Morning Lecture Previews

Ornstein to consider social, political issues at heart of week’s theme


Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

To build a society with a strong center, as Norman Ornstein sees it, Americans need to consider inequality in all sectors, rather than jumping to a willingness for violence when they feel their way of life is threatened.

Ornstein, senior fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute, will continue the conversion begun by Bill Kristol and Angela Garbes for Week Three of the Chautauqua Lecture Series, “Can the Center Hold? — A Question for Our Moment.”

A frequent Chautauqua Lecture Series and Everett Jewish Life Center contributor, Ornstein will deliver his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, replacing Citizen University co-founder Eric Liu, who was unable to attend.

“I’m going to go through some of the deeper causes of political dysfunction and societal division we have at the moment that go beyond the political polarization and tribalism,” Ornstein said. “I’ll talk about the historical structural issues that we have that go beyond the current situation that would be there if Donald Trump had never been around.”  

Agreeing with Kristol’s sentiments in Monday’s lecture, Ornstein said “horrible” things can happen and the country is at an “existential moment” when solutions are needed to ameliorate these problems.

The United States has become a “modern society that creates situations where voting doesn’t reflect what people are voting for,” he said, which reinforces that the country “is a republic, not a democracy.”

“We’re going to see that expand more and more over the next decade,” Ornstein said. “Even if we didn’t have some of the cultural dysfunction that we have right now, we would have a crisis of legitimacy in the political system.”

The problem at this point, he said, is a cultural one where “two different societies” have two different sets of facts, priorities and “a belief that the other side is evil.”

“That has to be dealt with, but it’s really hard to do,” Ornstein said. “You have to start with some structural reforms and then … deal with the problems of income and wealth inequality that could create at least a little bit of a better balance.”

There is “some reason for hopefulness,” Ornstein said, with people on both sides of the political divide who “don’t want to see this society collapse into a civil war.”

An “overwhelming” majority of people agree on similar issues across the political spectrum, Ornstien said in regard to Garbes’ Tuesday lecture, and they agree on another problem to work on solving.

There cannot be a strong and successful political center without “significant political reform,” he said. Whenever people try to move toward this goal, Ornstein said there’s “enormous, centrifugal forces” that pull them apart.

As an expert who writes about Congress, and who has many friends in Congress, Ornstein has had to contemplate whether or not he would “call them out” in his columns.

“So much of the problem we have with modern-day journalism is both sides,” he said. “You’re going to be very reluctant to call out one side, even if they are the root of the problem, without trying to show balance.”

Since he’s immersed in the political system, Ornstein said it’s easier to “take a step back and see what it takes to make something work or not.” He was heavily involved in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act with former U.S. senators John McCain and Russ Feingold.

“What we realized is that the original McCain-Feingold Bill … didn’t have a chance of being implemented into law,” Ornstein said. “My little group put together a package which we called ‘Five Ideas for Campaign Reform.’ ”

Ornstein then went to McCain and had to tell him his “signature bill” wasn’t going to work. 

“I was afraid he’d throw me out of the office,” Ornstein said. “But he said to me, ‘OK, I don’t want just an issue. I want a law. What do we do?’ ”

He then worked with both McCain and Feingold to add elements into the bill to be more “practical,” with a greater likelihood of passing “court muster.”

Back when the Supreme Court was “fairly reasonable,” Ornstein said citizens “blew up” over the bill in a targeted and “miraculous” way. 

While working at AEI, Ornstein said he had “complete freedom” to do and say what he wanted. 

“I’m sure I gave (AEI) a lot of heartburn,” he said. “But I was able to still do what I thought was right.”

Garbes argues for mothering as essential to future of America


Arden Ryan
contributing writer

America relies on the work of caregivers just as much as it relies on professional work. Yet that domestic labor, that “essential labor,” is not being equally supported.

Angela Garbes, author of Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change, writes about motherhood and caregiving in modern society.
She said she believes the free domestic work underpinning American capitalism is being taken for granted.

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Garbes will bring her knowledge and reflections on caregiving and mothering in America to the Chautauqua Lecture Series. Garbes will advocate for the value of parents in a society that “fundamentally devalues” women and parenthood, she said, specifically women of color in America.

The American capitalist system was established to and is intent on keeping women in the home, Garbes said. Women are prohibited from equal access to health care and family planning, so they may continue to “take care of the next generation of workers and consumers,” perpetuating an “inhumane” system. People of color specifically are “trapped in poverty,” by restrictions to childcare, producing more children all the while.

“To me, there’s a direct line between … a country that doesn’t value women … and a country that makes decisions about (women’s bodies) and about reproductive freedom,” Garbes said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced school closures, parents were stuck at home. The most privileged families realized that when outside caretakers weren’t available, they had to care for their children themselves, Garbes explained.

The first year schools remained closed, nearly 1 million women stepped out of the professional workforce in a single month — September 2020. Parents couldn’t keep up full-time jobs and also care for their home and children.

This reckoning revealed deep cracks in the care system, coupled with the pandemic, making income disparity as apparent as ever. People are coming to realize that life in the current moment isn’t working in everyone’s favor, Garbes said.

“Women of color specifically are overrepresented in service jobs,” Garbes said, at places such as restaurants, beauty salons, childcare centers. 

“In the early days of the pandemic, those places shut down, some of them never to reopen,” she said. “We saw the rates of unemployment for women of color skyrocket,” driving up economic inequality.

At the same time, the United States is lagging dramatically behind peer countries in support for family care, not guaranteeing access to affordable childcare or universal paid leave.

“I believe having health care and family leave are human rights,” Garbes said, and “what we need to exist fully in this world.” The majority of countries in the developed world provide for these rights, and “the United States does not. It’s a very specific culture that we’re living in.”

Garbes noted that a strong majority, eight out of 10 voting Americans, support paid leave policies and funding for in-home care. The issue reaches beyond party lines; a “caring majority” want to support care workers. 

Yet “our politicians are failing us, the constituents,” she said. “Political promises (for affordable childcare) have not been fulfilled. That’s not individuals’ fault. I see families doing the most that they can.”

