Morning Lecture Previews

Maria Ressa to speak on journalism, freedom of speech


Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maria Ressa is capping a week of courage by sharing her own experiences of bravery in journalism.

“We close our Chautauqua Lecture Series with one of the most exceptional champions and fighters for protecting free speech: Maria Ressa,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “The Nobel Prize honors that work, but those deep challenges to free speech — and to the role journalism plays in seeking out truth and being a critical challenge to those in power in terms of transparency and obligation to the larger public — are so clearly evident in her work each and every day.”

At 10:45 a.m. Friday, Aug. 19 in the Amphitheater, Ressa, CEO of the online news website Rappler, will give her lecture about her continued fight for freedom of expression. Born and based in the Philippines, Ressa has worked as a local correspondent for CNN, covering the growth of terrorism in Southeast Asia, and in 2012 co-founded Rappler as a way to fight against misinformation online. 

“With Maria Ressa, I anticipate both the championing of good and necessary journalism in the world, but also the larger public’s obligation to support that work, and the responsibility of other institutions to protect it,” Ewalt said.

Rappler is leading the charge for press freedom in the Philippines, and has been constantly attacked and harassed by President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration since his election in 2016. For her work, Ressa was named one of Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time’s Most Influential Women of the Century. 

The author of three books, her forthcoming work to be published this fall is titled How to Stand up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future. In 2021, she and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” according to the Nobel Foundation.

In her speech accepting her Nobel Prize, Ressa said she was a representative of all journalists who make sacrifices to stay true to their values and mission. 

“At the core of journalism is a code of honor. And mine is layered on different worlds — from how I grew up, when I learned what was right and wrong; from college, and the honor code I learned there; and my time as a reporter, and the code of standards and ethics I learned and helped write,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Add to that the Filipino idea of utang na loob — or the debt from within — at its best, a system of paying it forward. Truth and ethical honor intersected like an arrow into this moment where hate, lies and divisiveness thrive.”

Through Rappler, Ressa has worked to examine two sides of the same coin: the information ecosystem and the technology it was created by. Ressa battles the spread of misinformation and the damage it causes.

In the span of two years, the Philippine government filed 10 arrest warrants against her, and she has posted bail 10 times to continue her work. All the charges she faces can send her to prison for about 100 years. 

“But, the more I was attacked for my journalism, the more resolute I became,” Ressa said in her acceptance speech. “I had first-hand evidence of abuse of power. What was meant to intimidate me and Rappler only strengthened us.”

With Rappler, Ressa has attacked two fronts: Duterte’s drug war and Facebook. 

“Online violence is real world violence,” Ressa said in her speech. “Social media is a deadly game for power and money. … Facebook is the world’s largest distributor of news, and yet studies have shown that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than facts on social media. These American companies controlling our global information ecosystem are biased against facts, biased against journalists. They are — by design — dividing us and radicalizing us.”

Without facts, she said, there is no truth. 

“Without truth, you can’t have trust,” she said. “Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with our world’s existential problems: climate, Coronavirus, the battle for truth.”

All of this makes her a fitting concluding lecture in a week on “New Profiles in Courage,” Ewalt said.

“As with many voices that we hear from on the Amphitheater stage, there is the work being done that can be inspiring, and the challenge to us of the role we play as individuals, as communities,” Ewalt said. “There is an unsettling of assumptions and what we take for granted, that pushes us to ask more questions of ourselves, of our institutions.”

Levi Strauss’ Chip Bergh, Darren Walker to discuss need for courage in corporate America


The traditional marks of a good business are often measured by profits, stakeholder equity and utility. As corporate America shifts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, one value is being left behind: care for the consumers. 

Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., is among one of the leading business figureheads in America who tries to look beyond profit to better help people across the globe. Ford Foundation President Darren Walker will join Bergh in conversation at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 in the Amphitheater to discuss what it means to be courageous in big business, and how Bergh has stood for his values in his career. 

In 2019, Bergh was named one of the World’s Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine. Prior to taking up the role as president of Levi Strauss & Co., Bergh served on the board of directors for the apparel company VF Corporation and the Singapore Economic Development Board. He also worked at Procter & Gamble for 28 years, overseeing the launch of Swifter, Gillette and more multimillion dollar products under P&G’s name. Additionally, Bergh was named nonexecutive chairman of the board of HP Inc. in 2017. 

Walker has participated in conversations with several speakers throughout the Week Eight theme “New Profiles in Courage.” With Bergh, he anticipates a fresh perspective on courage in corporate America. 

“Chip is an example of a corporate CEO who has exhibited courage, because he has been willing to go against the grain of sometimes normative thought,” Walker said. “Chip has challenged the idea that the only purpose of a company is profits.”

Bergh has campaigned for investment to be returned to employees and their communities, an act that Walker said “takes courage in a time when most of the incentives for public company CEOs are strictly financial, and most of the indicators of success are mostly financial.”

Levi Strauss sells clothing in more than 110 countries worldwide, and has approximately 500 stores. Under Bergh’s leadership, Levi Strauss returned to public markets with a successful initial public offering in March 2019. Walker himself has served on corporate boards for Block, Inc. and Ralph Lauren.

“I plan on situatuating Chip in the context of corporate America in 2022 and the difficulty for a leader to exhibit courage when they are often discouraged from being courageous,” he said. 

As Week Eight nears an end, Walker hopes people learn from Bergh’s strategy and leadership, and act with the same bravery. 

“Chautauquans should expect to understand a leader and a company that believes in a double bottom line, a financial return and social return,” Walker said. “That it is possible for more companies to be like Levi Strauss, and that they can play a role — Chautauqua as shareholders of companies can demand that their companies seek a double bottom line, too.”  

Staff writer Kaitlyn Finchler contributed to this report. 

Jonah Goldberg, Nancy Gibbs to discuss polarization, courage in politics

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Week Eight at Chautauqua has already examined courage through science and faith, in the face of loss and adversity. A recurring theme is courage in politics — especially divided politics. 

“As we think about these issues of what it means to be courageous, and how we think about courage during such a deeply polarizing and troubled time, that question around the intersection of courage and politics was one that deeply interested us,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

At 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17 in the Amphitheater, Jonah Goldberg, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the center-right digital news site The Dispatch and the former senior editor of National Review, will be in conversation with Nancy Gibbs, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. 

Goldberg is the author of several books, most recently Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy. A conservative columnist for several publications and his own Dispatch, he’s a regular contributor to major new networks, including CNN, MSNBC and, until November 2021, Fox News. He and fellow pundit Stephen Hayes left the network after its streaming service aired a documentary series from Tucker Carlson called “Patriot Purge.”

