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Morning Lecture Previews

Nation Institute fellow and independent journalist Sarah Jaffe to address expansion of American activism and need for revolt

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Since America’s 2008 financial crisis, independent journalist Sarah Jaffe argued that social movements have gained a new and powerful influence. Fueled by disdain toward capitalism and the state of American politics, she said, citizens no longer accepted complacency, and this surge of emotion gave rise to social movements.

“I was a reporter and when Occupy Wall Street broke, I was there in New York covering it — and nobody really thought it was going to be anything. I didn’t think it was going to be anything,” Jaffe said. “But by the end of it, it was clear this was not insignificant. It was already changing, and other things were taking shape.”

Jaffe, a Nation Institute fellow, traveled the country in pursuit of movements that called for “full-on system change.” Her observations and reporting resulted in her first book, Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt.

But even as a seasoned reporter on social and political movements, Jaffe admits her work is unpredictable.

“You never can tell where a social movement is going to come from,” she wrote in an article for Dissent. “They’re built of a million injustices that pile up and up, and then, suddenly, spill over. I’ve spent years covering movements, trying to explain how one incident becomes the spark that catches, turning all those individual injustices into an inferno.”

At 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 27, in the Amphitheater, Jaffe will lecture as part of the Week Five theme, “The Ethics of Dissent.” As a columnist for The New Republic and New Labor Forum, Jaffe constantly examines nationwide economic and social tensions. At Chautauqua, she said she hopes to demonstrate the connection between acts of dissent and oppressive forces of power.

“I am trying to think about the idea of dissent versus the bigger questions of power,” she said. “One of the things I try to do is bring them together, so the question of dissent becomes a complicated question of power.”

In her book, she acknowledges the outspoken criticism against the American political system that resulted after the 2016 presidential election.

However, she said this dissatisfaction is not new to the country.

“And while the size and vehemence of the protests that came immediately after Trump’s election shocked many, their roots had been visible for years to anybody who cared to look,” she wrote in her book.

As co-host of Dissent magazine’s podcast “Belabored, Jaffe has studied dissent and revolt from a variety of perspectives. While researching her book, she found herself searching for the source of American indignation. From traveling to a church gymnasium in Ferguson, Missouri, to hopping on a bus of student protestors, Jaffe brings her cumulative experiences to help inform Chautauquans.

Jaffe studies movements like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, which now often make headlines and dominate social media. However, this momentum did not always exist.

“When Occupy Wall Street first took Zuccotti Park, it was laughed off even by those who might have been expected to be supportive — until it began to spread across the country, holding spaces for people to come together and discuss deep-rooted problems that had created the crisis they still felt,” she wrote in her book. “By the time Black Lives Matter seized the stage, it became clear that something was fundamentally changing.”

Despite the differences between various social movements, Jaffe said they are undeniably intertwined. Police violence against African- Americans, she argues, serves to represent larger patterns of inequality present in America’s social and economic landscape.

“Labor struggles have a long, checkered history with struggles for racial justice and particularly against violence,” she wrote in an article for Salon.

What connects American activists, Jaffe said, lies in the fight against dominant and exploitative forces that control the country.

“Concentrated economic power leads to concentrated political power,” she wrote in her book. “Those with the money can buy not just an election, but all the legislating that comes in between; the rich see their policy preferences enacted, and the rest of us see that happen only when our desires align with those of the rich and powerful.”

Despite the current state of America, Jaffe said she has faith in oppressed people and their mission to create a “necessary revolt.” Although the country’s power may be concentrated, citizens can find strength in their common cause.

“I think these movements have common roots and common causes and are often fighting against the same things,” she said. “Broadly, we’re grappling with the question of inequality and how we’ve gotten to this incredibly unequal point in American society.”

Bari Weiss to speak about cultural and political trends in morning lecture

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In a week full of speakers with wide-ranging views like Suzanne Nossel and Shaun King, Bari Weiss will contribute her own perspective to the challenging conversations Chautauquans are having.

Weiss, a writer and editor who covers culture and politics for The New York Times opinion section, will speak at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, July 26, in the Amphitheater as part of Week Five’s theme, “The Ethics of Dissent.” Her columns cover topics like anti-Semitism, the #MeToo movement and free speech at colleges, which she’ll discuss during her talk.

Matt Ewalt, Chautauqua Institution’s chief of staff, said Weiss will bring a unique perspective to the trending topics around dissent for those on opposing political sides.

