Special Lecture Previews

Kirsten Gillibrand to join week with talk on preserving, advancing work of democracy


James Buckser
Staff writer

U.S. Sen.  Kirsten Gillibrand often reaches across the aisle, and works on a bipartisan basis frequently, she said. She just finished working on a defense bill, and is eyeing a farm bill — both of which are “widely bipartisan.”

“It’s much less difficult than people think,” she said.

The junior senator for New York, Gillibrand is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Aging Committee. She has had a hand in legislation including the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act of 2023, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the STOCK Act.

In a special presentation, Gillibrand will speak at 12:30 p.m. today in the Amphitheater.

Gillibrand said she’ll focus on “how we should preserve and advance democracy,” and discuss issues and legislation she’s focusing on. These include the Voter Empowerment Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, legislation on stock trading by members of Congress, and creating a call to public service.

The Voter Empowerment Act, Gillibrand said, is a bill she originally wrote with the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, aiming to “strengthen voting rights and fight back against a lot of the right wing legislatures across the country that are seeking to disenfranchise voters.”

Gillibrand, who has been New York State’s junior senator since 2009, called the bill comprehensive; it included modernizing voting, increasing participation and early voting, vote by mail, and prohibiting tactics like voter intimidation. She also plans to discuss the Equal Rights Amendment, which she said would “enshrine equality into the Constitution.”

“I believe that this approach would also protect a lot of women’s reproductive freedoms and right to privacy and other issues that are being denied across many states right now because of the Dobbs decision” that overturned Roe v. Wade, Gillibrand said.

The amendment, Gillibrand said, has already been ratified by two-thirds of the states and been passed by two-thirds in both houses of Congress.

“We believe that all that’s left to be done is to have it signed and published by the archivist,” Gillibrand said. “We think that’s actually all that needs to be done — that the provisions in the law that had a time limit were in the preamble, not the actual law itself, and so they’re not dispositive.”

Thirdly, Gillibrand said she plans to discuss a recent piece of legislation, a bipartisan bill with U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) banning stock trading by members of Congress and their spouses, senior members in administration and their spouses, and everyone’s dependent children.

“That would be a great way to create more transparency and accountability in Congress,” Gillibrand said. “People could have, hopefully, more faith in members of Congress that they’re not getting elected to get rich.”

Ten years ago, Gillibrand said she passed a law requiring transparency in trading among Congresspeople.

“I thought that if we had to disclose what purchases and sales we were making that the Department of Justice could prosecute people who are clearly buying and selling nonpublic information, but we really haven’t seen that level of prosecution,” Gillibrand said.

One in seven members of Congress, Gillibrand said, do not disclose their stock trades, and members of Congress have a higher return rate than the S&P 500.

“I don’t think it’s a question of members of Congress just being smarter in stock trading,” Gillibrand said. “I think they are trading on nonpublic information.”

Gillibrand said she expected some pushback on the bill, “since one in seven are not disclosing their trades and one in three are actually trading stocks.”

“It is something that’s common sense,” Gillibrand said. “There’s so much data and information that members of Congress just aren’t handling this properly, and they’re not following the law as it’s currently written.”

Lastly, Gillibrand said she plans to discuss ways to increase participation in public service, including college tuition assistance.

One part of the effort to reward public service is based on an existing piece of legislation, Gillibrand said, which has just been “fixed.”

“I want to improve that by offering free college and community college for five years of public service,” she said.

Gillibrand said she wants a “full augmentation of the GI Bill” for all public service.

“What we’ve done so far in the defense bill is created the first-ever cyber academy, which will be free college in exchange for five years of service in cyber,” Gillibrand said, which would include 100 slots per year for any cyber-related job such as “going to the NSA, going to the CIA, going to the Space Force in non-military roles.”

“It’s another step towards free college in exchange for public service,” she said.

After her presentation today, Gillibrand hopes Chautauquans and constituents feel that she’s “working for them,” and that she has “a lot of ideas about how to strengthen our democracy,” with some being “very strong bipartisan ideas that may be made into law.” She also hopes to impress that “that our democracy is worth fighting for and that people have to fight for it.”

Erie Insurance panel to focus on opportunities at Presque Isle

Chaffee, Clear, Demarco, Greene and Hileman

Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, is renowned for its excellent birdwatching and natural beauty, attracting more than 4 million visitors annually. At 3:30 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall, Week Seven Presenting Sponsor Erie Insurance hosts a panel discussion on “Equitable Access at Presque Isle State Park: How Public-Nonprofit Partnerships Expand Opportunities at the Jewel of Pennsylvania’s Park System.

The panel includes Barbara C. Chaffee, president and CEO of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center Foundation; Millcreek Township Supervisor Kim Clear; Presque Isle Partnership Executive Director Jon DeMarco; Presque Isle State Park Operations Manager Mathew Greene; and Erie Insurance Director of Strategic Communications Jeffrey Hileman.

Chaffee has been president and CEO of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center Foundation since 2018, overseeing and forging partnerships between the private sector and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and enhancing education, research, and the visitor experience at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and Presque Isle State Park Complex. She served as the president and CEO of the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership from 2011 to October 2017.

Chaffee was chosen by Gov. Tom Ridge to be a member of the team establishing the White House Office of Homeland Security. As special assistant to the president of the United States, Chaffee was senior director of public liaison; working with the private sector, international trade, and special interest organizations; she also served on bilateral teams for the smart border agreements with Canada and Mexico.

Chaffee served under Ridge as Pennsylvania’s Deputy Secretary for the Department of Community and Economic Development. Under her direction, the state was widely recognized for its innovation and leadership in economic development, tourism, film, and interactive marketing.

Clear was elected in 2021 as a Millcreek Township Supervisor, only the second female to be elected to this position since 1803. Before serving as Township Supervisor, Clear taught English for over 18 years in the Millcreek township school District and was named Golden Apple Teacher of the year in 2014. Seeking more ways to positively impact her community, in 2019, Clear made the decision to run for Erie County Council District 1 where she was elected and served as the Chair of the Finance Committee, Vice chair of Council, Election Board, and Retirement Board. While a member of County Council, Clear was appointed to the CARES Act Committee, the Covid Economic Impact Committee, and the ARPA Committee, which allocated over $75 million in pandemic-related grant funding throughout Erie County. In 2021, she made the decision to run for Millcreek Township Supervisor. Since being sworn into office in January 2022, she has focused on building an economically resilient 21st century Millcreek that provides a safe community full of opportunities for its residents. 

Since 2014, DeMarco has served as the executive director of the Presque Isle Partnership, a non-profit support organization to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Presque Isle State Park. 

With more than a dozen annual events facilitated primarily by interns and volunteers, Partnership events and programs dually serve as key fundraisers that keep the mission moving forward. Under DeMarco’s leadership, the community’s support of the Partnership has been vital to improving and expanding accessibility for all visitors, enhancing park amenities to create a more enjoyable experience, ensuring public safety, preserving the park’s rich history, providing educational opportunities, and fostering a culture of conservation.

