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Morning Lecture Previews

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

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NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER

Osnos

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

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

He wanted to understand why. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editor of ‘400 Souls’ Blain to discuss resilience in face of racism

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NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER

Blain

Keisha N. Blain credits her mentors and professors at Binghamton University for getting her involved in Black feminism and Black feminist nationalism. 

She read widely about Black nationalism and internationalism and felt unsatisfied with how much of the writing treated gender and excluded Black women, according to an interview with Roar. At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25 in the Amphitheater, Blain will join the Chautauqua Lecture Series’ Week Nine’s Theme of “Resilience” for what Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Matt Ewalt described as a “frank discussion of resistance and resilience in the face of racism.”

Black women’s concerns, she said in her interview with Roar, are still sidelined in conversations about policing. 

“While we know that the majority of Black people killed by police in the United States are young men, we distort the narrative when we only focus on Black men,” Blain said. Despite many high-profile murders, like that of Breonna Taylor, “there is still a perception among many Americans that Black women are somehow shielded from the threat of police violence.” 

And she said there were many parallels between the uprisings after George Floyd’s murder and the past. 

During several months of labor and race-related violence in East St. Louis in 1917, during which white people murdered as many as 150 Black people, law enforcement actually joined in with those attacking Black people, a relative of one of the victims told Blain. There are differences between now and then, however.

“The civil rights movement, for example, was certainly diverse, and we see that in groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an interracial civil rights organization. But that was not the case across the board,” Blain told Roar. “The widespread involvement of white Americans as well as Asian Americans, Latinx and others in today’s protests is significant and underscores how much has changed since the 1960s.”

Blain is the editor, along with Ibram X. Kendi, of Four Hundred Souls, which features 80 writers who each took a five-year period of the 400-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present, with “10 lyrical interludes from poets,” according to Blain. 

Blain is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and president of the African American Intellectual History Center. She is also a columnist for MSNBC, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, The Guardian, Time, The Chronicle of Higher Education and many other publications. She is also the author of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom, which examines how Black nationist women engaged in politics from the early 1900s to 1960s. 

In her columns for MSNBC, Blain has written about Black workers at an Amazon facility in Windsor, Connecticut, finding eight nooses around their work area; Black TikTok creators boycotting posting new dance routines after many of the dances they created went viral and they received no attribution; and President Joe Biden reversing President Donald Trump’s discriminatory housing policies.

In the housing column, she wrote about an incident on Aug. 1 in the city of Wyoming, Michigan, in which police handcuffed Eric Brown, an African American realtor, along with a client and the client’s 15-year-old son.

“The majority-white city of Wyoming — of which only 7.8% of the residents are Black — is not the only site of racial profiling and housing discrimination, a persistent problem the Biden administration is now working to address,” Blain said. 

She then mentioned other incidents, such as a white man in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, who was arrested after harassing several of his neighbors of color by throwing rocks at them and smearing feces on their windows.

Blain also wrote that despite progress from the civil rights movement, housing remains a “racial battlefield” in the U.S., with housing discrimination keeping families of color out of many neighborhoods.

She then quoted Biden, who said “the federal government has a critical role to play in overcoming and redressing this history of discrimination and in protecting against other forms of discrimination by applying and enforcing Federal civil rights and fair housing laws.”

University Hospitals officer Adan shares ideas, tools for resilience

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SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER

Adan

Stress is an ever-present element in a person’s life, and how they deal with it greatly impacts how their life plays out. 

Françoise Adan studies resiliency and will share her findings on the role it has in people’s lives at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24 in the Amphitheater for the Chautauqua Lecture Series theme of “Resilience.”

Adan is the Chief Whole Health and Wellbeing Officer for University Hospitals and the director for the UH Connor Integrative Health Network, based in Cleveland. She is the Endowed Connor Chair of Integrative Medicine at UH and the recipient of the Christopher M. and Sara H. Connor Master Clinician in Integrative Health award.

Adan has been a psychiatrist for more than 25 years and specializes in three areas — stress management, work/life balance and the mind/body/spirit connection. She said that she has always been intrigued by the differences between people who are able to bounce back quickly and those who struggle. 

It is an idea that has held a personal — and professional — fascination for her. It’s reason that she became a psychiatrist and has dedicated her career to understanding it. 

Most of her work has been spent doing one-on-one sessions with patients. Some of her patients were able to bounce back from trauma and recover — and in some cases, thrive — while others struggled heavily. Adan said she has learned a lot by seeing what has and has not worked for them. In some ways, she said, she has become a student of resilience, and her patients are her teachers. 

“Resilience is not something that you are born with; it is something that you can cultivate and learn and get better at,” Adan said. “(This) gives us hope, because it’s not like either you have it or you don’t — you actually can build it if you follow some principles.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Adan spearheaded a new system-wide program in order to provide resources and support for UH’s 28,000 caregivers who work in 22 hospitals as well as more than 50 health centers and outpatient facilities and over 200 physician offices located in Northeast Ohio. 

For the last 18 months, Adan said, it has felt like health care workers have been under attack from the neverending stress that comes from working during a pandemic. She is responsible for equipping and empowering UH’s employees to face this stress and help make them more resilient. The idea that they will soon be facing another wave of COVID-19 has only increased Adan’s motivation to learn more about resilience and develop more tools so that she can help others. 

During her lecture, Adan will talk about lessons she has learned over the course of the pandemic and practical tools people can use to build their own resilience — the very tools that she has used to help health care workers. The tools that she is going to talk about will be applicable on a personal level, but she hopes that people will take them back to their families and workplaces and use them to help others. 

“Pandemic or not, stress is not going to go away,” Adan said. “I just want to make sure that people leave with hope and with practical tools, so they can manage whatever curveball life is throwing at them.”

Pulitzer Prize winner Addario shares portraits of resilience

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KRISTEN TRIPLETT – STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Addario

There aren’t many who have had to be as resilient as photojournalist Lynsey Addario. With a 20-plus year career of covering conflict, she has been on the front lines of war, witnessed death and has been kidnapped twice. 

Addario said that these experiences, however, don’t compare to those of the people she covers.

“I’m often doing work surrounded by people who are even more vulnerable than I am, and often in more dangerous situations,” she said. “So, I think for me, I’ve found a lot of strength in the people that I cover. … I’ve tried to use their strength and their resilience in my own work and to really focus on getting their stories out, giving them a voice.”

Addario will open Week Nine’s Chautauqua Lecture Series, themed “Resilience,” at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 23 in the Amphitheater. From the stage, she will take the audience through the trajectory of her career and share the stories that she has covered across the world.