“Bari will be addressing what she sees as a culture of fear in the United States around free speech, particularly for those on the political right, but also across the political spectrum,” Ewalt said. “She’s written extensively on the state of free speech on college campuses, on what she’s identified as a redrawing of the bounds of acceptable speech by the left, and the derision that meets certain speakers and thought leaders by those who are otherwise calling for an openness in our discourse.”

Before joining the Times in 2017, Weiss was an op-ed editor and an associate book review editor at The Wall Street Journal. She was also a Robert L. Bartley Fellow in 2007 and a Dorot Fellow in Jerusalem from 2007 to 2008. She was a senior editor at Tablet and has written for Haaretz, The Forward and The New York Sun.

She’s also appeared on shows like “Morning Joe” and “Real Time with Bill Maher,” to give an on-air voice to the topics she writes about.

Weiss said she was humbled to be speaking around these issues she’s spent her career covering, especially at a time when these topics — free speech, sexual conduct and social justice — are at the forefront of national dialogue.

“Free speech and free thinking are subjects I care about deeply, and I’ve written about these themes in various contexts my whole career,” Weiss said. “Being able to spend a lot of time working on a big talk about them has been really exciting and challenging.”

In her March 2018 piece, “We’re All Fascists Now,” Weiss criticized the growing frequency with which people on the left classify anything they disagree with as “fascist.”

“The main effect is that these endless accusations of ‘fascism’ or ‘misogyny’ or ‘alt-right’ dull the effects of the words themselves. As they are stripped of meaning, they strip us of our sharpness — of our ability to react forcefully to real fascists and misogynists or members of the alt-right,” Weiss wrote. “For a case study in how this numbing of the political senses works, look no further than Mitt Romney and John McCain. They were roundly denounced as right-wing extremists. Then Donald Trump came along and the words meant to warn us against him had already been rendered hollow.”

Weiss said she is grateful for the chance to speak at the Institution and praised those who are interested in hearing and learning about different perspectives.

“I’m really excited to be speaking in front of an audience of people who choose to spend their vacation learning,” she said. “I expect it will be a really engaged, smart and challenging crowd. I look forward to engaging with them.”

Ewalt described Weiss’ work as significant and said that she has used her platform to critique cultural movements.

“Bari has asked critical questions of the leaders and activists of social movements such as the Women’s March and #MeToo. In doing so, she has been the subject of significant derision on social media,” he said. “As we wrestle with difficult ethical questions inside this week on dissent, Bari’s work, and, I imagine, her lecture, prompt us to ask how we engage (with) one another in asking and answering these questions as a larger community.”

Despite the social media backlash Weiss has experienced, she said no one should be afraid to voice their opinions.

“You can go through life playing it safe, or you can go through life saying what you really think,” she said. “To me, the choice is a no-brainer.”

Shaun King, Tamika Mallory, Edwin Lindo to share importance of solidarity in activism

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In July 2016, a video of an African-American man pulled over for a traffic stop surfaced on social media. The video depicted the man, Philando Castile, being shot by a police officer while reaching for his glove box. He died shortly after in a local hospital.

The video is shocking and quick, described by the New York Times as how “mundane conversation about a broken taillight devolved within seconds into gunfire.” Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” said the video was disturbing and “broke my heart into little pieces.”

For Black Lives Matter activist and social justice scholar Edwin Lindo, this type of discomfort can be beneficial.

“I’d like folks to be ready to be uncomfortable because that discomfort is where we grow,” said Lindo, an instructor at the University of Washington. “It’s not an uncomfortableness of being attacked, but an uncomfortableness of being pushed to expand how you see the world.”

Tamika Mallory

At 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, July 25, in the Amphitheater, Lindo will join The Intercept columnist Shaun King and Women’s March national co-chair Tamika Mallory as a panel of Black Lives Matter activists. The panel is part of the Week Five theme, “The Ethics of Dissent.”

King, co-founder of the PAC Real Justice and former senior justice writer at the New York Daily News, visited Chautauqua last summer to speak during a week on “The Nature of Fear.”

“Following Shaun King’s Chautauqua lecture in 2017, we reached out to him about our week on ‘Ethics of Dissent’ particularly on the questions we were intending to explore and how to engage movement leaders in such a critical conversation,” said Matt Ewalt, Chautauqua’s chief of staff. “Shaun was very interested in leading a program with Black Lives Matter activists that would respond to these questions, reflecting on the ethical frameworks that drive the work and how we can understand the ethics of dissent within Black Lives Matter alongside other contemporary movements and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”

In addition to sharing the history of African-American activism, Lindo said he hopes to emphasize the power of solidarity.

