Week Two Column from the President

Michael E. Hill

Welcome to the second week of our 144th Assembly. It has been such a joy to spend our opening week with so many Chautauquans; I know this week will bring many more new faces (at least to me!) to our shores and this grove; I am so looking forward to the chance to greet you as the 18th president of this sacred place.

Week Two at Chautauqua is an exploration of our Human Journey and a celebration of our partnership with National Geographic.  I was lucky enough to be with NatGeo’s CEO Gary Knell in Washington a few months ago. Gary and the entire NatGeo team share our enthusiasm for this important partnership; I’ve heard from many Chautauquans that this is consistently one of your favorite weeks.

The week is titled “The Human Journey: Origins, Exploration and Preservation,” and brings together some of the most thoughtful and accomplished explorers, scientists and journalists to probe the ways in which humanity’s movement across the globe, driven by survival and curiosity, has impacted our environment. In perfect Chautauqua fashion, it will also allow us all to debate and deliberate over the balance between human advances and our fragile planet’s needs.

In parallel, and with a nod to our Fourth of July holiday, our interfaith journey celebrates the genius and soul of a nation. This is a week that brings a traditional patriotic fervor to many in the United States, and those celebrations are fitting and uplifting. But the great soul of our nation also demands that we continue a constant introspection, self-analysis and discernment process to ensure that our “great soul” is in tip-top shape to serve the dreams of a great nation.

And all the 10:45 a.m. lecture discussions will happen in our incredible new Amphitheater. For those experiencing it for the first time, I hope you enjoy the beautiful duality between how much it looks like its predecessor while also providing safer access, more space and better amenities for artists and speakers, and for you, our beloved Chautauquans. We continue to fine-tune the space to allow us to more fully realize its full potential, and we’re grateful to all who have enjoyed it as audience members and presenters alike for their patience and feedback.

I recognize that not all Chautauquans can be with us every week of the season. For those who missed the opening “Three Taps of the Gavel,” I asked if we could commit to a new muscular civic dialogue this season and beyond. If you missed that talk, you can find the prepared remarks at and a video at I hope you’ll take a chance to relive what was one of the most special moments of my life. And just as that celebration was an honor bound tradition at Chautauqua, its message called us to be more than, better than, to mirror and model and practice what we most hope to see in society. Those opening words also reminded us that we need to find ways to graciously invite viewpoints at the polar opposites of our own with the patience and fortitude needed to truly understand.

I’m grateful for those who have shared that you were challenged by that opening message and to those who have challenged me about what it means and how we might best live it out in community. As I said then, it is for me an opening thesis to our shared journey together. “Thesis” is a fitting word for our shared stewardship of Chautauqua. I remain grateful for your willingness to “live the questions now” as we seek to find ways to “live into the answers.”

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Michael E. Hill

The author Michael E. Hill