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Bennett to speak on what happens when America’s conscience fails

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The sociologist became a criminologist, then went into insurance and banking. Next, a broadcast journalist. Now a philanthropist and author. This is the broad spectrum of careers Georgette Bennett has held, intertwining throughout her life.

Bennett’s work focuses on conflict resolution and intergroup relations. She speaks at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy on “When America’s Global Conscience Fails: How the Syrian Crisis Upended the World Order and How Individual Conscience Can Help to Put it Right.” 

“In the case of Syria, there was a massive failure of America’s global conscience,” Bennett said. “That failure occurred on a couple of different levels on foreign policy failure, which I will talk about, but also a failure of humanity, a failure of our policy for refugees and displaced persons.”

She said the consequences have been massive in terms of both death counts, and geopolitics. Her hope for her closing presentation of the Week One Interfaith Lecture Series theme of America’s Global Conscience” is to motivate, inspire and empower her audience.

“I hope rather than despairing about what goes on at the macro level, that it will inspire people to take action at the micro level,” Bennett said.

Her several career paths are all interwoven, Bennett said, and can all be tied back to her work as a sociologist. Bennett said she still uses resources from that job.

“Even though these seem like very diverse careers, all of them have a common thread,” Bennett said. “For all of them I use my sociologist’s tool kit in terms of the way I approach the work.”

Bennett founded the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in 1992, to continue her late husband, Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum’s legacy. 

She has also founded multiple organizations to help displaced people and refugees.

“When (my husband) died he left me very inspired,” Bennett said. “I just decided that nothing I had been doing in my professional life was as important as building on his work. At the time that he died, there were at least 50 conflicts being waged around the world based, at least in part, on religion.”

Bennett said these conflicts had caused the number of displaced people to rise from 40 million in the world at the time, to 100 million, where it sits in 2022.

In 2013, she founded the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees. Bennett and her family had been Hungarian refugees who escaped the Holocaust and relocated to Queens, New York, so it’s an issue close to her heart.

“At the age of 67, in 2013, I read a report on the Syrian crisis issued by the International Rescue Committee. As a child of the Holocaust and a refugee myself, I was stunned by the magnitude of Syrian suffering,” Bennett told Forbes in 2021. 

Throughout her life, Bennett has supported victims of religion-based war.

“I’m also going to tell a personal story about how one individual can confront a massive humanitarian crisis and the formula I used to address it,” Bennett said, “which resulted in delivering — as of now, but still counting — over $250 million worth of aid, most of it directly benefiting 2.7 million Syrian war victims.”

Packer to close week of looking outward with look inward, at America’s ‘Last Best Hope’

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After a week of looking at America’s relationships around the world, George Packer, author and staff writer for The Atlantic, will close out Week One by looking at America’s state of internal well-being. Packer is returning to Chautauqua for the first time since 2013 to close the Week One Chautauqua Lecture Series at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

“His voice certainly stayed with us, and his work continues to be prescient and thoughtful,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “So, to have him back at this time with as divided an American public as we have … we’re honored to have him.”

Packer will reflect on the question “What Should be America’s Role in the World?” by discussing ideas from his most recent book, Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal

“I’ll talk about how the upcoming elections reflect the divisions that I write about in my book,” Packer said. “I’ll talk about reasons why the divisions remain so deep and policy ideas that I think could be helpful to the country but at the moment don’t seem to stand much chance of becoming reality.”

Packer wrote his last book throughout the pandemic and published it in summer 2021. Though much has changed since then, Packer believes the premise is the same. But, he’s admittedly “more pessimistic today than (he) was a year ago, when the book was published, about the chances of resolving some of our problems.” 

The main analysis throughout his book focuses on what he calls the four Americas and how the country has become more divided over the last half century. 

The four Americas include Free America, Real America, Smart America and Just America. Free America is defined as economic conservatives and religious traditionalists whose organizing principle is a “Don’t Tread on Me” conception of liberty. Real America is described as white Christian nationalists who adhere to the principle of moral equality and resent experts and bureaucrats. Smart America is considered the winners of the new economy’s meritocratic competition for wealth and status. Just America is identity politics with race being its core. These Americas, he posits,  represent a broken promise of democratic equality, rather than “the equality of Americans as citizens, as people with aspirations, and people who seek opportunity,” Packer said. “We know that America has never been an equal society, but its desire to have access to all the opportunities of life as much as anyone else, that is the animating desire of Americans and is a central feature of our democracy.”

Ewalt said that after a week of looking outwards, Packer will pivot inwards.

“We saw this as an opportunity to reflect inward and to ask ourselves how can and how should the broader American public show up to the world,” Ewalt said. “George Packer’s recent work has been looking at our current condition as an American public, which has deep polarization, skepticism and cynicism … and helps diagnose the state of that polarization, and makes a case for a national renewal.”

In Amp, Sons of Mystro set to make violin sing

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Few performers, or even large orchestras, can make the violin sing quite like the Sons of Mystro, whose eccentric musicality broadens the horizons of what genres can be performed with a classical string instrument. 

Virtuosos Malcolm and Umoja McNeish push the bow of their violins to play hip-hop, pop, reggae and other genres of music that are not usually performed by a violin. 

The Florida-raised brothers are set to perform at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater for a performance of modern hits, as well as an improvised piece. 

The duo’s name comes from their father’s career in music; during the ’70s and into the ’90s, their father performed as DJ Mystro. 

“Our pops never got to see us perform in our school because he used to be a taxi driver, … but one day our mom said, ‘You gotta go see them,’ ” Umoja McNeish said. “So he went to see us perform at a talent show in seventh grade. And when he saw it, a light bulb came up in his head. He decided to make a group and call us Sons of Mystro.” 

The duo was inspired by the Chautauqua-favorite violin and viola duo, Black Violin, known for electrifying performances and unique blends of classical, hip-hop and R&B music. 

When Umoja McNeish was in third grade, his first year playing the violin, his county held a benefit concert for a teacher who had passed. It was held at the high school that Black Violin attended, and the concert was being held in honor of their teacher. This was the first time Sons of Mystro heard Black Violin. 