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Though police brutality targets black and Latino communities, Lindo said, all races need to recognize inequality and take universal action against such hatred.

“We have to work together because if we don’t, it becomes a struggle and a fight that feels overbearing,” he said. “We need everyone, and to be able to speak to as many people as possible is crucial and necessary.”

For King, this exposure to injustice began in 2014 when he was forwarded several videos of African- American men who fell victim to police violence.

“I learned, as most of America learned and as most of my friends learned, that police in America were not killing people every two or three weeks; it was not even every two or three days,” King said in his lecture last year at Chautauqua.“It was every three or four hours.”

His discomfort sparked action, and now King is well-known within the Black Lives Matter movement. With over 1 million Twitter followers, he uses social media to voice his oppositions against racism and violence. As a co-founder of Real Justice PAC, King and his team work to elect prosecutors at both county and municipal levels who are committed to derailing discrimination in the justice system.

He has also raised almost $10 million for charities worldwide and has received accolades like the Epoch Humanitarian Award.

Mallory, who spearheaded the creation of New York City’s Crisis Management System that works to prevent gun violence, also believes in progressive change that goes beyond simply acknowledging a problem. In an interview with The Root, Mallory criticized those who like her social media posts but fail to take any action.

Specifically, she cited an April 2018 incident when an African-American woman was arrested at a Waffle House in Alabama.

“What happens is sometimes people sit back and say, ‘OK, maybe on social media it’s important, but it’s not important in terms of our bottom dollar,” Mallory told The Root. “So when a young woman by the name of Chikesia Clemons can be dragged up and down Waffle House all over the place … and we can still go to the Waffle House, even though we’re sharing the video on social media, that’s a problem. … I don’t need your likes, I need your movement.”

Mallory devotes her time to social justice causes as president of Mallory Consulting, a firm that has worked with Fortune 500 corporations to fight against issues like gun violence and mass incarceration.

Though these three activists will spend limited time at the Institution, Lindo said he is optimistic about their visit. Progressive change is the end goal, but Lindo said it needs to be sparked through civil and informative conversation.

“I’m glad that these conversations are happening in a place like Chautauqua,” Lindo said. “The history of it is one of curiosity and investigating and one of exploring ideas. If we are only listening to certain ideas, we start to get sucked into a vacuum, so I think this is a chance to present ideas that perhaps are unique to this particular group.”

Free speech should be taken more seriously and Suzanne Nossel will tell you why

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The First Amendment protects one’s right to freedom of expression, and Suzanne Nossel will explain why this right needs to be protected.

At 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 24, in the Amphitheater, Nossel will take the lecture platform as part of Week Five’s theme, “The Ethics of Dissent.”

Nossel is the chief executive officer of PEN America, a leading human rights and free expression organization. She joined PEN America in 2013 and has increased the organization’s staff, budget and membership. Nossel is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and has published articles in outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. She has also had scholarly articles published in Foreign Affairs, Dissent, Democracy and other journals.

Nossel believes free expression is “under attack” in the United States. She thinks that being able to express oneself is a fundamental right, but it is not being protected as much as it should be. Nossel said she thinks people need to learn from others’ perspectives instead of silencing those with differing opinions.

“Take the struggles of others, and don’t shut down free speech,” Nossel said. “Hate speech shouldn’t be suppressed. No speech should be suppressed.”

Nossel said there are better ways to deal with hate speech instead of banning it through the creation of a law. Making hate speech illegal would go against what the First Amendment symbolizes.

“Take on the concerns of diverse groups, and figure out a different system that will invoke change,” Nossel said.

Conversations about equality and free speech need to happen, according to Nossel.

“They have to happen face-to-face and not through social media,” she said. “All sides are important and should be treated as such.”

These conversations shouldn’t be limited to just certain people and groups, she said. Free speech conversation should be talked about publicly and with all people.

“Free speech needs to be taught,” Nossel said. “Introduce it to the new generation so they are raised knowing what is right.”

PEN America is working to have agents based in all 50 states in order to educate about free expression and its importance. The organization is also working with local news outlets across the country, hoping to create a sense of trust between citizens and the media.

