Morning Lecture Previews

Climate Activist Bill McKibben to Talk Environmental Disruption


This morning, environmental activist and author Bill McKibben will be on the Amphitheater stage. One week ago, he spent a few hours in jail.

McKibben was participating in a peaceful protest against the immigrant detention centers on the southern border outside U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik’s office in Glen Falls, New York, last Thursday.

He and five others went into the representative’s office and said they would stay until they could talk to the congresswoman, who an aide said was unavailable. The congresswoman’s staff called the police, and McKibben and his fellow protesters were arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

This was McKibben’s seventh or eighth arrest, he said. It is a frequent enough occurrence for him that he cannot remember the exact number off-hand, but nonetheless, it is an experience that he still finds alarming.

“It’s always a little scary,” he said. “If a policeman tells you to do something, the correct instinct is to do it. That’s how societies work best. You have laws, people follow them. But on occasion, history indicates you need to think otherwise and do otherwise.”

McKibben will speak at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, August 15 in the Amphitheater, as part of Week Eight, “Shifting Global Power.” He is the founder of, an international organization that encourages the use of renewable energy and divestment from the fossil fuel industry through political action and grassroots organizing.

The organization’s name comes from NASA climate scientist James Hansen’s assertion that the highest safe concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is 350 parts per million. Currently, the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is more than 400 parts per million.

This dangerous level is what drives climate change. This global phenomenon is forcing people to flee their homes to find more hospitable environments.

“Changes in the climate are now fueling dramatic increases in migration around the world,” McKibben said. “When it gets too hot or too dry to grow food, people are going to leave.”

A 2015 study by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University found that forecasts of the number of environmental migrants by 2050 range from 25 million to 1 billion, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate.

“Even if it wasn’t cold and cruel, there just aren’t enough cages you can put people in,” McKibben said.

McKibben started out his career as a journalist. He wrote a long-form piece about climate change for The New Yorker, which turned into his first book, The End of Nature, published in 1989, and largely considered the first book on climate change written for a general audience.

“I just knew it was the biggest story in the world,” he said.

Since then, McKibben has written nearly 20 books on the environment, climate, media and culture. He has also become an active political protester. For example, in 2006, he led a five-day walk across Vermont, where he lives, to raise awareness and call for climate change action. The next year, he initiated the Step It Up 2007 campaign, which sparked hundreds of rallies across the United States to demand Congress curb carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050.

Founded in 2008, has organized 20,000 rallies around the world, in every country except North Korea.

McKibben said he has noticed a change in the willingness of people to embrace action on climate change over the past few decades.

“What’s interesting is right at the beginning, when we were first learning about climate change, people were pretty open to the idea of doing something,” he said. “Within a couple of years, the fossil fuel industry had mobilized and begun what’s been this 30-year propaganda effort to keep us from doing anything.”

In 2016, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a suit that accused Exxon Mobil of violating state consumer protection rules and misleading investors about the impacts of fossil fuels on climate change. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Exxon’s appeal to block the release of records on its knowledge of the effect of burning fossil fuels on the climate.

Now, there are more droughts and floods because of climate change, McKibben said.

“We’ll see a lot more of these things, and they’ll begin to build on each other and create more crises,” he said.

He cited a devastating drought in Syria that caused 75% of Syria’s farms to fail, and 85% of livestock to die between 2006 and 2011, according to the United Nations. During this natural disaster, 1.5 million Syrians migrated to cities, which escalated conflict that led to war, and has since precipitated a mass migration of Syrian refugees into Europe.

“There’s nothing theoretical about what’s going on,” McKibben said. “Now, anybody with a TV can see the floods and the fires and the famines. And that’s why people are becoming more and more engaged and angry and active.”

At his talk, McKibben will encourage people to get involved in speaking out against the fossil fuel industry. He will also invite Chautauquans to participate in the Global Climate Strike this September, which is being organized by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

“There’s a lot of things we can do as individuals, and most people know what those are,” he said. “Truthfully, the most important thing an individual can do is become a little less of an individual and join a movement.”

MIT’s Joi Ito to Talk Importance of Humanities in Tech


Joi Ito used to think the internet would save the world.

“In the early days I thought that we could just connect everybody together and we would have world peace; we just needed to give everyone a voice,” Ito said. “It turns out, that’s not true.”

Ito is an activist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist who has served as the director of the MIT Media Lab for the last eight years. He will be speaking at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, August 14 in the Amphitheater as part of Week Eight, “Shifting Global Power.” 

Ito calls himself a “reformed techno utopian.”

“This techno utopianism that we had 30 years ago was misguided,” he said. “I think I’m still long-term optimistic, but short-term, quite disconcerted with the ways that things have developed.”

Ito said many of the things he finds disconcerting about the state of current technological development are a result of the increased importance of quantitative sciences over the humanities.

“Economics, law and engineering (are) the primary stewards of society,” he said. “We’ve come to a very scalable, but a very reductionist, way that we manage resources and power.”

Even before he became the director of the “anti-disciplinary” research lab at one of the world’s top science and engineering schools, Ito had an extensive career overseeing, investing in and writing about new technology.

In today’s lecture, Ito will discuss the ideas outlined in his recent Ph.D. dissertation, The Practice of Change, and his two books, Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future (co-authored by Jeff Howe) and Resisting Reduction: Designing Our Complex Future with Machines, which came out this year. 

Much of his work centers on the need to reintroduce the humanities and social sciences into conversations about solving the world’s problems.

“Thinking about it from an MIT perspective, we’re a university where we have social sciences, but they really don’t have resources or power,” Ito said. “Ethics and those qualitative things are sort of bolted on when necessary.”

Ito said he and his fellow techno utopians’ belief in the benevolent power of the internet could have benefitted from the influence of the humanities.

“All the engineers thought it was just a great idea to connect everyone together (through the internet) — a pretty naive idea,” Ito said.

In talks with Susan Silbey, MIT’s Leon and Anne Goldberg Chair of Humanities, Anthropology and Sociology, Ito said Silbey quickly came to a realization when she heard that the internet would connect people across the world: “I knew it was going to be a mess,” Silbey would say.

“I think the role of social science and the humanities is not just the check- box ethicist on engineering programs,” Ito said, “but to actually ask whether we’re even asking the right questions or trying to solve the right problems.”

In his work, Ito focuses on issues like climate change, social inequality and redesigning the systems that support technology and science. He said the philanthropic and impact investment groups attempting to solve these problems often try to boil them down to figures.

“What we need to do to solve society’s problems is really to embrace complexity and understand that we can’t reduce the world to an optimization or a scalar function,” Ito said. “Whether we’re talking about climate change or societal inequity or public health, we’re not going to solve it through economic policies or laws or just fiddling with the rules. I think we’re going to have to have a dramatic paradigm shift of behavior change.”

Avoiding reducing the world to a scalar function, or a one-dimensional outcome, requires collective behavioral change. And as Ito sees it, this behavioral change means shifting away from a culture that celebrates financial wealth and material abundance. Ito cites adoptive godfather Timothy O’Leary and his contemporaries as influences.