Addario has produced work for The New York Times, National Geographic and Time, and she has received awards like a shared Pulitzer Prize as part of The New York Times team for international reporting.

She’s also the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She started her career in her early 20s without any professional photographic training.

She was just 26 when she first traveled to Afghanistan, which became the location where she took some of her most formative images. 

Covering the country under Taliban rule pre-9/11, Addario’s work often focused on women’s issues. 

She notes in her recent article for The Atlantic, titled “The Taliban’s Return Is Catastrophic For Women,” that being a female photojournalist got her into places her male colleagues couldn’t go.

“I quickly learned the virtue of being a female photojournalist, despite the challenges: I had free access to women in spaces where men were culturally or legally prohibited to enter,” she wrote.

Having access to hospitals and private homes allowed others to see into the lives of people they formally might have known nothing about. 

It’s really easy to kind of just stay focused on your own life. But I believe that we all need to have perspective about what people are going through around the world. And part of that is that perspective is gained through journalism, through doing the work that me and so many of my colleagues do.”

-Lynsey Addario,
photojournalist

Addario’s work in Afghanistan continues to be important now, particularly with the Taliban’s recent retake of the country. Her work stands to remind people of the consequences of Afghanistan under Taliban control, and she continues to speak out on those issues.

Addario decided to write her book, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, which was a 2016 finalist for The Chautauqua Prize, shortly after being kidnapped in Libya.

“I really felt like I needed to sort of take a moment to kind of think back on the situations I had been in,” she said. “I hadn’t really taken a break in over 10 years, and it just felt like after Libya, I needed to take stock.”

This time spent writing allowed Addario to look through old images as well as old writings from her early days covering conflict.

“When I sat down to start writing it just felt really therapeutic,” she said. “It definitely felt like the right thing to do.”

Part of Addario’s magic is her ability to connect with the people she covers. Her empathy and skill for putting those she photographs at ease is present in her images. Her work as a journalist continues to open people’s minds and perspectives on lives other than their own.

“It’s really easy to kind of just stay focused on your own life,” Addario said. “But I believe that we all need to have perspective about what people are going through around the world. And part of that is that perspective is gained through journalism, through doing the work that me and so many of my colleagues do.”

In lecture set to be streamed into Amp, Duke professor of law, philosophy Farahany to examine ethical implications of neurotech developments

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SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER

Farahany

What if you could turn the lights on in your home with no more effort than it takes to think about it? That kind of technology is on its way to the consumer market, and Nita Farahany, today’s morning lecturer, is worried about what that means for people’s privacy. 

Farahany is the Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law and a philosophy professor at Duke University, as well as the founding director of Duke University Science & Society, chair of the Duke Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy and principal investigator of SLAP Lab. In 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and served until 2017. Farahany received her bachelor of arts degree in genetics, cell and developmental biology at Dartmouth College, a juris doctor and master of arts degree from Duke, as well as a doctoral degree in philosophy.

Farahany is currently studying neurotechnology, specifically consumer neurotechnology. This kind of technology decodes brain activity and then uses pattern classification — otherwise known as artificial intelligence — to make sense of the data. Her morning lecture at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 19 streamed into the Amphitheater will focus on the extraordinary ways in which people can now access and change their brains, but also the kinds of rights individuals may need to have protected in order to maximize the benefits of neurotechnology while minimizing the potential harms that arise from opening a black box in the brain. 

Due to a significant family health risk, Farahany pre-recorded her lecture and will participate in a live Q-and-A from her home. The program will be broadcast live in the Amp as well as the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. The program will be moderated on the Amphitheater stage by Chautauqua President Michael E. Hill and Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

According to Farahany, there are two kinds of neurotechnology that are being marketed for consumer use. 

The first is electroencephalography (EEG) technology, which reads the electrical activity in a person’s brain as they have a thought, do a calculation or experience an emotion. 

When you have a thought, your brain has hundreds of thousands neurons that fire, Farahany said. Each of those neurons gives off a small electrical discharge that forms distinctive patterns depending on what kind of thought a person has. Then artificial intelligence software reads the pattern and can tell what the thought was based on the pattern. This could be used to detect when a driver is tired, for example. 

The second kind of neurotechnology is electromyography (EMG) technology. Instead of focusing on the electrical impulses in a person’s brain, EMG focuses on the neurons that control the muscles in a person’s body, called motor neurons. According to Farahany, these kinds of electrical patterns could be decoded through something a person was wearing on their wrist. 

Farahany uses typing as an example of EMG technology. If a person wanted to type a word, a wristlet could decode the electrical impulses to determine what word they were going to type. 

According to Farahany, big companies from Facebook to Apple are making big bets and investments in these kinds of technologies. There are even companies, like Neuralink, that are dedicated to developing EEG and EMG technology. 

“All of that, from my perspective, adds up to a likely future where neurotechnology will become the new platform that we use to interact with other technology in the world,” Farahany said. “Instead of using a mouse or keyboard, you will use a neurotechnology device to type or to communicate with your friends. You might just think about turning on the lights in your house, rather than getting up and walking over there to turn them on.”

She calls all these technologies “exciting and promising,” but they also introduce new risks. The device could pick up on not only what a person intended to type, but a broader set of emotions and thoughts than they intended to communicate. The question that leads to is who has the right to that kind of data and how do lawmakers ensure people are able to enjoy the benefits of the technology while protecting people’s thoughts?

Even though this kind of neurotechnology sounds like it has been plucked from a science fiction novel, it is already being used commercially. According to Farahany, this technology is being used by employers and large corporations, as well as in educational settings, though it is not yet in widespread use. The data is already being collected and commodified. 

“If we want to have at least a right to mental privacy, if we want to have a final fortress in our brain, we need to do something about this now,” Farahany said. 

Despite her fears over user privacy, Farahany thinks that there are huge upsides to developing and using neurotechnology. With neurotechnology, someone with epilepsy would be able to detect a seizure an hour before it happened. People who are diabetic would be able to track insulin levels through the brain in less invasive and more accurate ways that the current needle method. It could improve the quality of life and adaptive skills of people with autism spectrum disorder.

“Being able to decode the human brain is critical to being able to address mental disease, to being able to improve our output and improve our mental health,” Farahany said. “Unless we can really decode and understand what’s happening in the brain, there’s no hope of being able to address some of the greatest ills that face humanity.”

Neuroscientist Marlin to give lecture on how trauma in parents can be passed on through DNA to children

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NICHOLE JIANG – STAFF WRITER

Marlin

The brain produces every thought, memory, feeling and action, and humans may never be able to fully understand or grasp the complexity of its inner workings. However, neuroscientist Bianca Jones Marlin has dedicated her life to researching the most complex organ in our body, and hopes to shed some light into the mysteries of the brain at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18 in the Amphitheater. 