Greene has been park operations manager at Presque Isle State Park since 2015. Prior to his time as a Park Operations Manager, Greene worked in the outdoor recreation industry as a kayak instructor, whitewater guide, and National Ski Patroller. Greene continued his career with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in the state’s Bureau of State Parks in 2005 as a Park Ranger for Keystone, Ohio Pyle, Prince Gallitzin, and Point State Parks. This ultimately led to him becoming the park operations manager for Presque Isle State Park.

Greene is responsible for the overall administration, operation, and maintenance of Presque Isle State Park Complex, which includes Presque Isle State Park, Erie Bluffs State Park, and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. 

Hileman is a director of Strategic Communications at Erie Insurance, leading strategy and content creation for the company’s internal communication channels. He also serves as a communications adviser to the teams advancing Erie’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Environment, Social and Governance commitments.

Presque Isle State Park, established in 1921, entails a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie. Approximately 4 million visitors explore the park each year as a result of Presque Isle’s unique qualities and vast activities. Presque Isle State Park is the most visited state park in Pennsylvania. The park’s attendance typically ranks in the top 10 of all national parks, and typically ranks close to Yellowstone National Park.

Presque Isle contains a greater number of the state’s endangered, threatened, and rare species than any other area of comparable size in Pennsylvania because of its many unique habitats. In addition, Presque Isle is the only Pennsylvania state park to have a Great Lake, Lake Erie, as a resource. The park is a National Natural Landmark that offers visitors a beautiful, sandy coastline and many recreational activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, and in-line skating. The sandy beaches, washed by the clear waters of Lake Erie, provide visitors with the only surf swimming within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Driver to give 19th Annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture


Sara Toth

At the end of its most recent term, the Supreme Court handed down decisions in two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions — one against Harvard and one against the University of North Carolina — that effectively eliminated the use of affirmative action in college admissions. 

It was a decision that many had feared, and others had hoped for, for nearly 40 years, said Justin Driver, and it’s difficult to overstate the decision’s significance.

“It could well set off a series of events that reshape higher education,” said Driver, the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law and Counselor to the Dean at Yale Law School.

Driver will deliver the 19th Annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, where he’ll discuss the Court’s recent decision, the ramifications it will have, and the precedents it overturned.

“Many people thought that this decision was a foregone conclusion,” Driver said. In an October 2022 guest essay in The New York Times, he offered up ways that preserving affirmative action would be consistent with precedent — an approach he thought would garner a majority on the Court. 

“The path I thought would, plausibly, hold some appeal would be to focus on Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger,” he said. “In 2003, she writes for the Court that it’s been 25 years since we first upheld affirmative action (in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke), and we expect that in another 25 years, that will no longer be necessary.”

Justice Brett Kavenaugh, Driver said, “took that argument quite seriously.”

“He and I differ on how one should count the 25 years. But he agreed that the 25-year sunset provision had some sort of legal significance,” Driver said. “.. So while it would be inaccurate to say that the decision arrived as a surprise, it nevertheless has arrived as a jolt to legal education.

Previously the Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, Driver teaches and writes in the area of constitutional law, and in 2021 President Joe Biden appointed him to serve on the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States. He holds degrees from Brown, Duke and Harvard Law; after graduating, he clerked for then-Judge Merrick Garland, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Stephen Breyer. 

Issues of education have formed both his professional and personal life; growing up in Southeast Washington, D.C., Driver would make the long trek every day to the Northwest, and to Alice Deal Junior High School. Known as the best middle school in the district, Driver landed a spot there thanks to D.C.’s open enrollment practices, and to the dedication of his father, Terrell Glenn Driver.

“My father departed our house in the wee hours of one morning, drove across the city, and slept fitfully in his car to ensure that he would be among the first parent in the required queue for out-of-district students,” Driver wrote in the acknowledgments of his book, The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind, which is dedicated to his parents.

The Schoolhouse Gate was published in 2018 and named both a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year and an Editors’ Choice of The New York Times Book Review. It also received the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, and was a finalist for the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and Phi Beta Kappa’s Ralph Waldo Emerson Book Award.

Among the many celebrations of the written word happening during Week Six on Chautauqua’s grounds, that genre of writing — legal opinions and dissents — may be in danger of being overlooked. But there’s value, even a “democratic responsibility for lawyers and judges to make their opinions accessible to people who are steeped in law. … That’s one thing that the best Supreme Court opinions managed to do,” Driver said. It’s also the reason he opted for a trade press in Pantheon Books, rather than an academic or legal publisher, for The Schoolhouse Gate.

His “single favorite opinion in the history of the Supreme Court” when it comes to the craft of writing, is actually from the man for whom the lecture series is named.

“(Jackson) is the finest writer in the history of the Supreme Court,” Driver said. “… The great opinion in question is West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, and it was written in 1943. The question was whether it was permissible to expel students for refusing to salute the American flag and that raises issues, particularly for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who view it as worshiping a graven image and therefore prohibited by Exodus.”

In the middle of World War II, with patriotic sentiment running high, Jackson’s opinion “reconceived” the case from one of freedom of religion, to one of freedom of speech. Effectively, Driver said, the right to speak also means the right to not speak. Jackson concluded in his opinion: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word their faith therein.” 

“It is just a beautiful sentence,” Driver said. “It’s one of the few that I can recite by heart. The alliteration, in particular — our constitutional constellation. … In effect, he’s suggesting that it is unbecoming and, indeed, un-American, to require someone to make that pledge.”

On the flip side of that coin, Driver said, is perhaps the “most famous dissent ever written” — Marshall Harlan’s argument in Plessy v. Ferguson that the U.S. Constitution was colorblind, and the country has no class system. 

He’ll discuss that as part of his lecture today.

Towles to use CLSC’s ‘Lincoln Highway’ as fictional lens on theme


In 1912, there were almost no “good” roads in the United States, according to the Lincoln Highway Association. The construction of the first transcontinental road for automobiles started in 1913, later named The Lincoln Highway.

Thousands of cars and passengers have traveled that route, stretching from New York City to San Francisco, creating even more thousands of adventures. In Amor Towles’ latest novel, the New York Times bestseller The Lincoln Highway, the fictional adventures of 18-year-old Emmett Watson are brought to life on the page.

Towles will speak at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater in a combined Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and Chautauqua Lecture Series presentation on the theme, “Infrastructure: Bridging and Maintaining the Physical, Social and Civic Underpinnings of Society.”

“In The Lincoln Highway, (a) kid comes home from juvenile prison and finds two friends of his hidden in the trunk of the warden’s car,” Towles said. “That’s my starting point.”

This is Towles’ first appearance on the Amp stage, but his second at Chautauqua — his previous book, A Gentleman in Moscow, was a CLSC pick in 2018, and Towles spoke then to an overflowing Hall of Philsophy crowd.

When writing, Towles said he looks for “a notion” for a gateway to a “rich universe” of experiences, interactions, emotions and “layers of meaning, semantically.”

“My instinct is what’s driving my decision to go deeper into a story,” Towles said. “I don’t start out with a mission of telling a particular tale or making a particular point or landing a particular thematic note.”

All of these details, Towles said, later “grows out of the process of writing the story,” which he only does once fully imagining the events in the story.

