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Historian Cathal Nolan to discuss war and Hollywood for Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series

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Cathal J. Nolan is a scholar of war.

His sweeping history of armed conflict, The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost, published by Oxford last year, has been hailed as radical re-examination of what war is all about, mainly by debunking the idea of the “decisive battle.”

“The common myth is that war is abnormal, but when you look at it, it’s pretty constant,” Nolan said. “People think that peace is the normal condition. I’m not convinced that it is.”

Cathal Nolan

Nolan has explored the nature of war in 14 scholarly books and seven novels. He is frequently cited in historical TV shows. As an associate professor of history at Boston University and the executive director of the International History Institute there, he shares his deep expertise with his students. And he often uses war movies to pique their interest.

Nolan argues that his students, and young people in general, are an “acutely visual generation” who don’t read much, but love movies. What little sense of history they have, he said, is rooted primarily in films in which Hollywood “serves up fake history.” The films, he said, provoke interest in remote events and, ideally, steer students to books and debates for a deeper understanding.

At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, in the Hall of Philosophy, Nolan will talk about war movies in “Fake History: War and Hollywood,” as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

The movies get a lot wrong about war, but they get many things right, too, Nolan said. Hollywood does not shape public opinion as much as it is shaped by public opinion, reflecting social, political and cultural trends.

The movie industry embraced tales of war early, most notably with D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” in 1915, a racist epic that posits that the United States was really born as a country with the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. The klansmen are portrayed as heroes.

Heroes and villains have always loomed large in war movies, Nolan said. During World War I, Hollywood stoked patriotic sentiment with such pro-war films as “The Prussian Cur” and “The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.” The good guys were really good, and the bad guys were pure evil.

In the 1920s and ’30s, war became a passe subject, with movies reflecting the isolationist mood of the times, Nolan said. That changed as the world descended into World War II, with 1941’s “Sergeant York,” in which Gary Cooper plays the eponymous, laconic bumpkin who almost single-handedly defeats the Kaiser’s minions.

 

Morale-boosting pictures like “The Fighting Sullivans” and Frank Capra’s pseudo-documentary series, “Why We Fight,” followed. John Wayne, who sat out the war with a bad knee from playing football, became a big star in “Sands of Iwo Jima.” The Korean War inspired gritty portraits of men in combat like “Pork Chop Hill.”

Vietnam changed everything, Nolan said. John Wayne bombed in “The Green Berets.” American films turned from the heroic to the ironic with fare like “Catch-22,” “M.A.S.H.” and what Nolan calls “the astoundingly ahistorical” film “Kelly’s Heroes.”

“Hollywood was riding the wave of the counterculture,” he said.

“Apocalypse Now,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Coming Home” went further. They were not just anti-war but practically anti-veteran, he said. The bad guys were not so much the villainous enemy, but our own American leaders and military — if not America itself.

“In short, with its usual black-and-white moralism, but following rather than leading popular academic and cultural motifs, Hollywood flipped the script to relocate the evil in war,” Nolan said. 

By the 1980s, though, the hero was back in “Uncommon Valor” and the “Rambo” movies, with the misunderstood veteran, bloodied but unbowed, returning to Vietnam to rescue captured Americans left behind.

Then came 9/11 and a resurgence of patriotism. But, Nolan said, Hollywood again shifted its focus, depicting soldiers who fought and died for one another, instead of for some ideal or even one’s country. Private motivations superseded national goals, and the causes of war were unimportant compared with the virtues of the individual warrior, he said.

All the while, the horror and drama and glamour of war were plumbed in countless fantasy and science-fiction works, including the “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” series and “Game of Thrones.” Nolan himself has written seven novels under the name Kali Altsoba in a character-driven series about war in the future called The Orion War.

Perhaps most notable, Nolan said, is the technological advances in both filmmaking and war-making that have allowed Hollywood to capture a fundamental aspect of battle that the Hebrews called “the lust of the eye” — battle as spectacle, a visceral, primal experience like no other.

“What Hollywood gets right is that war excites, especially young men,” Nolan said. “It fascinates like fire; moving, almost alive. Emotions are more intense. Its effects last for decades, not just with individual veterans, but with society as a whole. A significant minority of men love war. It’s the dirty secret we don’t talk about.”

And war remains a central, if not the central, aspect of the human condition, he said.

“Big wars like World War I and World War II were crescendos; they were not normal,” Nolan said. “What is normal is constant, chronic warfare, wars of empire maintenance, not just over years or decades, but multiple decades.”

Nolan sees little reason to be optimistic.

“We love war,” he said. “It’s an ugly, uncomfortable truth.”

Allison Blais’ multimedia presentation to focus on 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a stunned world watched as the twin towers in Lower Manhattan collapsed in flames and smoke and dust.

At 8:46 a.m., an American Airlines Boeing 767 carrying 92 people and 20,000 gallons of jet fuel had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later, a United Airlines flight with scores aboard, also a 767, slammed into the south tower.

At 9:37 a.m., another American Airlines plane struck the Pentagon. Less than half an hour later, a United Airlines flight crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers fought with the terrorist hijackers who had pirated the plane.

It was the deadliest attack on the United States in its history. All told, 2,997 people died in the day’s strikes, including the 19 radical Islamic hijackers. More than 6,000 people were injured. Two hundred sixty-five people died on the four planes; 125 were killed at the Pentagon. In and around the World Trade Center, 2,606 perished.

“It was an intensely local and exceptionally global event,” said Allison Blais, the chief strategy officer for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Allison Blais

At 3:30 p.m. Fri., Aug. 17, in the Hall of Christ as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, she will present a multimedia program called “A Place of Remembrance & Renewal: The 9/11 Memorial & Museum.”

Blais, who oversees strategic planning, commemorations and events for the organization and is co-author of its official book, A Place of Remembrance, sees a natural connection between memorial and Chautauqua.

“Both are steeped in powerful history,” she said. “These two public spaces are integral parts of their respective communities, serving as forums for people to gather, learn, reflect and — ultimately — connect with each other.”

Blais has her own 9/11 story.