Supporting younger generations is crucial to the future of society, Garbes said, something which she feels the United States has yet to fully realize. 

Countries that support “robust family leave understand that investments in family are investments in the future,” Garbes said, noting that “many issues could be solved, or at least significantly addressed and changed, by investing in people and families at a young age.”

Despite the weaknesses laid bare by the pandemic, Garbes’ most recent book, Essential Labor, was written “in the spirit of hope,” she said, speaking to a time in American life where people are coming to understand the insufficiencies of the care system and the ways it should be improved.

“We all feel care is an (individual) burden, when in fact, it’s actually a really unifying force. Everyone needs care,” Garbes said. “It’s possible for you to be doing what you’re doing today, because someone cared for you.”

Many people assume generally that “care needs are private,” she said, “individual responsibilities (one is) not supposed to talk about.” 

However, talking about care more openly, communicating on an issue that can bridge divides, is just what is needed in this moment, Garbes said.

“Conversations about care … have great potential to unite people around ideas of what we need and deserve,” she said. Sharing stories of care can connect people on an “emotional, personal” level. She encourages everyone to have conversations about care, with which everyone can resonate.

As Garbes said, shared burdens make them “feel lighter, more manageable, like we can laugh and take a break while doing work together.” 

She said she feels fortunate to have her parents close to home to “lean into” when needed for help with her children.

 “I ask for help a lot, I accept help when it’s offered to me, and I ask how I can be of help to other people,” Garbes said, who finds a “cyclical” balance between providing care to her family while taking time for her professional career.

“I feel like when my community is doing well, I’m doing well,” she said. “And when I’m doing well, I have energy to put back into my community.”

Garbes said she will assert in her lecture that our society should grant people the time and space to provide care to all who need it, “some of the most important work that we can be doing.”

How does Garbes find care in her own life? By utilizing an extended network of friends and family members, with whom she trades off the responsibilities of childcare, carpooling together and watching each other’s kids.

“I allow my children to be cared for by other people, (who) welcome the opportunity to care for them,” she said, urging reciprocity with care duties.

“Once you start reorienting your life around not just caring for other people but being cared for, … it’s the best feeling in the world,” she said. “You just want more of it.”

Kristol returns for lecture on ‘center,’ what happens when it doesn’t hold


Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

From his perspective working in two presidential cabinets to running a news and opinion website, Bill Kristol believes the center, when it comes to political discourse, is more resilient than people think.

For Week Three’s theme, “Can the Center Hold? — A Question for Our Moment,” Kristol, editor-at-large at The Bulwark, will answer this question and explore its political meanings in his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater. 

There, he’ll “talk about the ways in which the center has held, more than people might have expected,” he said. 

The week’s theme draws its title from a 1920 William Butler Yeats poem, “The Second Coming,” written in a moment when the center wasn’t holding.

“We had a terrible 25 years in Europe (in the ‘20s),” Kristol said. “In a way, you could also argue it did hold for decades in the last half of the 20th century and during the Cold War. … We managed to make progress.”

When there’s no longer a strong political center — which Kristol said Americans are seeing now — there’s a lot of back and forth between Congress and the political parties.

At a meeting in Berlin, Kristol said there was urging from younger Europeans to “count on the U.S. helping Ukraine,” but he said it all depends on the 2024 presidential election.

“When you have real polarization, it’s very hard to have a consistent foreign policy for more than four years,” he said.

Political polarization is even worse with domestic policy, he said. People often stick with their party regardless of ramifications.

“We’re seeing in our politics, in real time, not just normal partisanship … it’s really much worse,” Kristol said. “The real tribalism (is) where you excuse everything on your side and attack everything on the other side.”

Kristol had his own “falling out” with the Republican Party when he opposed Donald Trump’s nomination for president in 2016.

“The reasons I feared and disliked him were the reasons that came to light as he was president,” he said. “Afterwards, on Jan. 6, I think this is one of the cases where I don’t regret my decision at all.”

People who were skeptical of Kristol’s criticism before Trump’s presidency are now under the “degree of damage” with Trump and his followers’ “toxic populism.”

“The character of our politics today — which already had problems — had been made much worse by Trump as the nominee,” he said. 

While the Republican Party isn’t entirely “pro-Trump,” Kristol said the party wasn’t willing to challenge Trump. 

“They won’t call him out when he’s breaking the law,” he said. “That’s not a very healthy party.”

Having worked in politics most of his life, Kristol said knowing the “contingency of things” helped him in his journalism career.

“It’s harder to make the right political decision sometimes,” he said. “(The Russian invasion of Ukraine) was a complicated decision. I think being in politics gave me a sense of the complexity of political choices.”

In his capacity as a journalist, Kristol said he gained experience in “influential, intelligent commentary” editing The Bulwark

“My influence in government, I hope, (helps readers understand) the sense of the difficulty of making these choices in politics and government,” he said. “Not just saying, ‘Oh, that (choice) was foolish.’ ”

Longtime ‘NYT’ crossword editor Shortz to share love of, delight in puzzles


Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff Writer

Puzzle master. Engimatologist. Crossword editor. These are all words to describe Will Shortz’s self-made degree and career. The only one in the world to hold his official title, Shortz graduated from Indiana University with his one-of-a-kind degree in enigmatology, the study of puzzles.

He will deliver his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater to close Week Two of the Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “Games: A Celebration of Our Most Human Pastimes”

The hope for the lecture is for Chautaquans to realize games “are not only fun, but there’s a value to them,” said Jordan Steves, interim Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. 

“That was our intention to have this week, where families are gathering for holiday celebrations, to have a lighter (and) more fun theme, but certainly not lacking in substance,” Steves said.

Shortz sold his first professional puzzle at 14 years old; at age 16 he became a regular contributor to Dell puzzle publications. 

“In the eighth grade, when asked to write a paper on what I wanted to do with my life, I wrote on being a professional puzzle-maker,” Shortz told The New Yorker. “That was always my dream.”

