A Week Six Message from Chautauqua’s President


Welcome to Week Six of CHQ Assembly! Before we look at this vital week, thank you to all who made our Week Five celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage such a rich and rewarding one. While there is so much more work to do in the realm of gender equality and access to voting, I’m deeply proud of this Chautauqua week and grateful to those luminaries who helped us unpack it. 

As more and more of our news turns to the upcoming presidential election, one topic that is sure to be debated is the role of education in our nation. That’s where we take our journey in Week Six, as we explore the theme of “Rebuilding Public Education.” In this week we take a comprehensive view of the cradle-to-college pipeline and look beyond COVID-19, and the 2020 election, to ask how we build more integrated and equitable public schools and best prepare our children for careers and as citizens in a rapidly changing world. We look at the following important questions: 

  • With a growing shortage of credentialed teachers, how do we recruit and keep the next generation of educators? 
  • How do we navigate what has become one of the most contentious debates in education today and evaluate the impact of charter schools and vouchers in American communities? 
  • What does the college admissions cheating scandal tell us about how parents, students and society-at-large view the purpose of secondary education? 

I’m extremely honored and excited to have the chance to interview former Florida governor and former presidential candidate Jeb Bush as part of this week. He is among many thought leaders who will help us explore this important topic. 

In our Interfaith Lecture Series, we explore the deep tensions that come from “Lessons in the School House.” More than 55 years after the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling striking down school-sponsored prayer, some Americans continue to resist representations of religion in public schools, while others point to that separation as evidence of a decaying moral society. The future of a thriving nation, however, resides in the integrity of its people and, therefore, in the content of what its children are taught. Public schools are crucial not only for fostering careers and livelihoods, and for learning unto itself, but also for shaping the most “good-of-the-whole” consciousness in our citizens. In this week, we will look at the importance of teaching both religious cultural literacy (as opposed to religion) as well as ethical literacy in our public schools for the purpose of creating an ethically and culturally informed citizenry. 

We also welcome the Rev. Leslie D. Callahan as our chaplain of the week. Dr. Callahan is the first female pastor to serve at the historic St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I know her words will be uplifting and challenging in this important week. 

As longtime Chautauquans know, this week is one in which we celebrate tradition — this year with a number of CHQ Assembly activities planned to re-create our annual Old First Night (and its companion OFN Run/Walk), Recognition Day and Library Day celebrations. These milestones of a Chautauqua season deeply connect us to our history and heritage, and to past generations of our community — we knew how incredibly important it was to continue them inside this unusual season. Our staff has worked tirelessly to bring these beloved customs to life for you in a meaningful way via our online platforms, so that we can gather in spirit, even if not together in person. I’m grateful to the Edward L. Anderson, Jr. Foundation for helping us celebrate Chautauqua’s birthday week by offering — for a limited time only — a 100% match on all new gifts and pledges to the 2020 Chautauqua Fund from Aug. 1 to 10 (up to $500 per donor until funds are exhausted). You’re encouraged to participate by visiting 

One final thing to pay special attention to that may miss your glance this week. We welcome back the Rev. Robert M. Franklin, former director of our Department of Religion, who will help lead a special discussion on The Mirror Project: A Conversation about Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility at Chautauqua Institution. Dr. Franklin is president emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, having served from 2007 to 2012. He is currently a senior adviser to the president of Emory University, where he is also the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership, and I count him as a dear friend. I hope you’ll take part in this conversation at 3:30 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 3, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch. 

These thought-provoking conversations about the great issues are day are the hallmark of Chautauqua. Thank you for being the key actors in this important story.

Tags : CommunityFrom the Presidentmichael e. hill

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