“I spend a lot of time with ex-hippies,” he said. “I think the hippie movement was a shot on goal to pivot away from a materialistic approach, and I think the feminist movement and the Civil Rights Movement and others were (similarly) shots on goals.”

He is heartened by current movements like Friday Amp speaker Tarana Burke’s Me Too Movement and the March for Our Lives. He recognizes the important role social media plays in spreading social justice movements in the 21st century.

“That comes from the (same) tool that brought us this polarized society that we’re all afraid of,” he said. “We can and should improve the tools, but … I don’t think it’s as much about the tools as it is about the mindset and paradigm of the people who use the tools. I think that the intervention is going to be a cultural one, and I think the cultural one happens through arts, and it happens through empathy.”

Though he believes younger generations are already beginning this cultural shift, when it comes to issues like climate change, Ito doesn’t sugarcoat how much damage has already been done.

“I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better; it’s very unlikely that there’s a way forward where it doesn’t really suck for a lot of people,” he said. “We’ve borrowed against the future and I think the further you go into the future for the next few generations the worse it’s going to suck, and the worse it sucks, the more likely they are to have different values than us — because they’re going to think we screwed up.”

To prevent even more damage in what is a critical time frame, Ito believes it is vital to combat engineers and scientists who still hold his former beliefs in techno utopianism and think that “if we just develop a superintelligence, we can compute our way out of all our problems.”

“I am a reformed techno utopian that is reaching out to the cultural and social side of society, seeking both collaboration and forgiveness and hoping that it’s not too late to bring humanity back into the goal of our system,” he said. “The only way that we’re going to get there is by working together and reintegrating culture and values as the primary driver for what we do. … And it’s going to be a really hard battle, and it’s going to come through conversation and shared values — not through fighting.”

Kenneth Weinstein to Explore Intersection of Technology and National Security


In a week centered on evolving global power and its new stakeholders, Kenneth Weinstein will explore the intersection of international authority, national security and technology.

The president and CEO of Hudson Institute, the Washington D.C.-based conservative think tank, Weinstein will lecture on “National Security and Next Generation Technology” at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, continuing Week Eight, “Shifting Global Power.”

“Our work is focused at the intersection of technology, strategy and policy: strengthening the U.S. nuclear posture; protecting intellectual property and critical technologies; and ensuring American leadership in the development of 5G capabilities, cyber defenses and quantum computing,” Weinstein wrote in the nonprofit’s 2018 Annual Report.

Weinstein is a political theorist by training and has established a reputation as a thought and opinion leader on international affairs, writing for major publications in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Weinstein and Hudson Institute have been particularly outspoken about foreign cyberattacks on U.S. agencies and elections, especially within the last year after revelations that Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election, attempting to bolster then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. Hudson Institute has also been critical of Russia and the threat it poses to international security.

“President Vladimir Putin seems to be relishing the role of international troublemaker,” Weinstein wrote in a 2018 column published in The Wall Street Journal about an alleged attempted Russian cyberattack on Hudson Institute’s website. “My colleagues have been promoting tough-minded policies in all these areas and others.”

In the same stroke, Weinstein praised efforts by the Trump’s Administration, writing that “… the Trump administration has rightly adopted aggressive policies to address the renewed threat Russia poses to U.S. national interests, to European and other allies, and to regional stability.”

Weinstein has also commended Trump’s positions on security policy in Asia, writing in The Wall Street Journal that “… the overarching goal is managing Asia policy in a way that enhances the security and prosperity of the U.S. and its allies. … But at least when it comes to security policy, the president has his priorities straight.”

Founded in 1961 by 20th-century futurist and RAND Corporation military strategist, Herman Kahn, Hudson Institute “challenges conventional thinking and helps manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary studies in defense, international relations, economics, health care, technology, culture and law,” according to its mission statement.

As the president and CEO of Hudson Institute, Weinstein oversees the nonprofit’s research, management of external affairs, marketing and government relations efforts.

Weinstein,  whose academic work focused on the early Enlightenment,  was decorated with knighthood in arts and letters by the French government, and co-edited The Essential Herman Kahn: In Defense of Thinking. Weinstein was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors — now known as the U.S. Agency for Global Media — and serves on additional international humanities and trade committees.

Robin Wright to Use Correspondent Career to Discuss Period of Global Change


Robin Wright considers herself lucky for the opportunity to watch history unfold.

She has witnessed political transitions, such as the end of communism in the Eastern Bloc; she watched the Egypt-Israel peace treaty signing on the south lawn of the White House; and was present when Nelson Mandela walked to freedom. She has traveled with almost every president since Jimmy Carter and every secretary of state since Henry Kissinger — oh, and a pope.

But above all, she considers herself “very, very lucky” that her dad loved sports.

Wright, contributing writer to The New Yorker and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, will speak at 10:45 a.m. Monday, August 12 in the Amphitheater. Wright will open Week Eight, “Shifting Global Power.”

Wright described her career as a “total accident” and a way to “get revenge” on her father, who loved sports and brought Wright with him to every game and match he wanted to see.

While attending the University of Michigan, her roommate suggested she go to a meeting for The Michigan Daily. Even though she walked in with no interest in journalism, she saw an opportunity in the paper’s sports section and figured she would write one article to joke with her father.

“The joke was on me, because I became the first female sports editor for the student paper,” she said. “There are times in life when a confluence of events come together and shape your life — this was one of those moments.”

Wright has since covered a dozen wars and several revolutions, reporting from more than 140 countries on all seven continents for numerous publications, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine, TIME and Foreign Affairs.

However, Wright still considers herself a historian. While chronicling contemporary history, Wright has been present for every Middle East war, uprising and revolution since 1973.

Throughout her career, Wright has wrestled with the morality of war. Instead of reducing death tolls to statistics and figures, she has always strived to take her coverage a step further, asking, “How do these conflicts affect the human existence?”

“Whether I’m seeing kids going to school and creating a better next generation, or destroying an infrastructure so people don’t have homes or access to water, I always live in war zones, just like everybody else does,” she said.

After witnessing “extraordinary change” in government and global policy in her 50 years of being a correspondent, Wright has a certain sensibility — to anticipate when change is on the horizon.   

“As a historian, I am struck by how this century is going to be the most important period of change in reshaping the means of governance, the way we fight war and the adversaries we fight in those wars,” she said.

And power will not only shift this century, according to Wright, but the definition of power will change completely.

“In many ways, we are going through a transition that is as important and as big as the one we went through 500 years ago when nation-states were formed out of city-states, when you had the printed word and beginnings of the Enlightenment,” she said. “We went from a God-centered world to a human-centered world, and we are going through that kind of epic change.”

In her lecture, Wright wants to educate people on the “big picture,” as she said people do not spend enough time stepping back to grasp the scope of change ahead, a lesson she learned from her father.

“My father, who was a wonderful professor, taught his students and his children that to solve any problem or any issue, you had to stand on top of the world and look down,” Wright said. “That’s what I try to do wherever I go and not get sucked into the moment, but try to put it in a much bigger perspective.”

And her father’s lessons didn’t end there. He emphasized the importance of never letting her personal biases shape her point of view — a lesson that has carried over in her work as a foreign correspondent.