An author and editor of more than 500 puzzle books, Shortz was editor of Games magazine for 15 years as well as the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the co-founder of the World Puzzle Championship and program director of the National Puzzlers’ League convention.

Intelligence specialist Cyrulik to talk gaming’s place in national security


Arden Ryan
Contributing Writer

Games are crucial to human life, whether for education, recreation or competition.

But games are not always just for fun — they can serve a deeper purpose. As Joseph Cyrulik will explain in his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, games can be key to maintaining national security.

Cyrulik serves as deputy director of the Strategic Futures Group, an office of the National Intelligence Council, where he oversees the use of war games and simulations to aid the intelligence community. Such games are utilized in the intelligence field both to train and develop new analysts and to help think through “gnarly national security challenges,” said Jordan Steves, interim Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

With his governmental perspective, Cyrulik will be able to “come at the topic of games from an unexpected angle,” Steves said, who was “entranced” by the idea of inviting an intelligence official to share their outlook on the more critical applications of play.

“Although there is weight and substance to the practice of playing games, they can come across as superfluous,” Steves said.
Chautauquans are soon to find out “there are real and serious applications for games in some of the most high-stakes situations you can imagine.”

In his fittingly titled lecture, “Serious Games for Solving Serious Problems,” Cyrulik will explain the history and practice of how the U.S. intelligence community gamifies its work to answer some of America’s most urgent public safety and foreign policy questions.

Many games involve talking through hypothetical situations in group conversations, giving analysts the opportunity to discover what could happen given a particular scenario, and what dynamics would be at play. 

“We tend to focus on what we call ‘human-centric games,’ where it’s really the participants of the game driving the process forward,” Cyrulik said. “It’s a way of playing out a scenario we’re worried about and being able to say, OK, clearly that didn’t work. Is there another option that might be better?”

Games can be “extremely useful in trying to solve intelligence challenges,” Cyrulik said, and provide a venue for gathering information where data collection is scarce or when “the answer is inherently unknowable.”

An analyst can’t ask a spy satellite to divine the nature of the future economy, like it could do to locate a physical object in the world, Cyrulik said. Only by simulating theoretical national security and geopolitical situations, and talking through possible outcomes, might those future details come to light.

“CIA analysts who are going through our basic analytic training program participate in a number of simulations and war games, designed to simulate what they would be doing in their jobs,” Cyrulik said. Those analysts get practice dealing with high stakes, escalating situations without having to undergo them.

Such games can provide intelligence analysts with practical knowledge applicable to their field, while also providing valuable information to policymakers, government officials and military personnel. Without the practical aid of games, it becomes much harder to understand and visualize potentialities in international relations and global politics.

“Until you actually encounter the situation in real life, how do you think about tackling it?” Steves said. Games can grant that insight.

Alexander to explain impactful synergy, power of learning in games


Sarah Russo
Staff Writer

From Super Mario 64 and Minecraft to Space Invaders and Tetris, there is a video game of just about everything designed for everyone. 

Kris Alexander, also known as the “professor of video games,” has spent his professional life researching, developing and playing video games. 

An assistant professor of media production in the RTA School of Media at Toronto Metropolitan University and director of the Red Bull Gaming Hub, a research lab based at the school, Alexander is a perfect match for this week’s lecture series theme of  “Games: A Celebration of Our Most Human Pastime.” Alexander will begin his presentation at 10:45 a.m. this morning in the Amphitheater. 

Alexander was a senior in college when he discovered the power of video games. He was in a typical, lecture-style class where the professor would read word-for-word from the slideshow for the three-hour lecture. 

After some experimenting, Alexander found his Gameboy was the winning tool in his education. 

Soon Alexander decided to become a professor himself – of video game design. He said the crossover between video games and everyday jobs was more wide-ranging than he expected. 

“Most people, they’re only thinking about this one here, gameplay,” Alexander said. “But if you look, there’s audio artists; there’s composers, quality assurance, community manager, (and) designers.” 

Now, Alexander said he is working to integrate video games into the classroom to “level up” education.

While Alexander learns the best through an auditory style, there are two other main learning styles: video or text. Some studies have shown that when two elements combine, learning gains are higher. When they fail to work together, though, they can cause cognitive overload. For Alexander, when the auditory elements of his professor’s speaking matched the excessive text on the slides, his brain was overloaded. 

“Teachers who use technology in the classroom need to ensure each channel is complementary,” Alexander said. “Otherwise, students are going to have difficulty transferring information from working memory to long-term memory.” 

Video games, however, have a complex blend of all three styles, including a fourth element: interactivity. 

Those same elements, Alexander said, should be used in traditional education to cater to different learning styles and engage students, no matter their location across the world, or whether they are learning in-person or online. 

“Video games actually cater to the way that we learn so we can take information” Alexander said. “Audio, text and video games mix these three, plus interactivity, in a way that enraptures people for hours. Why can’t we strive for classroom instruction to be like that?”

For many, video games are a source of fun and enjoyment, but they don’t recognize their educational elements. Alexander said educators should consider their implementation in the classroom.

“There is no video game that doesn’t teach you, not a single one. How do you move? How do you pick up, how do you grab, how long do you wait? And it never hits you over the head with, ‘I’m teaching you something,’ ” Alexander said. “These clear objectives … (are) sorely lacking in academia right now. Video games provide that. So it’s not the playing of video games, it’s everything that surrounds the playing of video games.”

Alexander said that doesn’t need to be complex as actually having teachers building and designing games. 

“The thing that (students) love to do in their game can translate to something that they do outside of playing,” he  said. “That’s what I say to teachers, ‘I’m not asking you all to learn (video-game creation software) Unreal Engine.’ I’m saying to recognize that it’s useful to learn game engines and processes and let me teach (students and teachers).” 

Since video games and those who play them are everywhere, Alexander says the benefit and educational gain from integrating video games into the classroom is obvious.  

“You have a statistical advantage to connect with the students because overwhelmingly, there are 3 billion video game players on this planet,” Alexander said. “You talk about the thing that somebody loves, it’s over. You talk about something that they’re good at plus something that they love, that’s it.” 