In the course of the novel’s action, which takes place  in the 1950s, Watson returns to his Midwestern family farm to find his mom gone, his dad dead, a younger brother waiting for him and the farm in foreclosure. 

After he discovers his two friends in the warden’s trunk, they convince him to go to New York when Watson wants to go to California — all in a span of 10 days.

“All that stuff comes to me very quickly, in a matter of minutes,” Towles said. “The actual imagining of the story takes place over a period of years as I fill notebooks and dwell on the different events and characters and settings.”

Sony Ton-Aime, the Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts, said the story in The Lincoln Highway would not be possible without the original construction of the actual Lincoln Highway as a roadway.

He said questions about physical infrastructure are often on people’s minds, with them wondering, “How do we win a bill on infrastructure?” and “How do we imagine (improving) this crumbling infrastructure that we have in the United States?”

It’s important to look back in history, he said, to see what was done, why it was done and what made it possible.

“While this is a novel and we come into it for a good story,” Ton-Aime said, “the story was made possible because, as a country, we decided it was important for us to have good roads.”

These roads lasted more than 100 years, for people to still see, research and archive. 

Ton-Aime said the scope is central, because it “gives us an idea of what we are going to be doing 100 years from now.”

Reva Siegel to deliver annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on Supreme Court, with focus on abortion rights


Every year, Chautauqua’s Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court comes after the court wraps its session; in 2022, that means Week Three, with a look at landmark decisions from the past term.

“This lecture traditionally falls later in the summer after the court made decisions,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “It provides implications from renowned legal scholars to provide context on those decisions.”


At 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 11, in the Hall of Philosophy, Reva Siegel, the Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Professor of Law at Yale Law School, will deliver the 18th Annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States. Siegel said the lecture will largely focus on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“My lecture will discuss the reasoning of the Dobbs decision in light of tensions in our understandings of originalism, which is both a method of interpreting the Constitution and a political movement reaching back to the Reagan administration — which has sought from the beginning to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Siegel said.  

She will also touch on how President Donald Trump’s judicial appointments have affected the chemistry of the Supreme Court, the interpretation of the 14th Amendment, and established precedent.

Siegel described her lecture as half about Dobbs, a quarter on how it was made and a quarter about the voices — women’s voices — that were excluded from the opinion.

“It was obvious that this was going to be a year where the Supreme Court did major things in the constitutional law of abortion rights. We discussed it, and then the question was, who would be the expert speaker to invite to Chautauqua,” said John Q. Barrett, a Benjamin N. Cardozo Professor of Law at St. John’s University and Elizabeth S. Lenna Fellow at the Robert H. Jackson Center.

To Barrett and others, Siegel was the perfect fit. She teaches constitutional law and reproductive justice, among other courses at Yale.

“Reva Siegel, with her background and her career and her scholarship, immediately came to mind and we pursued her,” Barrett said 

Siegel uses legal history to look into the questions of law and inequality, and she analyzes how the court follows the popular movements in interpreting the Constitution. She has written multiple legal articles and books regarding inequality in law. Her books, either authored or edited, include Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling, with Linda Greenhouse; Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials, with Sanford Levinson, Jack M. Balkin, Akhil Reed Amar and Cristina M. Rodriguez; and Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories, with Melissa Murray and Kate Shaw. Greenhouse, Amar and Murray have all delivered the Robert H. Jackson Lecture in previous years.

Siegel co-wrote an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization arguing that abortion rights are grounded in equal protection. 

“How President Trump’s originalist appointees changed the meaning of the way that the court interpreted the Constitution guarantee of liberty …  includes how the court approaches not only abortion, but a whole range of issues including interracial marriage, contraception and rights to same-sex marriage,” Siegel said. “So it’s not only abortion, but it’s a whole list of other rights, also.”

Siegel sees Dobbs as a triumph of originalism, which can be defined as an interpretation of the Constitution as it was understood at the time it was written. But she views originalism as more than just that.

“I understand originalism is not only a method of interpreting the Constitution but also a political practice of constitutional change that’s justified by claims on the past,” Siegel said. 

Geoffrey Kemp, Nikolas Gvosdev to present annual Middle East Update with focus on Russia’s impact in region


Geoffrey Kemp joins Nikolas Gvosdev for the 2022 Summer Assembly’s Middle East Update. Kemp has hosted Chautauqua’s Middle East Update since 1993. Kemp and Gvosdev last presented the update together in 2018 when they first touched on Russia’s relations in the Middle East.

This year’s conversation, earlier than previous years in the season, is at 3:30 p.m. Monday, June 27, in the Hall of Philosophy and takes a renewed focus of Russia’s role in the Middle East, as well as what the Russia-Ukraine war has meant, and will mean, for politics in the Middle East. 

“The primary focus is going to be on how the Ukraine war has affected Russia’s policy in the Middle East, and how that affects Middle East politics,” said Kemp, senior director of Regional Security Programs at the Center for the National Interest.


The ongoing war in Ukraine called for a change of topics for this year’s Middle East Update.

“The invasion of Ukraine was right out of the blue, but the reason we chose to do the Middle East Update in Week One was because the theme of Week One is international relations,” Kemp said. 

The conversation will touch on other topics, such as the shift to green energy, the Abraham Accords, the Israeli-Palenstinian conflict, and demographic changes in the region. 

“We’re going to really try to get our hands around these major disruptions — COVID-19 and war in Ukraine — that have occurred since we were last in Chautauqua,” said Gvosdev, professor of national security affairs at U.S. Naval War College. “The world of 2022 is fundamentally changed from the world of 2018. We’re entering into uncharted waters.”

In 2018, Gvosdev discussed the importance of oil and other fossil fuels in both Russia and the Middle East, and how it relates to the rest of the world. The United States continues to call for sanctions on Russia as the war in Ukraine continues, and on Iran, regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal, Gvosdev said.

“(The) tradition has been, the United States can really insist on strong sanctions on Iran, or strong sanctions on Russia, (but) it really can’t sanction both simultaneously because Europe and other regions of the world need energy,” Gvosdev said. “If they’re asked not to get it from Russia, then Iran becomes one of the alternative suppliers.”

The question of energy sits in the center of everything, Gvosdev said, as it impacts the Iran Nuclear Deal, human rights, and Middle East relations with the United States and Russia. 

With the war in Ukraine, economies need energy now, especially in oil and natural gas. Russia will likely take the less lucrative energy markets, while Middle Eastern producers will take the majority of the more profitable markets in the west, Gvosdev said.

“You have these pressures of economies, particularly in Europe, that are going to be squeezed for energy over the upcoming years, depending on how things turn out in Ukraine,” he said. “That energy is going to have to come from the Middle East.”

As more of the world embraces the green energy movement, demand for fossil fuels has decreased. The U.S. and others have used moving toward greener energy to distance themselves from Middle Eastern resources. But due to the war in Ukraine and worldwide shortages, that movement has been hampered.

“Europeans are going to start burning more coal to make up for shortages in natural gas,” Gvosdev said. “We’re probably going to see a reversion away from some of the climate targets, which is going to wipe out any of the advantages we made during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Because the situation in the Middle East, war in Ukraine, and a pathway to cleaner energy are all continuously changing, Gvosdev believes there isn’t a clear solution. Within the Middle East itself, and in the greater sense of the world, “it very much is in flux,” he said.