“The next thing you know, we start hearing hip-hop music being played on the violin and the viola. Now mind you, we were kids. … This was my first year playing, and Malcolm’s third year playing (violin). We didn’t know what was possible,” Umoja McNeish said. 

He was so enthralled by the performance, he went backstage to meet the artists. 

“The only thing I could say is, ‘I wanna play just like you,’ and they said, ‘Well, you got to practice, practice, practice,’ ” Umoja McNeish said. 

And so they did. The pair went home and watched Black Violin’s 2005 Apollo Amateur Night performance on YouTube and attempted to follow along with their instruments. Since hip-hop and reggae music were not written as sheet music for the violin at the time, the brothers learned to play by ear. 

“Without Black Violin, I honestly probably wouldn’t be playing the violin as a career right now,” Malcolm  McNeish said. “It was an eye-opening experience.”

Umoja McNeish feels differently about what their future would be without Black Violin. With their father’s background as a DJ and their mother’s guidance toward creative expression through music, he felt performing was inevitable — they would have found their way to performing, and “even if it wasn’t the violin, it would have been something else.”

And it almost wasn’t the violin. Malcolm McNeish, the older brother of the pair, had nearly joined the school’s band and played the flute in third grade rather than the violin. But something changed his mind — the chance to go on a field trip to Disney World with the orchestra. 

“I actually didn’t get to go (on a trip) until my 10th grade year of high school, … but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. “I’m thankful I didn’t play the flute because it would be a completely different story.”

Umoja McNeish followed his brother in pursuing the violin because he wanted to play with him. But, performing in the music industry has not always been easy for the pair. 

“We’ve been through a lot. People have promised us certain things (that then fall through). We had to deal with the respect factor, as far as people respecting our craft,” Malcolm McNeish said. 

In high school, the budding musicians had to balance classes, extracurriculars and perfecting their craft. They also struggled during the pandemic as they learned how to share their music online. 

“(The pandemic) was a real challenge for us as well, but it created a lot of room for growth. … We learned how to play at our worst, and make our worst sound amazing,” Umoja McNeish said.

Sons of Mystro hopes to impact its audience and the future generation in a positive way. 

“Personally, I’m not that focused on the Grammys and things of that nature, unless getting that helps us affect more people in a positive way,” Umoja McNeish said. “My main intent is to create an experience for people to go to that gives them a sense of clarity in life … and to inspire the children to secure a better life for themselves.”

At nearly every stop on their tours, the brothers try to go to local schools to host events for students. The duo plays a variety of genres at these workshops to combat stereotypes about what a violinist can play. 

Sons of Mystro have always been managed by their father, DJ Mystro, and the group is complete with their childhood friend, DJ Venimis, who is the DJ behind their songs. 

During tonight’s performance, they will be accompanied by a percussionist that goes by Junior. 

First-time viewers can expect “to get up and dance; no questions asked. It is going to be an engaging, electrifying performance that makes them feel a part of what is happening,” Malcolm McNeish said.

Beyond experiencing the riffs and flows of the music, Umoja McNeish hopes the audience will take away meaning from the performance. He wants to impart the message “to be positive, to think outside of the box, to be true to yourself, be a good person, and put out good energy.”

More than a ‘Thumbprint’ — Opera opens season with chamber work from Sankaram, Yankowitz, with Ben Seadia at helm

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From a young age, Omer Ben Seadia approached her craft with sagacity.

“I always wanted to be a director,” Ben Seadia said. “I practiced performing because I knew that it would inform my work as a director.”

She first performed when she was 15 with The Israeli Opera. It was the first of many collaborations.

“I ended up working for them for about a decade, so I owe all of my opera training to The Israeli Opera,” Ben Seadia said. At The Israeli Opera, she had the opportunity to interact with all the departments that go into making an opera successful.
This ultimately provided Ben Seadia with useful insight because, as a director, she coordinates every aspect of a production — from costume to set design — that brings an opera to fruition.

The Israeli Opera also “is in and of itself sort of a miracle,” Ben Seadia said.

“It was founded by immigrants who wanted to explore, to bring in culture that they were working on outside of Israel when they emigrated,” Ben Seadia said, “but it has now become something totally unique. (It’s) still fueled by immigrants from all parts of the world, creating something that is so specifically Middle Eastern, that is Mediterranean, that is influenced by Europe, influenced by the United States, and then is completely, authentically Israeli.”

After spending over a decade with The Israeli Opera, she came to the United States in 2012. Since then, she has directed over 20 operas, and now she is the stage director for the Chautauqua Opera Company’s production of Thumbprint, which opens at 4 p.m. today in Norton Hall.

Thumbprint, premiered in 2019, tells the real-life story of the Pakistani feminist and activist Mukhtar Mai, who revolutionized the conversation surrounding both women’s education and sexual assault victims. 

The opera draws from Mai’s own encounter with violent sexual assault. She brought her attackers to justice, and, rather than a financial settlement, she advocated for the construction of girls’ schools. These schools would address the illiteracy issue in Pakistan, which disproportionately affected women, leaving them with the ability to only sign their name with a thumbprint. 

Chautauqua Opera and Ben Seadia planned to produce Thumbprint in 2020, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, they postponed their plans. It is the first of three productions scheduled for the 2022 opera festival that celebrates women’s rights. 

“I’ve been living with this piece for at least three years now,” Ben Seadia said, “which is an unusual treat when it comes to sort of preparing an opera.”

While preparing for Thumbprint, Ben Seadia has felt the weight of telling Mai’s story, especially since Mai and some of the people involved in her story are still alive. On the other hand, Thumbprint is a piece of art, so Ben Seadia focuses on balancing the two.

“The power of opera is expanding our perspective on this individual story into something that is more global,” Ben Seadia said.

Ben Seadia approached being a performer through the wider lens of a director. She brings this same care to each of her pieces, where she looks at their wider impact and thoughtfully uses her influence.

“My approach (to Thumbprint) hasn’t changed; the urgency with which I work has,” she said. “The events of the last three years have put a lot of my work into perspective of global events and of domestic events.”

She also pays a lot of attention to the performers who help bring this work to life.

“This is a piece that involves a lot of traumatic events,” Ben Seadia said.