Marlin’s lecture will focus on how information is passed from generation to generation through transgenerational epigenetic inheritance; more specifically, how trauma in parents can affect the brain structure and sensory development of their children. Marlin’s research presented at today’s lecture is part of Week Eight’s theme of “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery.”

Marlin has always been fascinated with genetics. In addition to raising her, Marlin’s biological parents were also the foster parents of several other children. This experience of growing up with both biological and nonbiological siblings influenced Marlin’s interest in science and paved the way for her scientific career. Marlin would listen to her nonbiological siblings’ stories of childhood trauma before joining her family, and Marlin became curious about how a negative relationship with one’s parents could affect a child. 

This interest and natural talent for the sciences is what led Marlin through a highly successful academic and research career. Marlin graduated from St. John’s University with dual bachelor’s degrees in biology and adolescent education. Marlin then went on to graduate from the New York University of Medicine with a doctorate in neuroscience. She is now the Herbert and Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Cell Research at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. 

Her work here includes the mechanism of transgenerational inheritance of environmental information. 

Through her research, Marlin discovered that a parent’s learned behavior can actually become a natural behavior in their children. Marlin’s research goal is to prove that these adaptations can be passed on to multiple generations. This work and research into learning and emotions being passed on from one generation to the next biologically, though DNA, has the potential to have a huge impact in understanding societal health and an individual’s mental health. 

Marlin has received various recognitions for her research such as the 2020 Allen Institute Next Generation Leaders, 2017 STAT Wunderkinds Award and the 2016 Donald B. Lindsley Prize. Her research has also been featured in numerous notable publications such as NPR’s “Science Friday,” The Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine’s “100 Top Stories of 2015” and National Geographic. However, it was Marlin’s research as a graduate student with parental behavior and oxytocin that truly set her apart.

Marlin’s first major scientific breakthrough was centered around oxytocin, which is known as the “love hormone” in maternal behavior. Her research linked the hormone to neural changes that were associated with learned maternal behavior. Marlin noted that when mice pups are lost, they release an ultrasonic cry that allows their mothers to come find them. However, inexperienced female mice would instead ignore the cries and at times even eat the baby. Marlin was able to find changes in the auditory cortex associated with this response, and she saw that only the left side of the auditory cortex controls this behavior and that oxytocin must be delivered to this side to speed up the retrieval of the lost babies. Marlin’s research was groundbreaking, as it showed a dedicated neural circuit and the importance of oxytocin. 

Today’s lecture will be centered around Marlin’s second major scientific finding with trauma and epigenetic mechanisms. Her team at Columbia has been researching by establishing a traumatic memory through fear in adult mice by pairing a scent with a shock. In her research, she discovered that the offspring of these mice actually avoided that same scent, even though they had never personally experienced that trauma. Marlin will also focus on how sperm cells have the potential to carry genetic memories, allowing fathers to pass on the memory of trauma to their offspring.

Marlin’s research has the potential to have groundbreaking results, and today’s lecture is a chance to take a dive deeper into the complexity of the human brain and how genetics play a larger role in our social behavior and mental well-being. 

In panel discussion, Ornstein, Insel, Leifman to speak on treatment, response to mental illness in justice system; what reforms are needed

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LAURA PHILION – COPY & DIGITAL EDITOR

Ornstein

Political analyst Norman Ornstein knows firsthand how badly the system can fail.

Ornstein’s son, Matthew, died accidentally in early 2015 after a long struggle with serious mental illness. Since he was in his 30s, his parents had no legal control over him — unable to help their son through his refusal of treatment and anosognosia (inability to recognize how sick he was), Matthew’s parents watched their son suffer until his untimely death.

“Our mental health system is broken,” Ornstein said.

Ornstein, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Judy Harris, founded the Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation. Its aim is to honor Matthew’s legacy and to advocate for mental health reform. Harris is working to change the standard for treatment, so cases like Matthew’s are actionable while would-be patients are still able to be helped.

“Often, you literally have to have a gun at your head or a knife at someone else’s throat,” Ornstein said, “or you can’t qualify.”

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17 in the Amphitheater, Ornstein, former National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel and Associate Administrative Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Steven Leifman will have a joint discussion on the state of mental health treatment in the U.S., with an emphasis on crisis response and reshaping care for the seriously mentally ill. Their talk is the second of Week Eight’s Chautauqua Lecture Series, themed “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery,” and can also be viewed online through a subscription to the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. Ornstein will also lead a master class, “The Threats to American Democracy,” at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Smith Wilkes Hall.

“When you change the way the police deal with those with serious mental illnesses,” Ornstein said, “you can change how they operate in general.”

Insel, who was the director of NIMH for 13 years, stepped down in 2017 to move to the private sector. 

“I wanted to move out of academia,” he said. “I’d been thinking a lot about impact — our science … was stunning, moving at a ridiculously exciting pace.”

At the same time, he said, suicide rates were skyrocketing. The mental health of the nation was declining. He couldn’t make sense of it.

And then, at a talk he was giving, a man stood up while Insel was giving a summation of recent discoveries.

“A guy stood up and said, ‘You don’t get it. My son has schizophrenia … Our house is on fire, and you’re talking about the color of the paint,’ ” Insel said. “It crystallized what I’d been thinking.”

Insel

Insel’s upcoming book, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health, characterizes the question of treatment as one of civil rights. The so-called mental health crisis is not a new thing, he writes; it is a crisis of care surrounded by harmful misconceptions and ways of thinking.

“There are 10 million people (with serious mental illness) who nobody will ever hear about,” he said, “who will die 20 to 25 years before they should.”

Working with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Insel now spearheads California’s version of the “988 Bill,” an initiative where instead of calling police for a mental health crisis, people can call 988 to a call center that will dispatch a mobile health van complete with a social worker, peer counselor and a nurse. 

“The path to mental health for this country is the three Ps,” Insel said. “People, place and purpose. Those don’t come in a pill — they require a whole range of connections.” 

President John F. Kennedy implemented pieces of a system in the 1960s, he said, but by the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan gutted it.

“We built a national system,” Insel said, “and then we dismantled it.”

When Judge Steven Leifman was in his early days on the bench, the parents of a defendant approached him. They wanted to talk to him before he heard their son’s case; they tearfully told him that their son was schizophrenic. 

“I assumed there must be a system of care in place,” Leifman recalled. “I was wrong.” 

Leifman ended up having to release the defendant because of the minor nature of the charges. There was nothing he could do for the man, even though he had had a schizophrenic break in the courtroom. 

Something had to change.