CVA hosts VMFA curator Valerie Cassel Oliver for annual Plevin Lecture




Chautauqua Visual Arts will spotlight curator Valerie Cassel Oliver for the annual Leon and Gloria Plevin Family Museum Director Lecture at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10 on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch. The annual lecture series was established in honor of the late Leon Plevin, husband to artist Gloria Plevin and avid supporter of the visual arts at Chautauqua.

Hailing from Houston, Oliver attended the University of Texas at Austin, going on to attend graduate school at Howard University. Presently, she serves as the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Richmond-based Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest art museums in North America. 

Throughout her professional career, Oliver also acted as a senior curator for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston for 16 years, where her work honed in on valuable topics such as inclusivity, representation and spotlighting artists of different social and cultural environments. Additionally, she served as the director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts.

As an experienced curator, Oliver has organized numerous exhibitions including various solo exhibitions such as “Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped (2017),” and “Angel Otero: Everything and Nothing (2016).”

In 2021, Oliver curated the unprecedented exhibition “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse,” reemphasizing the importance of open dialogue in regard to urgent themes here in America. In this exhibition, Oliver details the intricate conversations between art, music and everyday objects found in Southern culture.

“If you have blues or jazz as the American original art form, what is the visual equivalent to that?” Oliver told ARTnews magazine. “We don’t really look always in our backyard to understand the tributaries toward modernism, but you can’t have modernism without the backyard of the South, and you don’t have a South without Black culture (because) Black culture is the origins.”

The live lecture will be followed by an open conversation and Q-and-A session moderated by Sharon Louden, the Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director of the Visual Arts. Audience members are encouraged to take part in this open dialogue.

Steve Capers to discuss humor in life, finding purpose in online lecture




For nearly three decades, Steve Capers has lived in the world of comedy. 

In 1993, he became an executive for Black Entertainment Television (BET), where he helped promote programs such as “Video Soul,” “Teen Summit,” and “Rap City.” 

Five years later, he moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to work for Comedy Central. There, he planned comedy events of some of the most well-known comedians of the time, including Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Ben Stein, Bill Cosby and Sinbad. 

Five more years passed before Capers left Comedy Central. After that, he helped run a monthly comedy show in Chicago. In 2009, Knock-Knock Productions asked him to help run a comedy show promoting Black comics. 

This festival, the Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest, was first held in 2010. By 2017, he was hosting Black Comedy Month as part of the comedy festival, one of the biggest celebrations of Black comedy in the country. 

“(It’s) a national campaign that helps us celebrate African American humor,” Capers said. 

At 1 p.m. Friday, July 30 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Capers will celebrate Black comedy in this week’s lecture as a part of the African American Heritage House 2021 Lecture Series. 

“At the festival, we spotlight many African American comedians, so we just want to be that platform to broaden and give that opportunity to several AfricanAmerican comedians,” he said. 

Capers will approach his lecture on CHQ Assembly with the same mentality as he did for Black Comedy Month.

“We want to make people laugh because there’s so many people who need to laugh with all of the turbulent times we’ve been going through, especially this past year with the pandemic,” he said. 

Throughout his career, Capers said he found himself having purpose. 

“You’d be amazed at how many people have come to me through the years just to say, ‘Thank you. I really needed that laugh, and I wish I could laugh even more,’ ” he said. 

Everyone goes through hard times with family, work, or health, but laughter can help improve the situation, he said. 

A few weeks ago, a fan emailed Capers and revealed she bought tickets for this year’s festival, but she had just been diagnosed with cancer and could no longer attend. Capers reached out to his friends, who made 30-second videos wishing her a swift recovery and to let her know they were thinking about her.

She wrote back to Capers saying how much she laughed and how much she needed to smile.

“This is the best thing that could ever happen,” Capers said, quoting her. 

During his lecture, Capers hopes people learn a little bit about everything.

“I want them to learn how to laugh at themselves and to laugh often, as much as possible, and to look at some of the simple things in life that can make you laugh,” he said. “Whether it’s watching sitcoms on television or watching one of your kids do something silly, always have a sense of humor. That’s the main thing I’d like people to take away with them.”

Campaign Zero co-founder DeRay Mckesson to discuss actions people can take at local level




DeRay Mckesson has been a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement for over six years. In the movement’s early stages, Mckesson went from news organization to news organization to spread their work, but he also took to social media, especially Twitter.

“In 2014, Twitter was really big,” Mckesson said. “It was one of the only ways that we were able to tell people what’s going on. There was no Instagram Live. There was no Facebook Live. There was no Twitter video.”

But now, Mckesson said, more technology gives people greater opportunities to connect. 

“One of the important things about this moment is that we’re able to connect with each other in ways that we’ve never been connected before,” Mckesson said. 

As well as being a leading voice for the Black Lives Matter movement, Mckesson is a co-founder of Campaign Zero, an American police reform campaign. At 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 23 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Mckesson will discuss what he has learned over the last six years around policing and around the data around it, as well as actions people can take. His lecture is part of the African American Heritage House 2021 Lecture Series.

Much of Mckesson’s work focuses on the local level, and President Barack Obama has praised his work as a community organizer. Mckesson said with issues like policing and mass incarceration, the problem mostly lies within local powers. 

“In states, in cities, it’s your city councilperson, it’s your mayor, that’s actually where the problem is,” Mckesson said. “The federal government incarcerates the least amount of people in the system — state and local incarcerate way more than anybody.”

And the same goes for policing. He said though many of the stories told focus on killings by police in big cities, police kill more people in suburbs than almost all other communities combined.

One of the important things about this moment is that we’re able to connect with each other in ways that we’ve never been connected before.”

DeRay Mckesson, Co-founder, Campaign Zero

To help spread information and tools to local communities, Mckesson co-founded Campaign Zero, an organization dedicated to making data accessible on issues like over-policing and mass incarceration. Some of the organizations and websites he is involved in include End All No-Knocks, 8 Can’t Wait, Nix the 6, Mapping Police Violence and Police Scorecard.

8 Can’t Wait in particular saw a lot of support and debate online. The movement revolves around eight restrictive use of force policies that supporters want implemented in cities and states to reduce killings by police officers. The policies range from banning chokeholds to requiring de-escalation and comprehensive reporting. has an interactive map of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., showing which states’ legislatures proposed or passed which policies. So far, according to the website, 19 states have at least one policy enacted, with New Jersey being the only state to enact all eight policies and New York enacting the ban on chokeholds and proposing three other 8 Can’t Wait policies.

“We did 8 Can’t Wait, which was one of the biggest reductions of the power of the police in American history,” Mckesson said. “That really helped me see that change is possible — you just need to map it out for people so they know exactly what to do. That really helped me believe again.” 

Mckesson said he was also helped by those closest to him.

“I’m super blessed to have great friends and family. That’s where I go when I need to step away from this work that is so rooted in death,” he said. “I’m always reminded that we’re never alone; community makes us strong. So we push back on this idea of self-made. I’m not self-made. A community made me. A community of people helped me be strong and thoughtful.”