It was “a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery and damning omissions,” Goldberg and Hayes, who co-founded The Dispatch with Goldberg, wrote in a blog post announcing their departures.

Changes in the media landscape over the last few years will be a part of Goldberg and Gibbs’ conversation today.

“Earlier in the week, we heard from Congressman Jamie Raskin about courage in politics more broadly, as we think about issues of trauma and collective trauma as it relates to Jan. 6,” Ewalt said. “But with Jonah Goldberg, we have one of the most significant conservative thinkers of our time in conversation with Nancy Gibbs, around the divisiveness of our politics, the state of American conservatism and an examination of our media landscape, all with these larger themes of courage in mind now.”

Ewalt said that Goldberg, an author and a fellow at the National Review Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, will provide an examination of liberal and conservative ideologies, economic policy and the changed role of media. With Gibbs, former managing editor of TIME magazine, he will look into how to define and exercise courage in a polarized world. 

“With the polarization of our country right now, we often settle, within ourselves, upon a kind of linear or two-dimensional (perspective), or think it’s one of two sides,” Ewalt said. “Yet, our politics is far more complicated than that.”

Goldberg and Gibbs, through today’s conversation, will challenge the idea of our democracy and discuss courage in politics. 

“What does it mean to unsettle that kind of simplification, and begin to think of where we find courage within ideas that, on the surface, we may not agree with, but in fact play a role in larger work that a society is confronting?” Ewalt asked.

Renowned author Rushdie, in conversation with Pittsburgh City of Asylum’s Reese, to discuss need to protect persecuted writers

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Book bans in America are reaching new highs, according to an April PEN report that shows an increase of over 1,500 banned books between July 2021 and March 2022. This censorship permeates deeper than books themselves, and in some cases, affects the lives behind the books: the authors. 

In 1988, Salman Rushdie published a novel, The Satanic Verses, that was inspired by the life of the prophet Muhammad, and whose title refers to a series of Quranic verses. 

The novel sparked outrage among Muslims, as some felt that references in the novel were blasphemous; Rushdie was accused of misusing free speech and threats of Iranian government-sanctioned violence were placed on Rushdie’s life, as well as on the lives of contributors to the novel. The U.K. government stepped in and placed Rushdie under police protection. 

Rushdie, a celebrated author with a total of 14 novels and several other books in his repertoire, and who has won an array of literary prizes including the 1981 Man Booker Prize, and the 1993 “Booker of Bookers” for his novel, Midnight’s Children, will speak at 10:45 a.m. today on the Amphitheater stage, alongside advocate Henry Reese, about the importance of providing writers with places of asylum, closing the Week Seven Chautauqua Lecture Series Home of “More than Shelter” Redefining the America Home.” Rushdie previously spoke on the Amp stage in 2010, in a special evening Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle presentation on his book The Enchantress of Florence.

“Sadly, the level of persecutions is not dropping, but rising,” Rushdie said, “… and safe places are required.” 

While in hiding, Rushdie collaborated with other writers to create the International Parliament of Authors. They advocated for European cities to establish places of refuge for writers, eventually establishing the Cities of Asylum network, wherein writers could find safety and freedom in creative expression. 

Reese, an academic and avid reader, first heard Rushdie speak about the Cities of Asylum network in Pittsburgh in 1997, just as Rushdie was reentering the public eye. He was captivated by Rushdie’s work with Cities of Asylum, and immediately contacted the network about his desire to found a Pittsburgh chapter. When he didn’t get a response, he spent the next six years consistently emailing them until 2003 when work began to expand the Cities of Asylum network. 

Now, Rushdie and Reese, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of City of Asylum, take the Amp stage as “two friends who know each other well,” and who approach the work of protecting artists from different perspectives, said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. 

“Reese, who is leader of City of Asylum, can engage Salman Rushdie in both the history of how the organization came to be, and an examination of Rushdie’s own experiences as a writer who has already been threatened,” Ewalt said.

Rushdie and Reese will emphasize the significance of refuge for persecuted writers in modernity. 

“I’d hope to talk about the importance of the literary arts in an age dominated by the false narratives of the powerful,” Rushdie said. 

Rushdie’s inaugural work in establishing Cities of Asylum, alongside “inspiring Henry Reese and others to create an American version,” are two aspects of his career that he said he is most proud of. 

“Both (Reese and Rushdie) have provided critical leadership in creating the City of Asylum infrastructure and mission tying to more broad international obligations for protecting artists and writers in exile,” Ewalt said. 

As Rushdie and Reese depart the Amp stage, Rushdie wants Chautauquans to have a part of his story. 

“I’ve written 20 books, and there’s a 21st coming in February,” he said. “That shelf of books is my legacy, and I’d hope that Chautauquans might want one or two of those books on their own bookshelves.” 

Editor’s note: Due to events in the Amphitheater on Friday, August 12, this lecture did not take place as scheduled.

ABT’s Copeland, Ford Foundation’s Walker to hold conversation on dancer’s journey, bravery in ballet


It takes ballet dancers, on average, a little less than 10 years to receive the training to become a professional dancer, but that was not the case for American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Misty Copeland.

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, as part of Week Eight’s Chautauqua Lecture Series, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker will interview Copeland about her story, ballet and the arts.

“I’m interested in Misty’s journey, her journey from poverty to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House as the first African American principal dancer of a major American ballet company,” Walker said.


Copeland began dancing at age 13, and two years later she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. While it may look like it at first glance, her journey was not an easy one. When she began dancing, Copeland lived in a motel room with her five other siblings.

“Her story is so compelling,” Walker said. “I want to talk with Misty about how she overcame the trauma and pain of her childhood to be a leader in the arts today, and the difference between being a principal dancer and a leader, a cultural icon.”

Week Eight’s lecture series theme is “New Profiles in Courage,” and throughout the week, Walker be in conversation with several presenters as they discuss  people’s courageous journeys.

“Courage is a willingness to do what is right and just, when the incentives tell you to do otherwise,” Walker said.

To Walker, Copeland exemplifies these principles.

“Misty was courageous because she had no incentives to pursue a career in dance,” he said. “She had a dream, and she did have a mentor. But she did not have networks, connections, the financial resources that other dancers often have, and it took courage to not give up, to not give in to those who believed her dream was unattainable and unrealistic.”

The arts have always been a part of Walker’s life, and he continues to serve on numerous boards of performing visual arts programs even after becoming the president of the Ford Foundation, a private foundation that seeks to improve the lives of all people and secure their inclusion in every aspect of life. Walker serves on boards for the National Gallery of Art, Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts, and many more.

One of his involvements with the arts included being the vice chairman of the board of the New York City Ballet for about 25 years. So in his conversation today with Copeland, he enters it as no stranger to her world. 