“I know what American troops or Western governments are going to do and what they want to achieve, but what I need to understand is the other side,” she said. “It’s so important to see the big picture, but also to see up close all sides; only then do you see how we get out of it, what the implications will be and understand how we got there.”

Wright stressed that this ongoing transformation has nothing to do with Donald Trump; it’s a global change that is here to stay — into 2020 and beyond.

“We are a part of something so much bigger, and we can’t allow ourselves to default into anything smaller,” Wright said. “We can be bolder, we can be braver and we can get through this.”

With Krista Tippett, Union Theological’s Serene Jones to Speak on Reality of Grace


Theologian Serene Jones has written the book on grace — three times actually.

“I think grace is in the title of everything she’s written,” said Krista Tippett, journalist, creator of The On Being Project and curator of Week Seven’s morning lecture series. “She’s really wonderful about the complexity of this notion and drawing in the great tradition of theology around it.”

Jones will appear in conversation with Tippett at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, as part of Week Seven, “Grace: A Celebration of Extraordinary Gifts — A Week in Partnership with Krista Tippett and ‘On Being.’ ”

Jones is the president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, the first female president in the seminary’s 180-year history. She formerly taught theology at Yale Divinity School.

Her past books include Feminist Theory and Christian Theology: Cartographies of Grace and Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World. Her theological memoir, Call it Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World, came out this year.

When Tippet began planning this week’s speaker lineup, she knew exactly who to call.

“Serene was my first thought,” she said, “because she did write this great book, and it is so on-topic.”

Jones is excited to return to Chautauqua, having preached at the Institution several years ago.

“I love the community,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful place with such an important history. I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.”

Jones didn’t set out to write a memoir; she wanted to write a book that introduced the layperson to some of the theologians that had been most formative for her beliefs.

“As I began to write that introduction to theology, I realized that I could not explain those theologians without explaining why they have been important in my own personal life,” she said.

The memoir follows her spiritual journey from her childhood in Oklahoma to present day. Along the way, she discusses the teachings of John Calvin, Søren Kierkegaard, James Baldwin, Saint Teresa of Ávila and more.

“It’s a great loss to our society that many of these theologians are no longer read or taken seriously,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “Their teachings make sense of so many of the troubles we face; to not read them is to close off access to the very truths that may save us. Time and again, they have saved me.”

Jones credits growing up in the Disciples of Christ denomination as a reason for her focus on grace.

“In that denomination, it’s a central concept and a central reality,” Jones said. “So I grew up with it being a big part of my theology.”

The concept boils down to a simple definition:

“(Grace) is God’s radical, unconditional love,” Jones said, “for all humanity and all creation.”

She hopes Chautauquans will leave the morning lecture with a better understanding of the reality of grace.

“I think grace is very personal, but it also can be political,” Jones said. “I think if one accepts that all human beings and all creation is radically loved, it changes in profound ways the way you interact with other humans beings and the world around you.”

Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco to Join Krista Tippett in Talk on Grace in Poems and Among Readers


The idea of home is, for Richard Blanco, as elusive as the definition of love. 

Born in Madrid to a Cuban family that would soon after immigrate to the United States, Blanco grew up in a “tight-knit,” working-class Cuban-exile community in Miami. At 5 years old, he was already aware of his trio of origin stories — he “yearned” for the America he saw on television, and so wished to return to the country of his birth that he acquired the nickname “Little Spaniard.”   

“Watching ‘The Brady Bunch,’ I thought that was any family north of Miami,” Blanco said. “I took my Cuban culture for granted because it was around me every day.”

In a week titled, “Grace: A Celebration of Extraordinary Gifts,” the poet, now the author of 12 books, will appear in conversation with Krista Tippett, founder and CEO of The On Being Project, as well as host and co-curator of Week Seven, at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, August 7 in the Amphitheater, as part of the Recognition Day celebration of the CLSC Class of 2019.

After publishing three prize-winning books of poetry — City of a Hundred Fires, Directions to The Beach of the Dead and Looking for The Gulf Motel — all braided with themes of heritage, place and identity, Blanco received the call from the White House that would make him “finally (feel) like an American.”

In 2012, President Barack Obama selected Blanco to serve as the fifth presidential inaugural poet in United States history. Among the brief roster, which includes Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, Blanco is the youngest, and the first Latino, immigrant and gay person to earn the distinction.

Tippet called Blanco “one of our great American poets” — his newest book, How to Love a Country, is, according to her, a “juxtaposition of beautiful language and deep thought and real life.”

“Poetry is a way of taking care with language and using words to say the deepest and truest things, the things we want to give voice to together,” she said. “Poetry is really rising up culturally and globally, and among younger people. (It’s) the way to talk about the things we want to talk about that we don’t seem to be able to talk about in the old traditional places. I’m very excited about him being here.”

For Blanco, it is inside interactions with readers and “the act of creation itself” that he finds “the miracle of grace.” He recalled a moment when, after participating in a reading to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, a woman stopped to thank and hug him through tears. Her daughter was one of the 49 murdered on June 12, 2016.

Blanco insisted that it was he who should be thanking the mother. Here was a “transference of energy,” a tangible “circularity” to the creation and consumption of his art. It amazed him. 

“When that kind of (connection) happens is when I feel that what I do is real,” Blanco said. “It’s the completion of the poem, in a way. When readers own it and reflect on their own lives and see themselves mirrored in an experience that I’m trying to convey honestly and beautifully — that keeps me going.”

Grace visits when he writes, too, usually when he is “just about to give up.” In the midst of this twin sense of “timelessness and connectedness,” he discovers something “deep and eternal in him,” and sometimes breaks down in tears.

“I’m not in control,” he said. “I’m a vehicle, I’m a vessel and I’ve been graced by the powers that be to deliver this. It’s then that usually the poem starts writing itself.”

For Blanco, that “bundle of grace energy” is then gifted forward through the poem to the reader — and also from poet to poet. When Blanco is angry, he turns to Patricia Smith. When he is in search of language that is “understated, controlled,” he reads Elizabeth Bishop. And when he wants to “go back to music,” he reaches for T.S. Eliot. He cites Sandra Cisneros, José Martí and Federico García Lorca as inspirations, but cautions against reading only those who “you see yourself in.”

“It’s the surprise of reading that which you don’t expect to see yourself in that is also very powerful,” he said. “At the heart of (their poems), it is very much the same.”

Although How to Love a Country addresses lynching, immigration and contemporary gay love, Blanco “never considered (himself) a political poet.” Growing

Interdisciplinary Scholar Imani Perry to Converse with Krista Tippett on Theology and Grace


Award-winning author Imani Perry will give her lecture in conversation with Krista Tippett at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

Perry is the Hughes-Rogers professor of African American studies at Princeton University, and is also affiliated with the University Center for Human Values, the Program in Law and Public Affairs, gender and sexuality studies and jazz studies.

She is a scholar of cultural studies, legal history and African American studies. Perry is the author of six books, including Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry; Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation and May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem. She was the winner of the 2019 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography for Looking for Lorraine, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of 2018.