On a federal level, Mckesson said people should pay close attention to the Biden administration.

“Biden, today, could let people out of jail at the federal level,” he said. “He could model and signal things that are actually really important, instead of waiting for Congress to do them, and he has not, so that is something that people should be paying attention to.”

And, looking to the future, he has hope. 

“I think that we can win,” Mckesson said. “That’s like the most exciting thing I can think of: That we can win in this lifetime.”

Columbia professor James Shapiro frames current cultural issues through lens of Shakespeare

Shapiro_James_CLSC_031121_CHQAssembly photo credit Mary Cregan copy



The works of William Shakespeare are taught across the country in everything from middle schools to colleges. One of Week Four’s Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author of Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future, James Shapiro, thinks that one of the reasons Shakespeare’s works are so prolific in the United States is because people can see conflicts reflected back at them in the plays. 

Shapiro’s CLSC presentation was broadcast on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform on March 21; it is still available for streaming. At 4 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 22 on CHQ Assembly, selections from that event will be included in a CLSC Special Week Four Program, with commentary on the book from Chatuauqua Theater Company Artistic Director Andrew Borba.

“Shakespeare has become more American than British now. And we have more Shakespeare Festivals than England, and we have more theaters for Shakespeare than England,” said Sony Ton-Aime, the Michael I. Rudell Director of the Literary Arts. “… No other writer explains America better than Shakespeare. The struggles that the characters go through are very similar to what America is feeling.”

Shapiro studied at Columbia University and the University of Chicago. He is currently the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1985. In 2011 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Guardian. He is the author of seven books. His latest — Shakespeare in a Divided America — was a New York Times “Ten Best Books of 2020” as well as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is currently the Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at the Public Theater in New York City.

“Great productions of Shakespeare always connect with a cultural moment,” Shapiro said. 

The version of history that he was taught in school “had very little to do with the realities of the American experience,” he said. By using Shakespeare’s plays, Shapiro hopes to highlight the way certain histories have been ignored or suppressed, and that through the lens of theater, people will be able to discuss them. 

He points to Othello and President John Quincy Adams, who was an abolitionist but was unable to handle the idea of a white woman being in love with a Black man. Adams’ fears of miscegenation do not resonate with modern readers, but they remain a part of the history of the play.

Shakespeare in a Divided America

More recently, the musical Kiss Me, Kate — a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew — speaks directly to how women were pushed out of the workforce in the years following World War II. The play engages the plight of women who have to give up their independence whether it’s set in Renaissance-era Europe or postwar America. 

In his CLSC presentation, Shapiro wanted to focus on Macbeth, a play read by both Abraham Lincoln and his assassin John Wilkes Booth. He says that when Lincoln reads Macbeth, he sees a “deeply introspective hero,” one that resonates with his own feelings of guilt over a war in which upward of 700,000 Americans died. 

Booth, an actor that had appeared in a number of Shakespeare productions — including Julius Caesar — would read the same lines and see a heroic martial soldier. Shapiro refers to him as a “Lost Cause type.”

“Shakespeare is one of those places where we can still air our differences and stake a claim,” Shapiro said. “… You can have the very same words read in radically different ways, but at least they’re both engaging in a literary text.”

His book ends in the summer of 2017, when a production of Julius Caesar at the Delacorte Theater in New York City featured a Donald Trump look-alike playing Caesar. 

“I use Shakespeare as a kind of core sample of where our culture is,” Shapiro said.

This is not the first time a president look-alike has played Caesar — two years previous, a Barack Obama look-alike played the central role. However, in 2017, Trump supporters appeared and threatened violence against the actors and the director. 

“Great theater lets us see things in our culture before they happen,” Shapiro said. “The violent storming of the stage, night after night, the last week of the run was a nice dress rehearsal for Jan. 6 and the storming the Capitol by the same exact kinds of people who believe that in the cult of Donald Trump, and did not believe in the rule of law, and free expression.”

From Shapiro’s perspective, Americans are not good at talking about what they disagree over. The lack of common ground makes having a vehicle that both parties can understand even more important. 

“The issues that divide us are issues of gender, issues of immigration, issues of race and issues of inclusion,” Shapiro said. “Wonderfully, Shakespeare’s plays are about all of those things. And rather than being canceled because of that, the left and the right for the last 200 years or so have both embraced Shakespeare.”

Candace Littell Maxwell to discuss ‘adaptive leadership’ at CWC talk




When it comes to leadership, the scholarship studying it is considerable, and the types are numerous. There are leadership approaches, behaviors, frameworks, methods, skills, styles, sets of styles and theories.

Adaptive leadership, which integrates a practical approach with a leadership framework, may be particularly relevant now. According to Candace Littell Maxwell, who has served as the chair of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees since May 2019, it is meaningful not only to leaders, but also “to anyone in times of change and challenge.”

At 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, July 20 in the tent on the front lawn of the Chautauqua Women’s Club, Maxwell will explain what it means during a talk titled “Adaptive Leadership in a Post-COVID Era,” and illustrate how it has influenced what has been happening on the grounds at Chautauqua.

“I have been aware of the concept of adaptive leadership for several years now,” Maxwell said. “It’s not new. There was a 2009 book by Harvard professor Ronald Heifetz that just really resonated with me in terms of trying to understand when the problem is really unclear and the solution is not known.”

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization is a sequel to Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading, a book that Heifetz — founding director of the Center for Public Leadership — co-authored with Marty Linsky in 2002.

“It’s a set of qualities,” Maxwell continued. “… I’ve relied on this concept in my own career, particularly with my own consulting. Companies bring a consultant in because they don’t know the answers, and even the problems. … When COVID hit, I was deeply involved with the Institution. We didn’t know the answers.”

For over 30 years, Maxwell had also been deeply involved in health care financing, policy, strategy and advocacy.   

Having grown up in Providence, Rhode Island, she said that she initially took science courses for her major in resource development, and then “loaded up on business courses.” She subsequently earned her master of business administration, with a concentration in finance.

“I spent a good part of my career in D.C. and lived in the suburbs,” Maxwell said.

There she worked as a financial analyst for the Virginia-based not-for-profit Sentara Healthcare, and as a management consultant for public accounting firm Ernst & Young.

“One of my first jobs was at the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission,” Maxwell said. In her role as senior health policy analyst, she focused on Medicare program reform. 

MedPAC is an independent, non-partisan advisory agency of the U.S. Congress that was established by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and formed by the merger of two existing commissions.

“At a very high level I was trying to solve problems with respect to health care policy and Medicare,” Maxwell said­­­ — in particular, those involving access to high quality care, facilities for care, and the manner of health care delivery.  

Having worked directly with medical manufacturers, she said she turned to medical technology.

As vice president of payment and policy for the Advanced Medical Technology Association — a Washington, D.C.-based trade group representing medical device and diagnostic product developers — Maxwell led AdvaMed’s work on public and private healthcare financing and insurance reform.

And at the privately funded Health Care Technology Institute, which supports research on the medical technology industry’s clinical and economic impact, she served as executive director and principal spokesperson for policymakers and the media. 