In his presentation this morning, Alexander will discuss impactful synergy along with video games in education — and explain why there is a connection between mayonnaise and Nintendo.

“This is the idea that games bring us together to provide unique, meaningful and — most importantly — community-focused experiences,” Alexander said. “The goal there is to sort of demystify some of these ideas of what’s happening with video games that people are unaware of.”

The idea of studying video games may seem useless or unimportant, but Alexander argues there isn’t a single discipline that doesn’t connect in some way with elements of video games. When he faces criticism, confusion or plain argument, he always resorts to what he talks about best. 

“I simply talk about games … and you’ll find people that are saying things like, ‘What about problems of women in games and women playing video games?’ ” Alexander said. “My answer always is education. Most times when people come in strong, I can tell immediately that they don’t research this medium in the way that I do.” 

About 50% of men and 50% of women play video games in Canada, Alexander said, but people fail to ask which games are women choosing to play. 

If the statistic shows a 50-50 split, but women aren’t playing in the top e-sport titles, then they must be playing other games. The top three genres of game chosen by women globally are “match three games” such as “Candy Crush” or “Family Farm;” simulation games such as “Animal Crossing”; and casual puzzle games like “Her Story,” according to a 2019 study by Quantic Foundry. 

“Most of the people that are saying there are problems with women in gaming fail to look at the bottom five genres chosen by women, which are sport games, tactical shooters, racing games, and first-person shooters,” Alexander said. “What they’re actually saying is they want to force women into genres that they generally choose. They’re not actually for women in video games, because if they were, they would be making spaces for the games that women actually choose to play.” 

Currently, Alexander is working on developing two video games, both with the purpose to educate while being enjoyable. 

“ ‘Bread Type’ is a typing game for my kids that teaches you how to type in a window of 60 seconds for you to perfectly toast bread,” he said. “And the second one is a game called ‘Bearable,’ which is a game about family, life and happiness — in that order.” 

After today’s lecture, Alexander is already scheduled for another in New York; there, he plans to discuss real-life work from his students. Each game tackles major issues like immigration, minority groups, indigenous communities, and even celiac disease.  

“These aren’t games that the news is talking about,” he said. “But it’s exactly my perspective on this industry, and that’s what I’m teaching these students who are coming up with these games, who have never built games like this before taking my classes.” 

NPR anchor, lifelong Cubs fan Simon to explore how sports create bonds across differences


Mariia Novoselia
Staff Writer

When journalist and NPR host Scott Simon was young, his dad would take him to the park and hit ground balls to him. 

There, he would tell Simon stories about baseball and famous players, referring to them by their first name, as he said “you do when you are a real fan.”

His godfather Jack Brickhouse, who Simon refers to as his Uncle Jack, was a Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer for many years. What’s more, Simon’s aunt married Charlie Grimm, who was a first baseman for the Cubs.

“I can’t remember (sports) not ever being a part of my life,” Simon said.

For his first visit to Chautauqua at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Simon will discuss how sports help people bond, the impact of sports on the history of the United States, and his concerns about the current state of the sports industry.

Simon sees a thread tying together the Week One theme “On Friendship” and Week Two’s “Games: A Celebration of Our Most Human Pastime.”

“At a time when we are looking for (connections), sports and enthusiasm for sports can provide a bond for people of different backgrounds, even different societies,” he said.

Simon warned he has a bias towards two of his hometown teams: the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Cubs.

Over several decades, Simon has covered natural disasters, political campaigns and 10 wars for NPR. His favorite assignments, however, were his reporting about Sarajevo, which he called “instructive, important, enlightening and moving.”

The siege took place in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War. It lasted for almost four years, from April 1992 to February 1996. 

Simon said at that time, it was common to see Chicago Bulls-branded items “all over the streets of Sarajevo.” People there loved the team. 

“Bosnia is very much a basketball enthusiastic society, but the Bulls, particularly during the war, represented … not just a successful basketball franchise, but also an example of how people from different backgrounds can work together and achieve something great,” Simon said. 

Even though he had already lived in Washington, D.C., for a few years by then, Simon said he would tell people in Sarajevo that he was from Chicago, and in response, he would often be met with praise for the Windy City: “Oh Chicago, I love Chicago.”

In another example of the bonds that sports create, Simon recalled working at a home for mentally disabled people. 

Baseball brought them together.

Rather than talk about food or medication, Simon could connect with them over daytime broadcasts.

It was “great fun to sit among them and talk about what was going on in the (Cubs) games,” he said.

Even for Chautauquans who might be skeptical of the value of sports, Simon said he hopes his visit to the Amp will teach them something beyond any game on a field.

“It’s an important experience for us as citizens,” he said.

Parsons prof. Macklin to open week illustrating what games can teach us


Julia Weber
Staff Writer

When Colleen Macklin’s grandmother asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, Macklinw told her that she wanted to make video games.

Now, the game designer and professor is not only creating and developing video games, but also leading cutting-edge research about the role of games in our lives.

As a child, Macklin became interested in gaming and, more specifically, in coding games. 

“I ended up realizing that more than even playing video games, I loved to make them,” she said.

Macklin will open Week Two of the Chautauqua Lecture Series and the theme “Games: A Celebration of Our Most Human Pastime,” with her lecture “Gaming the System: What Games Teach us About the World,” at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater. Macklin is an associate professor at the New School’s Parsons School of Design, where she teaches in the Design and Technology program — and where she founded and co-directs PETLab (PET stands for prototyping, education, and technology).

Growing up, Macklin had an Atari 400 and learned how to code video games by using game codes from magazines to download her games and, later, to start altering them. 

Jacques Cousteau, specifically, helped drive her passion for games. Using what she knew about coding video games, Macklin started to create fantasy underwater worlds, designing games with premises like discovering Atlantis and she began to learn how to alter the basic codes to adapt and customize the games.

When puberty hit, though, Macklin took a step back from gaming because of the gender stereotypes associated with the activity.  Boys in her class were also interested in progamming games, but she was starting to feel more social pressure to just hang out with the girls instead.