“(Serving as vice chairman of the board) gave me insight to the ecosystem of dance and the elitism of ballet and the inherent difficulty for people like Misty to succeed,” he said.

These aspects of ballet cannot stay this way, he said. As someone involved at the board level, he said it is difficult to fundraise for major dance companies when they do not shift from these attitudes.

“I believe there needs to be changes in ballet, especially if it is to remain a relevant art form in America,” he said.

He explained that changes must occur on the board member level to help keep ballet relevant. Otherwise, ballet could stand to fall out of touch and become an art form that impacts fewer and fewer.

“The courage needs to come from board members especially, who need to not simply replicate past patterns of elitism and exclusionary practices that actually do harm to the field of dance,” he said, “that simply repeat historic patterns that have contributed to a ballet system that is in need of reform.”

Staff writer Kaitlyn Finchler contributed to this report. 

Neuroscientist Marsh to talk intersection of fear, courage


While courageous heroes are often seen as fearless, Abigail Marsh argues these protagonists tend to feel fear more than the average person. 


“One of the really interesting things about people who are psychopathic … is that they don’t experience fear strongly … and yet they’re not heroes,” Marsh said. “That suggests that fear is actually not the opposite of heroism. It’s something you need to be a true hero.”

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Marsh will open Week Eight’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “New Profiles in Courage,” with her lecture, in which she will expand on the vitality of fear.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, will introduce Week Eight’s theme prior to Marsh’s lecture.

“I’m hoping the introduction will situate the idea of courage as a throughline for the week,” Walker said. “Courage, not being simply bravery, but a willingness to put one’s own assets, reputation and status at risk in order to ensure a more fair and just world.”

As an author, psychologist and professor in both the department of psychology and the interdisciplinary program in neuroscience at Georgetown University, Marsh has extensive research experience in psychology and neuroscience. Her work focuses specifically on social behavior, particularly on the reasons the brain enables empathy and apathy. 

“I’ve always really been interested in how people come to behave the way that they do,” Marsh said. “My interest in altruism in particular … can (be) traced back to this incident of having been rescued by a stranger myself.”

When Marsh was 19, she was in a nearly fatal car accident. Her car spun into a lane of oncoming traffic on the freeway, and a man ran across four lanes of traffic to save Marsh’s life. This led her to wonder why he would risk his own life in an attempt to save hers. 

But when Marsh was 23, a contrasting experience occurred. She was hit in the face by a stranger at a New Year’s party, which broke her nose. 

“It was a very unexpected event that I think really pulled my thinking in the direction of (understanding) human behavior as a continuum,” Marsh said.

Her research on altruism can be used to help people understand the core of acts of courage, specifically on a cognitive processing level. During her lecture, she will speak on the need to feel and sense fear, while simultaneously overcoming that fear to help others. 

Too often, Marsh said, real-life heroes are described as guardian angels and saints, which she feels makes their actions seem unattainable. 

“I think understanding the nuts and bolts of what allows (these heroes) to act so courageously, from both a cognitive and neural perspective, makes it clear that the capacity for empathy, altruism and courage is part of the basic makeup of humans and is attainable by most people,” Marsh said. “… There’s nothing supernatural or superhuman about being altruistic or heroic.”

Aspects of Marsh’s book, The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths and Everyone In-Between, will also be brought to the forefront during her lecture, as well as new data she has acquired since its 2017 publication. 

Marsh hopes Chautauquans who attend her lecture “will never describe real-life heroes as fearless again.” 

She believes this sort of categorization lessens how heroic their bravery truly is, as these heroes put their own well-being on the frontlines despite the fear they feel.

“(Those who want to be braver need to remember that) feeling fear is not the opposite of being brave,” Marsh said. “It’s a necessary requirement for being brave.” 

Staff writer Kaitlyn Finchler contributed to this report.

Filmmaker Giorgio Angelini to discuss post-war practices, implications for America


When Giorgio Angelini was working on a master’s in architecture in the midst of the 2008 housing market crash, he read an article about an abandoned development project in the Inland Empire, a densely populated metropolitan area in coastal Southern California. The article described an uncanny scene of the land that used to be home to citrus groves, but Angelini was surprised that the story did not include photos. He applied for a grant and drove out to the California desert to see and photograph the project for himself. 

“The scale of wreckage was just unfathomable,” Angelini said.

He was awed by the desolate landscape of mass-produced, half-built houses side by side with a scorched orange grove.

“That was a really striking image for me, that in this moment where global capital markets were frozen, and money wasn’t flowing, you were witnessing this commodity shift frozen in time,” Angelini said. “Someone, on a spreadsheet somewhere far, far away, said, ‘Oh, we can make incrementally more money per acre if we convert this from bushels of oranges to bundled, air-conditioned square footage.’ ”

Angelini’s education in architecture during that unstable period and his encounter with the Inland Empire wasteland planted the seeds for his directorial debut: the 2018 documentary “Owned: A Tale of Two Americas.” Angelini will give a lecture as part of Week Seven’s theme, “More Than Shelter: Redefining the American Home.” The lecture will take place at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater. The documentary will also screen at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at Chautauqua Cinema. 

Angelini firmly believes that we, as a society, need to reconceptualize what “home” means. He thought that the 2008 housing crisis would turn the tide and force America to recalibrate, but that hope has not borne fruit.

“In America, we’re uniquely predisposed to thinking of a home as this wealth accumulation machine,” Angelini said. “And really, that’s first and foremost, and everything else is kind of secondary. But I want people to understand that when we treat a home like a commodity, it necessarily teases out the worst aspects, both on the financial side and the cultural side.”

Post-World War II housing policy implemented deeply entrenched segregation through redlining. With the Baby Boom creating a need for more housing and the lingering specter of the Great Depression, America dreamed of building a thriving society of wealth through home ownership.

The Federal Housing Administration insured mortgages to private banks, but drew up segregated maps with proverbial and literal red lines indicating which neighborhoods they would insure. Given the racist impression that Black residents would bring down property values, the FHA chose to insure mortgages in white neighborhoods, but not Black ones.

Angelini said that those racist impressions persist now, and are part and parcel of the financial and cultural implications of home ownership, as well as the unremitting divide between suburbia and inner cities.

“If a home is just meant to make you money, then you’re going to do everything you can do to protect that investment and your future ability to make more money, more wealth for yourself,” Angelini said. “So if you live in a society that is generally racist, or bigoted or stereotyping of other groups, and you think that a Black family moving into your neighborhood is going to bring down your property values, you’re going to do everything you can do to ensure that that never happens.”