She and the entire crew work to ensure people are mentally well while making sure they “don’t shy away from (Thumbprint’s) impact.”

A major theme of the opera is the trauma that Mai and her family go through, but that is only one of the focal points. There are also moments of joy dispersed throughout. 

Ben Seadia said one of her favorite moments in the show is a scene between Mai, her sister Annu and their mother. It is before Mai’s sexual assault and offers perspective on the womens’ relationship. 

“It is a scene of joy, of playfulness, of camaraderie, of beauty — of this sense of community between these women that is so joyful in a relationship that then bonds them throughout the show,” Ben Seadia said. 

She made a point to accentuate this joy.

“Often when you deal with operas that have traumatic events, the focus goes to that,” Ben Seadia said.

That was not the way she wanted to do it. Without dulling any of the difficult topics, she tried to highlight these female relationships and their joy. 

“I really wanted to challenge myself to expand that as much as possible, so that we see who these people are before and beyond the trauma and what their lives are (like) past the traumatic events that happened to them,” Ben Seadia said.

With the opera’s Pakistani setting, it interacts with the focus on global issues of Week One’s theme “What Should be America’s Role in the World?”

Thumbprint, in a way, is not an escapist opera. It is not purely entertainment,” Ben Seadia said. “It is having a dialogue with … our daily news, with what we’re all conversing (about) in our salons and on our porches, in the lecture halls, in a performing art vessel, and so I encourage a lot of newcomers to opera, skeptics, or people who are just generally curious, to come and try it out. It is not your bread and butter opera, but in a way, it is a special invitation to Chautauquans.”

Resiliency, resonance —CTC launches run of Pulitzer-winner Vogel’s ‘Indecent’ as director Rothe reflects on show’s power

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Lisa Rothe, the director of Chautauqua Theater Company’s production of Indecent, has been influenced by women throughout her career. When she was a CTC conservatory member in 1989, Artistic Director Rebecca Guy was Rothe’s first female acting teacher, an experience which Rothe called formative. After Rothe graduated from New York University with a Master of Fine Arts in acting, her program chair, Zelda Fichandler, encouraged Rothe to join her new directing program for NYU alumni.

More recently, Rothe was inspired by Paula Vogel’s Indecent.
Vogel, like Rothe, is a lesbian, and when Rothe saw the show on Broadway, it was only the second time that she had seen love between two women represented on stage. 

The first time was in Lisa Kron’s musical Fun Home, which also happened to be the last show Rothe directed before the world shut down in March 2020.

Indecent will open at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Bratton Theater. The Tony-winning play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Vogel is a layered story about the writing and production of a Yiddish play, The God of Vengeance. Indecent centers on a ghostly troupe of actors reflecting on their experience with The God of Vengeance, which told the story of a brothel in a tiny, impoverished Polish town and the love affair between the brothel owner’s daughter and a sex worker. It campaigns for cultural respect for sex workers, tackling 21st century issues in the 1900s. 

That play, written by Polish-Jewish playwright Sholem Asch in 1906 and brought to Broadway in 1923, was subject to censorship, and its participants were arrested due to the depiction of same-gender love.

 Indecent traces the embattled history of The God of Vengeance and spotlights overlapping marginalized communities, such as LGBTQ individuals, immigrants and Jewish people. It’s a story that spans decades and follows the rise of fascism, and eventually the Holocaust, in 20th-century Europe.

It’s also a musical, although that designation is contested — many descriptions refer to it as a “play with music.” Grammy winner Lisa Gutkin, who co-composed the music for the original production, is serving as music director for CTC’s production.

“There are musical numbers, and the music doesn’t further the plot,” Rothe said. “So it’s untraditional in terms of a musical that way, but the music is so powerful.” 

Rothe said this is her 10th time returning to Chautauqua. CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba thought she was the perfect candidate for this project.

“I’ve known Lisa, and I’ve known her work, for a very long time, and as soon as we were doing Indecent, she was the first person I thought of,” he said. “I thought, ‘That should be Lisa’s show.’ ”

For this show, Rothe is reunited with a host of artists with whom she’s worked before: set designer Lee Savage, lighting designer Barbara Samuels and costume designer Nicole Wee. Rothe staged Fun Home with Wee at Barnard College earlier this year. 

“There’s a language that we all speak,” Rothe said. “There’s a lot of relationships where we come together, share our visions together, spitball, and bounce off of each other in a really beautiful way.”

Rothe said she and Savage share an aesthetic and design sensibility that made their collaboration easy. Rothe is a visual person, and as a director, part of her process involves finding images that speak to her and sharing them with her designers. For Indecent, she found images of ghosts, of attics, of light shining through windows. 

Every show has its challenges, and Rothe identified industry-wide challenges of returning to live theater after the pandemic. But she said that the forced theater hiatus created the opportunity for the industry to slow down and reflect on the way they do things, and perhaps, create a new way going forward. 

“Everybody’s talking about getting up to speed, but in some ways, the speed that we were all working at before the pandemic was just not healthy,” Rothe said. “And I think there’s somewhat more awareness of what we can do, and maybe then, what we should do.” 

She also believes that theater artists are uniquely suited to cope with uncertainty, which leads to resilience.

“It’s been challenging, but we are all experts, in a way, at living in the zip code of ‘I don’t know,’ ” Rothe said. “So there’s a lot of imagination and creativity at play. We’re all learning about how to have patience and a lot of grace as we try to move forward.”

Rothe is inspired by Indecent’s themes of resiliency and the indefatigable human spirit, and by how it represents theater’s life-changing potential.

“I’m so utterly grateful to be an artist, and to be surrounded by artists, and working on this piece of art right now,” Rothe said. “I’m just aware of how powerful of a tool that art can be.”

‘Let them not say’: Week 1 CLSC author Hirshfield to discuss new volume of poetry tying to theme

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In Sony Ton-Aime’s estimation, the most essential tools a poet can have in their toolbox are empathy and a deep sense of curiosity about the world around them. Those are two tools that Jane Hirshfield — a poet, essayist and the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author for Week One and the theme “What Should be America’s Role in the World?” — has in spades.