In 2016, Perry was pulled over by Princeton police for speeding. They found that her license was suspended due to unpaid traffic tickets, which were two to three years old at the time. She was detained for the warrant and handcuffed to a bench during the booking process. Perry posted bail and was released. She later paid a $428 traffic fine. Perry uses her experience to have ongoing conversations about police brutality toward African Americans.

Perry’s books range from exploring African American experiences of injustice and racial inequality in America, to discussing feminism through a literary analysis of cultural artifacts from the Enlightenment to the present. The majority of her books are centered around African American culture and history.

Perry sent Tippett a copy of her forthcoming book, Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, and said that her ideas for the book started to form during the pair’s last conversation at Chautauqua in 2014.

“It’s a very different cultural moment (than 2014), and I think it’s a much more painful and problematic topic now, openly for all of us, but also it’s a reckoning that we’re openly doing it,” said Tippett, American journalist, author and public radio host of “On Being.”

Tippett said she knew Perry would be a perfect fit for Week Seven at Chautauqua because of what Perry brings to the conversation on grace.

“She has a really interesting theological tradition, and approaches the language of grace and the language of theology in a way that I think might surprise people,” Tippett said. “She’s not someone who is known as a religious thinker, or even a religious person, but it floats all the way through this wiring, so I just knew as we started talking — literally the book was in my hands — as we were thinking, who do we want to have in Chautauqua? And I said, ‘Well, I think we have to have Imani.’ ”

Staff writer Eleanor Bishop contributed to this report.

People’s Supper Founders and Krista Tippett to Talk Community



The Rev. Jennifer Bailey met Lennon Flowers in exactly the kind of place one might expect to meet someone named Lennon Flowers: meditating in the desert.

“I don’t know if I believe in soul mates — but I do believe in soul friends,” Bailey said. “Pretty early on, I knew Lennon was someone I wanted to learn from and be friends with.”

Bailey and Flowers will appear in conversation with Krista Tippett at 10:45 a.m. Monday, August 5 in the Amphitheater. Their talk will kick off Week Seven, “Grace: A Celebration of Extraordinary Gifts — A Week in Partnership with Krista Tippett and ‘On Being.’ ”

Tippett is a journalist, author and the host of “On Being with Krista Tippett” a Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast. She curated the morning lecture lineup and will appear in conversation with all of Week Seven’s Amp speakers.

“The (speakers) are interesting, and people who I think are having a nourishing force in the work they do,” Tippett said. “I’ve been following (Bailey and Flowers’) work for a really long time, separately and together. They, for me, represent the way new generations are bringing up conversations and coming at some old things in very fresh ways. … They are just really wonderful social creatives and I can’t wait to talk to them about the subject of grace and how that illuminates what they’re doing.”

Bailey and Flowers met while attending a meditation retreat led by Fr. Richard Rohr OFM, an author and Franciscn friar who served as Chautauqua’s chaplain for Week Four. They immediately connected over shared experiences with grief and loss; Bailey had recently lost her mother to cancer, and since 2014, Flowers has been the co-founder and executive director of The Dinner Party, a nonprofit organization that brings together 20- to 30-year-olds mourning the loss of a loved one.

“(Flowers) had a really serious loss in her early life, and at some point started realizing that so many people she knew (also) had some kind of tragic loss,” Tippett said. “She realized that they hadn’t really been given the space to let that be part of their experience and what forms them.”

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, Bailey noticed the same grief she had personally struggled with reflected across the nation.

“Not just (grief over) the outcome of the election, because that almost seemed secondary in some ways,” Bailey said. “But there were people whose votes were motivated by grief, whether that was the loss of a particular way of life they thought they would have … or folks who were grieving the real vitriol and hatred that we saw vocalized in that election cycle.”

As the founder and executive director of the Faith Matters Network, an organization that provides support for the mental and spiritual well-being of faith leaders, community organizers and activists, Bailey isn’t one to sit idly by. She immediately began looking for solutions.

“My first instinct was to call the person I knew that had a lot of experience dealing with grief and loss,” Bailey said. “And that was Lennon.”

During a six-hour drive from Nashville to Little Rock, Arkansas, Bailey called Lennon, and the two brainstormed ideas for what would become The People’s Supper, an organization that uses shared meals and gatherings to cultivate community and trust among groups with diverse identities and perspectives.

“The intersection between my and Jen’s (work) is very much rooted in our capacity to witness and be witnessed by one another,” Flowers said, “to hold each other through struggle and suffering, and find healing through company and accompaniment.”

The original iteration of The People’s Supper was the hashtag #100Days100Dinners, a project where Bailey, Flowers and their co-founder Emily May organized 100 dinners with strangers in the first 100 days of the Donald Trump presidency to facilitate conversation and healing.

“We did that, and lo and behold, the problem was not solved at the end of those 100 days,” Flowers said, “nor was the appetite to continue gathering.”

In less than three years, those first 100 dinners blossomed into 15,000, in more than 120 communities nationwide.

As the project continued, Flowers said it became clear that the healing they sought to spread would require more than a single dinner.

“We realized this can’t actually be done just by gathering with strangers one night at a time,” she said. “If the problem is a relationship problem, … relationships require time.”

The People’s Supper now focuses on cultivating long-term change by organizing multiple gatherings within the same communities.

“(We ask), ‘What are the elephants in the room that have been allowed to run rampant?’ ” Flowers said. “What are the conversations that are longing to be had that are sometimes hard? And how do we begin to forge … the trust and relationships necessary to actually tackle all of these hard challenges facing our lives, locally and on a national scale?”

Flowers said the aim of these dinners is never to debate ideologies or win some kind of argument — they’re merely to facilitate relationships.

“When you look at the science of how we make decisions — we like to believe that we’re rational creatures who look at the evidence presented and make a decision — but that’s not actually true,” she said. “We intuit and then we reason backwards, so the thing that actually does change minds is encounters with another.”

Flowers said that approaching others through the lens of grace is central to their mission.

“For me, grace is the capacity to be with each other in our full humanity,” she said. “(It’s) such a gift that we can grant to one another in an age (where) we’re deeply inclined toward perfectionism. What does it look like to see the beauty in our vulnerability and our struggles?”

Bailey agreed. As an ordained minister, she said she has “a little insight” into the definition of grace.

“In our society, we place such a high premium on the value of things that are earned,” she said. “In that way for me, notions of grace are actually counter-cultural. It has embedded in it a sense of radical, redemptive hope that speaks to a large vision of the world in which we can and ought to be in right relationships and love with one another.”

Bailey hopes that Chautauquans will leave the Amp asking the question, “Who will we be to one another?”

“How can we envision what it means to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious democracy in the United States?” she said. “If we don’t get the answer to that right, … I can only see that leading to more violence, death and destruction.”

Lewis Black and David Steinberg to Discuss Legacy of Late Comic Genius Robin Williams


The lights of the Metropolitan Opera House gleamed as the golden curtains parted, and comedian Robin Williams leaped across the stage.

Williams was recording his third official album live at the Met, which went on to win the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. For Williams’ manager David Steinberg, “Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met” was one of the comedian’s greatest moments.

“I was proud of that because putting him on stage at the Met was really interesting to do — no comedian had ever done that before,” Steinberg said. 