When Angelini set out to make “Owned,” he initially conceived of it through an architectural perspective. He said that architects are uniquely situated to imagine the cultural underpinnings of the built environment. Angelini thought of the film as visually oriented, filtered through the design and even poetry of the home.

The police killings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and the ensuing protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore caused Angelini to rethink his concept. He realized he wanted to make a film revealing the inextricable linkage between the wreckage of the Inland Empire and the oppressive conditions of the inner city.

“These urban uprisings started springing up, and I began to appreciate that you couldn’t really critique this abundance of space in the peripheries of American cities without also understanding what was happening in the inner cities, because of course, these two things were deeply intertwined,” Angelini said. “The vastness of suburbia was coming at the expense of divestment from inner-city America.”

Angelini wanted the documentary to be character-driven, so he spent years traveling the country and speaking to individuals from a swath of experiences. In Levittown, New York, which he said is widely regarded as the archetypal postwar suburb, he met a retired police officer named Jimmy Silvestri who became a central figure in the film.

Angelini said that Silvestri’s story aligned with the arc of the postwar history of American housing. Angelini was filming with Silvestri during the Baltimore uprisings.

“Through Jimmy’s eyes, we got to see what I think is the central struggle that’s facing America today, which is a large number of middle-class white Americans confronting the reality that they got a leg up in the system, necessarily at the expense of other people, predominantly Black families,” Angelini said. “That’s just the reality, and truth hurts sometimes. Negotiating those emotions can sometimes produce anger, or confusion, and Jimmy’s storyline, I think, really captures that quite beautifully.”

That type of reckoning is essential to the task of reconceptualizing the American home — not only the physical structure of the house, he said, but the entirety of the lived environment. Angelini pointed out that statistically, the No. 1 factor which predicts one’s ability to advance socioeconomically is one’s zip code.

“If you understand the way that this country was segregated, by race, through housing policy, then you start to realize that we are condemning certain groups of people to living in zip codes that are necessarily going to produce negative outcomes for those people,” Angelini said. “We can’t live in a country like that and say that it’s egalitarian. We have to confront the idealism of the American dream with the American reality.”

PUSH executive Rahwa Ghirmatzion to discuss housing inequality in Buffalo, region


In seventh grade, Rahwa Ghirmatzion led her middle school in a lunch-hour hunger strike to protest the termination of the school dishwasher and the addition of styrofoam plates. Channeling the practices of Gandhi (who she had learned about weeks prior in history class), Ghirmatzion and her friends sat in silence during their lunch period, not eating until the principal met their list of demands, which called for the return of reusable trays, and the dishwasher. 

“I was worried at the time, thinking ‘If we’re going to have all of these non-biodegradable materials, when we’re old, when we’re 30, there’s going to be garbage piled everywhere,’ ” Ghirmzatzion said. “About a month later, they brought back the dishwasher, and they brought back the trays. We were very effective and sort of having a very logical way, and I didn’t know what then, but we were really just young organizers. That small moment really politicized me.”

This was Ghirmatzion’s first act against environmental and social injustices in her community of Buffalo, New York, and it set her on a life-path fueled by the passion to help those struggling around her. 

Now the executive director of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo, Ghirmatzion has dedicated her time to help revitalize the city and give a voice to those often rendered voiceless. 

At 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10 in the Amphitheater, Ghirmatzion will examine housing injustices in Buffalo and Western New York and discuss the measures PUSH Buffalo is taking to address such issues as part of Week Seven’s theme, “More Than Shelter: Redefining the American Home.”

Before joining PUSH Buffalo in the early 2010s, Ghirmatzion served as the executive director of the Ujima Theater Company, a multi-ethnic professional theater house focused on preserving and promoting African American performances. In 2018, she entered her role as executive director of PUSH after overseeing several PUSH programs, including PUSH Green and PUSH Blue, as the program director. She is the 2021 recipient of the inaugural Cecil Corbin-Mark Memorial Award from Clean and Healthy New York. 

Ghirmatzion approaches the housing crisis and the feeling of displacement with her own experience as a refugee from East Africa. 

At 5 years old, Ghirmatzion and her family fled her home country of Eritrea during a civil war. They burned their belongings and camped for 16 days and walked for 16 nights to Sudan from the only life they ever knew. Ghirmatzion came to Western New York at 8 years old with her family, and has stayed ever since.

“There was this thought of feeling displaced, and then having to come to America and start fresh and new,” Ghrimatzion said, “(and of) feeling like not always belonging, especially as a Black child and a Black family, and not having finer context of U.S. history, and first feeling racism. I didn’t have the word at age 9 what racism was, living in the city of Buffalo, but I soon learned quite quickly.”

Ghirmatzion was inspired by Frederick Douglass’ memoir and her education at SUNY Buffalo, and went on to work for the Ujima Theater company to champion African American theater while working with social justice organizations specific to Buffalo. In working with outside nonprofit groups, Ghirmatzion was impassioned by Buffalo’s social injustices and moved to public health to help solve those problems. 

She views her past experiences as a tool to dismantle these social injustices through her position as executive director.

“When women lead, when Black, Indigenous and people of color lead, and are actually given authentic, not tokenized positions of leadership, we’re going to do things very differently,” Ghirmatzion said. “My whole thing is, ‘How do I get underneath an issue to fully dismantle something that is not working, but replace it with something that could really take root, … that will be much more sustainable and impactful, but also is rooted in human dignity?’ ”

PUSH Buffalo is a community organization that works with grassroots groups around Western New York to revitalize Buffalo with affordable housing, local hiring opportunities and environmentally-conscious decisions. The organization, founded in 2005, looks at individual communities within the city to better understand what Buffalo needs to succeed. 

“What I appreciate about the social determinants of health is we weren’t just addressing the outcome of poverty and racism, colonialism and an extractive economy,” Ghirmatzion said. “We weren’t going to the root of it; we had to think in terms of whether it’s at the neighborhood level, whether it’s at a block level, whether it’s at family level. We had to take a look at built environments that include housing, that includes people’s jobs, levels of education (and) access to other resources — including beauty, art, and access to clean water, clean air and all of these things. It taught me a lot about these health outcomes and the disparities.”

Buffalo is one of the poorest cities in the nation, yet it was once the sixth-largest economy in the United States and one of the largest ports in the world, Ghirmatzion said. PUSH works to tap into the potential of what Buffalo has to offer.

“There’s a lot of wealth that’s been built here (in Buffalo) that has been generational, that’s still here,” Ghirmatzion said. 

Her lecture will tackle the history of Buffalo’s social structure and evaluate how the city is doing in terms of adapting to climate change and housing policies. 

“I would like to start briefly on situating everyone in a land acknowledgement and to give a little bit of the history of the original peoples whose land we’re standing on,” Ghirmatzion said, “then, (discuss) redlining and racist policies that aren’t unique to Western New York or Buffalo.” 