In 1995, she formed and became president of Littell Group, a consultancy that specialized in strategic planning for medical product and technology firms until 2008. For start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike, she assessed market opportunities for new products and ventures, particularly with respect to public and private reimbursement.

Afterwards, Maxwell co-founded and served as the managing director of a business intelligence and policy advisory consultancy for health care organizations: Contenthealth.

“I helped companies plan and execute strategies so that when they launched products, the users would be adequately compensated,” she said. “… I ensured not only that regulatory — FDA — barriers were overcome, but also barriers to the medical technology. And more broadly, (I helped them) understand the impact of medical technology on the health care system, economy, patients, caregivers and innovation in care.”

From 1999 to 2008 — when Philips Healthcare acquired Respironics — Maxwell served as a member of the company’s board of directors and the chair of its corporate governance committee. Headquartered near Pittsburgh, Respironics is a publicly traded global medical supply company specializing in products that improve sleep and respiratory functions, including anesthesia masks and the first CPAP machine for the treatment of sleep apnea.

She has also served on the boards of nonprofit organizations that provide health care for uninsured populations.

“Oftentimes we’re dealing with situations where you don’t even know if you know the problem, and there is no solution, so people are coming to you for that,” Maxwell said.

After moving from greater Washington, D.C. to Erie, Pennsylvania, she taught a course at the Jefferson Educational Society of Erie during the spring of 2012 titled “Can Health Care Reform Survive the Supreme Court?” JES is a regional nonprofit think tank that had been founded four years earlier “to promote civic enlightenment and drive community progress.”

Maxwell’s session focused on the oral arguments about constitutional questions raised by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that were being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The case raises important issues concerning Congressional powers, and states’ and individuals’ rights with respect to health care,” she wrote then. “This session will explore the issues and implications of possible rulings by the high court.”

Then and now, the enormous uncertainty regarding health-related challenges confronting virtually everyone in the United States and far beyond makes an introduction to adaptive leadership both important and urgent.

For Chautauquans, Maxwell’s Tuesday morning tent talk at the CWC — which is intended to be practical rather than theoretical — will provide a unique opportunity to learn how the framework of adaptive leadership is being applied by Chautauqua’s leadership and experienced on the grounds.

Sports legends Tara VanDerveer and Nancy Lopez headline panel




Tara VanDerveer and Nancy Lopez are known the world over as legends in their fields — VanDerveer as the winningest coach in Division I women’s college basketball history, and Lopez as a three-time LPGA champion. And at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 20 at the Double Eagle Cafe at the Chautauqua Golf Club, the two will participate in a Coalition of Chautauqua County Women and Girls forum, co-sponsored by Chautauqua Institution, focused on “Women and Girls in Sports.”

The Coalition has been holding forums dedicated to various women’s issues since 2014; Jane Cleaver Becker said the idea for a program dedicated to women and girls in sports first started percolating last year, but COVID-19 pushed the event to 2021. VanDerveer, Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball at Stanford University and a life-long Chautauquan, was on board from the outset, but a happy coincidence led to Lopez’s involvement. Chautauquan Richard Smucker had helped organize a golf tournament to benefit UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown — and Lopez’s involvement in that tournament.

“It kind of just came together that we had these two absolute stars in their fields,” said Becker, a founding member and chair for the Coalition. “They are legends in the work that they have done, and the stars just aligned here. It was our opportunity to have a panel explore issues that we think are interesting and important for us to think about.”

Becker pointed to numerous stories in the headlines about the issues women face in the world of sports as examples of topics to be covered in Tuesday’s “broad, broad discussion.” Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka faced significant backlash for declining to do press at the French Open in May, ultimately pulling out of that tournament, and Wimbledon, entirely; and amid both criticism and support, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the games’ history when the Tokyo Olympics begin this week.

“These issues are extremely important,” Becker said. “These will definitely be some of the questions to be asked, and I think it poses some interesting dialogue to be had.”

Broader issues at play, Becker said, are ones of access and opportunities.

“That’s across all sports, and providing opportunities for all girls, regardless of their economic status, regardless of ability,” she said. “(It’s important) that we provide opportunities for all girls to have access to sports when they’re young. That’s becoming more challenging, because of limitations that are sometimes being put on schools about how much they can provide.”

Also on deck for the conversation is how young women can make sports their career, if they so choose.


“Where are the opportunities? Who are the mentors? Who are the folks who are opening doors?” Becker said. “And these two women have been doing that work, which is wonderful. They’re going to be talking about how to support women and girls who want to pursue this, even as an avocation. And if they chose this as a vocation, how do we promote that? When they want this to be their career, how do we support that, and make that easier to happen?”

The Chautauqua Golf Club is offering shuttles up to the Double Eagle at 8:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, leaving from the Main Gate Welcome Center, and then back down to the Welcome Center after the event has concluded. There is a $10 suggested donation for the event; all proceeds directly benefit the work the Coalition does in Chautauqua County. The Coalition is an all-volunteer organization, with hundreds of members across the county. The focus, Becker said, is to provide opportunities for all Chautauqua County women and girls to thrive.

That work is divided into two areas. One is the public events dedicated to myriad issues, including Tuesday’s forum with VanDerveer and Lopez. The other is the training Coalition volunteers undergo to become coaches for underserved women in the county.

“We have several populations that we coach, but our focus is on providing them support and providing them a sounding board, someone to be there to be a support to help them think through issues that they may be facing as a parent, or as a student, or as an employee,” Becker said. “We’re building a support system for women during a period of their time where they could use just that little extra something. It’s truly a great opportunity.”

Media exec Paula Madison to open AAHH series with talk on week’s China theme



As a mixed-race Chinese-Jamaican American, Paula Madison says she wants to talk more about the cooperative relations that have existed between Blacks and Asians for many years in the America.

Madison’s maternal mother is African-Jamaican and her maternal father is Chinese, which she said surprises some people.

“Someone said, ‘Well, wait a minute. That would mean your mother was biracial, Black and Chinese, 90 years ago.’ I said, ‘Yeah, they had mixed people back then.’ Then he said, ‘I thought that happened more recently,’ ” Madison said.

Madison is the chief executive officer at Madison Media Management, the former owner and CEO of the Los Angeles Sparks, and the former executive vice president and chief diversity officer of NBCUniversal Media. 

She is the first speaker for the 2021 African American Heritage House Speaker Series, and she’ll deliver a lecture at 1 p.m. Friday, July 2, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. She’ll speak on the Week One theme “China and the World: Collaboration, Competition, Confrontation?” and discuss her perspective on China’s global initiatives.

“The G7 has decided to build a narrative around China being an enemy to developed nations by competing in areas of technology, supply chain, et cetera,” Madison said. “How did China become a bigger enemy of the U.S. than Russia, which has been hacking into U.S. government and corporate systems for years now?”

Madison said that Chinese people have been coming to the Americas and Africa since the 1830s. In the beginning, Chinese women and their families were not allowed to accompany the men.

“Most often when you found Chinese women who had also migrated, it was largely because they had been forced into being sex workers, and not for the Chinese men, but for the Europeans who were the captains and the sailors,” Madison said.

One of Madison’s goals is to deconstruct the assumption that usually when a person has Asian and Black parents or grandparents, it is the result of an American soldier being stationed in an Asian nation.