“Unfortunately, I kind of dropped the game-making, because for me it was as much about making them and talking about them with other boys in my class – because it was only boys at that time – but it was also about sharing them, you could actually offload them onto a disk and share them with each other, and so that’s really how I got my start.”

After attending college, where she studied photography, Macklin met Eric Zimmerman, a fellow game designer and now collaborator, who helped reignite her passion for creating and developing video games.

“I think many of the paths that we take in life, they’re not always logical, you know?” Macklin said. “And I think in another way, also, they’re very much about who you’re with at the time and the people you like to be around.”

In their most basic forms, games have existed for thousands of years. Technology like the six-sided die, for example, long predates modern society, yet still remains widely in use today. To Macklin, the importance of gaming is immeasurable – both at a personal and a societal level, starting in childhood, when games teach core principles and ideas.

“At the very beginning when we’re born, the way we learn is we play. We pick up a ball and throw it. We learn physics. We crawl around and we’re touching and constantly experiencing things,” she said. “And I think as humans we need to keep learning.”

As we grow older, games help us understand the systems in which we live, Macklin said.

“I think a lot of it is about an understanding of systems, and when I say systems, I mean almost everything that underpins our lives,” she said. 

Systems can refer to the natural systems in our lives, such as the environment, as well as our impact on them, like climate change. Video games, to Macklin, can be used to understand and reimagine how we approach and navigate these systems.

Another benefit of games is the refuge they offer and the outlet for relaxation that they provide, Macklin said, adding that video games are “a little bit of an antidote to that constant pressure to be productive.”

She is optimistic about the future of games, and hopes that Chautauquans will leave the lecture with a playful spirit. 

“I think that if we can take the best parts of games, which I think are those kinds of parts of games, the social, the systemic, what they can teach us about systems and how they work, then I think that they’ll give us a better ability of at least understanding the problems we’re facing as systemic and being able to see what kinds of rules we need to change to help solve those problems,” Macklin said. “So, that’s my big hope, is that, through games, we develop a systems literacy that can lead to better problem-solving in the real world.”

Career ambassador Jones considers role friendship plays in geopolitics


Mariia Novoselia
Staff Writer

“Friends are people you take the time to understand and allow to understand you” reads Ambassador Deborah K. Jones’ email signature. In her lecture about the place and role of friendship in international politics, she will elaborate on wise quotes and personal experience.

Jones has served as a diplomat representing the United States abroad in a number of countries around the world, and was appointed including as U.S. Ambassador to Libya and Kuwait. 

U.S. Ambassadors, according to their credentials, are “Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.” This means that as an ambassador, Jones said, one has an extraordinary authority to represent their country and the ability to bring that authority with them. This requires an ambassador to establish their credibility.

“As do friends,” Jones said. “Friends have to be credible; otherwise, they are not your friends.”

Jones’ lecture, “The Role of Friendship in Democracy,” is at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater. 

There was never a day, Jones said, when she woke up and thought she did not want to go to work. 

It all started in December 1980 when, as an “impoverished graduate student” in Spain, Jones took the Department of State’s foreign service written exam after a colleague’s suggestion. 

Having successfully passed the test, she was invited to a regional testing center in Los Angeles, where she took the oral exam, which then, Jones said, consisted of being interviewed on a wide range of foreign policy issues and other current events by a panel of three former U.S. ambassadors, as well as an “inbox” test. 

Jones said she officially joined the Department of State in April 1982 and was sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August that year.  

“In my experience, there are two kinds of people who enter the Foreign Service: so-called ‘prodigy personalities’, … who know from the time they are 14 or 16 (years old) that they want to be a diplomat or Foreign Service Officer, and take corresponding classes in university to prepare them to enter; and those who enter through an act of serendipity, and discover that they have actually been preparing all along for this sort of profession. I fall into the latter camp,” Jones said.

Being an ambassador, in Jones’ view, is a huge honor. She said it is a “privilege to serve your country, especially when you feel you are representing shared values.”

Throughout her career, Jones has managed to make a multitude of friends. She said her WhatsApp and Gmail are always full of messages from people “all over the place.”

Jones defines friendship as “a comfort zone with somebody.” It is about feeling that you can be yourself, she said, as well as building trust, being vulnerable and not being attacked for it.

Prior to departing to a new country, diplomats have to “do their homework,” Jones said. Learning a country’s history is part of that homework. Using Turkey, where she served from 2005 to 2007, as an example, Jones said one would have to be friends with a Turk to “understand what it means to them … not to have been able to read their grandparents correspondence because that writing and that language was rested from them”. 

“It was their head. It’s like taking a person and turning their head squarely to the west when it had been pointed to the east,” she said. 

Yet, Jones said she will be “a little more cynical about diplomacy and friendship” in her lecture. 

Diplomats are sometimes perceived as “soft and nice, and wanting to make friends,” she said. 

“I don’t want to call it naive, but it’s a misunderstanding of the history of diplomacy, and what and what a diplomat does.” 

At the same time, Jones said diplomats are sometimes accused of being deceptive or untruthful. Yet, diplomacy is about the art of negotiation. 

“It’s not about being nice. It’s about not being offensive. It’s about understanding where the other side is coming from,” she said.

With some surprises up her sleeve, Jones promises to question how critical friendship is to successful diplomacy and what role national interest plays on the stage of international relations.

Psychologist, researcher Franco to impart data, science of friendships found in work


Sarah Russo
Staff writer

As Week One continues to discuss the theme of friendship, there’s one individual who has dedicated her entire career to the topic. Marisa G. Franco is an author, professor and psychologist — and a known friendship expert. Her presentation will begin at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

Her New York Times bestseller, Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends, explores friendship using data and simple, digestible analysis. Platonic has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “an ode to modern friendship,” and Kirkus Reviews called it “a remarkable examination of the epidemic of loneliness and sound advice for alleviating it.” 

Platonic is a guidebook for friendship covering how to make, deepen and end friends in adulthood. This book will frame Franco’s lecture, as she shares her  work on human connection and systemic loneliness. 