Steinberg said they spent time working on the show together, but Williams truly wrote on the stage, in the moment.

“Robin truly was a genius,” Steinberg said. “When he was on stage, that’s where he felt the safest because it was his world.”

At 10:45 a.m. Thursday, August 1 in the Amphitheater, Steinberg will be joined by Williams’ close friend, comedian Lewis Black, as they discuss Williams’ legacy, in “Managing Genius: 43 years with Robin Williams.” The two will be interviewed by radio personality and comedian Ron Bennington.

Steinberg met Williams when he began as a talent manager. In his career, he has managed stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Billy Crystal, and became close friends with Williams over the 40 years that they worked together.

Throughout his career, and even after his death in 2014, Williams has been known as a comic genius. After dropping out of Claremont Men’s College to pursue acting, he studied theater for three years at a community college in Kentfield, California.

In 1973, Williams obtained a full scholarship to the Juilliard School. During his junior year, he left after a professor told him there was nothing more the school could teach him.

Steinberg said Williams was intelligent, constantly reading books and conversing with people about a variety of different subjects.

“Robin was a very concerned human being,” Steinberg said. “He loved to read — he was an information junkie.” 

In the mid-1970s, after he left Juilliard, Williams performed stand-up shows in San Francisco. After moving to Los Angeles, he continued to perform stand-up and made his television debut on the revival of the NBC sketch comedy show “Laugh-In.”

One year later, in 1978, Williams was cast as alien Mork in an episode of the ABC series “Happy Days.” His appearance was so popular that ABC decided to create the spin-off, “Mork & Mindy.”   

“It taped on Monday nights,” Steinberg said. “And it was the place to be — everyone wanted to get into ‘Mork’ because the script was just an idea, and he would just go off of it and everyone just had to follow — he wasn’t controlled by the words.”

In 1980, Williams had his first big performance in the movie “Popeye,” playing the title role. And as Williams entered the film industry, Steinberg said the comic “never lost that spark of wanting to do bits out of his head and off the page.”

In 2000, Williams made an appearance on the ABC improvisational comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyways?” The show was like a heavenly playground, Steinberg said.

“He loved that show,” Steinberg said. “He loved those guys and he used to say, ‘I just want to play with them,’ and it was an incredible experience.”

His comedy was different, according to Black, who met Williams during an HBO Comic Relief show with Billy Crystal.

“There were very few comics that were that fast and able to change directions, dialects and characters like he could,” Black said. “No one could free associate on the level that he could — it was like watching fireworks, if fireworks were funny.”

Black and Williams became close friends throughout their comedy careers. For Black, working with Williams was a confidence boost, but it was even more meaningful to become his friend.

“Even as long as I’ve been doing comedy, at that point, it was a huge confidence builder,” Black said. “When I was doing Comic Relief, I was just coming onto the scene, but Robin paid attention.”

Both Steinberg and Black mentioned the power of Williams’ USO tours. Williams made six USO tours throughout his career, and Black said when they got off the helicopter or the transport at the venue, Williams would greet the troops with unbounded energy. He said the interaction between the troops and Williams was very special.

“It was special because of the love that he had for them,” Black said. “And the love they had for him — the troops were grateful that he showed up.”

To the world, Williams seemed to be always quick on his feet and exuding hilariousness.

“Everybody always thought he was on,” Black said. “And the Robin I knew was not always on — there was another side to Robin Williams, and it was a very thoughtful, kind man.”

Williams and Black worked together on the 2006 movie “Man of The Year.”

“When I was doing a scene with him, we would talk about what he would do,” Black said. “Sometimes we would just shoot the scene with just improv.”

In his career, Williams played everything from a nanny and a doctor, to a genie and a radio personality. His comedy styles have inspired many, including Jim Carrey, to create with more spontaneity and try new things on stage. Steinberg said he’s spent many moments in his life admiring and contemplating Williams’ comedy.

“There were hundreds of special moments when I thought ‘Where in the heck does this ability come from?’ ” he said. 

After decades of a successful comedy career, Williams died by suicide in 2014. The world paid tribute to the comic genius on social media and in numerous TV show episodes dedicated to Williams.

In 2018, HBO released the documentary “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind” — produced by Steinberg, offering another look into the comic’s life. William’s legacy continues to be felt in comedy and show business, something that Steinberg said he wants Chautauquans to honor.

“I just want people to know Robin and know what he did,” Steinberg said. “Whether they agree with him politically or not, I want them to witness the genius and the courage that he showed his entire career.”

Smothers Brothers Reunite on 50th Anniversary Firing from CBS


Make no mistake, it was not the original Smothers Brothers who appeared at Chautauqua Institution Monday — that Dick and Tom died in 1969, along with their beloved show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”

Now, 50 years later, there seem to be no hard feelings.

“I’m still pissed off,” Tom Smothers said.

Opening Week Six, “What’s Funny? In Partnership with the National Comedy Center,” Tom and Dick Smothers were joined by David Bianculli, television critic for NPR’s “Fresh Air” and author of Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” at 10:45 a.m. Monday in the Amphitheater, for “The Smothers Brothers Reunited: Comedy and Censorship on the 50th Anniversary of their Network TV Firing.” Journey Gunderson, executive director of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, announced at the beginning of the lecture that the Smothers Brothers will be donating their career archives to the National Comedy Center.

Banter ensued between the brothers without any help from Bianculli’s questions. As Tom Smothers explained that he met his brother in Buffalo so the two could arrive in Chautauqua together, he claimed he flew the plane from Wisconsin himself. Apparently, Tom Smothers has been a “pilot for 35 years.”

“That’s not true, you don’t fly planes” Dick Smothers said. “You’re not a pilot, so what are you talking about? We are going to keep this very brief; you fly as a passenger, a frequent flyer, and guess what? No matter how many miles you accumulate, they never upgrade you to pilot. Why make it up?”

“It didn’t take any effort,” Tom Smothers said.

“What possessed you to come out here and say you’re a pilot?” Dick Smothers said.

“I just didn’t recall that I’m not a pilot,” Tom said.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Dick said. “You forgot you’re not a pilot? Why did you come out here and lie about it?”

“National policy,” Tom said.

Bianculli watched as the audience erupted in laughter and realized, maybe too late, that he had no idea what he got himself into when he agreed to moderate the discussion.

“I have no idea if this is going to be the easiest or hardest interview I have ever done,” Bianculli said.

To open the discussion, Bianculli said despite the controversial history, “The Smothers Brothers Show” originally tried to “please everyone” when it aired in 1965.

“We wanted a universal show,” Tom Smothers said. “We’re entertainers, we’re here to entertain.”

Slowly but surely, CBS’ leadership became more “oppressive” with the show’s content. According to Dick Smothers, saying anything with “substance,” such as tackling sex education or the fact that “Ronald Reagan is a known heterosexual,” became a constant battle for the brothers.

“The ’60s were happening with or without us, and we just happened to be ready, at CBS, to be the last victim to go against ‘Bonanza,’ ” Dick Smothers said. “We were instantly viewed as the show America was ready for. There was no political nature for the first part of it, so everyone wanted to get their foot in the door and be on the show.”