“I moved to New York in 2000, and on 9/11, I was working at the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival,” she recalled. “I’d just come out of my subway stop about 20 blocks north of the World Trade Center when the first plane came right over my head. The roar was deafening, and I’ll always remember the sound — and really the feel — of the boom when it crashed into the North Tower.

“After a surreal, confusing, and heartbreaking day, I ended up going home to see my parents in Connecticut, but felt almost immediately that I needed to be back in New York as soon as possible. It was the first time I felt, strangely, like a New Yorker — and I wanted to be there, to be there for people, with people.”

The World Trade Center Memorial opened in 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the attack, and the museum opened in 2014, but the determined drive to build a commemorative space arose while the rubble at ground zero was still smoldering, said Blais, who came aboard the project in 2004.

“There was a public mandate to rebuild — and to rebuild quickly,” she said. “And, at the same time, there were deeply passionate opinions on all sides about what to build.”

The memorial’s architect, Michael Arad, won a worldwide competition with his design, “Reflecting Absence,” which transformed the footprints of the twin towers into enormous waterfalls. They comprise the dramatic centerpiece of the complex on sacred ground in the nation’s largest city. But it is the names, the names of the dead, that make the space so moving.

“Those names are etched through bronze-panel walls, and the sun shines through them in a way that makes each letter an absence,” Blais said.

They are not arranged alphabetically; they are organized by what Arad calls “meaningful adjacencies.” The memorial’s staff reached out to family members to share stories about their lost loved ones. As best could be determined, information was gathered on where each person was that day, who they worked with, who they knew and loved and what they were doing in their final moments.

An algorithm was created and software developed to identify connections, and the names are organized into nine groupings — one for the victims of the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing; two for the twin towers; four for the hijacked flights; one for the Pentagon; and one for the first responders, Blais said. Among those first responders on the wall are the 11 members of the nearby New York Fire Department’s Ladder Company 3, who answered the call that day. All of them died.

“The names are the most important,” said Blais, who lives with her husband and children in the neighborhood, which has doubled its population in the last 18 years. “They allow us to focus on the connections we have with each other. They show that we are there for each other in times of adversity, and that is one of the most important things in life.”

One-quarter of all the names on the memorial belong to people who worked at the financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald. At the time of the attack, the company occupied offices on the 101st to 105th floors of the north tower, just above where the first hijacked plane hit.

Howard Lutnick, Cantor’s chairman and CEO, lost his brother Gary, his best friend, and more than 656 colleagues. Lutnik, who became a driving force behind the memorial, survived because he was dropping his son off for his first day of kindergarten that morning. Everyone in the Cantor offices was killed.

“Every company and organization that was impacted stepped up to help,” Blais said. “They gave us the needed confidence to bring this to fruition. Their hearts are in this place.”

Almost 40 million visitors have paid their respects at the site since it opened in 2011; 7 million to the memorial and 3 million to the museum each year, Blais said.

“People come from all around the world, from 180 different countries,” she said, noting that those who died in 9/11 included citizens of 90 nations.

And yet, some New Yorkers have stayed away, their trauma still fresh, their wounds not quite healed.

“I understand the impulse not to come here,” Blais said. “But it’s not a didactic experience. It’s not just about what happened on 9/11. It’s about what came afterward. It’s about the perspective the memorial gives us that inspires the connections and compassion the world needs.”

Volker Benkert to deliver final lecture in Lincoln Applied Ethics Series on memory

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Volker Benkert, assistant professor of history at Arizona State University, grew up in Germany, where he was exposed to the memory of the Nazi and Soviet occupations of the 20th century.

“I think that memory is around us all the time,” Benkert said. “If you go to a German city, of course everything is nicely restored, and the old buildings, many of them, are back up again.”

But the history of these “modern buildings” that were once hit with bombs during World War II has not been erased. Benkert and all German citizens remember this time in history, and it was this aspect of Benkert’s life that first motivated him to focus his research on the history and memory of both totalitarian regimes in Germany.

At 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, in the Hall of Philosophy, Benkert will give a lecture as part of the Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. He has studied how Germany has remembered the time of totalitarian rule in the country, in addition to what the German people have chosen to remember, forget and invent regarding that history.

Germany has developed a particular narrative around its history, according to Benkert. He is currently studying how “World War II (is) expressed in contemporary German film.”

“Germany has, of course, acknowledged the Holocaust and depicts German war crimes,” Benkert said. “But my argument is that even though these crimes are acknowledged, they are wrapped into very apologetic narratives that offer an excuse or explanation for why Germans would participate in these crimes.”

Benkert said that Germany is currently acknowledging that it was not just high-ranking Nazis who made these crimes against humanity possible. He said “ordinary Germans” who were draftees in the military participated in these crimes as well, and Germans who were not fighting in the war still benefited from them.

“This acknowledgement that we can no longer deny triggers a response,” Benkert said. “It’s painful; it means everybody’s grandfather somehow was involved.”

The response to this acknowledgment is the apologetic narratives that have been created, according to Benkert.

Benkert’s lecture will be the fourth and final installment of this season’s Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. He said that memory and ethics are “deeply linked,” as people and countries chose what to remember about a historical event.

“In choosing what to remember and what to forget, we make a deeply ethical choice,” Benkert said. “We cannot remember everything, and memory will change over time — that’s perfectly normal. Every generation will have its own take on the past. … However, one thing that is clear is that these choices that are necessary need to be based on some sort of ethical idea.”

He said in the case of the German people, it is “very ethical” to recognize that ordinary Germans had a part in the war crimes that occured during World War II.

“But at the same time, it’s deeply unethical and self-serving to take that idea and cushion it by coming up with these very apologetic and redemptive narrative traits,” Benkert said. “It’s on us to concentrate … (on) what we chose to remember and what we chose to forget.”

SUNY professor David Kaplin to discuss modern forgeries in Heritage Lecture Series

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The term “fake news,” used to describe deliberate misinformation spread by mainstream print, broadcast and social media, is a relatively recent concept, its nomenclature usually attributed to President Donald Trump.