“I was motivated to write Platonic to question, interrogate and level the hierarchy that we place on love,” Franco said. “I was reading a lot of books on friendship because I got so interested in the topic and realized that the book that I wanted to read didn’t exist. I wanted something that shared science and also just really saw friendship as sacred and thought very extensively about friendship beyond what our culture tells us. I guess at some point I was like, ‘Well, if it’s not there, I’ll be the one to write it.’ ” 

Franco, an assistant clinical professor and collegiate fellow in the University of Maryland Honors College, has work featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, Vice, The Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.

At the University of Maryland, Franco teaches a class on why people are lonely.
Her studies on friendship in particular started as a personal interest. 

“I had gone through some breakups in my young 20s and felt really bad about it,” Franco said. “So I decided to see if my friends wanted to start a wellness group, and I thought that would really help me heal from this breakup.”

After meeting with friends each week for yoga, meditation and cooking, Franco had a “life-changing” realization on the power of the relationship of friends.  

“It was really healing. But it wasn’t the meditation and the yoga or the walk as much as it was just being in community with people I loved every week,” she said. “It made me question, I think, some of the ideas I had about friendship before that made me take the breakup so hard, which was just that romantic love is the only form of love that counts.” 

Friendship in adulthood can become secondary in terms of relationship importance, but Franco has suggestions on how to make new friends and gain stronger connections.  

“When it comes to how to make friends, I think there’s a lot of stale advice. It’s like, ‘join a club, pursue your hobby’ and kind of basic,” Franco said. “I look for the advice that people haven’t heard that feels more revelatory, more groundbreaking, more science-backed.”  

Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Atlantic’ staff writer Senior to consider state of modern friendships


Arden Ryan
Contributing Writer

Human relationships, in every form and with every complex emotion attached, appear again and again in Jennifer Senior’s journalism. She feels she may have missed her calling to be a psychologist, but still finds ways to weave an underlying passion for psychology and sensitivity for relationships into her work. 


That sensitivity and passion went into her 2021 piece in The Atlantic, “Twenty Years Gone,” about the lingering grief of a family who lost a son in 9/11, and how relationships helped create meaning. It garnered Senior a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing.

Recently, she’s been pondering friendship in the modern age and an American society seeming to pull people farther apart.

“Modern life really conspires against friendship, but that is precisely why we need it,” said Senior, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Atlantic

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Senior will discuss the importance of such friendships and maintaining togetherness despite the forces separating us, bringing her perspective to Week One’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “On Friendship.”

Americans have more choice in their lives than ever before, able to curate them to individual desires in what Senior describes as a “culture of radical individualism.” Marrying, having children, and pursuing a career no longer progress on the same timetable for everyone.

“We now live in an era of radical individual freedoms,” Senior wrote in “It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart,” a 2022 article for The Atlantic. “There’s little synchrony to our lives.”

At the same time, Americans are spending less time in personal contact with others. Attendance is decreasing at places of worship across the country, Senior said, noting similar decreases in civic participation, in volunteering, and in simple conversations with neighbors. This fact, she said, can largely be attributed to the increasing time Americans are spending online, “foregoing embodied contact.” That contact and those friendships, however, are vitally important to good health and human development.

With increasing discord between lifestyles and life directions, the already fragile and impermanent nature of friendship is under further pressure, Senior said. The difficulty in keeping friends is increasing. Yet the “customized nature” of modern life makes those friendships more important than ever, Senior wrote. Reliance on friends is stronger than ever, and so should be the effort put into keeping them.

“We’re designed to bond with other people. It’s how human beings learn and how they grow,” Senior said. Living such a “fractured, atomized existence,” with working remotely and engaging solely online the new societal norm, those bonds are becoming more difficult than ever to maintain.

Taking deliberate action to sustain friendships, making it a habit to stay in touch and not fall into passivity, is crucial to ensure those friends will be there when you need to rely on them most, Senior said.

“We need to have friendship anniversaries and annual road trips and reunions,” Senior said. Rituals with friends help to prioritize them, which Senior said more Americans should be doing, as families and careers can pull in the opposite direction.

Senior believes being “more demonstrative” would further strengthen our friendships, sharing words of care and affection as one might do with a romantic partner.

“We tell our spouses that we love them, and we tell our friends this much less, but they are also love relationships. We ought to be more expressive in our friendships,” Senior said, as an act as simple as telling a friend how much they are appreciated can have an impact.

“The paradox at the heart” of friendship, Senior said, is its fragility. The voluntary nature of friendship, making it fragile, also makes it special. If one were to have a binding or legal contract to a friend, as with a married partner, it would cease to be how friendship is defined.

Senior notes, however, that a cultural shift may be occurring, with more friends making binding commitments to each other, as with family. Friends are being increasingly “recruited” in family roles, acting “as siblings and cousins, even parents would,” Senior said, as families often live far separated, children going to college and working at a distance from home.

Friendships may be qualitatively different from other types of relationships, but Senior argues that perhaps the two shouldn’t be so unalike.

“Maybe we should really think about being very committed to our friends. They should sit somewhere closer to where our family and spouses sit. We should make them top priority.”

Benjamin Hunter to advocate for nurturing environments, opportunities for expression


From artistic director of Northwest Folklife to multi-instrumentalist to educator to social entrepreneur, it’s easy to ask, “What doesn’t Benjamin Hunter do?”

Now, he serves as the final speaker of the 2022 Chautauqua Lecture Series at 10:45 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26 in the Amphitheater. Hunter will help wrap up Week Nine’s theme, “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”

Hunter spends most of his work interacting with what folk culture is and what he and others can do to make folk as culturally rich as it possibly can be. For him, folk isn’t a genre — it’s more expansive than that.

“It’s not a genre. It’s not a style of music or craft,” he said. “It is whatever it is that people do in whatever place or time or position or environment that they are in to celebrate, whether it’s to celebrate their joy or … in some cases, their pain and their loss, to cope.”

With this definition, folk is not a specific musical sound. It becomes almost limitless in what it can encapsulate. Hunter feels that when there are limits, that’s when folk really isn’t folk.