Now, with 24 years on the bench, Leifman has helped Miami-Dade County restructure its treatment of the mentally ill. He started the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project in 2000, and since then, the county’s statistics have dropped astonishingly: 118,000 arrests dropped to 50,000; recidivism rates for misdemeanors went from 75% to 20%; and felony recidivism went from 75% to 25%. 

Leifman

Out of 105,000 mental health-related emergency calls last year, only 98 arrests were made as a result. And police shootings have all but stopped.

“Nobody got shot, nobody got hurt, nobody got killed,” Leifman said. 

Leifman’s initiative operates two main prongs: pre-arrest diversion and post-arrest progression. 

“We’ve trained 7,600 officers in crisis intervention teams training, where we teach them to de-escalate and take people into treatment,” Leifman said. “It’s saved the county from (handing down) 300 years of jail time and $12 million a year. We were able to close a jail.”

The initiative’s crowning achievement is a seven-story mental health diversion facility, which will open in March 2022. Leifman called it a “one-stop shop for acute cases — the people we walk by every day on the street.” The facility will sport not only psychiatric treatment, but 200 beds, primary care physicians, a courtroom and programs to teach patients new skills.

“It’s not that the care doesn’t exist,” Leifman said. “It’s that most of the care is inaccessible. Instead of kicking people to the curb after adjudicating their cases, we can reintegrate them and help them have a better life.”

Leifman said mental illnesses are like any other illnesses of the body, and that there is less stigma around them than there once was.

“I think the country’s finally waking up,” he said. “… Everyone deserves to be happy and to live a life of hope.”

Ornstein agrees.

“We need to find a better balance,” he said. “ … There are a lot of areas in which we need to work. We are working with (vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education) Matt Ewalt to go beyond the season (and continue the conversation). The infrastructure bill (passed by the U.S. Congress) doesn’t have any mental health infrastructure in it.”

Ornstein concluded: “We need to inform everyone (on treatment). Police, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and jailers, too.”

OSU scholar of story science Fletcher to discuss new way of thinking about the brain in week’s opening lecture

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MAX ZAMBRANO – STAFF WRITER

Fletcher

Using his own brain, Angus Fletcher thought of a different way of understanding every human’s brain. 

“When I started out in neuroscience research, everyone had a lot of different ways of studying the brain, but a lot of them involved cutting up the brain,” he said. “My thought was we might understand a lot more about the brain by studying some of the things the brain has created.”

Creativity, imagination and emotion weren’t being studied much in neuroscience when he began his studies more than two decades ago in college, he said. So, he began studying the arts and its relation to neuroscience. He ultimately earned his doctoral degree from Yale University. Fletcher, now a professor of story science at Ohio State University, published his findings in Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature, released this past March. 

He will open Week Eight’s Chautauqua Lecture Series, themed “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery,” at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 16 in the Amphitheater.

This book, endorsed by respected psychologists, neuroscientists, doctors and literary scholars from around the world, outlines things Fletcher has learned, what literature teaches about the brain, why the brain is special but also how the brain and literature evolved together, he said.

“Literature is our most powerful tool for getting the most out of the human brain,” he said.

Literature can help people have a healthier brain, heal grief, sorrow and loneliness, give the brain more joy, hope, love and empathy, can make people better problem-solvers or think scientifically and can help people be more creative, Fletcher said.

“Basically, the goal of the book is to lay out how to get more of the good stuff out of your brain by reading some of your favorite books in a different way and by reading some wonderful books on your shelf that maybe you haven’t picked up yet,” he said. 

He’s made some surprising discoveries along the way. 

Having worked with veterans dealing with trauma and various therapies for trauma, Fletcher said it was recently discovered there are two forms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

One is commonly caused by a single, violent instance of trauma, which is the more commonly known type of PTSD involving flashbacks and uncontrollable emotions, he said. 

The second kind works the exact opposite, he said. If someone has chronic trauma over time, such as in the cases of domestic abuse or a highly dysfunctional or stressful work environment, then it can manifest in no emotion or numbness, often called depersonalization or derealization, he said.

“What surprised me was that poets and writers actually realized this before scientists,” he said. “They had developed ways of dealing with both types of trauma.”

One of Fletcher’s favorite aspects of literature is it makes people more imaginative, he said. He made another surprising discovery related to that.

“One of the things that blew me away was that a lot of specific techniques and technologies that writers discovered for increasing our imagination and creativity are in children’s literature,” he said. “We always think of children as being more naturally imaginative than adults, but a big part of it is not that — it’s actually the kind of books they read, the kind of stories they tell.”

People stop reading those books when they are no longer children, simultaneously losing touch with the same level of creativity and imagination, he said. Revisiting those books could spark people’s creativity and imagination, which could benefit them in their ordinary lives, he said.

“These books from our past that we’ve forgotten about might actually be the thing we need to go back to and need most,” he said.

In his lecture, Fletcher will focus on emotion and creativity, giving a few quick and specific examples of how literature can help understand those two traits. He said people will be invited to think of the brain in a completely different way than they were taught or that most scientists still think.

He hopes his book will change education in the United States. 

“Education in this country is focused primarily on critical thinking and logic,” he said. “Even in our arts and literature classes, we go in and learn about critical thinking and writing arguments.”

Instead, literature should stir emotional growth and creative thinking. Literature is open-ended and diverse, so it doesn’t prescribe or restrict that growth, but rather gives opportunities for people to find themselves emotionally, creatively and intellectually, he said.

Harvard professor Rebecca M. Henderson to examine roles that businesses can play in stability of democratic institutions

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SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER

Henderson

Do businesses have a responsibility to help maintain the stability of democratic institutions? Rebecca M. Henderson will try to answer this question during her lecture at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 12 in the Amphitheater, closing the Week Seven theme, “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Henderson is one of 25 University Professors at Harvard and holds the John and Natty McArthur University Professorship on the faculty of Harvard Business School. She serves as a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a fellow of both the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a Research Fellow at the National Bureau for Economic Research, a sustainability adviser to several of the world’s largest companies, and a board member at Amgen and IDEXX Laboratories, which are both S&P 500 Companies.

Henderson said her early academic research was all about change in large organizations. At the time she was the Eastman Kodak Professor of Management at MIT — Eastman Kodak was one of the most successful businesses in the world at the time. However, they failed to respond to the advent of digital cameras. Henderson saw the same thing when she was working with Nokia, which at its peak was selling a million cellphones a week but failed to respond to the advent of the smartphone. 

Then she saw former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” That, coupled with what she was hearing from her brother — who is an environmental journalist — about the state of the planet, she was met with the overwhelming feeling that she had to do something. 