The idea of fake art, on the otherhand, is nothing new. Artistic forgeries are probably as old as art itself. Literary forgeries followed suit. Now there are digital forgeries, too. Scientific advancements have made it easier to detect such fakery, but in an age of relativism, does it really matter what is phony and what isn’t?

David Kaplin

David Kaplin is an associate professor of English at SUNY Fredonia who once practiced trademark law on Wall Street. He has studied literary piracy in the 19th century, particularly as it relates to the flagrant violations of international copyright law that vexed contemporaneously popular writers like Charles Dickens.

Kaplin’s research has led him to explore more modern iterations of such nefarious practices, and at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug.3, in the Hall of Christ, he will present his findings in a program called “Modern Forgeries: From Digital Plagiarism to the Phony Kouros at the Getty,” as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

There have been a number of infamous literary hoaxes in the past 50 years, most notably the Howard Hughes “autobiography” perpetrated by Clifford Irving in the 1970s and the forged “Hitler Diaries” in Germany in the 1980s. But Kaplin believes that for sheer chutzpah, the American writer Lee Israel may take the cake.

Israel had published three tepidly received celebrity biographies when, in the 1990s, she began forging — and later stealing and selling — letters from such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Eugene O’Neill and Lillian Hellman, to name a few. In her own memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which will be released as a movie starring Melissa McCarthy this fall, Israel boasted of her prowess using old manual typewriters and aged paper to fool libraries and collectors around the world.

“I love the idea that she was very proud of that stuff,” Kaplin said. “She portrays herself as an endearing misanthrope.”

Israel was not the only colorful fabulist in recent history.

Mark Landis, a prolific art forger who specialized in medieval paintings, bamboozled 46 major museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, according to Kaplin.

“He is an amazing character,” Kaplin said. “He got his materials at Hobby Lobby. He liked to dress up as a Jesuit priest.”

Unlike Israel, who was convicted and sentenced to house arrest, Landis never ran afoul of the law. That’s because he donated all of his work, often in the name of imaginary family members in France, Kaplin said.

“He said he did it because he liked the way people treated him,” Kaplin said. “He thought, ‘What difference does it make? All that matters is what it looks like.’ We want these things to be real.”

Another forger, Robert L. Trotter, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in the 1990s for cheating people with bogus 19th-century folk art.

“He started off selling paintings for a few hundred dollars each, but he got greedy,” Kaplin said. “He was arrested in an FBI sting for forging a painting ostensibly by John Haberle.”

Why people continue to forge fraudulent artwork may seem puzzling, Kaplin said, because the chances of being exposed are actually high.

“Forgeries are easily called out by the science of detection today,” including radiocarbon dating and pyrolysis gas chromatography, he said. Kaplin noted that a team from Buffalo State College was employed to test one of Trotter’s “19th-century” paintings, and found that the binding agent used to get the paint to adhere to the canvas had not been developed until 2000.

On the other hand, Kaplin said, an estimated 20 percent of all major museum holdings are forgeries, and the percentage at some museums is even higher.

Just this spring, more than half of the paintings at the Etienne Terrus museum in France — 82 out of 140 pieces — were determined to be fake, Kaplin said.

But does it really matter? Was Landis right that “all that matters is what it looks like?”

A Statue of a Kouros is thought to be from about 530 B.C or modern forgery. The statue will be one of the topics disciussed in David Kaplin’s Aug. 3 lecture on forgery.

In 1985, the J. Paul Getty Museum in California paid $10 million for a kouros, a statue of a standing, nude youth popular in ancient Greece.

“These archeologists claimed it was from the fourth century B.C.,” Kaplin said. “It was presented to curators, who tested it extensively and found it to be in accordance with similar statues. They tested the marble. They really went over it. So the Getty got excited and prepared for a grand showing, but just before that, they called in other experts who said ‘No, no, no! There’s something wrong with this!’”

When the statue was uncloaked at lavish dinner party in 1986, “the audience gasped and fell silent,” Kaplin said. “Then they said, ‘Oh, my God! It’s fake!’ Everyone who knew anything about this kind of art knew it was fake.”

And yet, the Getty still exhibits the controversial kouros. The museum’s catalogue describes it as: “Date: About 530 B.C. or modern forgery.”

A conversation between two comedic legends: Lewis Black and Alan Zweibel to speak on process, career paths at the Hall of Philosophy

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In the 2017 season, Grammy Award-winning comedian and actor Lewis Black gave a talk at Chautauqua as part of the morning lecture platform. His lecture was part of Week Six, “Comedy and the Human Condition,” in partnership with the National Comedy Center.

Lewis Black

Black, dubbed “the king of the rant,” used his loud, profane and comedic style to navigate through political topics, his personal experience with comedy and how the genre can affect society. He said comedy is “insulation from the madness that we witness daily.”

At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1,  in the Hall of Philosophy, Black returns to the Institution with Emmy Award-winning producer and writer Alan Zweibel to discuss their respective careers. The conversation is presented in partnership with the National Comedy Center, which opened its doors at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1.

“What we’ve done with this program is invite them into a conversation between the two of them,” said Chief of Staff Matt Ewalt, “exploring their career paths in comedy, reflecting on particular challenges relative to their own paths, but also reflecting on the vast (and) diverse paths that are possible for those both entering and making a career of comedy.”

Ewalt said he would not necessarily frame this event as a “lecture,” but rather a conversation between the two comedic legends. He said Black and Zweibel have known and worked with each other for a number of years, and he sees value in allowing the two to have a conversation.

“(This event), I think, knowing these two legends, isn’t something we can predict where it will go,” Ewalt said. “I think in this case, there is value that can come from a conversation between two people who know each other well and are (both) very quick on their feet, who have certainly shared stories (with each other) before.”

Alan Zweibel

Black and Zweibel have both been involved with comedy for decades. At 12 years old, Black fell in love with theater, leading him to study drama at the University of North Carolina and Yale School of Drama, where he was introduced to stand-up comedy.

After college, he became the playwright-in-residence at the West Bank Cafe’s Downstairs Theatre Bar on West 42nd Street in Manhattan, overseeing the development of more than 1,000 plays. Since he emceed every show, this was his opportunity to develop his stand-up skills, which led him to pursue a full-time stand-up career in the late 1980s.