“We need to stop creating scenarios where we put people into boxes that define or project delineations of music or folk or craft,” he said. “We need to start nurturing environments that allow people to express themselves where they are, who they are, when they are, because that’s the history of folk in my research.”

Creating this type of environment that nurtures people is one of Hunter’s main focuses as artistic director of Northwest Folklife, which is an independent organization dedicated to creating arts and culture festivals that reflect Pacific Northwest communities. 

He ensures that not only the artists invited into this work are diverse, but that they are paid fairly, too. Diversity is crucial to folk culture, Hunter said, because folk has centered the patriarchy and whiteness for so long.

“Why is it that some people in this country can be called American and then other people need to be called African American or Asian American or Latino American?” he said. “We need to figure out a way to help people understand what their folk is.”

For Hunter, the key to understanding someone’s folk history is for people to understand their personal beliefs. When they understand that their lineage and history has equal value to everyone else’s, that is when people will listen to each other.

“When we think about folk, it’s storytelling, really, when it comes down to it,” he said. “We just need to find more ways to allow people to listen to other people’s stories.”

Hunter’s story begins with his parents. His mom was a white woman from Arizona and his dad was a Black man from Tanzania. While Hunter never met his father, he did spend his childhood traveling with his mom, moving to many different countries, including Zimbabwe, where he says he spent his formative years.

“There’s just all of these things that go into who I am as a person,” he said.

And to Hunter, all of these things make up his folk.

“Finding our folk doesn’t just mean discovering your own personal mythology,” he said. “It’s discovering your own personal mythology in the fabric and the interweaving of a community that sees you — and that you see them, as well.”

‘World Cafe’ host Raina Douris to talk exploration in music industry


Every new music artist wants to be discovered. No matter what genre they’re in, that’s the ultimate goal. Radio and television shows such as NPR’s “World Cafe” offer an opportunity for such artists to be noticed.

Raina Douris, host of “World Cafe,” will give her lecture at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 in the Amphitheater as part of the Week Nine Chautauqua Lecture Series, “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”

“I’m going to be talking about how music discovery has changed,” Douris said, “some of the trends in folk music specifically, and where ‘World Cafe’ has helped move those changes along.”

“World Cafe” is a nationally syndicated artist interview and discovery show that has been on air for over 30 years. Douris, only the third host in the show’s history, looks at the trends in the world, including what folk music means, what qualifies as folk music and how technology and the pandemic have changed music. 

But, Douris does not only work with “World Cafe.” From 2017 to 2019 she served on the jury for the Polaris Music Prize, one of Canada’s highest music honors.

“You get to see this different array of musicians that often don’t get any promotion, or any real exposure in mainstream media, other than when the Polaris Prize happens,” Douris said. “It’s such a valuable, special thing.”

The Polaris Music Prize names the best Canadian album of the year, but isn’t based on album sales. It determines its winners based on artistic merit. There’s two rounds and a final shortlist before the winner is announced, often including underground artists who wouldn’t typically be discovered.

“I think it’s one of the most important music things that happens in Canada,” Douris said. “I was so proud to be a part of that, because I think it does something that is really difficult to do: shine a light on artists who don’t maybe have a full promotional machine behind them.”

Douris’ work on “World Cafe” allows her to connect with new artists like the ones eligible for the Polaris Music Prize, as part of her job is conducting interviews. 

“I love getting to have conversations with people,” Douris said. “I love talking with people (and) I love getting to find the human side of an artist.”

Douris said she loved music and performing from a young age. She would make mixtapes and insist her mom listen to every song all the way through in the car. Douris turned this passion into a career.

“When I realized radio was a way to (get involved in the music world), it was really exciting,” Douris said. “That was when I started to intern at a rock station in Toronto.”

“World Cafe” is pre-taped, but since it is produced daily, they’re always creating something. While she loves the “go, go, go” aspect of journalism, Douris said sometimes she needs to sit back and reflect.

“I’m often very tired after the day,” Douris said. “By the end of the day, you’re talking so much (music), sometimes I just have to listen to silence.”

One of her favorite aspects of the work is when people are influenced by “World Cafe” shows.

“I really love it when someone’s like ‘I discovered this band because of “World Cafe,” they’re my new favorite,’ ” Douris said. “That is the best feeling ever.”

Music is incredibly valuable in her life, and Douris hopes others feel the same.

“I always hope that people take away a greater appreciation for music,” Douris said, “and take away a desire to listen more carefully, more actively, to engage in the music around them.”

Ahead of evening concert, musician, artist Scott Avett to explore week’s theme

Screen Shot 2022-08-23 at 7.09.09 PM

In a small town in rural North Carolina, down a half-mile dirt road, Scott Avett lived with his family, some chickens, a few cows and no cable.

“All we wanted to do was get a hold of the things that were all the way across the country, the things that were coming out of the West Coast or New York City, so we ran from … (the) local vibe,” Avett said. “But then, when we full circled and started discovering, it definitely was central in our interest in roots music.”

Musician Scott Avett is the lead singer of the folk rock band The Avett Brothers, which includes his brother, singer and guitarist Seth Avett, along with bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon. Scott and Seth Avett released their first album in 2000, titled The Avett Bros, along with guitarist John Twomey, who had been with them in a previous band. 

The band went on, with a mix of new members, to release 10 studio albums and be nominated for three Grammy Awards.

At 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, Scott Avett takes the stage of the Amphitheater to further Week Nine’s discussion on “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”

What shapes Avett’s approach to music is his upbringing in Concord, North Carolina. These days, he sees folk music as spanning many genres from hip-hop, punk rock, country and rock ‘n’ roll.

“Folk is an attempt to push back and revolt against that need for marketing labels,” Avett said. “It’s funny, because it doesn’t completely rid us of labels, … but I feel like folk music being for the people is a way to step in the opposite direction of the commodities.”

For Avett, folk brings music away from marketing and back to its poetic roots. Growing up, he interacted with folk music through his father and the music he played, both on the record player and on his guitar. 

His dad frequently played classic American folk and country music such as Peter, Paul and Mary, Merle Haggard and Charlie Daniels.