Her first thought was that she should stop teaching master of business administration students and become an activist. Henderson felt that all she was doing was oiling the wheels of corporate capitalism, but her friends who were activists convinced her to combine her research on change in large corporations with her desire to work on decarbonizing the world’s energy systems. 

“It rapidly became more than just climate change,” Henderson said. 

“If you think about it, what we have with climate change is a public goods failure. We are too focused on ‘me,’ and right now, and making money, and we’re not thinking about the long term and the broader system which we’re in bed with. For me, climate change was like the canary in the coal mine.” 

Her book, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire, is the product of these catalysts and a class that she was teaching at Harvard Business School called “Reimagining Capitalism: Business and the Big Problems,” which became the most successful new elective in the last 10 years. The book focuses on what stands between businesses and change and why it is essential that they do. 

“One way I talk about it is we’ve been strip mining the planet, and we’ve also been strip mining our societies,” Henderson said. 

She also finds herself having to navigate the dichotomy of 50-plus white businessmen who don’t believe there is a problem with the way capitalism is structured and people under the age of 35 who want to throw capitalism out the window. For her lecture, Henderson wants to focus on the midpoint between these two extremes. 

She thinks that we have to stick with capitalism, but that it has to be radically reimagined, and that while it is tempting to vilify businesses, it is intellectually lazy. While there are businesses that Henderson thinks are undoubtedly evil — like fossil fuel companies — she still likes having a house, lights that work, cars and food. 

“So capitalism is the best mechanism we found of providing broad-based prosperity, and the alternatives we’ve explored have really not worked out at all,” Henderson said. 

Despite capitalism’s drawbacks, Henderson thinks that throwing out the entire system would be a serious mistake, which is why she has been preaching the need to overhaul the system in a way that is more restrictive. 

“We need rules that constrain it and govern it so that you can’t just throw greenhouse gases out the window and you can’t just pay people $10 an hour and tell them they should be grateful for it,” Henderson said. “… When you’re talking to business people, you have to persuade them that better regulation would be better for them, and in a more stable society they would make more money.”

In order to make these changes, Henderson said there are two things individuals can do. The first is to vote in any election they can, particularly the local ones. Just voting in the large national elections, according to Henderson, won’t be enough to create the changes that are becoming more and more necessary. 

“We absolutely need stronger government, and a government that cares about these larger issues, but one that’s not going to reject or shut down businesses; one that will partner with business,” Henderson said. 

The second thing that people can do is “make a fuss.” 

“Make a fuss where you work. Make a fuss where you shop. Make a fuss with your friends,” Henderson said. “These problems are so big, it’s tempting to sit around and hope someone else’s going to solve them because you can’t. None of us can.”

The metaphor Henderson uses in her book is an avalanche. She said that avalanches are started by pebbles and that individuals who make a fuss are the pebbles. In her experience, what really pushes CEOs to make changes to their business model is pressures from employees, customers and, in some cases, family members. 

“We have enormous power as citizens first and foremost, but also as employees and customers and as neighbors,” Henderson said. “We’ve gotten used to thinking, ‘Well, the whole system just kind of runs on its own, I can just put my head down and take care of myself,’ but that view is going to take us over the edge. We have to find a way to work together.”

Atlanta Fed’s Raphael W. Bostic to break down gaps in U.S. economy

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DAVID KWIATKOWSKI – STAFF WRITER

Bostic

Week Seven’s theme of “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?” asks the question that lingers after a pandemic that halted the world’s economy: What now?

As a part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series, Raphael W. Bostic will be delivering his talk, “An Economy That Works for All,” at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11 in the Amphitheater, presented in partnership with the African American Heritage House. 

Bostic is the 15th president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The bank serves the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In Bostic’s role, he oversees monetary policy, bank supervision and regulation, and payment services. 

From 2009 to 2012, he served as the assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

He graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with a combined major in economics and psychology and earned his doctorate in economics from Stanford University in 1995. 

He served as a professor at the University of Southern California in the School of Policy, Planning and Development. His research has spanned fields like home ownership and the role of institutions in shaping policy effectiveness. 

As for his lecture, Bostic plans to first acknowledge how the economy is currently progressing and its condition before the pandemic. He also plans to acknowledge other areas where the economy is not working as well. 

“We as the Atlanta Fed have a catchphrase: ‘An economy that works for everyone,’ ” Bostic said. “That’s what we’re trying to strive for. I’m going to talk a bit about for whom the economy isn’t really working that well, and then identify and focus on that as an area of potential to help us collectively have a stronger economy, a more resilient economy and a more inclusive economy that can lead to more robust and broader base growth.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta does a lot of data analysis to see where the gaps are in the economy, and what groups make up those gaps. 

He cites people living in rural areas, women and ethnic minorities.

“There’s a long history of several decades of rural places falling behind the rest of the country, and the people that live there face bigger challenges affecting growth,” Bostic said. “We’ve known for a long time that women have lagged men in terms of labor market, particularly when it comes to pay, but increasingly through the COVID pandemic crisis, labor force participation and women’s participation in the labor market has really taken a disproportionate hit. African Americans, Latin(x people), Native Americans for decades lagged in the general economy in terms of employment rates, in terms of wages and the types of jobs they have access to.”

Economics is a field that can get confusing to the average person fairly quickly, and Bostic is conscious of that when he speaks about issues like these.

“Economists often talk and use a lot of lingo that isn’t often accessible,” Bostic said. “I really try not to do that. I try to talk in plain language because I actually believe that economics is something everybody can understand and everyone should be able to understand.” 

Bostic is a professor by trade, so he will be leaving Chautauquans with actionable steps that they can take into their everyday lives. 

“What I’m really going to challenge the audience to do is think hard about ways that they can be part of the solution,” Bostic said. “One of the challenges that we have right now is that there are lots of people who don’t have access to information that allows them to know where they can go to advance their careers and to get skills and to find out about jobs. I think that there are things that (people) can do (to) help bridge that gap and make it more likely and easier for people who have, perhaps, been on the outside, to have the perspective of someone on the inside, which can help them.”

AEI’s Robert Doar to deliver lecture on American poverty both before, after COVID-19

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NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER

Doar

When Robert Doar was 6 years old and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy set up a program to combat poverty, Doar’s father was asked to move to Brooklyn from Washington D.C. and help.

“I watched my father grapple with issues concerning helping people move up, and I was inspired by that,” said Doar, president of American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank. “I wanted to work in that field when I got of age, and I was always focused on trying to help our country get better through better domestic policy for people who are struggling the most.”

Doar served for 20 years in social service programs in New York and New York City. And at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10 in the Amphitheater, Doar will present his lecture, titled “Poverty in America Before and After COVID,” as part of Week Seven’s theme of “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?” He will discuss how the United States has been successful, and unsuccessful, in helping people get the resources they need to be above the poverty line, and how the country can help low-income Americans. 