Black has gone on to produce Grammy Award-winning work, create segments for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and two HBO specials, and overall has enjoyed a long career in comedy.

Zweibel began his script writing career on “Saturday Night Live” in 1975. He worked with the program for five years, returning every so often throughout the 1980s. From there, he went on to win multiple Emmys and awards from the Writers Guild of America. Some of his works include: “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Yet his career has not been contained to the television world. He has produced on- and off-Broadway hits, such as Fame Becomes Me, Happy and Pine Cone Moment. He is also the best-selling author of Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Romantic Comedy.

Currently, both Black and Zweibel are on the advisory board of the Comedy Center, the first museum that tells the story of comedy as an art form in America. The museum has more than 50 exhibitions displaying the work and creative processes from people like Charlie Chaplin to George Carlin.

“One of the things that has drawn (Black and Zweibel) together is a strong support for the National Comedy Center,” Ewalt said, “and the idea of an institution like the National Comedy Center holding up and showcasing comedy as the art form that it is.”

Ewalt said the addition of Black and Zweibel’s program is an example of how a partnership between the National Comedy Center and the Institution will be beneficial now and into the future. With individual lectures, like Laraine Newman’s, and a planned week of programming with the Comedy Center in the 2019 season, Ewalt said he believes the partnership will continue to grow.

In Heritage Lecture, Judge Sutton to discuss state and federal jurisprudence

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When people talk about constitutional law, they almost invariably refer to the United States Constitution and federal law, but each state has its own constitution and its own supreme court.

Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton

Between them, the state and federal court systems offer Americans two avenues of legal redress in protecting their individual rights.

“It’s like basketball,” said Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, who has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit since 2003. “When you are unhappy with the law, you get two shots. Sometimes the second shot is the best.”

Before he was a federal appellate court judge, Sutton was state solicitor of Ohio. He has argued 12 cases in the United States Supreme Court and numerous cases in state supreme courts and federal courts of appeal. He knows how federal and state courts work, and he thinks that the states deserve more respect than they have traditionally received. In his recently published book, 51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law, Sutton argues that a bias favoring federal jurisprudence has undermined and obscured the importance of state constitutional law.

“People think the heroes are the Supreme Court, and the villains are the states,” Sutton said. “That’s a mistake.”

At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, in the Hall of Philosophy, Sutton will delve into the subject in a lecture titled “States and the Making of American Constitutional Law: Free Speech, Free Exercise of Religion and the Compelled Flag Salute Cases,” as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

Sutton, who teaches state constitutional law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and Harvard Law School, is no stranger to Chautauqua. He was been coming to the Institution since he was 4, and his children are sixth-generation Chautauquans.

“I want to let people understand the history,” he said. “I’m trying to connect the role of state courts to what is going on with the U.S. Supreme Court today,” he said. “One concrete example is gerrymandering.”

Gerrymandering is the manipulation of electoral boundaries to unfairly favor one particular party over another. State legislators have been using it since 1812 to try to influence elections. Recently, state supreme courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania have ruled the practice unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court has not taken a stand and has left it to the states to sort out.

There is long history of tension between the two appellate court systems. In his book, Sutton looks at famous cases that highlight that tension, and he will discuss at least two of them in his lecture.

One of the most infamous cases in American jurisprudence is Buck vs. Bell, a 1927 ruling that upheld 8-1 the right of Virginia to forcibly sterilize an 18-year-old woman who was judged “feebleminded.”

At the time, the eugenics movement, which posited that selective breeding of human beings could promote healthier, smarter and more upstanding people while curbing immorality, mental illness and other undesirable traits, was gaining acceptance throughout the West. It reached its nadir under the Nazis in Europe.

In the United States in 1927, at least 12 states had passed laws allowing authorities to sterilize people they deemed unfit to procreate. Many people sued in state courts, and most won. Carrie Buck was one such person. Her advocates argued that forced sterilization violated her rights of equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

The United States Supreme Court disagreed.

“Three generations of imbeciles is enough,” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for the majority, upholding the Virginia law. Holmes’ celebrated colleagues Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Justice Louis Brandeis joined the opinion, with only Justice Pierce Butler dissenting.

In 1942, as the impact of eugenics laws became ever more apparent in the Third Reich, the Supreme Court ruled in Skinner vs. Oklahoma that persons thrice convicted of “moral turpitude” crimes should not be sterilized as was mandated under state law. That ruling effectively ended government-ordered sterilization in America, but Buck was never officially struck down.

“It’s still considered settled law, though none in their right mind would ever cite it,” Sutton said.

School children raise their arms in a gesture known as the Bellamy Salute while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942. Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Another case that Sutton sees as emblematic of the tension between the state and federal high courts is West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette in 1943, in which Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote in an eloquent majority opinion that the government could not force people to salute the American flag.

At issue was the right of a Jehovah’s Witness child not to salute the flag, as part of the group’s religious beliefs. Three years earlier, the court had upheld the right of a Pennsylvania school district to expel Jehovah’s Witness children who refused to pledge allegiance to the flag in a case called Minersville School District vs. Gobitis. The plaintiffs in Gobitis had won in state court, but lost in the Supreme Court.

Sutton attributes the court’s dramatic reversal to several factors, especially the influence of Jackson.

“Jackson was now on the court, and his reasoning was that you can’t make people say what they don’t want to say,” Sutton said.

Despite having never attending college and taking only one year of law school, Jackson was “one of the best writers, if not the best writer ever on the Supreme Court,” Sutton said.

“Great writing can sway opinion,” he said. “It was one of the most significant court decisions ever, second only to Brown vs. Board of Education.”

Some justices who had upheld Gobitis had changed their opinions as the world watched the Nazis enforcing similar laws. The fact that, in those days, the flag salute closely resembled the Hitler salute did not help, either.

The Barnette decision was announced, appropriately enough, on Flag Day.

“There is an assumption that the courts would protect the minority, but that wasn’t always true,” said Sutton, who himself has clerked for Supreme Court Justices Lewis F. Powell and Antonin Scalia. “The role of the courts in addressing the infringement of rights has really grown in the last 70 years.”