After contextualizing Buffalo’s current infrastructure, Ghirmatzion will focus on PUSH’s efforts over the last 13 years. 

“I want to touch on PUSH’s political education and understanding frame that we use, both as a trans-local movement and how we practice our place-based initiative,” she said, “which is the transition strategy framework of how we are currently living in an extractive economy through a values filter and drawing down the resources to the community-based arc to the frontlines of the communities.”

In Ghirmatzion’s first visit to the Institution, she aims to inspire Chautauquans to not only become active members in Buffalo’s social causes, but in their own communities, as well. 

“I hope what they get out of my talk is inspiration. Inspiration that when we grow in our common human experiences, that we are much more alike than we are different, that we can, together, manifest this transition that I’m talking about,” Ghirmatzion said. “I hope that some of the strategies that we’re working on in Buffalo are a tool to inspire them, especially if they’re not from this region — that they can take back that inspiration to their respective communities and become involved with organizations that are doing similar types of work, if they’re not already involved.”

Pulitzer winner Matthew Desmond to discuss CLSC selection ‘Evicted’


When it comes to the Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “More than Shelter: Redefining the American Home,” and the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle’s vertical theme for the 2022 season of “Home,”  both program platforms wanted to select an author for Week Seven whose writing truly relates to both topics.

“It was very important for us to have the conversation that Matthew Desmond brings up in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” said Sony Ton-Aime, Chautauqua’s Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts. “Desmond met with a lot of people struggling to make rent, but also with homeowners to really get a full picture of the eviction situation in the United States.”

At 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9 in the Amphitheater, sociologist and author Matthew Desmond will give a joint lecture for the CLS and CLSC on his Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller, Evicted.

“He met with people over a long period of time to see how renters were struggling to make payments,” Ton-Aime said. “Evicted, itself, is a scientific book written in the form of a novel.”

Desmond is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and principal investigator of The Eviction Lab. For Evicted, he spent a year doing fieldwork in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

For his work, he’s been awarded a Fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, colloquially known as the “Genius Award.” 

The power of Evicted, Ton-Aime said, is that it doesn’t tell one side of the story; it tells the side of the landlords and renters, as well as the justice system.

“It is a seminal book when it comes to the housing situation in the U.S.,” Ton-Aime said. “It is a book that I believe everyone should read and that everyone can learn something about.”

That almost-universal importance extends to communities like Chautauqua, said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

“I’ve talked to so many in the Chautauqua community who have been deeply moved, troubled and unsettled by this very moral work that Matthew Desmond has done,” he said. “We’ve wanted to have him here for a number of years.”

Ewalt said he’s eager for Desmond’s remarks early in Week Seven, so Chautauquans can be unsettled by his research into the eviction crisis as they explore solutions with other lecturers this week.

“What does it mean to provide a deeper understanding of poverty and inequity, both through the eviction epidemic and the deeply personal stories of families?” he asked. “The structure of the book itself works both the heart and the mind, allowing us to understand an issue not in some abstract way, but in an empathetic way. We can understand that through data, this crisis affects families just like ours.”

In Evicted, Desmond frequently writes about the gravity of the situation, not just for the families he follows in his book, but for the United States as a whole.

“No moral code or ethical principle,” Desmond wrote in Evicted, “no piece of Scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become.”

‘Post’ columnist Megan McArdle to open week with discussion of economic, cultural impacts of home ownership


Megan McArdle has written about a wide variety of topics — including the economy, finance and government policy — throughout her 20-year career, but she continually returns to the idea of the home.

“We really wanted to start the week with both a foundational understanding of the state of home ownership in the United States, but also hear perspective on both the economic and cultural factors influencing home ownership,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “This has been among the many other issues that McArdle explores as a columnist; this particular topic of home ownership is one that she’s often returned to.”

At 10:45 a.m. Monday, Aug. 8 in the Amphitheater, McArdle opens Week Seven’s theme, “More than Shelter: Redefining the American Home,” with her expertise as a journalist, columnist, blogger and, perhaps not least of all, a homeowner. 

McArdle began her career in 2001 writing for her blog “Live From The WTC,” which in 2022 she renamed “Asymmetrical Information.”

McArdle has written for The Economist, The Atlantic, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Bloomberg’s opinion section, before joining The Washington Post’s opinion staff in 2018. McArdle’s lecture will act as an introduction point for the rest of the week’s presentations. 

“With the number of other issues we want to explore during the week with this larger concept of the American home, it’s important for us to first really understand — both from an economic and cultural perspective — our relationship with them with home ownership,” Ewalt said. “From this, we can further explore plenty of other issues, ranging from eviction to poverty to the way in which the United States serves as a sanctuary for those who have been exiled from their home country.”

McArdle has written about home ownership and the logistics behind it for decades. In 2010,  two years after the start of the 2008 recession, McArdle shared her journey and thought process behind purchasing a home in the Washington D.C. area in a piece for The Atlantic titled “Why Buy a House?” 

In the article, McArdle listed and explained her and her husband’s reasons for choosing home ownership over renting. To begin, McArdle wrote that when owning a home, one has the option to try to pay the mortgage off early. 

Specific to McArdle’s search, interest rates were low and the housing market was in a post tax-credit doldrum. For her and her husband, owning a home in the D.C. area was more sustainable than renting, and purchasing a home came down to stabilizing their housing costs to fit their budget.

Nearly a decade later, McArdle published another piece on her experience with home ownership.

In a 2018 column for The Washington Post, McArdle wrote about her home’s renovation and her decision to renovate instead of move. 

In a piece titled “What Rising Interest Rates Mean for Homeowners, Buyers and Renters,” McArdle looked at problems with the housing market and the broader economy due to both rising mortgage rates and an increasing median time spent owning a home. 

The housing market shrunk, which affected American labor mobility, as more Americans chose to stay instead of move, leading to possible fiscal and monetary crises, she wrote. 

In June 2022, McArdle detailed similarities between the current market and the 1970s in an opinion piece titled “A Generation of Homeowners Encounters a Strange New Market,” as mortgage rates surged for the first time in more than three decades. 

With this piece, she stressed again the significance of declining homeowner mobility and how that leads to complications for homeowners, employers and policy makers. 

McArdle’s work has analyzed cross-generational conversations on homes, which she will discuss at Chautauqua. In her lecture, titled “Homebound,” she will specifically touch on how “people across generations ask questions of one another in terms of having to prioritize home ownership, and how they think about the larger notion of home,” Ewalt said.

Noir, crime author Walter Mosley to talk mystery, culture of night


From mystery to young adult fiction to graphic novels, Walter Mosley has written in nearly every genre.