“There’s something about her that is very zen,” said Ton-Aime, the Michael I. Rudell Director of the Literary Arts. “I was talking with her, and she said that the first book she remembered picking up when she was 8 was a collection of translations by Japanese poets.”

Hirshfield will discuss her book of poetry, Ledger, at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.

Hirshfield is the author of nine books of poetry, including Given Sugar, Given Salt which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and The Beauty, which was long-listed for the National Book Award.

Ledger (2020) marks the most recent publication in Hirshfield’s extensive career. It delves into ecological and political themes to call attention to how present issues impact the future of the world. 

“In Hirshfield’s poetry, there’s a sense of compassion and inquisitiveness,” Ton-Aime said. “But at the same time, she’s able to say things as they are, call things out as they are. That’s something that is very dear to her.”

When Ton-Aime was reading Ledger, one of the first poems in the book struck him as being particularly bold.

“There was one poem, ‘Let Them Not Say,’ that went: ‘Let them not say: we did not see it / We saw,’ ” he said. “It’s the repetition of that line ‘Let them not say,’ that really sticks out to me as being indicative of Hirshfield’s style in Ledger.”

Ton-Aime said he believes that this poem will give readers a sense of calm, while also delivering a warning.

“And at the same time, the poem keeps its subject, all of us, accountable,” he said. “I think that should be the role of the United States in the world, especially as a superpower. America, as a country, should know about the need for compassion in its leadership.”

In 2017 Hirshfield, an environmental spokesperson, partnered with the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University on a project entitled, “Poets for Science,” which is both a poetry exhibit and a movement that explores the relationship between poetry and science.

“There’s this quote where — I will paraphrase this a bit — Hirshfield said that poetry and science are not opposites, but are in fact complimenting each other,” Ton-Aime said. “ ‘Poets for Science’ came about during the March for Science in Washington, D.C. It was a way for poets to get engaged in the conversation that is happening not only around climate change, but also when it comes to science.” 

For Ton-Aime, this boils down to one question, one that he is eager to hear Hirshfield’s discussion on: What is the role of the poet in a world that is becoming more and more skeptical of the truth? 

Neurobiologist Singh looks to consciousness as connector

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Some habits start in childhood; some are learned and some are trained. The brain’s neurological wiring is susceptible to all of these beginnings, and all of them affect people’s behavior. 

Satpal Singh, a professor at SUNY Buffalo in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, specializes in behavioral pharmacology and neurobiology. 

He will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy with a lecture titled “Global Consciousness in an Interconnected World” for the Interfaith Lecture Series’ Week One theme of “America’s Global Conscience.” 

In the context of America’s global conscience, his main points include asking the questions: Where have we been, where are we and where do we hope to be headed? He said the most important aspect of effectively coexisting is that people are connected with themselves and interconnected with their countries.

“We cannot exist by ignoring others, because that impacts us just as our behavior (does),” Singh said.

For Singh, there is a clear connection between people’s behaviors toward each other and coexisting religiously. 

“I (was once) a target of very serious religion-based wars,” Singh said. “That opened my eyes to the need for bringing in interfaith harmony and living in peace with each other.”

The internal assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, murdered by her Sikh bodyguards, resulted in waves of massacres across India. Singh became a victim of that violence when he was traveling by train to start a new job; a mob beat him unconscious and then threw his seemingly lifeless body off the train. After this, he was motivated to begin working in human rights.

Singh attended Panjab University in Chandigarh, India, received his doctorate in molecular biology at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, and has been with SUNY Buffalo as a professor since 1989. His work at the Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations and the World Sikh Council, among other organizations, has made him a leader in his field. In 2015, during Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States, Singh was present for an interfaith gathering at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. 

Singh shared a Sikh prayer at the event.

“I think a lot of people are quite aware of the need for living in harmony among one another,” Singh said.

Violence and rancor across the world are only hurting people and their faith, Singh said.

“Hatred and violence against what we generally perceive as Other is not conducive for living in peace and harmony for any country,” Singh said.

He believes basic fundamentals are similar in all religions, and that there’s misunderstanding on how to use these fundamentals to create peace and harmony.

“The idea there is to hold interfaith dialogues about issues that are important to all of us,” Singh said. “Obviously some of these things we cannot affect too much, but things like hatred and violence within our own borders (needs to be addressed).”

AEI scholar Schake to take look at state of Biden’s policies

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When Kori Schake first heard U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken articulate the future of American foreign policy, she felt something she hadn’t felt from a presidential administration in years: comfort.

And when she read the Biden administration’s outline for national strategy, again, Schake said the administration’s tone was “comforting.”

“Gone was the bluster about ‘swagger’ and the America First xenophobia of former President Donald Trump,” wrote Schake in a 2021 opinion piece for Bloomberg titled, “Biden Foreign Policy Has the Words Right But the Economics Wrong.” 

By Schake’s thinking, it was replaced, instead, by a “humility that is appealing for the hegemon of the international order,” and by a “commitment that the values animating America’s domestic compact will return to its international conduct.”

But, Schake, who leads foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the piece, three things remained wrong with Biden’s national security approach: “the economics; reliance on alliances without giving allies the incentive to align against China; and unacknowledged risk in execution.”

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater Schake will give a lecture on the Biden administration, centered around the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week One theme, “What Should be America’s Role in the World?”

Schake attended University of Maryland where she earned both a doctorate and a Master of Arts in government and politics. From Stanford University, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations. Schake went on to work for the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. State Department and the National Security Council at the White House. She has been published on a number of esteemed news outlets, including Politico, CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

“As we looked to a week that would be dedicated to foreign affairs, with a particular focus on U.S. foreign policy, Dr. Schake’s name is a name that came up repeatedly,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. 

For Ewalt, Schake’s name rose to the top of the list because of her perspective regarding the Biden administration’s “successes and failures,” when it comes to foreign policy and national security.

“We expect her to provide an assessment of U.S. foreign policy and national security,” he said. “And we expect her to discuss what our investment and defense should look like, and reflect on decision-making in regards to the war in Ukraine, both on decisions that have been made and effective strategy going forward.”

Schake, Ewalt said, will bring a deep understanding of foreign policy to her lecture today. 

