‘New Yorker’ staffer Osnos to close season with talk on resilience of U.S. democracy



The New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos spent a decade living in China, Iraq and Egypt, and during this time, he often found himself trying to convince people of America’s core values; that despite the mistakes the country had made, it was committed to equal opportunity, truth and law. 

But when he returned home in 2013, he saw these principles were under attack. 

He wanted to understand why. 

This was the basis of his forthcoming book Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury, which is slated to release on Sept. 14. All of its reviews point to Osnos’ thorough reporting and, in the words of Michael J. Sandel, author of The Tyranny of Merit: Can We Find the Common Good? who lectured at Chautauqua last season: “Osnos gives us a riveting tale of dark times, told with a pathos and humanity that prompts hope of something better.”

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 26 in the Amphitheater, Osnos will be the last presenter of the 2021 Chautauqua Lectures Series, concluding Week Nine’s theme of “Resilience.” In his lecture, titled, “American Bedrock: Renewing the Ties That Bind Us,” he will discuss the resilience of American democracy and the people currently rebuilding community prosperity.

“As we close not only our week on resiliency, but also a season of conversations on trust and democracy, our divisions as a country, the role of empathy and the state of our economy, Osnos brings these themes together in a reflection on what we’ve become over the past 20 years and how we may find our way once again,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

In the prologue to Wildland, Osnos wrote that he was attempting to tie together the “disparate experiences of being American,” and noted that this moment needed to go beyond what’s known as parachute reporting, where national journalists go into “unfamiliar territory and interview a few dozen strangers.” 

This moment, he wrote, “demanded a deeper kind of questioning.”

“I hoped to find some explanations that were larger than the immediate events suggested — in linkages across geography and generations, and in some of the underlying attitudes that people are not quick to tell a stranger,” Osnos wrote.

Osnos is also the author of Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now, where he documents through over 100 interviews, including with Biden himself, the current president’s life-long quest to lead the country, a journey marked by personal tragedy.

In Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, Osnos discussed how Western countries see China as a caricature, either of politicians only thinking of numbers, students only thinking about grades, or as a superpower about to stop growing, illustrating that “what we don’t see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes,” according to the book description. It won the National Book Award in 2014, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

At The New Yorker, Osnos covers politics and foreign affairs. From 2008 to 2013, he was the magazine’s China correspondent. Previously, he was the Chicago Tribune’s Beijing bureau chief, where he helped in a series that won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Prior to that, he worked in the Middle East, primarily reporting from Iraq.

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The author Nick Danlag

This is Nick Danlag’s second season at the Daily reporting the morning lecture recap. He worked remotely last year but loved waking up each day in Las Vegas to learn more about Chautauqua through his reporting. From Mount Laurel, New Jersey, Nick earned a creative writing degree from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. As editor-in-chief of his student newspaper, The Current, he loved helping the staff develop their voices.