While he is well-known for his Easy Rawlins mystery series, Mosley also writes and is an executive producer for the TV crime drama “Snowfall,” which premiered on FX in July 2017. His diverse skill set is illustrated through the range of the awards he has to his name, including the O’Henry Award, NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work and a 2002 Grammy for Best Album Notes. 

He was the first African American to serve on the board of directors for the National Book Awards, and the first African American “Grand Master” of the Mystery Writers of America.

A prolific author — more than 55 books and counting — Mosley will contribute to the Chautauqua Week Six theme, “After Dark: The World of Nighttime,” at 10:45 a.m. Friday, Aug. 5 in the Amphitheater.

“He’s one of the finest mystery writers of our time, and can help us think about the way in which settings such as nighttime can — with his work and I think more broadly — explore themes of mystery and fear and also contemplation,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

Ewalt said when the speakers for Week Six were being invited, the depiction of nighttime in pop culture, whether music, film or, in Mosley’s case, literature, was at the forefront of the conversation. That led him and his team to the Easy Rawlins series, specifically the detective’s debut in 1990’s Devil in a Blue Dress and the 1995 film adaptation starring Denzel Washington. Devil in a Blue Dress is also getting the stage treatment, as Mosley, who has written four other plays, is working on a fifth, adapting his classic work.

Because “After Dark” is a broad theme, it allows Chautauqua to include a wide variety of programs that all fit under the umbrella of nighttime.

“A theme like this also invites all of us into a larger exploration to bring our ideas and our questions, to think — not just with those topics that we’re exploring on stage but — what else can be brought into the theme?” Ewalt said.

Mosley will address the theme during his lecture by tying it to his interaction with the literary noir; and he has plenty to speak about with his 24 published mystery novels.

“In closing the week for us, it’s also an invitation for us, as readers — and even in the broader sense, not just through literature, but how we consume culture — to think about the way in which nighttime is depicted,” Ewalt said, “and how it provides an opportunity for us to ask questions of ourselves and perhaps view the world a little differently.”

Sheena Jardine-Olade to speak on importance of nighttime economies


After the sun sets, a different kind of light takes hold of cities. Between night shift workers heading to their jobs and night shift socializers emerging with excitement, nighttime does not denote an ending, but rather represents a fruitful counterpart to the daytime.

Although night is sometimes associated with fear or illicit activities, Sheena Jardine-Olade combats these stereotypes through her work as co-founder of Night Lab, a research and strategy group that consults cities on how to improve their nighttime economies (NTE). 

Her work aims to infuse cities’ nightlife with vibrancy by making the spaces safer, more accessible and more sustainable.

Jardine-Olade will provide a view of what a healthy and thriving NTE can look like in her lecture, “Equity and the 24-Hour City,” at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 4 in the Amphitheater for the Week Six theme, “After Dark: The World of Nighttime.”

In September 2020, on a panel discussion with the Canadian Urban Institute, Jardine-Olade identified two key components of the NTE: the festive economy, which includes bars and restaurants; and the gig economy, which includes essential services, office work and factory work. Along with her Night Lab colleagues, she endeavors to expand the NTE within cities to be more on par with the daytime economy. 

“As advocates for NTE, what we think is that you should be able to access all the amenities that you want whether it be 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.,” she said on the 2020 panel, “and that if cities plan for their nighttime economy — and not just as an afterthought, but holistically — that they can incorporate safety and inclusion, and they’ll receive a lot of benefits, not just economic or tangible ones, like tourism or jobs; they’ll also see other intangible benefits, as well.”

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, described the possible applications of the week’s theme in relation to current conversations.

“Inside a week in which we look at very timely issues, from dark skies and light pollution, to thinking about nighttime economies, that are just two of an infinite number of pathways we can take to exploring the larger theme,” Ewalt said. “(The week allows) tackling tough issues, but also having great fun with the theme.”

Jardine-Olade’s work with Night Lab and as an accessibility planner for the City of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, gave her the opportunity to connect the logistical and creative aspects of city planning. She seeks to inform city officials about the potential successes and challenges of a flourishing NTE. 

“A lot of the work that we do is about changing public and institutional perceptions on what the nighttime economy actually is, and helping cities and communities possibly identify barriers or blindspots in policy, and also opportunities to help them have a thriving nighttime economy,” she said in 2020. 

Jardine-Olade recognizes that the nightlife of a city can shape its personality and people’s perception of it. 

“The nighttime economy helps with city identity,” she said in 2020. “It also provides social infrastructure for a lot of groups that are looking to express their identities or connect with their chosen families. It also provides space — space for creative ideas.”

Drawing upon both her master’s in urban planning and her bachelor’s in environmental management, Jardine-Olade has helped cities, such as Vancouver and Calgary, Canada, move toward sustainability across multiple domains, including economy, resource use and community. 

Founder of the arts and culture publication Freq Magazine, Jardine-Olade also taps into her creative side, aided by her experience as a musical performer. 

Ewalt cited Jardine-Olade’s versatility as a draw to invite her to speak at Chautauqua. 

“What we discovered and are so excited for, is that Sheena is someone who can really speak at the intersection of economy and a city’s arts and culture, that kind of vibrancy that’s possible with how we think about nightlife in terms of our civic identity or community building,” Ewalt said. “She brings that incredible breadth of expertise to the week.”

Jardine-Olade’s lecture will discuss designing and supporting a “24-hour city,” Ewalt said. He wants Chautauquans to return to their hometowns with a deeper understanding of how to create and sustain a flourishing nighttime economy. 

“Our hope is that there are lessons learned and innovative approaches that can be deeply meaningful and valuable in cities around the world — including those that Chautauquans call home, whether it be a large city or smaller towns — in how we think about that 24-hour life of a community, and how we think about the role of culture and urban design inside the larger civic life of the community,” he said.

Maria Tatar, emerita professor at Harvard, to share interplay of dark, light


Maria Tatar is thinking about darkness and light, the void of nighttime and crackling campfires, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other to make sense of it all.

“We are the storytelling animal,” said Tatar, emerita professor of Germanic languages and literatures and of folklore and mythology at Harvard. “That is how we got to rise, for better or for worse, to the top of the food chain. Stories have been a way of transmitting information, wisdom and ethics.”  

Tatar will give her lecture, “Light in the Night Kitchen,” as part of Week Six’s theme, “After Dark: The World of Nighttime,” at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3 in the Amphitheater.

When Tatar first heard the week’s theme, her mind spun off in a kaleidoscope of fruitful directions. She began by considering the near-universal childhood fear of the dark: a seemingly primal fear which speaks to our aversion to the unknown.