Sutton hopes his work explaining the divisions between state and federal jurisprudence may help in correcting this historic imbalance. But he is philosophical.

“We Americans love our rights,” he said. “But we fiercely disagree over which ones to protect.”

Gary Marchant to discuss possibility of robots stealing human jobs in the near future

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For hundreds of years, people have been concerned about machinery taking their jobs, according to Gary Marchant, Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law & Ethics at Arizona State University.

“All throughout the 20th century, people had concerns about this,” said Marchant, who is also a Regent’s Professor of Law and director of the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at ASU. “At one point, 50 or 60 percent of workers in America at the beginning of the 20th century were working in agriculture. That went down to 2 percent. … That’s always been the history over hundreds of years.”

Gary Marchant

But Marchant said that history has always included technology creating more jobs for people in the workforce, such as the rise of manufacturing in industrial cities. Yet as technology has advanced into the 21st century and artificial intelligence has been utilized more and more, Marchant said people are starting to question if this situation is different.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, July 30,  in the Hall of Philosophy, Marchant will deliver his lecture, “(When) Will a Robot Steal Your Job?” addressing concerns about artificial intelligence in the workforce and discussing possible solutions. His lecture is a part of the Lincoln Applied Ethics Series.

“First of all, what is the risk of this?,” Marchant said. “How likely is it that robots will take people’s jobs? … I think there’s no question that they will take some, and more and more over time.”

Marchant said that robots and computer programs powered by AI have a number of advantages that humans don’t across all fields in the workforce. They have the ability to quickly memorize massive amounts of information, they don’t need breaks or vacations and don’t take sick days.

But Marchant said humans have their own advantages over robots and computer programs.

“We have judgment and common sense,” Marchant said. “We have empathy, the ability to interact well and understand what other humans are going through and what they may need.”

Marchant said certain jobs will be more prone to being taken by robots than others. He will not only talk about the specific professions that are at risk, but also provide projections from different economists about how many total jobs may be lost in the near future.

“The estimates range anywhere, in the next 10 or 20 years, from 9 percent to 50 percent of all jobs,” Marchant said. “Maybe some of these new technologies, like artificial intelligence and so on, will replace those with new jobs. That’s always what’s historically happened in the past.”

But not everyone thinks history will repeat itself, according to Marchant.

“It doesn’t mean there won’t be serious disruptions even if we do have new jobs,” Marchant said. “But a lot of people are starting to think there many not be a lot of new jobs. Again, more and more, these computers can do better than a human. There may not be a huge increase in new jobs, in which case we’ll have a net loss of jobs.”

In addition to emerging technologies, Marchant teaches courses in law, governance of emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, neuroscience, biotechnology and artificial intelligence, and other fields. For his lecture, he will pull multiple areas of expertise to look at “the big picture” of this issue.

“We’re looking at legal intervention; what kind of legal steps could possibly be taken (and) looking at what is ethical to do,” Marchant said. “I teach courses and give a lot of lectures on artificial intelligence. … (I am) looking across those different areas to sort of give a big picture of the situation.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan to discuss changing nature of work

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Tim Ryan, U.S. representative of Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, will deliver a special lecture at 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 30, in the Hall of Philosophy as part of Chautauqua Institution’s Week Six programming, “The Changing Nature of Work.”

Ryan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 as the youngest Democrat in Congress at 29 years old. He is currently serving his eighth term and is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, co-chairman of the Military Mental Health Caucus and Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus. He supports a number of initiatives and organizations to invest in the next generation of American manufacturing jobs.

“I think Congressman Ryan is uniquely positioned to speak on the politics of work,” said Matt Ewalt, Institution chief of staff, “and the way in which politics previews the way in which work is changing and will change in a number of ways.”

In a report titled “Putting America Back to Work,” Ryan wrote that America’s “economy is continually changing. As industries and workers adapt to globalization, automation, technological advancements, and growing wage inequality — the United States must speed up to keep up.”

Ryan wrote that rise of automation, robots, and artificial intelligence could benefit the economy and “create new opportunities for our society that few can imagine,” but “we cannot ignore the reality that these advancements combined with globalization have already contributed to job loss and economic instability for many American workers, especially those who are low-paid, under-skilled, or less-educated.” His report included recommendations for research, job development, policy changes and strategic investments.

Ewalt said the politics of work have consequences on everyone in the country, from small to large households.

“For us, (Ryan) was a critical complement to what we’re doing through the morning platform,” Ewalt said. “When you look at his voice within the (Democratic) Party on a number of issues, this has been one that has really risen to the top for him and in terms of the national discourse.”

On his website, Ryan asks questions like “What is the future of the workplace? How will we deal with the rise of automation? How can we ensure that a rapidly changing economy leaves no one behind?” One of his main concerns throughout his years in Congress has been the working-class American in places like his home district, which includes blue-collar manufacturing towns like Akron, Kent and Warren, Ohio.

“The question is how do you plug in communities, like Youngstown, Ohio, who have been left behind and I think gave rise to the Donald Trump presidency,” Ryan said in a June interview with Bloomberg. “Because while globalization and automozation were happening, these communities (like) Flint, Michigan, Gerry, Indiana (and others) along the Great Lakes and down in the south were left behind.”

Ryan began his career as a politician in 1995 when he became a congressional aide to former U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant and then served as an intern for the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office. As a congressman, he not only advocates for working-class Americans, but also works to make college more affordable and combat the heroin epidemic.

“Congressman Ryan has been very vocal in challenging fellow Democrats, particularly after the election, in how they engage or don’t engage working-

Oliver Heritage Lecture Series kicks off with “Alice in Wonderland” bibliographer Jon A. Lindseth

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A Bengali edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 

A year after the 1865 publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the author wrote to his publisher: “Friends here (in Oxford) seem to think that the book is untranslatable.”

His friends were wildly wrong.

An idiosyncratic work packed with puns, nonsense, doggerel, idioms, absurd and bizarre situations, Alice is quintessentially British, a Victorian puzzle crafted by the wordsmith, mathematician and Oxford don, Charles Dodgson, writing as Lewis Carroll. And yet it has been translated into more than 9,000 editions in 174 languages, according to a massive three-volume study Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece.