As the problems of the ’60s grew, so did the amount of political content in the show.

“Things happened with the president, the White House, the war in Vietnam, drugs, civil rights — all that was happening at that moment and we just happened to be put in a little crack of television programming that allowed us in,” Dick Smothers said. “We were the only ones standing up and we didn’t know we were standing up.”

Dick Smothers said for the first, and only, season of “The Smothers Brothers Show,” they had a “sitcom before they became irrelevant.” There was no music and no live audience, a mistake he said they would never make again.

“We learned from that sitcom, just the season before, what we didn’t want to have happen to us again,” Dick Smothers said. “If we ever had the chance to be offered a show, we came in armed with what we didn’t want. That’s why sometimes a negative in your life is the strongest positive you could ever hope for.”

In 1967, the pair got its second chance to get it right with “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” Even with all the bells and whistles attached, Tom Smothers said he lost sight of what they set out to do by the third season. 

“Near the end of that three-year run we had, I was starting to lose my sense of humor and became a little shrill,” he said. “I lost where the joke was and where the humor is, and part of sharing ideas sometimes counts as the humor we see more than the truth of it.”

Because of that, Tom Smothers said he sees the end of their show in 1969 as an unexpected “gift.”

“I started becoming uptight and that firing, in retrospect, was a gift in disguise and gave us an opportunity to breathe, to not be constantly trying to achieve something and fight the censors all the time,” he said.

Bianculli played their “Where’s my Bass?” skit, in which Tom argues with Dick about whether he borrowed or stole his missing bass. Alongside the audience, the brothers laughed as if it was the first time they had ever seen it. But the skit brought up a less humorous point — the brothers have argued like that their entire lives.

“We’ve been brothers all our lives, and we worked 52 years together professionally, but we argued and had a difference of opinion all our lives,” Tom Smothers said. “There were times I wished a truck would hit him, but we worked it out. It is like a marriage, a lot of fighting and no sex.”

Bianculli said at one point, the brothers went to couples therapy.

“It made a big difference,” Tom Smothers said. “After a while, you build up a prejudicial view of the other person, then you learn more and more and you think ‘I hate that part of him.’ But (therapy) loosened us up so much, made us a better comedy team and we actually started to like each other.”

“You want the best for the partnership, for the union and for the future,” Dick Smothers said.

Bianculli, who wanted just one insight out of the lecture, found it.

“Your comedy depended upon listening to each other on stage, your relationship depends on you listening to each other off stage,” Bianculli said.

Bianculli then played their “I Wish I Wuz in Peoria,” skit, just one example of the brothers’ quick, back-and-forth dynamic.

“I find myself laughing, and I’m in it,” Tom Smothers said. “We can’t do that stuff anymore.”

Shortly after that skit aired, CBS fired the brothers, claiming they had violated the terms of their contract by not delivering tapes of their shows in time for affiliates to preview them. Under those circumstances, CBS got them off the air — fired, not canceled, as Bianculli clarified multiple times throughout the lecture.

In 1973, in the case of Tom Smothers et al. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., the U.S. District Court in California ruled that CBS, not the Smothers Brothers, was the party in violation. By then, the duo’s prime-time platform was nonexistent, and these days, they certainly wouldn’t want it back.

As the Smothers Brothers watched the older clips and relived the best and the worst of their television career, they both agreed that even if they came back to television now, they still wouldn’t be able to get away with some of their controversial humor.

“When I look at today, I don’t know how anybody does it,” Tom Smothers said. “Everybody talks at the same time, how can you have a conversation? You can’t talk and listen. There is no conversation that Dicky and I know how to do that would make a dent, because everything has been said to the point where it’s darn unlistenable. The abuse we throw at each other and the lack of listening is even worse than it was in the ’60s.”

As the middle child, Dick Smothers said he knows the difference between yelling and listening very well.

“You don’t hear anything when you’re yelling,” he said. “Being on the liberal side of things, I tend to think that we do listen and we hear both sides and we don’t like to call names to people. Today, it is a different game, but that doesn’t mean we have to be any different. I like to hear different things. I think we grow with that.”

Bianculli played one last skit, “Big Time Crime,” a song they performed in 1974, after they were fired by CBS. The song took hits at Watergate, foreign relations and Wall Street corruption.

“You never could have guessed it would come to this, but what is there left to believe in?” the brothers sing in the video. “Washington fools are making all of the rules, and honesty isn’t in season, so we’re going into big-time crime. Car tap, forgery, hand grenades and TNT, we’re into running guns for liberty and the payoff is in bribery …”

Bianculli said it was “disturbing” how much of what the two sang about is echoed in present-day America. Although he tried to finish the conversation with that, Tom Smothers took it upon himself to finish the lecture in the way only the Smothers Brothers could: an impromptu yo-yo show — music, dancing, the whole nine yards.

“I still don’t know whether this is the easiest interview or the hardest, but at the end of it, I am convinced it is the strangest and most enjoyable,” Bianculli said.

Director Frank Oz to Recount Film Career in Talk With Stephen J. Morrison

Frank Oz

The title of Frank Oz’s morning lecture — the second of Week Six’s “What’s Funny?” programming — is “I Don’t Know Anything About Comedy.”

“It’s true,” Oz said. “It’s absolutely true.”

It’s a dubious claim from the man whose expansive career includes puppeteering Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Grover and Cookie Monster; performing Jedi Master Yoda in four “Star Wars” films; and directing “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” “In & Out” and the 2007 “Death at a Funeral.” Armed with such a resume — he’s also won two George Foster Peabody awards, the American Comedy Awards’ Creative Achievement Award and the Art Directors Guild award —  Oz still professes he isn’t the one to ask about comedy. But he does know what makes him laugh.

“Things that are honest (make me laugh),” he said. “It could be from a movie by Steve Martin or a puppy dog.”


In a brief break from current projects, Oz will appear in conversation with Stephen J. Morrison, Emmy-nominated executive producer and showrunner of the CNN documentary series “The History of Comedy,” at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 30 in the Amphitheater. Morrison is also the executive producer of exhibit media for more than 50 interactive and personalized exhibits in the National Comedy Center, Chautauqua Institution’s partner for Week Six.

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said he was “struck” by a theory from a Smithsonian Magazine article by Patrick Sauer, in which Sauer posits that “more people on Earth have borne witness to Frank Oz’s characters, be it puppet or person, than any other artist in recorded human history.” After all, as Sauer points out, “Oz has had a part of three of the biggest entertainment juggernauts of the last-half century”: The Muppets, the “Star Wars” franchise and “Sesame Street.”

“Welcoming Frank Oz to Chautauqua’s Amphitheater provides the opportunity for us to hear from an artist whose work has touched the lives of millions, across generations, but just as importantly, to go well beyond the frequently asked questions and dig into the broader theme of the week,” Ewalt said. “His filmography as a director and writer is astonishing, cutting across genres of comedy, musicals and fantasy with such classics as ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ ‘What About Bob?’ and ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.’ ” 

For Oz, the classic 1980 parody disaster film “Airplane” remains one of his gold standards in a contemporary industry that is tilting, on average, toward “manufactured comedy,” and away from honesty. This is in part, he said, because corporations own the studios, creating a culture obsessed with the bottom line and forcing directors to work faster, with less capital and more constraints.