“And what is it that we have used to serve as a counterweight to that fear, but stories?” Tatar said.

The discovery of fire precipitated a twofold bulwark against the darkness. In a practical sense, fire illuminates the night, rendering the invisible and unknown recognizable. Sitting around a fire also created a context in which people began telling stories to one another, developing language and community.

“That’s going to be my entry point, the primal fear of the dark, and the antidote to that: light, fire and storytelling, all of which provide a patch of warmth and light, creating a contact zone for multiple generations,” Tatar said.

Tatar has been captivated by stories, particularly Grimms’ Fairy Tales, since she first learned to read. 

The fields in which she researches and teaches — mythology, children’s literature, cultural studies — all coalesce inextricably. She thinks of these elements of her scholarship in terms of J.R.R. Tolkien’s conceptual Cauldron of Story, which is a proverbial pot of soup in which ingredients mingle, and also in terms of w Rushdie’s Sea of Stories project, wherein culture and mythology swirl in perpetual motion. 

From her initial musings on light and dark, Tatar thought of the weighty cultural meanings embedded in those concepts. 

“Light has become our conceptual metaphor for knowledge,” Tatar said. “If you think of the Enlightenment, and how when we talk about somebody who’s smart, we say they’re brilliant, or someone is a lucid speaker.”

In a similar vein, the theme of darkness and light prompted Tatar to think about race, and all the linguistic implications on the subject. 

“That coding of light and dark affects our thinking about (race),” Tatar said. “It’s a profound, deep thought that affects our thinking about something that is only skin deep. That is, the whole question of black versus white, and the strange associations that our culture has constructed for both, with white signifying purity and innocence and virtue, and black signifying death, darkness, all kinds of evil things. The challenge for us is to figure out how to undo that binary.” 

Tatar is interested in deconstructing dichotomies in general. Like storytelling, binaries and categories help us understand our world, but sometimes to our detriment.

“When we have these binaries, like black/white, dark/light, we always establish a hierarchy,” Tatar said. “One is superior to the other and one is inferior to the other. I think that our brains tend to operate that way, and we have to dismantle that way of thinking and start to see how you need both darkness and light. They enrich each other.”

Researcher Sidarta Ribeiro to define power of dreaming


Most mammals dream, but only humans can share their dreams with others. Ancient civilizations searched their dreams with intention for answers, for revelations, and for spiritual truths — an effort that Sidarta Ribeiro thinks has been abandoned in contemporary urban society.

Ribeiro, a neuroscientist, professor and researcher of sleep and dreaming, spent 19 years refining his book, The Oracle of Night: The History and Science of Dreams, which provides a comprehensive study of dreams and their deeper significance. This dream exploration and Ribeiro’s neurophysiological knowledge will inform his 10:45 a.m. lecture Tuesday, Aug. 2 in the Amphitheater. 

Considering this week’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “After Dark: The World of Nighttime,” dreams and dreaming had to be a topic of discussion, said Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Matt Ewalt.

“There was no one in the world better suited to help answer our biggest questions about humanity and the mysteries of dreams, and raise new questions for us to carry forward, than Sidarta Ribeiro,” Ewalt said.

Ribeiro said his talk will explore a “plausible neurobiological explanation” for spiritual beliefs around the power of dreams: that there are profound reasons for having them, that their contents are not essentially meaningless, and that the “extravagance of dreaming” is more than an “evolutionary accident.”

Cultures throughout history have perceived dreams as oracles, fonts of wisdom to reconcile the past and foresee future events. Ribeiro plans to speak about “spirituality, about the belief in gods, and how dreams may have boosted tremendously our belief in divine entities,” he said.

He presents dreams in modern life not as deterministic oracles, but as presentations of possibilities, simulating potential futures for the dreamer to consider.

“Based on yesterday,” Ribeiro said, one can posit “how tomorrow is supposed to be.”

Biomedical science has only recently acknowledged the usefulness of dreams, Ribeiro said. Research now shows that not just sleep, but dreaming with intention, is vital for cognition.

“If you dream of solving a task, you become better at solving the task,” Ribeiro said.

Ribeiro encourages the observation of dreams and keeping a dream diary to reap the oracular rewards. He advises people to absorb these words before falling asleep: “I’m going to dream, I’m going to remember. I’m going to record it.” In the morning, people should make note of every possible detail before doing anything else. It will be difficult at first, he said, but “after four or five days, you become much better.”

A crucial third stage is sharing those dreams with someone “who wants to listen, who knows you and understands your context,” Ribeiro said. “It has to be somebody who really cares.”

Having this “ability to share fears and desires,” Ribeiro said, “creates the possibility of group cohesion, uniting efforts toward a common goal, which has really made a difference” throughout humanity’s development.

Once this process becomes a habit, “it’s like putting together a puzzle. If you have many pieces in place, then you start having an idea of the whole picture. After a few weeks, you can see not only some aspects of your challenges, but the trajectory, where things are going. This really increases introspection, and is very important for psychological and emotional life, and for spirituality.”

Dreams hold within their mysteries the potential to speak for the future and reflect on the past, Ribeiro explained in The Oracle of Night.

“It is necessary to recover those dreams that are within everybody’s reach,” he wrote, “the ones we have every night but to which we pay little attention; the dreams our ancestors cultivated as oracles and which most people today ignore.”

This nearly-forgotten discipline of exploring all angles of a dream “can and should reactivate the ancestral habit of dreaming and telling,” he noted in The Oracle of Night.

“To remember dreams and to share dreams is something that is so ingrained in our bodies, it’s like breathing,” Ribeiro said, “Once you pay a little bit of attention to it, it becomes really natural.”

Jim Richardson, longtime ‘Nat’l Geographic’ photographer, to share shots illuminating ‘End of Night’


Amid the red tomatoes and pale yellow ears of corn at the county fair, Jim Richardson, National Geographic photographer, won his first photography award: a blue ribbon and 75 cents.

“Seeing the judge come down the line, get to the photography section and, hearing the accolades that she had for my use of creative framing, and use of silhouettes, and giving me the blue ribbon,” Richardson said. “Then of course, after that, she went on to judge the big tomatoes and the ears of corn. But it was enough for me to have somebody say I was doing a good job.”

Richardson will share with Chautauquans the all-encompassing importance of protecting the night sky at 10:45 a.m. Monday, Aug. 1 on the Amphitheater stage through his lecture, “The End of Night.” He was integral in the genesis and completion of the National Geographic story “The End of Night: Why We Need Darkness,” and he will draw from this cover story to begin Week Six at Chautauqua, “After Dark: The World of Nighttime.” 