“Her work on considering the Biden administration’s wins and losses is really critical as we think about that larger question of the week, ‘What Should be America’s Role in the World?,’ ” he said, “because so much of answering that question is in the decisions that are made and the strategy that’s set.”

CSO, under Milanov’s baton, returns for sweeping start to ‘22

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After a year of virtual-only performances in 2020, and a shorter schedule with smaller groups of musicians in 2021, summer 2022 represents a full return to the Chautauqua Institution’s largest stage for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra — and it all begins tonight.

Under the baton of Music Director Rossen Milanov, now in his eighth season at the helm of the orchestra, the CSO will kick off their summer at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, with a program that is both timely and sweeping but, most of all, joyful.

“This celebratory opening of the CSO is particularly joyful as we return to a full season of soloists and repertoire selected to inspire, comfort, engage, introduce, challenge and most importantly — to gather us together to listen and enjoy in a shared space,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief programming officer. 

The evening, and the CSO’s 2022 season, opens with the National Anthem, composed by John Stafford Smith and arranged by Walter Damrosch. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” penned first in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, was officially made the anthem in 1931; but it was President Woodrow Wilson’s U.S. Bureau of Education that tasked a small group of musicians, Damrosch among them, to agree upon a standardized version and official designation. Even earlier, it was one of Key’s relatives who realized the cadence of the poet’s stanzas fit the melody of an already-popular tune from the late 1700s: Smith’s “The Anacreontic Song.”

The composition the CSO will play tonight draws on all of these sources. Immediately following the playing of the National Anthem, those sources feed into yet another, with composer Jessie Montgomery’s 2014 work “Banner,” which is a tribute to both “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the Black National Anthem: “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson. The two songs share the same phrase structure, Montgomery has noted.

It’s a program coupling Milanov is eager for Chautauqua to experience.

“I’m so much looking forward to the drumroll of the National Anthem,” Milanov said, and then noted the shift the program represents. “Jessie Montgomery’s ‘Banner’ reimagines ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ by infusing it with multi-cultural elements that pretty much mirror the rich tapestry of cultures in present-day America.”

Montgomery is an acclaimed composer and violinist, whose honors include the ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Award and the Sphinx Organization’s Medal of Excellence. 

Long affiliated with frequent Chautauqua program collaborator, The Sphinx Organization, Montgomery served as composer-in-residence for the organization’s touring ensemble, the Sphinx Virtuosi. 

In 2009, she was commissioned by the Providence String Quartet and Community MusicWorks to write “Anthem,” to mark the 200th anniversary of Key’s poem, and as a tribute to President Barack Obama’s election. That work is among numerous other commissions, and Montgomery told Cincinnati Public Radio — following the 2022 Cincinnati May Festival, where another piece, “I Have Something to Say,” was performed — that her booked schedule “represents an overall interest and investment in American music, and what young American composers have to offer.”

Following “Banner,” the CSO’s evening concludes with Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, which Milanov called a “defiant” work that is “patriotic and triumphant.”

“It’s a fitting opening, displaying the power, virtuosity, and emotional depth of our orchestra,” he said.

In a later addition to the evening’s program, the CSO will perform Edward Elgar’s Nimrod Variation, in honor of several CSO musicians who have passed in the last year, including percussionist Ron Barnett, who was with the CSO for 56 years; Fred Boyd, tuba player of 35 years; clarinetist Ray Schroeder, whose tenure was 44 years; Marie Shmorhun, cellist for 49 years; and Chaim Zemach, cellist of 44 years. 

Milanov said the CSO can’t wait to share a full schedule of “meaningful musical experiences” with Chautauqua this summer. 

As it prepares to open its summer season, Moore had one wish for both the orchestra, and Chautauqua.

“May this opening night,” she said, “begin a season of orchestral music that makes our lives more complete and more beautiful.”

Battle to explore reconciliation in face of irreconcilable differences

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The V. Rev. Michael Battle, raised in the American South, comes from the Christian perspective. Battle focuses his work on reconciliation and recognizing what are and what aren’t irreconcilable differences in humanity.

He serves as Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York. Battle’s lecture “America’s Global Conscience: Is Anyone Irreconcilable?” will take place at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. 

“(My lecture) is getting at the difficulties around how we, in many ways, find ourselves in irreconcilable differences, whether that’s political, economic and especially spiritual,” Battle said.

Battle

The V. Rev. Michael Battle joins the Interfaith Lecture Series as a replacement for Ambassador Michael Battle, as the latter’s schedule of confirmation hearings prohibited his participation. 

But the Department of Religion had a stroke of luck in planning.

“I tucked it away that if, for some reason, Ambassador Michael Battle could not accept our invitation or ultimately not be able to come … the next person I would, ironically, invite would be the other Michael Battle,” said Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno.

According to the Merriam-Webster definition, irreconcilable differences are borne of the “inability to agree on most things or on important things.” 

The Interfaith Lecture Series Week One theme, “America’s Global Conscience,” alludes to irreconcilable differences, but Battle said he wants people to see there are positives in dissenting beliefs. 

“I just want to do some excavation of that problem that we don’t talk about very much out loud,” Battle said. “There’s some theological work with that, (and I’m) giving some narratives that represent that problem.”

Battle recognizes the history of the establishment of the United States, from people immigrating from Europe to the forced migration of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, as partially responsible for America’s irreconcilable differences.

“How this country was started, in many ways, was based on irreconcilable differences,” Battle said. “The founders were trying to put together a way in which we can live together despite our differences, but unfortunately it still seems like we’re in a civil war.”

Rovegno said Battle’s work with Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives him a unique worldview to add to the Interfaith Lecture Series.

“His long relationship with Bishop Tutu, and all the work he’s done, would very much represent America’s Global Conscience,” Rovegno said. “He’s been very immersed in the reflection of what we want America’s global conscience to be.”

Battle said he hopes his lecture will inspire people to expand their initial viewpoints and reflect on how the conscience of the United States is affected by irreconcilable differences.

“A fish doesn’t know it’s wet, so I’m hoping that our frame of reference and our point of view will expand,” Battle said. “I’m hoping we can increase our imaginations, especially from a Christian perspective, not to be socialized into irreconcilable differences.”