Doar has been the president of AEI for two years. In a 2019 speech, he quoted Irving Kristol, an American journalist known as the godfather of neoconservatism, that a think tank president “is someone who speaks with authority about subjects in which he has no particular competence.”

“You can’t be an expert in, really, more than one or two fields,” Doar said. “As president, I have to support and celebrate and promote the work of scholars in other fields. And that is a challenge. I don’t want to get outside of my lane and pretend that I’m an expert on everything when I’m not.”

AEI does not take institutional positions.

“We really offer people a great deal. They get to come and do their work, then promote their work in public policy, and they love it,” Doar said. “It’s a great place to work, because I’m around a lot of very smart people who are very devoted to their country and are trying to provide ideas that can make us stronger.”

And AEI promotes different perspectives within the organization. 

“We’re not afraid to have people come and take a different perspective so that our audiences can see that debate. We are very strongly opposed to this practice of people staying in their own corners and shutting down speakers from different perspectives,” Doar said. 

“That’s a form of illiberalism that we oppose very strongly.”

The organization also works closely with college students. As well as having worked closely with small groups of students across 100 campuses, AEI also invites around 300 students into their program. In this program, students come to Washington D.C. for four-week periods and take courses with their scholars.

“What’s just terrific is if you look at the biographies of these kids, they’re very diverse; they’re very interesting; they’re very committed; they’re very patriotic,” Doar said. “They want to learn, and they’re very capable, and so that’s been terribly exciting.”

Doar said there is an imbalance in Hollywood and academia, where conservatives find themselves outnumbered. He said everyone needs to make a larger effort to include all voices. 

“Having said that,” Doar said, “I think the country is a little less overly progressive and liberal, and some of their resentments are caused by this sense that these other institutions, the media, the academic world, our culture is dominated by a certain perspective that they don’t agree with, and that their voices are heard or appreciated.”

‘Marketplace’ senior reporter Nancy Marshall-Genzer to analyze state of the economy, forecast rest of year in morning lecture

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MAX ZAMBRANO – STAFF WRITER

Marshall-Genzer

When Nancy Marshall-Genzer’s grandmother was widowed in her early 40s, she needed a way to support her two kids. With no formal training, she studied hard, and eventually became the first woman to be a stockbroker in Davenport, Iowa.

She passed her knowledge down to her daughter, who then passed it to her daughter, Marshall-Genzer. She said she’s been fascinated by economics all her life because of these women. Earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University, Marshall-Genzer has been the senior reporter for American Public Media’s “Marketplace” since 2006. She’s now produced over 1,500 stories related to the economy, averaging 100 each year. 

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 9 in the Amphitheater, she will open Week Seven’s Chautauqua Lecture Series themed “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Her focus has shifted slightly over the years, but she’s always loved economic reporting. One of the areas she covers more frequently is the Federal Reserve.

“I just love the Fed,” she said. “I love data. I’m a nerd.”

One thing she likes about the Federal Reserve is the suspense that comes with their decisions.

“Will it keep pouring liquidity into the economy and keep its foot on the gas pedal to stimulate the economy, or is it worried about overheating the economy and spurring inflation?” she said. “It’s really fun to watch that and try to figure out what they’re going to do.”

This isn’t her only focus, though. Marshall-Genzer has covered labor laws, the minimum wage, housing markets, financial policies and COVID-19’s economic impact. One of her goals is explaining how decisions on Wall Street and in Washington D.C. impact the everyday American. Sometimes, that includes being right alongside the everyday American. One story in particular stands out in her career.

“I interviewed a woman in Alabama, an elderly Black woman who was not doing great financially, and she just wanted $500 to buy a spot in a cemetery for her grave,” Marshall-Genzer said. “She wanted it to be near her family.”

They spent that day together, including a trip to the cemetery, where the woman needed to settle a dispute, Marshall-Genzer said. The dispute was ultimately settled, she said, and they went out to look at the graves. There, Marshall-Genzer took a photo of the woman looking down at her mother’s grave. When the story went public, people began a crowdfunding campaign, Marshall-Genzer said. It was successful.

“I was just amazed,” she said. “Stories like that that really have an impact are my favorite stories to do.”

In today’s lecture, she’ll look at the current state of the economy, and for the rest of the year, too. She wants people to realize, though, that she doesn’t have a crystal ball.

“I’m specifically looking at some economic indicators that I watch and that the economists I interview watch,” she said.

One of those is consumer spending, a closely watched indicator, she said. She’ll look at tools economists use to determine and analyze consumer spending, too. She will also look at inflation, and how the Federal Reserve attempts to keep inflation at its target — around 2%, she said.

The Federal Reserve is also responsible for determining unemployment rates, although it does not have a specific goal like inflation, she said. Instead, it has a goal of maximum employment, she said. Marshall-Genzer will also analyze the sum of all goods and services produced in the United States, known as the gross domestic product, or GDP. 

“My favorite economic indicator is freight rail and trains,” she said. “You can tell a whole lot from shipments of various goods across the country. Some shipments are going down, some are going up, and it’s a nice way to take a pulse check on the economy to see what’s happening with freight rail.”

Marshall-Genzer hopes people leave the Amp today with a better sense of the economy and what to look for themselves. Going forward, she thinks attendees might pay closer attention to indicators, such as unemployment or consumer confidence.

“I’d love for them to be able to hear about this news about various indicators, and then draw their own conclusions about where the economy is going,” she said.

‘1000 Cut Journey’ lead creator Courtney Cogburn to discuss possibilities, shortcomings of VR as tool for empathy in week’s closing lecture

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SARA TOTH – EDITOR

Cogburn

Is racial empathy possible? That’s the question Courtney Cogburn approaches through her research and work with virtual reality — a helpful tool to foster conversations but, she cautions, only just a tool.

“Do we need VR to help you understand that racism is not good, that it’s not a good thing, it doesn’t feel good?” she said in a recent interview for NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “To what degree do I need to create an experience to help you see and understand that? And perhaps the more important question would be, why do you need to see it from this particular point of view?”

Cogburn, the co-director of the Columbia School of Social Work’s Justice, Equity, Technology Lab, is the lead creator of “1000 Cut Journey,” an immersive VR experience that simulates moments of a Black child’s life, going through adolescence, and the racism they face along the way. 

“1000 Cut Journey” debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018; Cogburn also served as a director, producer and writer on the project. She’ll be discussing her work — and the work that remains to be done — at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 5 in the Amphitheater, concluding the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week Six theme of “Building a Culture of Empathy.”