“There’s less subtlety,” Oz said. “I’m a huge fan of ‘Airplane,’ which is not very subtle — it’s very broad — but it is honest.”

He remembers many characters of his own filmography fondly, including “Bowfinger” ’s oblivious but kind Jiff Ramsey, played by Eddie Murphy, and the wide-eyed American heiress, played by Glenne Headly, of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” And of course, there are the Muppets — Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Dr. Teeth — puppets who originated with another actor, but who still occupy a special place in Oz’s heart. 

“They’re not mine, but I love them,” he said.

Although being a good father and “bringing moments to life on theater and screen,” are, according to Oz, the two most significant aspects of his legacy, he finds it difficult to specify exactly what inspires him.

“It’s unknowable,” he said. “If I knew what it was, I would latch onto it and create. Creativity in every sense is quicksilver. It’s hard to catch. I’d probably bottle it if I knew it. All these things come from a very flawed human place. It’s not something you can package.”

Reunited: Smothers Brothers to be Interviewed by David Bianculli on Amp Stage


“This is a singing mosquito, and it’s going to sing the ‘12th Street Rag,’ ” Tom Smothers told his brother, Dick. “I know everybody kills mosquitoes. That’s why not very many of them make it in show business.”

Tom Smothers then opened a glass vial and released the singing mosquito, which he described as “a show business first.” After a few lines of “12th Street Rag,” applause filled the studio and small television screens nationwide. After joining in the applause, Dick Smothers opened his hands — he had squashed the imaginary singing mosquito.

The bit opened the fifth episode of the first season of Emmy Award-winning “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” in 1967. After three seasons on CBS, filling the same time slot as NBC’s “Bonanza,” and later “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” the CBS network canceled the folk-singing comedy act in 1969, claiming the Smothers Brothers violated their show’s contract with the network. Thus, the wildly popular sibling duo was squashed — but not for long.

April marked the 50th anniversary of the cancellation that launched popular television audiences and media professionals into a decades-long, ongoing reevaluation of free speech and political satire.

Opening Week Six, “What’s Funny? In Partnership with the National Comedy Center,” Tom and Dick Smothers, who over the years have performed at Chautauqua and the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in Jamestown, will be joined by David Bianculli at 10:45 a.m. today, July 29, in the Amphitheater. Bianculli, television critic for NPR’s “Fresh Air” and author of Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” will interview the Smothers Brothers in a special presentation, “The Smothers Brothers Reunited: Comedy and Censorship on the 50th Anniversary of their Network TV Firing.”

“This year marks 50 years after CBS fired the Smothers Brothers, bringing their variety show to an end — a show that, through satire, protested the war, combated racism and mocked the president,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “There was intense political pressure to shut them down and a push to gain stronger governmental control over broadcast media. We’re honored to have the Smothers Brothers back at Chautauqua to mark this moment, reflect on the role of satire in our culture and democracy, and to spark a larger conversation on these grounds about free speech and speaking truth to power.” 

After being canceled, which Tom Smothers later described as being “fired,” the Smothers Brothers filed a suit against CBS in the U.S. District Court in California — Tom Smothers et al. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. The court found CBS to be in violation of its contract with the Smothers Brothers — not the other way around. In a counter suit, CBS claimed “the entertainers had violated their contracts when they did not deliver programs that conformed to CBS practices and standards,” The New York Times reported on April 7, 1973.

“By becoming unexpected martyrs to the cause of free speech, the Smothers Brothers lost their most influential national TV platform just when that freedom mattered the most,”  Bianculli wrote in Dangerously Funny.

Born on Governors Island, New York, in 1937 and 1939, respectively, Tom and Dick Smothers moved to California with their family, where they graduated high school and attended San Jose State College. They began their comedy careers on the Purple Onion stage in San Francisco, singing folk songs — Tom on guitar and Dick on stand-up bass — and telling sibling jokes.

But their professional routines evolved, and they eventually appeared on late night programs and their famed “Comedy Hour,” satirizing the U.S. government in protest of the Vietnam War, and, as Bianculli puts it, as a way of engaging “the generational, artistic, and moral duels being fought in the ’60s.” After the show’s cancellation, the Smothers Brothers performed across the country, at festivals and on Broadway, until they announced their public performance retirement in 2010.

“Year to year, the shows said it all: Tom and Dick Smothers looked different, acted differently, and protested more brazenly and passionately,” Bianculli wrote in Dangerously Funny. “What they managed to say and do was important, and what they were prevented from saying and doing was no less meaningful.”

J. Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier to Talk Importance of Language and Culture


When J. Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier was growing up, her grandmother gave her a gift she would treasure for the rest of her life. Years later, Kaniaupio-Crozier is taking that gift — her native language — and sharing it with the world.

In keeping with the Week Five theme, “The Life of the Spoken Word,” Kaniaupio-Crozier, a Hawaiian language expert who works with the Kamehameha Schools as a Learning Designer and Facilitator, will talk about the cultural importance of language and how technology can help in preserving it during the 10:45 a.m. lecture Thursday, July 25 in the Amphitheater.

“As we looked at various ways to explore the larger theme of ‘Life of the Spoken Word,’ we learned of Ekela’s decades-long work of making ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i more accessible, now with the added tool of technology,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

Kaniaupio-Crozier has spent the last 40 years working to make Hawaiian language and culture reach beyond her home state.

“Language is such a driver for people to recognize the heart of a culture; they begin to have an empathy for our people, just because the language has been shared,” said Kaniaupio-Crozier, who helped the language learning app and website Duolingo develop its ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i curriculum. “The more and more we share on whatever platform, more opportunity we have to share our culture.”

Kaniaupio-Crozier believes that with technology comes a promise of wider reach and an opportunity to influence the world.

“This is a story of keeping spoken language alive, language that’s use was banned in public schools by the U.S. government and, if not for the commitment of Ekela and many others, may otherwise have vanished altogether,” Ewalt said.

The mandated use of English language that came with the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii by the U.S. government at the end of the 19th century, pushed the native Hawaiian language to the point of extinction. For Kaniaupio-Crozier, this knowledge came packed in stories that her grandmother relayed from her experiences.

“She told me about being beaten in school for speaking Hawaiian,” she said.

The language, as it is known today, rose out of the Hawaiian Renaissance, a cultural movement inspired by the Civil Rights Movement that swept through the state in the 1960s. The Hawaiian Renaissance was an organized effort by teachers and community leaders who mobilized community elders to pour in their knowledge to rebuild the Hawaiian vocabulary, which was further strengthened by old newspapers and written records.

According to UNESCO, the Hawaiian language is still critically endangered, but it has risen from the ashes to become a living and thriving language. The growing number of Hawaiian language education options at primary and secondary school levels, in college, and the motivation to speak it at home, is giving rise to a generation of second-language speakers.

The Duolingo curriculum that Kaniaupio-Crozier helped design is a step closer to the goal of keeping the Hawaiian language alive by making it accessible to whoever wants to learn and use it. To her, preserving a language “preserves who we are.”