Many view reconciliation as “cheap,” or used to take advantage of others, Battle said. 

“I think if we really understood, at least theologically, what was going on with God and reconciliation we could see the depth of what is trying to be accomplished,” Battle said.

18th Peace Corps Director Williams to give AAHH talk

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When it comes to the Week One theme and question of “What Should be America’s Role in the World?,” Aaron S. Williams thinks the best way to get the best answers is through the best people.

“Given the magnitude of the challenges we face in the world, whether it’s dealing with pandemics, migration, climate change, it’s going to require the best minds in America. … We can’t afford to have anybody, not in any sector of our population, not play a role,” Williams said.

“You need diverse expertise. … We need our most talented people being engaged and dealing with the challenges of the world.”

At 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, Williams, who was appointed by President Barack Obama and served as 18th director of the Peace Corps from 2009 to 2012, will launch the African American Heritage House’s 2022 Chautauqua Speaker Series. 

His lecture will span numerous topics, chief among them his extensive experience in global affairs, the historic roles African Americans have played in American foreign policy, the critical role the United States plays in providing global leadership, and the importance of national service.

“Woven through all of this is going to be why we require — why we need — to have a diverse corps of foreign affairs experts to take on these monumental challenges,” Williams said.

Williams is only the fourth director in Peace Corps’ history who actually served as a Peace Corps volunteer. He was first inspired to serve in his youth by what he heard and read from President John F. Kennedy.

“I wanted to have a chance to experience a foreign culture, learn a new language and learn more about myself, and I thought service to the United States government would be a great pathway to do that,” he said. “And quite frankly, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer transformed my life. It changed everything. Everything that I’ve done in my career … everything emanates from my service as a Peace Corps volunteer.”

Williams has worked for corporations, nonprofits and in government. Currently, he is senior adviser emeritus of international development and government relations at RTI International, where, prior to his service as Peace Corps director, he was vice president of international business development. He’s been a senior official in the U.S. Agency for International Development (reaching the rank of career minister in the Senior Foreign Service), and was appointed by Obama in 2015 as the U.S. Alternative Representative to the executive board of UNICEF. 

And all of it stems from the three years in the late 1960s that he spent volunteering for the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. In the decades that have followed, he said he has seen the Corps becoming more diverse — he also served for a time as the Corps coordinator of minority recruitment — but noted that equitable representation was always a key tenet of the organization.

“The Peace Corps was probably one of the first U.S. agencies to have been created where women and minorities were encouraged and recruited to serve from the very beginning in 1961,” he said, crediting that vision to Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver. “He insisted that women and minorities be equally represented in the Peace Corps, and it has continued to this day.”

When he was director, Williams said, 60% of Corps volunteers were women. And it’s of critical importance that diversity and representation continue to grow, not just in the Peace Corps, but across all foreign service entities.

Williams now considers himself “semi-retired,” but still works with RTI across a wide range of initiatives; he called it the “ideal place for me after the Peace Corps. … It’s dedicated to improving the human condition, and I’ve always been a mission-driven person.”

But what truly excites him, he said, and what he hopes to impart to his Chautauqua audience today, is the importance of engaging with young people, and young People of Color in particular, to encourage them to consider a career in global affairs. 

“I have seen the marvelous things people in this generation can do, from working in microfinance to HIV/AIDS clinics. I’ve seen them combat malaria, improve irrigation systems for farmers, improve education for women and girls,” he said. “I have always felt that America’s multi-racial and multi-ethnic diversity is one of our greatest strengths, so it’s crucial that we seek to pursue that diversity across these fields. It’s an asset we need to grow and develop.”

For CLS, Stanford’s Stoner to examine factors of Russian influence, politics on global stage

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When an ex-intelligence officer addressed Stanford University, with Kathryn E. Stoner in the audience, he said that “Russia belongs at the little table with North Korea in international affairs.”

Stoner found it a shallow misunderstanding of Russia’s competence and power. This reaction is the basis for Stoner’s 2021 book Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order, which explores the subtle factors of Russia’s influence. 

“We should think of state power in a broader way than just population size, the size of an economy, and the size of the military,” Stoner said “Russia isn’t a leading power in any of those measures, yet has a lot of influence over other countries.”

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Stoner’s lecture “Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order” will address Russia’s recently employed post-Cold War politics in Ukraine, and how the United States can most successfully navigate these unprecedented geopolitics.

At Stanford University, Stoner is a Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, and senior fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. She has held fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson Center and at Harvard University, where she received her doctorate in government. 

The opening section of Stoner’s new book examines the “soft, sharp and ‘smart’ powers” of Russia’s pervasive threat in Ukraine. This is done through a theory Stoner has coined as “dimensions of power” that encompasses men, the military and money.

“I look at things like control over energy pipelines, not just proceeds from sale of energy assets like oil and gas, as being power tools of a new Russia,” Stoner said. “For too long, we have looked narrowly at Russia’s power assets and have consistently underestimated it while focusing on China. But look at where the threat of global war is coming from today.”

Throughout her book, she details motivations under Putin, how the Ukrainian conflict is the decade-long culmination of Putin’s policies, and how the Western world fits in this conflict. 

“Western conflict with Russia isn’t inevitable or structural, but dependent on the nature of the domestic political regime in Russia,” Stoner said. “If Russia wasn’t governed by a personalistic authoritarian, then its foreign policy may well be different.”

While she began work on her book six years ago, recent and pressing developments in Europe haven’t changed her research, but reinforced it. 

“The book had followed the longer term trends of Russian political and foreign policy development, and alas, those haven’t changed fundamentally,” Stoner said. 

This lecture fits within Week One’s theme of “What should be America’s Role in the World?,” in which featured speakers will discuss not only the United States’ politics, but the influence of geopolitical issues, as well.  

“It felt appropriate for us to dedicate a week to this larger question of not only America’s role on the world, how America shows up in the world and in larger geopolitical issues, but how different foreign policy approaches affect that larger issue,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. 

Ewalt said that numerous Chautauquans requested Stoner for programming in the 2022 summer season, as she has become an important voice on Russian foreign affairs. 