She also wants to dispel the myth that Black people are more responsible for the recent attacks on elderly Asians in the United States. 

She said that less than 10% of Asian hate attacks are committed by Black people, with around 70% perpetrated by white men. 

“Those don’t end up being publicized,” Madison said. “That is why I said I think it’s important that people understand that we (people of Asian and Black diaspora) are in large numbers.”

Madison decided to become a journalist when she realized the stories told about people of color in newspapers and cable news were very skewed.

“Every Black person depicted in the news was a criminal or an entertainer,” Madison said. “That struck me as not only untrue but outrageous.”

When Madison was a sophomore in college in the 1970s, she was walking down a street a few blocks from her house. As she was approaching Lenox Avenue near a mosque, she heard gunshots, then a busload of police officers and a helicopter overhead.

“Having grown up in an environment like that, I immediately got to the sidewalks,” Madison said. “I was actually on my stomach on the sidewalk.”

She then saw a police officer racing out of the tactical bus toward the mosque. Then, the imam of the mosque came out.

“On that block, which I knew to be a haven for drug dealing, I heard windows opening,” Madison said. “And then as I looked up, I could see barrels of guns, pointed out the windows at the police officers. So what I was in the middle of was a near war. Police were attacking the mosque. The neighborhood, in a community that was supposed to be overridden with drugs, was going to defend Muslims.”

Madison then crawled down the street, got to the corner and then saw the imam stand up on top of a car. 

“(He) shouted something like, ‘Brothers and sisters. No. This is what they want you to do. They want to start a war. Please put your guns down. go back in,’ ” Madison said. “That is what happened.”

Madison said she turned around and went back to her mother’s house. 

“My mother was a consummate news junkie. She listened to news radio all day; read all the newspapers. When I told her what had just happened, she said, ‘It’s not on the news.’ ”

At first, Madison figured that the story of solidarity would be on the evening news, but a report never appeared in any news media.

“That’s when I said, ‘OK, so what they’re willing to do is publish stories about Black people in Harlem when we are arrested or tagged with criminal behavior,’ ” Madison said.

As she later learned, two officers tried to force their way into the mosque and shot at the doors, which she thinks were steel. The bullets ricocheted and hit them. 

“Therefore, ‘officer down,’ that call went out,” Madison said. “But there was no way that this was not planned, because a busload of tactical officers were ready, and (there) was a helicopter above. That was what convinced me.”

For the next 30 years, Madison worked in the journalism industry, including 22 years at NBC, where she was executive vice president and chief diversity officer.

When Madison and her family were asked to consider investing in the Los Angeles Sparks, they declined at first.

“Within a week or so, Don Imus called the Rutgers (University) women’s basketball team ‘nappy-headed hoes’ on his CNBC/CBS radio program, and I was outraged,” Madison said. “At that point, as a woman of African descent who wears her hair in an Afro, I went back to my family and suggested we do indeed invest in women’s basketball.”

Her more recent work involves raising more awareness of Black and Asian diaspora. She said both of the TV series she is involved in developing focus on this intersection.

She recommends people pay attention to the pledges of business to support diversity and inclusion.

“I believe that most just paid lip service and reapportioned already pledged philanthropy,” Madison said. “I’m not seeing massive changes.”

In her lecture today, Madison will talk about China’s global initiatives, including how the country has donated one vaccine to developing nations for every two administered in China.

“Biden pledged 500 million doses to (developing) nations at the G7 summit, while China had been doing so for many months. Why delay the donations? Is it because many in the U.S. will not get the vaccines?” Madison said. “China’s role as a global leader is not looked upon with such animosity as the G7 nations are displaying. I, as a Black and Chinese woman, have a different view of my grandfather’s homeland, and I was asked to share it.”

UNC professor James Johnson to speak on certain uncertainty, disruptive demographics


Throughout its history, the United States has undergone numerous demographic shifts — but James Johnson believes that with attention and care, these shifts can be leveraged in the hyper-competitive global economy.


Johnson will present “Leading and Managing in an Era and Disruptive Demographics and Certain-Uncertainty” at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 26, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, as part of the African American Heritage House lecture series. In this presentation, Johnson will map six major demographic shifts occurring in the United States. 

One demographic shift that Johnson will address is the rising population of immigrants and people of color, with a special look at Hispanic communities. 

“We have had below-replacement-level fertility among whites for two decades, and deaths exceed births among non-Hispanic whites. The growth is coming from people of color, but we’ve shut down immigration,” Johnson said. “The median age of a non-Hispanic white female is 45 years old; completed fertility occurs between the ages of 40 and 44. The median age of a Hispanic female is 29 years old. There’s a 10- to 20-year gap between the median age of non-Hispanic white females and women of color — that’s your fertility gap.”

At the end of the day, we cannot thrive and prosper as a hyper-competitive global economy if our population is in disarray and is declining,” Johnson said. “If we don’t reframe disruptive demographics as a competitiveness issue, we’re going to be in deep yogurt.”

In recent years, the Trump administration has mandated restrictive immigration policies and deportation of undocumented immigrants. If immigration is shut down and immigrants are removed from the country, Johnson said there will be a void left in the economy. 

“People don’t understand that whenever you have a new immigrant group enter your community, they are actually responsible for the creation of additional jobs — usually upper-class jobs. Why? Because you need a professional class of people to serve them. Why would you need an interpreter if you didn’t have people who didn’t speak English? Why would you need an immigration attorney if you didn’t have immigrants?” Johnson said. “So (if immigrants are taken out of the economy), what’s the translator going to do? What’s the immigration attorney going to do? What are the people who used to wash their car going to do? … It’s an integrated economy and people typically don’t understand how those things work.”

Aside from immigration, Johnson said that people of color face another major issue — education. 

“Public schools are increasingly — due to concentrated poverty, hyper-segregation and the like — occupied by people of color who are not being educated in a way that ensures that they have access to college education, and kinds of skills and training that we need to remain competitive,” he said.

Earlier this season, former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen discussed how the public education system exacerbates racism and classism, noting that after a long history of redlining, American cities tend to not invest in communities of color. Cities will give tax breaks to development projects, and take from the school system — this leaves children of color living in food deserts and attending under-funded schools.

“What (the kids) experience is a reinforced message that you will not be invested in, that we do not care if you get food or health care,” Carstarphen said ahead of her lecture. 

Along the way, these factors among others will keep people of color from pursuing education.

“We have numerous data points at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where we have a total of 550 Black males in the university. I assure you, there are more than 550 Black males who are college-eligible, but we lose them in elementary and middle school,” Johnson said. “Three million kids (are) expelled from school annually, and a quarter of a million have been referred to police for misdemeanor charges as early as the first grade. Once that happens to you, it’s a hard road to get to any college. We have massive education disenfranchisement going on.”

Johnson said that if public institutions do not change to adapt to new demographics, the country will be left without a global strategy.

“At the end of the day, we cannot thrive and prosper as a hyper-competitive global economy if our population is in disarray and is declining,” Johnson said. “If we don’t reframe disruptive demographics as a competitiveness issue, we’re going to be in deep yogurt.”

