Week Two Letter From the President

President Michael Hill

Welcome to the second week of our 146th Assembly. It has been such a joy to spend our opening week with so many Chautauquans and to welcome all those who are joining us for the first time on the grounds.

Week Two at Chautauqua is a week of hope. So much of our national discourse and media points to a nation that is fractured and broken. But as our longtime friends Jim and Deb Fallows remind us, the narrative at the local level is quite different. Communities across the nation are discovering and working through solutions that defy labels. Neighbors are still working with neighbors in many places, and they are finding routes to some incredible progress. That’s the entire point of Week Two and its theme, “Uncommon Ground: Communities Working Toward Solutions.”

In this week, we collectively explore: In an age of divisive posturing at the national level, are communities uniquely positioned to come together on the toughest issues, to find a way forward for the common good? Each day, we highlight case studies of communities at work, finding sustainable solutions to society’s most pressing problems. And we ask:

  • What conditions must exist for community stakeholders to engage one another, and who needs to be at the table? 
  • What’s possible when there isn’t a shared sense of community? 
  • Do differences need to be bridged in order for solutions to be found and sustained?

We’re thrilled to start the week with two-term former Governor of Ohio John R. Kasich, and also grateful that Jim Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, will moderate our Interfaith Lecture Series platform at 2 p.m. every day, under the theme “Common Good Change Agents.” At times when the world seems conflicted, humanity continues to find ways to be its best advocate toward its highest aspirations. In this week we welcome examples of change agents who are recognizing needs and responding in life-enhancing ways to actualize their hearts’ best intentions for the common good — and leading by powerful example.

Special thanks to our friends at Erie Insurance for their sponsorship of not only this week, but also of our sold-out performance by Diana Ross.

I want to thank everyone who was with us for our first week and certainly underscore the enthusiasm you shared for our first-ever rabbi serving as chaplain of the week. Rabbi Sharon Brous was a force of nature. Thank you for welcoming her with such warmth; I think we all experienced that when we do, we are enriched, challenged and inspired.

There are so many special things happening this week. Our artistic companies are all in full swing, we have two very special Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author presentations, with Beth Macy’s Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America and David Blight’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and we’ll celebrate worldwide Pride and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a moment that many believe launched the LGBTQ civil rights movement. I’m honored to welcome Judy and Dennis Shepard to Chautauqua. The murder of their son Matthew was a seminal moment in my own life, and they have continued to be signs of courage, love and hope, turning unspeakable tragedy into a mission against hatred.

As if all of that was not a full enough plate, I hope you’ll join us for our master planning, strategic planning, and inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility sessions, as we together, as a community, form the future of Chautauqua. See the yellow program listing inserted in your Daily for details.

If this is your first week with us, welcome. If you are continuing your journey from Week One, thank you for an incredible start to our season, and may your second week be even richer than the first.

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