“This is a week of lectures that doesn’t come to an end tied in a bow, but rather leads us to more questions and more exploration,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “We end with Professor Cogburn addressing ways in which empathy — for all it can do — is still insufficient when it comes to what is needed to effect systemic change.”

The 10-minute-long “1000 Cut Journey” was lauded for its ability to make people feel real emotions in response to the immersion, but there are shortcomings to the technology. When she was reviewing feedback from people who had experienced the work of “1000 Cut Journey,” Cogburn found reactions varied from person to person — essentially, as she told Wired’s Rita Omokha, “you can’t pour training into a container that’s not ready to receive it.” People might not understand why anti-racism training is needed, for example, or reject — either consciously or subconsciously — that it’s needed at all.

Omokha’s article, titled “VR Trainings Are Not Going to Fix Corporate Racism,” explores human resources departments’ increased use of VR platforms to focus training on diversity, equity and inclusion. Cogburn consulted on some of these platforms, and ultimately, she told Omokha, VR is in no way a cure-all.

“Emotional empathy is the ability to understand how someone is feeling,” Cogburn said. “I’m not sure it’s possible, and certainly not with a few minutes in VR, to know the burden that comes with trying to survive whiteness from birth. I don’t think I could create the experience you would need to have. Do I just leave you in VR for five years?”

Jackie Acho to share work with Cleveland PD, discuss currency of empathy for CLS

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NICHOLE JIANG – STAFF WRITER

Acho

Everyone may have their own definition of empathy. However, “understanding the feelings of another person, and having an appropriate emotional response” is what empathy means to Jackie Acho, founder of The Acho Group and author of Currency of Empathy: The Secret to Thriving in Business & Life

Speaking to this week’s theme of “Building a Culture of Empathy,” Acho will speak at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4 in the Amphitheater, discussing the importance of empathy in working toward a better society and the work that she has been doing with the Cleveland Police Department. Her lecture is titled “The Future of Policing: What’s Empathy Got to Do With It?”

Acho graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Michigan and later received both her master’s and doctoral degrees in inorganic chemistry from MIT. Acho has also received various recognitions for her work including being named “one of the 500 most influential women in Northeast Ohio” by Northern Ohio Live Magazine as well as “a top 40 under 40” by Crain’s Cleveland Business. 

Before founding The Acho Group and writing books, Acho was a McKinsey & Company partner. However, after becoming the mother to two kids, Acho began the journey to where she is today.

“I was struggling with it, like every working parent, and it turns out that parenting is one of those moments that grows the empathic capacity of the brain,” Acho said. “So the struggle that I had was an emotional one.” 

“I ended up starting my own business so that I could work and help my husband raise our kids.”

With a background in science, Acho had always been focused on logic, data and facts. But this experience opened her eyes — not just to the importance of empathy, but the potential it held to create a better society. 

“I did a lot of technology-based growth and strategy and economic development,” Acho said, “and I started to realize that the clients that were able to execute the big, beautiful plans we made had something special in their culture. So I started to connect the personal and the professional, and realized that empathy was the missing link to innovation, and, it turns out, also inclusion.”

So, she shifted the way she worked.

“Around 2008, I started writing and speaking about a currency of empathy and doing work with clients to shift their culture, as opposed to writing their strategy,” Acho said. “Most of all of this was inspired from the inside out, when I became a parent. It just shifted my very left brain. I started digging into empathy … and I then started realizing that this is really a solution from the inside out for families, organizations and even broader society.”

After reading and researching empathy, Acho realized that people have different views of the matter. However, Acho wants to stress the importance of having an appropriate emotional response to others. 

“It’s understanding the feelings of another person, and having an appropriate emotional response,” she said. “And it’s that last part that people usually leave out, and that’s why it can get a bad name. Because a lot of things that are not empathy get called empathy. So, a really important part of empathy is having that understanding, and then getting your own emotional triggers out of the way so that you can sit with somebody neutrally in their emotions.” 

Even though some people are simply born more sensitive than others, Acho said, empathy is something that can be cultivated. 

“There’s plenty of nurture, and you can develop empathy over a lifetime,” Acho said. “There are two times when people’s capacity for developing empathy is jacked up to the highest level. One is in very early childhood. And there’s two parts of empathy: There’s the emotional part, and then there’s the cognitive part. When you’re an infant, it’s that aspect of emotional empathy that’s developing its foundation, because you’re communicating your needs without words. The second time when empathy has the capacity to grow is when you have young children, and you spend time hands-on parenting with a lot of nonverbal communication. That’s a piece of affective empathy.”

Acho wants to highlight the importance of affective empathy, as many people don’t realize its significance. 

“The piece everybody focuses on when they do empathy training is cognitive empathy,” Acho said. “So what they’re doing is they’re telling you how to take somebody else’s perspective. But the problem is, you really hone your cognitive empathy, but your affective empathy is stunted. So you don’t have the feelings inside, but you can project intellectually what somebody else is feeling. While you can manipulate people, this is worse, because the definition of a psychopath is somebody who has super high cognitive empathy, and zero affective empathy.”

Acho strongly believes that people can develop both sides of empathy, and the Cleveland Police Department is just one example of this possibility. This work will be a main feature in today’s lecture. 

“The Cleveland Police are actually our poster-child client. They called me out of the blue, in 2015, because I had given a TEDx talk called ‘A Good Day’s Work Requires Empathy,’ and Detective Gibbons, who works in employee assistance, called me and said, ‘I think we have a problem with empathy. Can you help us?’ and I nearly dropped the phone,” Acho said. “Slowly but surely, we adapted a cultural diagnostic basis survey so that we could do a pilot in the most violent district in Cleveland. We set up an innovation team, and they set about making changes based on the feedback that they had gotten from all of the officers. And in the course of two years, they had incredible results. … The use of force went down by 29% and citizen complaints went down by 45%. So, they really shifted the culture to the positive in a short period of time, and when you think about a 160-year-old paramilitary organization, it’s kind of astonishing.”

People may wonder how they can make a personal impact on society with empathy. To this, Acho has one piece of advice. 

“What you need to do in order to develop mature affective empathy is to take good enough care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually, so that you can move your own triggers, out of the way in your relationships with other people and in your interactions with other people,” Acho said. “So skip the projection, and don’t solve everybody else’s problems if they don’t want your help. Be able to be curious, and just sit with somebody else in their experience.”

Primatologist Frans de Waal to discuss empathy as natural characteristic existing in both animals, humans

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ANNALEE HUBBS – COPY & DIGITAL EDITOR

de Waal

Some would say we’re naturally a very selfish species, and that only through religion can we become moral. Frans de Waal thinks that’s nonsense. 

de Waal also thinks, and has thought for the past 25 years, that animals have empathy — that they respond to and are affected by the emotions of others. 