Mitri Raheb to speak on hope and peace for Palestine in times of despair


For many years, the Middle East has been embroiled in conflict; wealth, religion and power have been hotly contested.

Recently, the struggles of the Palestinan people have become overwhelmingly visible in the media, bringing to light the challenges faced each day.


The Rev. Mitri Raheb, born in Bethlehem, Palestine, has lived his entire life experiencing these conflicts and has spent his entire career working toward a bridge of peace and prosperity for him and his people. 

Raheb will share his story and his quest for peace with Chautauqua during his lecture, “Palestine: Hope at Times of Despair?!” at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 25, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform

Raheb is the president and founder of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. His vision is that his fellow Palestinians will not only survive, but thrive, and that this will be facilitated through creativity and creative resistance, the tools he believes will build and maintain a sense of hope. 

“Hope is the power to keep focusing on the larger vision while taking the small, often undramatic, steps toward that future,” Raheb wrote in his book Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes, one of his 17 books authored during his time as senior pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, making him the most widley published Palestinian theologian to date. 

In addition to his educational initiatives and prolific writing career, Raheb is the recipient of many awards for his local, regional and international efforts to end the occupation in Palestine and to work towards a peaceful, equitable society for all in the Middle East, most notably the Olof Palme Prize in 2015 and the German Media Prize in 2012. 

Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno said she looks forward to Raheb’s lecture and that his voice is a welcome one in the discussion of peace in the Middle East. 

“Giving witness to his work are the many awards for peace that he has been given, as well as the worldwide media outlets that have sought his wisdom and voice,” Rovegno said. “In a week focusing on the theme, ‘The Future We Want, the World We Need,’ we are most grateful to bring his voice for peace in the Middle East to Chautauqua.”

Raheb is the co-founder of Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that, according to their website, “promotes peace and justice in Palestine through Dar al-Kalima University of Arts & Culture and its initiatives for youth, families and older adults, as well as public advocacy for basic human rights.”

“Our aim is that our people, who admire stars, will dare to look up and dream,” Raheb said of Bright Stars. “Our vision is for the people of Palestine to have life in abundance.”

This program is made possible by Week Nine “Program Sponsor” Erie Insurance and the Joan Brown Campbell Department of Religion Endowment.

William “Sandy” Darity, Kirsten Mullen to speak on reparations for AAHH lecture series


Forty acres and a mule. 

This was the promise Gen. William T. Sherman made to enslaved Black Americans upon their liberation after the Civil War. Special Field Order No. 15 was the first recorded attempt of the United States granting reparations — the financial or material compensation given to make amends for injustice — to former slaves. 

But the country’s first crack at reparations was short-lived. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson entered office and withdrew this offer, returning the land given to freed families back to the former Confederates it was confiscated from. 

More than 150 years later, Black Americans are still reckoning with the financial legacy of slavery, as the average Black family only has only 10 percent of the wealth of the average white family. In 2020, William “Sandy” Darity — the Samuel DuBois Books Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke University — and A. Kirsten Mullen — writer, folklorist, and museum consultant — co-authored the book From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black American in the Twenty-First Century, which been hailed as the most comprehensive case for reparations to date. 

Darity and Mullen will present their research and discuss what reparations would look like in 2020 at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 19, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of the African American Heritage House lecture series

In their research, Darity and Mullen attempted to answer the question of what these modern reparations would look like, and how much it would cost. Taking the initial promise — 40 acres and a mule — and factoring in all of the descendants that would qualify for such a program, the pair estimated it would cost the federal government up to $12 trillion. While this number seems daunting, Mullen notes that the cost would not have to bankrupt taxpayers. 

“It matters how … the questions (about reparations) are posed. When (politicians) say ‘your tax dollars,’ people are thinking about their own pocketbooks, and they may not always be so generous. The payment of reparations need not require an increase in personal taxes. The Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury both could be instructed to pay reparations for Black Americans, and it would not affect the taxes paid by the American people,” Mullen said. “(Darity and I) are not focused on white guilt, or anyone’s guilt. We lay culpability at the feet of the federal government, and not the individuals.”

Darity suggested two qualifiers for who would receive reparations: One, the individual must have at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States, and two, the individual must have identified as Black on a legal document in the last 10 years. These qualifiers would help weed out any person exploiting the potential program for cash.

However, reparations could take more forms than just cash payments. Other suggested options are college scholarships, student loan forgiveness, housing grants, business grants and more. 

While reparations may not atone for all of the United States’ wrongdoings, the practice would help alleviate the racial wealth gap first established in the times of slavery. Mullen said that slavery’s economic ties were all over the country, and in every family. 

It may be the case that your family produced the barrels that the rum was in during the slave trade, or the ship’s mast. Or, perhaps your family had an interest in newspapers — like the Hartford Courant, which is still in existence and was founded during slavery. Its bread and butter was not just runaway slave ads, but ads for slave ship captains and people who were looking for rope … (and) rations for these ships, looking for clothing to be supplied to these captive Africans when they arrived,” Mullen said. “Slavery was a global economy, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this country whose livelihood was not tied to it.”

“Huge numbers of people — especially in the South, but not just the South — had direct ties to the slave trade,” Mullen said. “Even if you did not live in a household with slaves, you had a near relative who did, and benefitted from that association.” 

Mullen noted that the revenue from the slave trade went beyond slaveowners and their families.

“It may be the case that your family produced the barrels that the rum was in during the slave trade, or the ship’s mast. Or, perhaps your family had an interest in newspapers — like the Hartford Courant, which is still in existence and was founded during slavery. Its bread and butter was not just runaway slave ads, but ads for slave ship captains and people who were looking for rope … (and) rations for these ships, looking for clothing to be supplied to these captive Africans when they arrived,” Mullen said. “Slavery was a global economy, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this country whose livelihood was not tied to it.”

Reparations advocates note that there are many historical precedents for reparations both in the United States and across the globe. The federal government allocated reparations to Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II, and a commission was created to give reparations to Native American people after a long history of colonization and land theft. Countries like Germany and South Africa have also provided reparations to their own historically oppressed people.

For decades, a bill titled H.R. 40 — a nod to Sherman’s promise of 40 acres, which is also known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act — has sat in Congress awaiting action. 

If passed, the bill would not guarantee reparations, but initiate a study of reparations. In 2014, only two congresspeople of 535 approved it. In the past two decades, public opinion on reparations has shifted. According to CNBC, only 4% of white Americans in 2000 supported monetary reparations for the descendents of enslaved people. Reuters has reported that this number is at 10% in 2020, while 50% of Black Americans support it. In the same study, it was shown that 80% of Republicans oppose the cause and nearly 70% of Democrats support it. 

In 2020, there are now 143 congresspeople co-sponsoring the bill. The issue was even taken on during the 2020 Democratic primary debates, with most candidates in favor of at least launching a study on the issue. 

“This legislation (has) been sitting for (about) 30 years now, waiting for enactment by Congress,” Mullen said. “It’s actually changed substantially since it was first introduced, which I think many people aren’t aware of. We’d like to point the community’s attention to the changes which we think are very intriguing: Why were these changes made, and what consequences might be for the outcome of study commission on reparations, should it be enacted?”

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