“It was an obvious area of focus for us — her particular expertise and analysis of the impact Russia had, can have, and has had on larger international politics and in power,” he said. 

Stoner continues the topic of Ukraine and Russia following both CNN journalist Fareed Zakaraia’s lecture on Monday, which touched on the fall of the Soviet Union, and Brookings Institution’s Constanze Stelzenmüller’s Tuesday lecture about Putin’s war. 

Stoner is the author or co-editor of six books, all with the focus of examining Russia’s extensive, complex history of politics. 

As the war continues, Stoner hopes the United States can curb conflict with support. 

“We have to keep our European partners in particular on board with sanctions, continue to deepen those sanctions, and continue to support Ukraine militarily and economically,” Stoner said. “It really is on the forefront of the battle of democracy versus autocracy.”

Stoner eagerly anticipates her lecture today and is excited to hear from inquisitive Chautauquans. 

“I look forward to hearing from the audience and fielding what I anticipate will be great questions,” Stoner said. “I think we are seeing a reshaping of global politics in a radical way. The current and future U.S. administrations will need to think creatively to reestablish U.S. leadership.” 

In recital, beloved pianist Gavrylyuk to connect music with native Ukraine

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It’s Alexander Gavrylyuk’s goal to connect the tragedy of the crisis in Ukraine to the tragic undertones in his music.

His concert at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater will start with “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven, said Gavrylyuk, a Ukrainian-born Australian pianist. 

Gavrylyuk said he can’t help but draw parallels from the strength of spirit in the music for tonight’s concert and the strength of the Ukrainian people’s spirit. He will perform a selection of piano pieces from composers like Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin. Part of the evening’s single-ticket revenue will be donated to the International Rescue Committee for relief efforts in Ukraine; for Chautauquans with gate passes, the evening’s printed program will have a QR code that links to the organization page.

For Gavrylyuk, the fight in Ukraine is personal; the recent shelling of the Ukrainian city Kharkiv impacted someone close to him.

“My father, a few months ago, just narrowly escaped the bombardment there,” he said. “Thankfully, he’s just joined us in Sydney, in Australia.”

Aside from the Beethoven, Gavrylyuk, who is artistic adviser and artist-in-residence of the Chautauqua Piano Program, said he plans on performing works by Robert Schumann. The Kinderszenen Op.15 “Scenes from Childhood,” by Schumman, he said, also reflects “purity, sincerity and innocence.”

“It’s a very pure work,” Gavrylyuk said. “It speaks about the untamed joy of childhood and life altogether. By the end of the Kinderszenen, we hear the reflection of the adult mind perhaps, and the philosophy of looking at the child and its innocence and serenity.” 

This piece, Gavrylyuk said, is in total contrast to “Moonlight Sonata” and its inherent “strength of spirit” that said he plans to open the concert with.

Third up is a tarantella by Franz Liszt from “Venezia E Napoli,” S.159.

“The tarantella is a very virtuosic dance that would take place after one was bitten by a tarantula, if you can believe it,” he said. “It’s very much a ‘firework’ kind of work, this tarantella.”

Along with a portion of single ticket revenue being donated to the IRC, Gavrylyuk has made personal efforts to support the Ukrainian people and said he tries to do what he can to help.

“I’ve tried to do some charity work in the past few months to help the Ukrainian people, and to help those whose homes were destroyed and who need financial help,” he said. “This concert is an opportunity to further those efforts.”

Gavrylyuk said he’s grateful this concert has been made possible

“I have so much joy and gratitude to share this special moment with Chautauqua in particular,” he said. “I love being here, I love the philosophy here and the openness of vision and ideas. This couldn’t be a better place to share the magic that was created by those composers.”

Brookings’ Stelzenmüller to discuss what Ukraine war means for U.S.

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When Constanze Stelzenmüller first spoke at Chautauqua Institution, it was in the middle of a week dedicated to evolving issues in Europe, and how the continent was redefining itself geopolitically in the 21st century.

She’d planned on focusing on the future of European foreign policy, but following several other morning lectures she was in attendance for — including journalist Roger Cohen and financial specialist David Marsh — she pivoted and started from scratch, offering a perspective on her native Germany. 

She spoke on its role in both Europe and broader international affairs, and how the country evolved from the end of World War II to the economic strength it possessed in summer 2015.

“The reality is that the Germans are not in the (European Union) what the Americans are in NATO,” she told Chautauquans that summer. 

“It may be currently the most powerful, and with the most successful economy, but we are very conscious that, just 10 years ago, we were the sick man of Europe, and what goes around, comes around.”

A lot has changed since that lecture in 2015, and in summer 2022, Stelzenmüller has again pivoted. 

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, noted that Stelzenmüller was among the first speakers invited for the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week One theme: “What Should be America’s Role in the World?” 

“(Stelzenmüller’s) lecture in 2015, during our week on ‘Redefining Europe,’ remains one of the most buzzed-about talks on geopolitics in Chautauqua’s recent history,” Ewalt said. “As we thought about our 2022 season, and the excitement about reconvening as a community in conversation, her name was one at the top of our list of speakers we wanted back in the Amphitheater.”

The invitation to speak in 2022 came the same month as Germany’s election, in which Olaf Scholz emerged as the winner to replace longtime chancellor Angela Merkel. 

The thought, Ewalt said, was to have Stelzenmüller — who is the first Fritz Stern Chair on Germany and trans-Atlantic Relations in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings Institution — examine what Scholz’s election, and Merkel’s departure, would mean for the EU and for the Biden Administration. 

Stelzenmüller would also offer insights on how Germany defines its role as the anchor economy in the region. 

And then Russia invaded Ukraine. 

So, Stelzenmüller took a different approach. She’ll deliver her morning lecture, now titled “Putin’s War: What it Means for America’s Role in Europe and the World,” at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

An expert on German, European, and trans-Atlantic foreign and security policy and strategy, Stelzenmüller has held several positions at Brookings, including senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe, and the inaugural Robert Bosch Senior Fellow. 