The study began as a catalogue for an exhibit of the same name at the Morgan Library & Museum and the Grolier Club in New York in 2015, the 150th anniversary of the release of Alice. At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday June 26 in the Hall of Christ, Jon A. Lindseth, who with Alan Tannenbaum edited the compendium and curated the project, will deliver a lecture and presentation about it in the first of the Heritage Lecture Series for 2018.

Lindseth is a bibliographer and book collector. He is also an emeritus trustee of Cornell University, a fellow of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York and a member of the bibliographical organizations the Grolier Club and the Rowfant Club.

Alice in Wonderland is just the sort of book you’d think no one would try to translate, which is part of what makes its history and this compendium so extraordinary,” Rebecca L. Walkowitz wrote in the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2016.

The first translations of Alice appeared in German and French in 1869. It has since been translated into every European language, including six Spanish and six Celtic dialects. With the assistance of 250 translators, scholars and literary historians, Lindseth determined that there are currently 463 editions in Chinese. Besides being rendered in 12 languages of the Indian sub-continent and eight African languages, Alice has appeared in the Australian aboriginal language Pitjant- jatjara, Cockney, Brazilian sign language, and invented languages like Esperanto and Alphagram.

The first book of Lindseth’s three-volume, 2,656-page labor of love features 188 scholarly essays and includes 15 pages of color reproductions of cover images for the translated editions, showing the transformation of the book into vibrantly distinct cultural interpretations.

The second volume contains back translations — the translating of a foreign language edition of the book back into English by nearly 200 contemporary scholars of the eight pages of chapter seven, “A Mad Tea-Party.”

You know the story: Having fallen down the rabbit hole and into a new world, Alice finds herself as a guest at a tea party along with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse, who regale her with stories, poems and riddles including, “Why is raven like a writing desk?”

“Twinkle, twinkle little bat!/ How I wonder where you’re at!” the Mad Hatter intones to Alice.

“You know the song, perhaps,” he asks her.

“I’ve heard something like it,” Alice replies.

Volume two includes no less than 200 versions of the mad tea party story (a mad beer party story in an Old English translation). The little bat is rendered variously as a “little goat,” in Yiddish and a “little clock” in Swedish. Each translation takes on a unique cultural life of its own.

The third volume comprises checklists and bibliographical information for more than 7,600 editions of Alice and 1,500 editions of its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass.

Altogether, Alice in a World of Wonderlands is an impressive feat of scholarship and lots of fun. It chronicles how the story has been adapted for a wide range of audiences around the world. But it’s about much more than the translations into so many languages; it’s about the organic nature of language itself, about its fluidity and ambiguity and playfulness, which is, after all, what Carroll was exploring in the first place.

Nuland speaks on technology’s effect on med school training

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Lori Humphreys | Staff Writer

Sherwin Nuland
Sherwin Nuland

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

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

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

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

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

No wonder he begins with Hippocrates!

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

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

Barreca brings different take to discussion of public civility

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Lori Humphreys | Staff Writer

Gina Barreca
BARRECA

It has become a national mantra, moan and, perhaps, a national illusion that civility in political discourse was the rule and now has been supplanted by ravening partisanship. Whatever the historical fact, Gina Barreca, author, lecturer, columnist and humorist, offers a thoughtful yet witty take on the “End of Civility” at the Contemporary Issues Forum 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hall of Philosophy. She is a practitioner of the theory, “If they are laughing, they are listening.”

Barreca greets the end of civility with some enthusiasm, perhaps because she rejects a definition of civility which is synonymous with false modesty, good manners and prissiness.

“The definition of civility is changing for better or worse,” she said. “Civility, a respectful exchange of ideas, doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting or even edgy. You can be funny and civil at the same time.”

Barreca believes that intelligent humor permits discussion of subjects that are otherwise terrifying.

The Hartford Courant column “Irreconcilable Differences,” which she shares with Laurence Cohen, is a good indication of her style.

Her essay, “Joining the Alcott Cult,” on the Chronicle of Higher Education website, is a paean to reading childhood classics like Little Women in the middle years of life. These two tonally different columns demonstrate how Barreca combines wit that can pierce or soothe, but always makes you smile.

For the past 10 years, Barreca has spoken at the non-partisan Yale University Women’s Campaign School. The annual seminar offers campaign training for women who wish to enter politics or are in the process of doing so.

“For women, the white gloves are off — for that matter, all gloves,” she said.

Barreca graduated from Dartmouth College in 1979 with a degree in English. The result of that early experiment in co-education is her memoir, Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Co-education in the Ivy League.

She continued her studies, receiving a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge in England and a Ph.D. from The City University of New York. Barreca is a full professor at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

This is Barreca’s third visit to Chautauqua, and she will sign her book, It’s Not That I’m Bitter… Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World, after the lecture.

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

Randall to present lecture on Ethan Allen

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George Cooper | Staff Writer

Willard Sterne Randall encountered history at a young age, growing up in Philadelphia, seeing history of the revolution all around him and following his father’s footsteps — from Valley Forge to Gettysburg, wherever their 1950 convertible would take them.

The author of a dozen books, Randall will speak on his most recent subject, Ethan Allen, at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. The lecture is part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series. A book signing will follow.

Always interested in history, Randall went to work for a daily newspaper at the age of 18. He wrote occasional history columns about local events. He was so busy working as a journalist that he didn’t have time for organized school, although he was learning all the same.

“I didn’t go to college right away,” Randall said.

He went at night for nine years, dropping more courses than he completed.

“I just didn’t have time to complete the coursework all the time,” he said.

He nonetheless knew what to do with his time. Randall completed his undergraduate degree at the age of 40, having already written five books. He eventually went on to finish graduate school, but he didn’t let that stop him; he continued writing, especially biographies.

