-world neighbors.”

The Silkroad Ensemble is made up of musicians from all over the world who are also, according to the group’s website, “teachers, producers and advocates.” Eleven of those artists are scheduled to perform at Chautauqua this week.

Silkroad Ensemble is a nonprofit organization and has released seven albums. Sing Me Home won a Grammy for Best World Music Album. Ma’s album Songs of Joy and Peace features Silkroad and won a Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album.

The documentary “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” was first released abroad, then in the United States in 2016. The film, directed by Morgan Neville and chronicling the founding of the Silkroad Ensemble, has been met with largely positive reviews.

The Silkroad Ensemble will perform at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, August 8, in the Amp, and again at 8:15 p.m. Friday, August 10, in the Amp with Ma.

“(Monday’s) lecture is both the welcome and a framing session for the whole week,” Beecher said, “giving context to who we are, where we come from, what instruments we play, but … how do you go about collaborating with someone when it doesn’t feel like you have a lot in common when you start out?”

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