Around the early days of this research, de Waal was doing observations on chimpanzees who console each other. If a chimp cried because he lost a fight, was beaten up, or fell out of a tree, others would approach and embrace him, kiss and groom him to calm him down. de Waal noticed the same consolation responses in chimps that researchers were seeing in children. 

From that point, de Waal became interested in the issue of empathy as a mammalian characteristic. 

There was initially quite a bit of resistance to de Waal’s ideas, but now, it’s well accepted and researched — there are studies on rodents, dogs, horses, elephants, dolphins — and de Waal is familiar with giving lectures on animal empathy and intelligence, and the evolution of empathy as a whole. 

“Empathy is not an acquired characteristic for most people,” he said. “Only a very small minority of people lack this capacity.”

For his first public lecture in nearly two years, de Waal visits Chautauqua at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3 in the Amphitheater to discuss his book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, as a part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series’ Week Six theme “Building a Culture of Empathy.”

de Waal is the C.H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s psychology department and the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta. 

He is professor at Utrecht University, Netherlands, and in 2013 was awarded an honorary doctorate there.

The way human empathy used to be tested, de Waal said, was by psychologists who would go to a human family, ask someone to cry and see how young children responded. Very young children who could barely walk approached the crying person and stroked them to calm them down. In that same study, they found that dogs do the same thing — they lick faces and put their heads in laps. The psychologist who did these studies, Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, concluded that if the dogs do the same thing as the children, and we call it empathy, then why don’t we call it empathy in the dogs? 

We are social animals; empathy is not something you need to learn. Empathy is something you’re born with.”

— Frans de Waal
C.H. Candler Professor, 
Emory University

de Waal said he published Age of Empathy after the financial crisis of 2008, when “everyone was saying, ‘We need a different kind of society — this is not going well. We need a society less based on money and more based on human feelings.’ ” 

In his lecture, de Waal will focus on how empathy and emotions are similarly expressed between humans and animals through photos and videos. 

He will focus especially on the issues of his last book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Teach Us about Ourselves: how we recognize emotions, how deep the emotions of animals are and why it has taken so long for people to recognize that they have emotions.

It’s important to talk about empathy being a natural characteristic in a community like Chautauqua because, in a cynical view, humans are presented as selfless and competitive, and only secondarily as nice, kind and empathic, de Waal said. He thinks this is wrong. 

“We are social animals; empathy is not something you need to learn,” he said. “Empathy is something you’re born with.” 

The topic of animal empathy used to be taboo partly for practical reasons, de Waal said. If people eat animals, they don’t want to talk too much about their emotions. 

“These characteristics that we emphasize in our society are not cultural products, or products of religion or products of philosophy,” de Waal said. He hopes his lecture sparks a discussion about this idea. 

de Waal also does studies on altruism, and the popular belief that only humans can do favors for one another. Altruistic tendencies are also found in many other species, he said. 

“If you want to build a society with more collective responsibility, and more kindness — another characteristic that we inherit from other species — we definitely don’t need culture and religion to get there. We have that already in us,” he said. “That’s what I want to emphasize.”

Acclaimed author Cheryl Strayed kicks off Week 6 CLS on theme of empathy

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DAVID KWIATKOWSKI – STAFF WRITER

Strayed

If there ever was to be a representation of the personification of empathy, it would be Cheryl Strayed. 

Strayed is a New York Times bestselling author, known for her memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and the collection Tiny Beautiful Things, and a host of the advice podcasts “Sugar Calling” and “Dear Sugars.”

She will be delivering the morning lecture as part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 2 in the Amphitheater.

Wild was adapted to the screen in 2014, and starred Reese Witherspoon as Strayed and Laura Dern as her mother, Bobbi.

“As a writer, obviously, so much of my work has been about empathy,” Strayed said. “I think that there’s no way for you to create a character on the page or write about yourself in a vulnerable way without having this deep understanding of, essentially, the human struggle to both have compassion for our flaws and our mistakes and admiration for our triumphs and our strengths. Never was that put to the test before quite so directly as when I began my work on ‘Dear Sugar.’ ”

“Dear Sugar” was Strayed’s originally anonymous advice column on The Rumpus where writers would ask for advice. Strayed will be pulling from other editions of “Dear Sugar” columns to include in her lecture about empathy.

“My impulse was to respond with a lot of empathy, compassion and sincerity, and genuinely try to use the column to actually not only help the person who wrote to me, but maybe offer some comfort to others who are reading it,” Strayed said. 

“It’s not just the direct epistolary exchange between the letter writer and the advice giver — it’s a conversation that includes everyone who’s reading it.”

There’s no way for you to create a character on the page or write about yourself in a vulnerable way without having this deep understanding of, essentially, the human struggle.”

Cheryl strayed
Author,
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Strayed believes that she always had a natural impulse toward empathy, even when she was a child. One time, her older sister Karen fell and skinned her knee, and Strayed started crying harder than her sister was. She cried so much that their mother thought Strayed was the one that had fallen.

“I felt her pain so deeply that it actually traumatized me to imagine my poor sister being hurt, so that there was always that natural inclination I had toward having that kind of empathy,” Strayed said.

Strayed’s career has been defined by her candidness about her own experiences, which naturally lends herself to be empathetic of others and theirs.

“I know for certain that when we tell our stories, we make others feel less alone,” she said. “So when I speak up, and I say ‘I don’t know how to live without my mother, I’m so devastated by that loss,’ I’m not really just talking about me; I’m talking in a voice as a writer, at least, and as Sugar to a whole lot of other people who are nodding their heads and feeling the same way.”

The state of the world has also led Strayed to believe that there is an absence of empathy across the globe. In America specifically, she points to Donald Trump’s presidency as a specific point of an unempathetic time in history.

“Whether you love him or hate him, I don’t think that you can dispute that he behaved in a way that didn’t really honor empathy,” Strayed said. “His concerns weren’t about compassion, inclusion and affirmation. He really rallied around rage and resentment, the kinds of things that are the opposite of empathy.”

Strayed is not naive to the fact that there are issues on both sides of the political spectrum, and there are no easy solutions to the divides that exist today.

“I do know for certain, no matter where you stand politically, that when you actually take the time to listen to somebody’s perspective, to know somebody’s story, to understand what their personal struggles or fears or anxieties might be, at least it might be an opening to a conversation,” Strayed said. “I don’t know what that conversation is going to lead to, I don’t know if we’re going be able to solve everything, but having it is at least the beginning.”

Strayed is currently working on finishing up her next memoir and a screenplay about a famous woman in history.

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