At the Library of Congress, she served as Henry A. Kissinger Chair on Foreign Policy and International Relations, and was senior trans-Atlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

A prolific writer in both German and English, Stelzenmüller has been published in Foreign Affairs, Internationale Politik, the Financial Times, the International New York Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung, among others. In April 2022, two months after Russia invaded Ukraine, she wrote for the Financial Times arguing that the German government hesitated to provide military support to Ukraine, drawing ire from allies — and highlighting weaknesses of the Social Democratic Party. She likened it to a “merciless war … being waged in the middle of Europe — on Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party. That, at least, is what a casual observer of German politics might conclude.”

In 2015, Stelzenmüller shared with her Amp audience that, when it comes to military engagements, Germany was perhaps most cautious with Russia. In her April Financial Times piece, she called Germany’s policy on Russia “self-serving,” and Germany’s energy dependence on Russia “part willfully naïve, part deeply corrupt.” Both found supporters across the German government, she wrote, which “emboldened the Kremlin, and … enabled Vladimir Putin’s war.”

But most urgently, Stelzenmüller wrote, Scholz needs “a proper national security staff that can advise and assist the head of government to weather an age of continual disruptions.”

“It matters all the more,” she wrote, “because Germany has a special responsibility to put a stop to the evil unleashed by Putin.”

Elsanousi to trace how religious traditions, beliefs aid in global peacemaking

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Mohamed Elsanousi, executive director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, uses experiences of working with individual and public rights to promote religious peace around the world.

Elsanousi will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy as part of the Interfaith Lecture Series and the Week One theme, “America’s Global Conscience.” 

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His lecture title is “Unlocking our Shared Virtues: Advancing Common Good in an Interconnected World.”

“The main points we are going to look into, basically, are how our American values and virtues and ideals could be promoted in this interconnected world we’re living in,” Elsanousi said.

Elsanousi served as the director of Community Outreach and Interfaith Relations for the Islamic Society of North America. In 2011, he also worked on the task force for the U.S. Department of State’s working group on religion and foreign policy.

“The task force was a great opportunity to provide that platform for engagement between diverse, religious community leadership,” Elsanousi said. “In the United States, different religions come together and say, ‘How can we advance our foreign policy using our own faith and religion?’ ”

Elsanousi said he and his team created a brochure to aid diplomats in protocol.

“Sometimes our diplomats are not clear enough about how to walk that thin line: separation of church and state,” Elsanousi said. “Our task force was able to come up with a brochure for U.S. diplomats on what is allowed and what is not allowed in terms of who you are as a diplomat, (and how to interact with) service personnel in our industries outside, which allows you to do things.”

Faith plays a major role in peacemaking, Elsanousi said, because the elements already exist in terms of people’s own religion. 

He said he attributes the leaders of faith communities with communicating truthfully and effectively.

“(Faith leaders) are the ones that are credible,” Elsanousi said. “When communities have some problems, they come to the faith  leaders, so that’s why they have a critical role to play in peacemaking.”

Elsanousi has over 20 years of experience in building interreligious understanding, and he works to use religious texts, beliefs and spirituality to advance peaceful coexistence and collaboration. 

He said he also plans on bringing a personal element to his lecture.

“We’re also going to talk about my own personal story as an immigrant to the United States,” Elsanousi said. 

He will examine America as a pluralistic society that provides opportunities for advancement. 

He will then speak about the work at the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers “in basically engaging religious actors, providing rooms for religious actors to engage policymakers around the world in terms of advancing the common good.”

Foreign policy tends to follow religion in separating men and women, so Elsanousi said he and his colleagues came up with a way to engage religions across genders, to impart that there is “room here to engage religions, religious leadership. There is a room to do that, and that will reflect politically, reflect positivity, in our policy.”

The task force’s work was accepted in 2011, and a religious and global affairs department was created as a result. Elsanousi said that the team was given the charge to define “how religion actually could play a positive role in our foreign policy.”

This was an opportunity Elsanousi felt grateful for. 

“It was an amazing experience being part of the task force (and working with) religion, and politics, and foreign policy,” Elsanousi said. 

He went on to say that there is no other way to peacefully live together without having mechanisms for navigating deadlock and fostering understanding.

“There were some bumps in the road, but we overcame those challenges,” Elsanousi said. “We have a lot of things in our own traditions and texts that we need to lift up. We need to bring it up.”

Following CHQ Assembly debut, Folds brings show to Amp

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Musician. Composer. Lyricist. Vocalist. 

These are just a few of many hats consummate musician Ben Folds wears. Originally scheduled to perform live in 2020, he pivoted to a virtual performance for the Chautauqua audience. For summer 2022, however, Folds is back — in actual person, live, for real — at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

Folds put on a virtual performance for CHQ Assembly in 2020, and it was “a big hit with Chautauquans at a time when we couldn’t gather in person,” said Laura Savia, vice president of performing and visual arts. During the 2020 performance, Folds spoke on the challenges of creating art in a digital age. 

“It is really difficult to write in an era where the news cycle is so fast,” Folds said. “It should be about this year, but it has to be specific to the middle of the year, because the song will be old news in a few days.”

Ben Folds: In Actual Person Live for Real Tour was announced May 2021, and this summer, Chautauqua is the third stop on his journey up the East Coast and through parts of the Midwest.

In addition to his music accolades, Folds is also an author, photographer, composer of classical music and artistic adviser to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

“He’s a real renaissance man,” Savia said. “I think the same reason our audiences are drawn to our themes and to our four pillars is a sense of deep curiosity and leading a full and rich, intellectual life, and I think Ben Folds is the perfect example of that.”

Folds’ work with various orchestras, including the Pittsburgh Symphony, has been recognized in media outlets following the first two stops on his tour.

“We need the symphony orchestra more than they need us,” Folds said to his Pittsburgh audience just last week, according to TribLive. “That’s why I’ve done (symphony performances) for the last 15 years. Beyond that, you happen to have one of the best symphony orchestras in the world.”

Savia said she accredits Folds in having the “full complement of artistic offerings.”

“It’s really fitting now … that he should be one of the very first artists on our Amp stage this summer,” Savia said.

Folds is also regarded as a “champion for arts education and music therapy funding” according to the Kennedy Center.  

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