On his website, Randall wrote, “Biography enables the reader to approach the great mass of ideas, actions and struggles that historians have too often rendered impenetrable. We need some path or bridge to approach history and biographies provide that approach. Writing about great men and women prompts us to discuss leadership, charisma, the relationships between leadership and power, between leaders and the people. But the lives of the not-so-great can also show us how people in everyday life react to the same events and problems. They provide case studies into the periods in which people lived.”

Upon moving to Vermont in 1984, Randall found it strange there had not been much written about Ethan Allen, patriot and Revolutionary War hero. Allen had founded the state of Vermont. Randall said that Allen was irrepressible; no matter how many setbacks he encountered, he got back on his feet and charged ahead.

The Revolutionary War and Founding Fathers such as Ethan Allen are of particular interest today, and there is a current spate of books being published on the Revolutionary War period.

“People wonder about how well government is working and wonder what was the original idea of the founders,” Randall said.

The country started in an economic crisis, and people want to know how debt was dealt with after the revolution.

Vermont had paid its own way, Randall said. Allen opposed giving money to help out the other thirteen states. Even today, the people of Vermont have questioned government.

In his career as journalist and historian, Randall received the National Magazine Award for Public Service from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, the Hillman Prize, the Loeb Award and three Pulitzer Prize nominations during his 17-year journalism career in Philadelphia. After completing his graduate studies in history at Princeton University, he turned to writing biographies, which also have garnered three Pulitzer nominations, according to Randall’s website.

Glasser maintains bird’s-eye view on the world

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Lori Humphreys | Staff Writer

Susan Glasser
Susan Glasser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lecture to recall historic ‘I Hate War’ speech

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George Cooper | Staff Writer

It might be that the name, Mary Frances Bestor Cram, is a mouthful. On the other hand, she had a lot to say. Her father, Arthur Bestor, presided over Chautauqua for some 30 years — through two world wars and the Depression. One remarkable event during those years was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s visit to Chautauqua in August 1936, when he gave his “I Hate War” speech.

Roosevelt’s speech and Bestor Cram’s reminiscence of the president’s visit will be the subject of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.

Presiding over today’s activity will be Jon Schmitz, Chautauqua’s archivist and historian, and Greg Peterson, chairman of Jamestown’s Robert H. Jackson Center Board of Directors.

The speech and Roosevelt’s presence on the grounds stand as important moments in Chautauqua’s history. The Institution was just emerging from difficult financial circumstances, and the presence of such a formidable figure generated a lot of attention. Roosevelt became yet another in the series of presidents who have come to Chautauqua. And the speech itself is something of a curiosity, being, at least in title, an anti-war speech, delivered at a time when the rumblings of war were becoming audible in Europe and northern Africa.

“Roosevelt didn’t want to look like an interventionist, even as he had to intervene,” Schmitz said.

The speech as represented in the statement, “I hate war,” was a personal claim made in a public arena, but the public reality was otherwise.

Schmitz said Roosevelt knew war was coming, but, just like many American citizens, he hated the idea of war.

“Roosevelt had a way of calming people and focusing attention on issues productively,” Schmitz said.

Roosevelt came to Chautauqua with just a few days’ notice. Security was tight.

“He came because he felt he could reach a large audience by way of radio,” Schmitz said.

It all caused quite a stir on the grounds.

Some of the drama of the occasion is captured in Bestor Cram’s memoir of Chautauqua, Chautauqua Salute: A Memoir of the Bestor Years.

More intimate will be Peterson’s 2004 interview with Bestor Cram.

Peterson brought her to the Jackson Center for a tour and a showing of the 16-minute “I Hate War” film — a showing of which will be included in today’s program.

Peterson then interviewed Bestor Cram, providing a rare first-person account of Roosevelt’s visit to Chautauqua, including the preparation, her father’s relationship with the president and the circumstances of the invitation.

In conjunction with this 75th anniversary of the speech and Roosevelt’s presidential visit to Chautauqua will be an exhibit at the Oliver Archives relating to the five presidents who visited the grounds during their presidency, as well as other figures who visited and later went on to be president, Schmitz said.


Watch the ‘I Hate War’ speech

Leach to lead discussions on civility in public discourse

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Sarah Gelfand | Staff Writer

Jim Leach
Jim Leach

Adding further depth to this week’s theme of “Government and the Search for the Common Good,” Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be holding two additional sessions this week to augment his 10:45 a.m. Monday lecture.

At 3:30 p.m. today in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor, Leach will lead a Town Hall-style meeting, opening up the discussion of the topic at hand for a more advanced dialogue with Chautauquans.

“I think Chautauqua, first of all, is a center of a dialogue movement that symbolizes the best in American conversation,” Leach said.

Leach said he is looking forward to an avid discussion about government and responsibility. His current position as the head of a federal agency invested in an aspect of the common good — the humanities — and his past government service as a congressman lend some personal experience to his discussion.

Today’s Town Hall is representative of one of Leach’s major focuses, involving citizens in conversation about the government and civic responsibility.

“We’re in a country that has always been one in which citizens are considered to be the center of vitality of governance,” Leach said. “One of the great challenges is for all of us as citizens to insist that the government be accountable to us. That is a challenge at all times to American life and that we are all responsible and accountable for, and I think Chautauqua is a great place to bring that out.”

Leach hopes his Town Hall meeting will ignite the conversations necessary for inspiring action and responsibility but also provide him with new insight.

“What I have found around the country is that thoughtful citizens are loaded with not only questions, but observations that often are far more profound than anything I have suggested, and the Town Hall format is one in which the audience is likely to learn more from their colleagues than they will from me. I look at this as a great learning experience, and I have always enjoyed interactive events more than  the set up of a speaker lecturing,” Leach said.

At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday in Smith Wilkes Hall, Leach will open up this conversation further at an Elected Officials Panel. Leach will moderate questions and discussions among the panelists, who include William Clinger, a former congressman from Pennsylvania, and Amo Houghton, Stan Lundine, Jack Quinn and Thomas Reynolds, all former congressmen from New York. Clinger and Lundine are Chautauqua residents and have served on the Institution’s board of trustees.

“The panel is going to be fabulous,” Leach said. “I think you’re going to get a lot of commentary about how things work as well as what the issues are. We’ve got issues of war and peace, spending and taxation, just simply the ability of the government to make decisions. This particular group of panelists should be very enlightening, and I look forward to hearing their perspectives.”