Richardson began photography through the example of his father, and spent summers photographing life on their Kansas farm — their dog, ducks in the pond and cows in the pasture. He experimented with photography, shooting from underneath microscope lenses and through telescopes. His Uncle Bob, who lived in a one-room shed next to a gas station, was an amateur telescope builder. 

“He was grinding mirrors for telescopes,” Richardson said. “He made his first telescope, and he showed me Saturn. When you see Saturn for the first time through a telescope, it’s pretty amazing. It’s really there, you know, all those rings and all.”

On warm summer nights, he and his cousins would spread quilts across their front yard “and wait, hoping it didn’t rain underneath the Milky Way,” Richardson said. 

These experiences solidified his desire to be involved with astronomy, and he began his career as a self-described “armchair astronomer.” He has traveled all over the world photographing the night sky. He has trekked out to the famed sandstone arches of Arches National Park at 3 a.m., caught the Milky Way rising above them, and he has seen the galaxy upside down from the Southern hemisphere at Easter Island. 

While he has photographed much of his Kansas home, the time spent traveling and collecting photos for the NatGeo story, “The End of Night,” is a part of his career that Richardson is most proud of.

“I continue, and have continued, to take every opportunity, when they were presented, to do more Milky Way pictures in far­­—flung locations. But, it was really (a) very intensive time of trying to find ways of showing what was going on — both showing the wonders and the splendor of it, and showing what was being lost,” he said.

Richardson realizes that not everyone had the formative experiences of his childhood and adulthood. He also recognizes that for people to become motivated to protect the night sky, they have to understand why it is important. 

He cited leatherback turtles hatching their eggs on beaches. The baby turtles emerge at night and become confused by lights on the beaches, moving toward those, and inevitable death, instead of toward the moon and ocean. Fireflies are also harmed by light pollution, as the males fly in the air, blinking as a mating signal to the females on the ground. If light pollution bars this communication, firefly populations will suffer. 

More locally, through the Dark Sky Initiative, Chautauqua encourages people to learn about light pollution and implements change, working with the Dark Sky Association to be recognized as a dark sky community. This same association has honored Richardson with, in his opinion, the coolest title he’s received: Dark Sky Defender. 

Richardson will continue to cultivate understanding with Chautauquans by sharing information on, “prosaic things as street lighting and how various kinds of street lights affect the night, and how population growth affects it, and how it spreads, and how it obliterates dark skies … and understanding which species are affected.” 

Before leaving the Amp stage, Richardson wants to instill in Chautauquans a sense of marvel at the human relationship with darkness. 

“That’s what I hope to be able to offer specifically, is more understanding, perspective,” he said, “and a sense of the wonder, both the wonder that is being lost and the wonder at our excesses, our human excesses, that threaten to take away this great gift — this great heritage — to take it away from us without us ever quite noticing.” 

Lee Drutman to ponder potential of multi-party processes


A Democrat voting for a Republican, or vice versa, seems to Lee Drutman like an impossible chasm to cross these days. What can America build to bridge that wide gulf? In Drutman’s view, it’s a “proportional multi-party democracy.”

He believes the political reform America needs now is a solid third, or fourth, or fifth choice of parties beyond the two that currently lead national politics.

Drutman, a political scientist and senior fellow in the Political Reform program at the New America Foundation, will round out this week’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “The Vote and Democracy,” with his lecture at 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 29, in the Amphitheater, making the case for why we should embrace a multi-party system.

“We are at a moment of potential transformation of our democracy,” Drutman said. “This is a real hinge point moment in history in which things could go in a lot of different directions. The stakes are incredibly high. But there’s also a tremendous opportunity to innovate and build something new.”

A political system with additional parties could “better represent the diversity and pluralism of America, providing ways to forge new compromises and bring new voices into our representative system of government that is always changing and evolving,” Drutman said.

Many voters feel increasingly alienated by the lack of a political middle ground on which to stand, and feel obliged to “choose the lesser of two evils,” Drutman said. A growing number of Americans now identify as Independents, rejecting the forced duality of the current system. Many are voicing wishes for more than two options on the ballot.

How does the nation progress toward a multi-party system? One new initiative known as fusion voting — where multiple parties can support the same candidate on the ballot — would provide disheartened voters a step toward moderation in place of the two-party system. The increased influence this might present third parties “would be a tremendous step forward,” Drutman said, in the building of a “much needed moderate party in our politics.”

“Really, we need five or six parties to effectively represent the diversity of values, experiences and perspectives in this country,” Drutman said. 

The key is striking a balance — a healthy range of political groups competitive enough to give voters the chance to make “real and meaningful choices,” while avoiding excessive fragmentation.

Beyond these proposals, Drutman advocated for a broader move toward multi-member congressional districts, which would enable new parties to thrive. He has also made the case for enlarging the House of Representatives to ease proportional multi-party elections, a topic on which he testified Thursday before the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

“We need more diversity and pluralism in our elected bodies. We need new voices. There’s a lot of perspectives that are not well represented there,” Drutman said. “Expansion is the best way to bring more people in without kicking out the people there now who also have valuable experience to offer.”

Without expanding the House to include districts with multiple representatives, Drutman said, gerrymandering continues to hinder equal representation. This constituency manipulation, further enabled by mandatory redistricting following the 2020 census, allows candidates to win regardless of whether they have the majority’s support or not, and exists solely because of the single-member district.

“A proportional voting system helps to combat the evils of gerrymandering, because if you have proportional multi-member districts, gerrymandering basically becomes irrelevant,” Drutman said.

Drutman raised the question of why seemingly more Americans than ever distrust the voting process and perceive their vote as insecure. He thinks it’s an “outgrowth of our binary two-party system, fomented by political leaders” seeking to sow distrust and demonize opponents.

“Because this country is evenly split,” Drutman said, “you have these narrow elections, and tremendous hatred for the other side. So it’s natural — if the election margins are tight, you’re likely to believe it if your side says ‘the system is rigged, it was corrupt, they cheated.’ ”

In studying other countries with multi-party structures, Drutman has found that voters in losing parties are “more likely to accept their losses in proportional systems, because the stakes are lower. A coalition will form roughly around the political middle no matter what.” In the current American system however, “if you get 50.1% of the vote, you get all the power,” he said, leading voters to feel much more of a blow, especially when the competing side is seen as a dangerous and distant foe.

“It’s hard to have legitimate elections when you don’t think the other side is legitimate opposition,” Drutman said.

In his talk, Drutman will reflect on the ways in which a multiplicity of parties will actually bring Americans closer together, not create further division. The gap between political extremes may be narrowed not by less political debate, but by more.

“Our binary arrangement shuts down thinking,” Drutman said, but, “the more sides we have, the more thinking we do, and the more we’re willing to consider.”

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