“Dad comes home in a denim shirt and jeans burned from welding,” Avett said. “He would talk to us, he would tell us stories, he would occasionally pick up an acoustic guitar. That was a real hands-on exchange with folk music.”

Avett’s father introduced him to the visual arts as a kid, too. His dad would have him and his siblings sit at a table and would draw a shape before passing it along to someone else to continue the drawing.

“I remember it as a very engaging and instigating — it really moved me. It really moved me,” he said. “I loved doing it. It ignited my imagination.”

Avett now holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and is a well-recognized visual artist. His current work depicts and explores people, family relationships and spirituality.

Living in the country provided Avett with enough disconnection, allowing him to play with his creativity more than if he and his siblings got their childhood wish of cable TV.

“It helped keep us, I dare to say, bored a little bit, and alone,” Avett said. “And I think that was nice, like alone in our heads and alone with time to do what we might do. You find yourself drawing and you find yourself imagining and you find yourself thinking.”

Chris Thile to draw comparisons, connections between faith, spirituality


Chris Thile is no stranger to the Amphitheater stage, but today, Chautauquans will see him in a way they haven’t before.

Thile, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant recipient and Grammy Award-winning mandolinist, singer and songwriter, who just performed with his band Punch Brothers Monday night on the same stage, will give his lecture at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 in the Amp. His lecture is part of Week Nine of the Chautauqua Lecture Series, “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”

“For me, it’s an opportunity to have a conversation,” Thile said. “I’m going to be playing some music and pontificating about music’s relationship to spiritual discourse.”

The songs he will play, all from his album Laysongs, include “Laysong,” which is about yearning for communion in a secular age; “Ecclesiastes 2:24,” which prompts discussion of  instrumental music as an enabler of spiritual reflection; “Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth, Parts 1, 2, and 3,” which explores the potential manipulability of the religious impulse; and “Won’t You Come and Sing For Me,” about the power of sincere — and sincerely open — communion. Lyrics, when applicable, to these songs will be available at for audience members.

Thile said music is one of life’s greatest conversation starters, and likes to quote Mary Oliver: “While the man who has only questions, to comfort himself, makes music.” 

For him, it’s also a wonderful question to the religious impulses in his own life.

“Regardless of how that impulse manifests, I think it’s kind of baked into us,” Thile said. “I love thinking about it and making music about it and talking about it with other people.”

He wants his audience to leave with understanding the importance of staying in a dialogue with people who have different views or beliefs, because he said people have “lost the taste” for differences in discourse.

“In our human interaction, social media is a very popular culprit,” Thile said. “But it’s really only a tool that we’re using to construct this thing that we’ve wanted for a long time. One of our instincts is to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and I think it’s a counterproductive instinct.”

Thile said it’s vital to be in conversation with people who you don’t necessarily agree with.

“The tough work is staying at the table with people that we might vehemently disagree with and that sort of friction is what generates positive change,” Thile said. “We’re sort of freewheeling on the bike and wondering why we’re not going anywhere.”

Music has been a part of Thile’s life from a very early age. He said he feels the same connection with music as he does with his parents, and said “it truly feels like breathing.”

As an adult, he gained the perspective of being able to sit down and analyze the reasons he loves music. 

“I’m just compelled by (music). I think that’s the real reason I’m just inexpressibly compelled to interact with music,” Thile said. “It’s a great art form. I think one of the reasons it’s so great though … is how non-dictictatorial it is as an art form.”

Thile said that music and its myriad of meanings encourages the diverse emotional and practical processes of creating music, as well as both the definitive, concrete meanings and non-definitive, abstract ones that come from music.

“It’s there because some human beings, or collection of human beings, exercising their ingenuity (and) desire to hear something that wasn’t there before,” Thile said. “I think from a very early age, that was everything.”

Rhiannon Giddens to speak on passion for reclaiming musical histories


Under the undulating Spanish moss and the twinkling string lights of the College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard, Rhiannon Giddens said she wants to rehabilitate the banjo. 

Performing there for Charleston’s Spoleto Festival USA in late May with her musical and life partner Francesco Turrisi, the Grammy Award-winning folk musician and MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient strummed the night away.

Now, several months later, Giddens will kick off Week Nine of the Chautauqua Lecture Series, themed “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.” 

Giddens, the artistic director of Silkroad, will give a lecture on the banjo and its cultural meanings at 10:45 a.m. Monday, Aug. 22 in the Amphitheater.

Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer, admires Giddens’ musical excellence and her devotion to storytelling. She’s excited that Giddens will frame the week as a speaker, and then perform her own music in the Amp Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 8:15 p.m. with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. 

“(Giddens) will be talking about how the creation of musical myths damages our perceptions of our true past,” Moore said.

Giddens, whose father is white and whose mother has Black and Native American heritage, is a historian as well as a musician. She omnivorously revisits and excavates the constellation of musical styles that bear the moniker “American music.” Drawing on folk, roots, blues and country traditions from both Black and white cultures, Giddens wants to diversify the American story.

In a late April interview ahead of the Spoleto and world premiere of Omar, the opera following the life of an enslaved African Muslim scholar that Giddens co-composed with Michael Abels, Giddens spoke of her passion for recovering untold stories.

“I’ve just been going digging and finding the ones that speak to me, personally, as an artist, and then trying to highlight them, and trying to give them the spotlight,” she said.

The banjo is a historically denigrated instrument given its associations with Appalachia and minstrelsy. Giddens formed the group Our Native Daughters with three other Black female banjo players: Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell. The project is one facet of Giddens’ ongoing mission to deconstruct the musical myths that Moore mentioned.

In a May 2019 New Yorker profile of Giddens titled “Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means,” John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote about Giddens’ musical passions. At the time, she had just completed the record Freedom Highway, and Sullivan noted that that album was built on the sound of the minstrel banjo.

“The banjo: an instrument whose origins are so contested — is it African? European? or a ‘cross-bred instrument,’ as one scholar has called it? — that it expresses the messiness of American history before a person has played a note,” he wrote.

1 2 3 12
Page 1 of 12