Adding a call to action as a secondary function of the government panel, Leach said he hopes Chautauquans will come away from the event with an expanded view of American government and its functions and, most importantly, the impact of citizens.

“We’ll be trying to provide a perspective of American history on challenges of the time, which are extremely unique, and of a degree of importance that cannot be underestimated in where America is in the world today,” Leach said. “That is, we are facing challenges of a different nature than we ever envisioned as a country. In looking at these challenges, we’re going to have to adapt in new and profound ways.”

Applied ethics series to examine country’s fallen standards

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Sarah Gelfand | Staff Writer

If there is nothing more patriotic than dissonance, Chautauquans will certainly celebrate Independence Day in good form with a series of special lectures focusing on U.S. government dysfunction that starts this afternoon. Four speakers from the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University will lead the Lincoln Applied Ethics Lectures at 4 p.m. today through Wednesday at the Hall of Philosophy.

Peter French, the director of Lincoln Center, along with two Lincoln Professors and one Lincoln Fellow, will speak in conjunction with this week’s “Applied Ethics: Government and the Search for the Common Good” theme, while also engaging in discussion with their audiences.

In 1998, Chautauqua residents Joan and David Lincoln established the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at ASU to emphasize the importance of providing students with an ethical education. The Lincolns created a partnership between Chautauqua Institution and the Lincoln Center that has lasted more than a decade, sponsoring theme weeks ranging from “Business and Ethics” to “the Ethical Frontiers of Science.”

In his 10th year leading the ethics series at the Institution, French will open the series today with Jason Robert, a Lincoln professor. Tuesday afternoon, Lincoln professor Braden Allenby and Lincoln fellow Thomas Seager will speak, and on Wednesday, the four will give brief reprisals of their presentations and hold an open discussion and Q-and-A session with the audience.

Peter French

Peter French

Chair and director of the Lincoln Center since its opening in 2000, French will begin the lectures with a discussion about America’s change in standing over several decades in regard to “common good” issues such as education, life expectancy and health care.

“This year, I’m going to lead off with a discussion about what’s gone wrong in our country in the last few decades as to why, perhaps, the country has fallen significantly down on the standards that are used to evaluate where countries stand in regards to achieving what we call the expectations of the common good,” French said.

French plans to examine governmental structures in-depth and discuss their failings, as well as possible solutions.

“In terms of government structures, there are systemic elements not particularly suited to respond to these kinds of changes in a particularly effective way,” French said. “I’ll talk about how we can confront some of these problems from other angles than just hoping the government is somehow going to fix itself and improve matters for us all.”

French will not just focus on the government, but also the public and its perception of what constitutes the common good and who is responsible for it.

“We’re trying to open up people’s thinking to look at issues in this world that we’ve tried to ignore as a country and as individuals for much too long,” French said.

French has also written several books on ethics. His most recent is War and Moral Dissonance, a memoir of French’s experience teaching ethics to Marine and Navy chaplains during the Iraq War.

Jason Robert

Jason Robert

As the Lincoln professor of ethics in biotechnology and medicine, Robert will speak about health and health reform. He will look at the intersections between government and health in terms of the common good.

“I think I’m going to be more hopeful and optimistic than the other speakers,” Robert said. “With health as my focus, I want to argue that the common good is imaginable and achievable, and that government can be a good thing rather than a bad thing.”

Like the other speakers from the Lincoln Center, Robert will address the angle and attitude with which the public views and affects the common good.

“Part of the issue is that we’ve just been thinking about the common good in the wrong way,” Robert said. “I want to demonstrate how to re-imagine the common good in a way that’s genuinely American.”

“Of course, that’s a challenge for me because I’m Canadian,” Robert joked.

Robert’s first visit to Chautauqua was in 2009, and he said that during his second time here, he hopes Chautauquans can impart as much wisdom on him as he does them.

“Really, I hope to gain a sense of how big a challenge this is, that other people are optimistic, and I’m not the only optimist,” Robert said.

Braden Allenby

Braden Allenby

“The subtitle of my speech is, ‘If You Want the Future, You Can’t Handle the Future,’” Allenby said.

Allenby, the Lincoln professor of engineering and ethics, will use his expertise of environmental engineering as a framework for his speech Tuesday. As does French, Allenby plans to highlight the recent drastic changes in U.S. life.

“This particular set of changes is more important than anything we’ve ever gone through as a society,” Allenby said.

Ending on a positive note, Allenby will reinforce the public’s ability to impact the government.

“If we can realize how badly broken the traditional ways of thinking are, then we can begin to discuss the ways in which we can enact change,” Allenby said.

During his fourth visit to Chautauqua, Allenby said he would like his audience to adopt a critical, but hopeful, eye in regard to the decline of the common good in the U.S.

“I’d like Chautauquans to take away a healthy skepticism for much of what passes as dialogue today, along with a sense of optimism for the future,” Allenby said.

In the past, Allenby served as Environmental, Health and Safety vice president for AT&T and as director for Energy and Environmental Systems at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in addition to his professorial posts.

Thomas Seager

Thomas Seager

Seager is a Lincoln Fellow of Ethics & Sustainability. At ASU, he is leading a National Science Foundation project that uses game theory in order to develop new strategies to teach ethical reasoning skills to science and engineering graduate students.

Along with his colleagues, Seager will address government dysfunction and approaches that might be utilized to take the place of where the U.S., in particular, has failed.

Given his research, Seager is expected to focus on education as a “common good” issue, as well as the way education can be used and reformed to serve as a solution to many of the issues French and Allenby will bring up.

This will be Seager’s first visit to Chautauqua.

French, Robert, Allenby and Seager said they are particularly enthusiastic to lead these discussions at Chautauqua and continue the Lincoln Ethics Series at the Institution.

“People at Chautauqua seem to be open in looking at the complexities of issues and not just accepting simplistic answers to questions that are anything but simplistic,” French said. “I enjoy the fact that after we finish the session, there’s always a whole line of folks who want to talk some more and continue the discussion.”

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