“I didn’t choose it, it chose me,” she said about her connection to the Hawaiian language.

That connection, Kaniaupio-Crozier, said, has been instilled in her own children, who she described as having a “different world view” in that they are more aware of people’s differences and similarities, and have a sense of respect for everyone’s beliefs.

“(The Hawaiian language instills in us) a deep seated Aloha for the land that others may not understand,” she said.

Hillsdale President Larry P. Arnn to Tackle Reasoning and Free Speech

Larry P. Arnn

Hillsdale College houses statues of many great minds from the 19th and 20th centuries on its “Liberty Walk”: Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Thatcher, C.S. Lewis, Frederick Douglass and Ronald Reagan. Larry P. Arnn has studied them all.

Arnn — the 12th president of Hillsdale and professor of politics and history, teaching courses on Aristotle, Winston Churchill and the U.S. Constitution — will deliver the morning lecture at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 23 in the Amphitheater, continuing Week Five’s theme, “The Life of the Spoken Word.”

“As Aristotle observes, man is a rational animal — it is his capacity for reason that separates him from the beasts,” Arnn said. “Because he has reason, he can deliberate upon what is just and unjust, what is good and evil. Further, reason makes him capable of speech, through which he deliberates on these same questions with his fellow men.”

Hillsdale is a traditionally conservative institution in southern Michigan that “believes an educated citizenry can be a powerful force for honoring, understanding and defending America’s founding principles,” according to the college’s website. It was founded by abolitionists in the Civil War era, and was progressive for its time, opening its doors to women and black students in the mid-1800s.

Hillsdale forgoes federal or state funding, and is — as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas described it — a “shining city on a hill” for conservatives. Thomas gave Hillsdale’s 2016 commencement address; Vice President Mike Pence delivered the 2018 address.

“It is through reasoned argument and learning that the student discovers what is good and true and rises to virtue and self-government,” Arnn said. “The turmoil seen on college campuses over the past decade indicates that this purpose is nearly forgotten. Colleges and students alike have stifled free speech and deliberation for the sake of ideology or security, and they have often done so violently. This is dangerous, both to the student and to the nation.”

Arnn made national headlines in 2016 when he publicly endorsed then-presidential candidate Donald Trump; Arnn was later considered for Trump’s secretary of education, but he was ultimately passed over for Betsy DeVos. 

“People said to me, ‘You love Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, how can you support Trump?’ I said, ‘I didn’t know they were in the race,’ ” Arnn said in a 2017 interview with The New York Times.

In his capacity as president, Arnn has launched several new initiatives at Hillsdale and brought in leading scholars and public figures through a distinguished visiting fellowship program.

Prior to Hillsdale, Arnn was president of the Claremont Institute, a conversative think tank, and currently serves on the Heritage Foundation’s board of directors. He also lived and studied in England, working as the director of research for the late official biographer of Churchill, Sir Martin Gilbert.

Arnn is the editor of The Churchill Documents, a sub-series of Churchill’s official biography; under Arnn’s direction it will grow to a total of 31 volumes. He has authored three books.

Year in Space: Astronaut Scott Kelly to Talk ‘Twin Study’

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Fifty years ago, nearly to the day, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to step foot on the moon. In the decades since, humanity has set its sights on even greater heights — and today, retired astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain Scott Kelly will talk about how his work has brought our species closer to achieving those lofty dreams.

At 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 19 in the Amphitheater, Kelly, who spent almost a full year in space during his last mission aboard the International Space Station, will speak on his time orbiting Earth and how it affected his body and mind as a conclusion to Week Four, “The New Map of Life: How Longer Lives are Changing the World — In Collaboration with Stanford Center on Longevity.”

“We close the week on longevity — identified as both one of our greatest achievements and one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century — with an exploration of humanity’s future,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “We’ve asked Scott Kelly to share insights into his year-long mission in space and how the mission helps us better understand space travel’s effects on the human body. How do the risks to human health and performance inform our journeys into the cosmos, from near-future missions to the moon and Mars, to our missions well beyond?”

Kelly will begin the lecture by discussing, with photo and video accompaniment, his journey and story as an astronaut. He will share stories from his time in space — 520 days in total, including nearly a full year spent on the ISS, from March 27, 2015, to March 2, 2016.

In his 2017 memoir Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery, Kelly wrote extensively about his year-long mission, the challenges that came with it and the unique perspective of living in space.

“It’s hard to describe the experience of looking down at the planet,” he wrote in his memoir. “I feel as though I know the Earth in an intimate way most people don’t — the coastline, terrain, mountains, and rivers. … Sometimes when I’m looking out the window it occurs to me that everything that matters to me, every person who has ever lived and died (besides the six of us) is down there.”

There are many things Kelly experienced that can’t be found on Earth, including spacewalks, where his spacesuit was the only thing separating him from the cold vacuum of space; moments spent observing storms, air pollution and auroras from above the atmosphere; and the smell of space — “slightly burned and slightly metallic,” he wrote.

After Kelly’s presentation, he will sit down for an armchair discussion about what he and NASA learned from the research conducted on the ISS and on his own body.

As part of the mission, Kelly participated in the “Twin Study” with his identical twin brother, Mark, who is also a retired astronaut. Mark remained on Earth while Scott went to space, and the differences in their bodies upon Scott’s return helped increase understanding of what space travel does to the human body.

The study, which was published in April, reported that Kelly experienced a shift in fluids in his upper body, some structural changes to his vision, minor genetic changes and DNA damage and thickening of his carotid artery wall. These changes, along with the parts of his body and physiology that remained the same compared to his brother’s, are helping scientists understand how the body is affected in space and, just as important, in what ways it is unaffected.

“Results and scientific papers will continue to emerge over years and decades, based on the four hundred experiments we conducted over the year,” Kelly wrote in Endurance. “We need to see many more astronauts stay in space for longer periods of time before we can draw conclusions about what we experienced.”

Kelly will also discuss the physical and mental challenges of living in space for a year. During that time, Kelly only saw 14 other human beings in person. In Endurance, he wrote that he sometimes felt disconnected from his family on Earth; he missed nature and being submerged in water, he missed gravity and grocery stores, he missed the colors of clouds and doors, he missed rain and many other Earthly comforts.

In the future, there will be a word for the specific kind of nostalgia we feel for living things,” he wrote.

Still, living in space was an adventure few other humans get to experience, and Kelly wrote that he would miss the thrill of surviving, “the sense that life-threatening challenges could come along and that I will rise to meet them, that every single thing I do is important, that every day could be my last.”

Though Kelly’s time in space is over and the “Twin Study” has been published, he will continue to be a resource of scientific study for the rest of his life, as scientists observe any long-term effects of his stay among the stars.

As the 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon approaches — on Saturday — Kelly will also discuss the impact of his work on future generations of astronauts and how humanity might someday take its first steps on Mars.

If we want to go to Mars, it will be very, very difficult, it will cost a great deal of money, and it may cost human lives,” Kelly wrote in Endurance. “But I know now that if we decide to do it, we can.”

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


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.”
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