“We are growing and doing a lot of work around the world,” Nossel said.

Free expression needs to be taken more seriously and should be a topic of conversation on an everyday basis, Nossel said, not just when there is a rally with attendees who spew hate speech.

“Free expression has been latent and not on the top of enough people’s minds,” Nossel said. “It can’t be forgotten; the issue needs to raised everywhere.”

Nossel wants people to walk away from her lecture with an understanding that free expression is significant.

“Don’t leave free speech up to the courts and officials,” Nossel said. “We all have a role to play and have to stand up for our rights. Change takes a long time and is not easy. We have to make free speech welcoming to everyone.”

LGBTQ and Friends Community sponsors Gessen’s lecture

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Catie Kirsten, Karen James and Barbara Britton discuss the sponsorship of speaker Masha Gessen through the LGBTQ Friends and Community group and how they hope Gessen’s lecture will bring about new conversations at Chautauqua on Friday, July 13, 2018. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

In 2013, the Russian government imposed an anti-gay propaganda law in an effort to reinforce traditional family values. The law forced many LGBTQ people, like journalist and author Masha Gessen, to flee the country with their families.

“(Gessen) is powerful in the perspective on what freedom is and how freedom can be endangered,” said Barbara Britton, member of Chautauqua’s LGBTQ and Friends Community. “It really is a cautionary tale for what we’re going through in our society right now.”

At 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 20, in the Amphitheater, Chautauquans will hear Gessen’s story thanks to the sponsorship of LGBTQ and Friends Community.

LGBTQ and Friends’ mission statement says it strives to “expand diversity within the greater Chautauqua community.” The group holds two weekly events: a meet and greet at 6 p.m. on Sundays on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall and a Brown Bag at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Garden Room of Alumni Hall.

The group has also sponsored lectures, such as the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson’s talk last season in the Hall of Philosophy. In addition to sponsoring Gessen’s lecture this season, the LGBTQ and Friends Community was also involved in a weeklong dialogue on sexual orientation, gender and identity throughout Week Three in the Hall of Philosophy, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Chautauqua.

After reading Gessen’s book The Future is History, Britton knew that the author would be an influential voice to include in this season’s programming.

Gessen was a journalist in Russia for 20 years, writing about the state of the country, LGBTQ rights, medical genetics and various other topics. Gessen is currently a staff writer for The New Yorker and contributes to other publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

After the Russian Duma introduced, and would later pass, the anti-gay propaganda law five years ago, Gessen’s oldest adopted child was sent to the United States in fear of the government annulling the his adoption.

One reason the LGBTQ and Friends Community decided to underwrite Gessen’s lecture was because of Gessen’s powerful story, yet the group also wanted to do its part in supporting Chautauqua Institution.

“As a community, we want to be a supporter of Chautauqua and give back,” said Karen James, member of the LGBTQ and Friends Community. “(We’re) willing to sponsor speakers (and) willing to make that financial commitment.”

Catie Miller, member of the LGBTQ and Friends Community, said that sponsoring people to come and speak at Chautauqua is of “great educational value,” and the community benefits from being exposed to different perspectives.

Specifically, Britton said she hopes community members will take away from Gessen’s lecture the importance of “not losing your freedoms” because of propaganda. She and other members of LGBTQ and Friends hope that people will gain a better understanding of the struggles marginalized people are facing in their communities.

For more information on program underwriting opportunities, contact Karen Blozie, senior major gifts officer at the Chautauqua Foundation, at 716-357-6244 or kblozie@chq.org.

Alina Polyakova of Brookings Institution to clarify the United States and Russia’s ill-defined relationship post-Cold War

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In reference to the historically frosty relationship between the United States and Russia that continues to this day, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Monday during the Helsinki summit that the Cold War was over. Foreign policy analyst Alina Polyakova said she agrees with him — to an extent.

“There was a very clear awareness to the United States that the Soviet Union was an adversary,” Polyakova said. “Today, we don’t have that clarity anymore. Today, most American don’t know what to think of Russia. They don’t know what to think of Putin. We don’t have this easy way of dividing the world into good guys and bad guys.”

For this reason, Polyakova said that terms like “Cold War 2.0” do not accurately reflect the current state of international tension.

“We’re in a much more problematic position with Russia than we were during the Cold War,” she said. “I don’t like the label because I think it actually underestimates the way we are in a different situation today.”

At 10:45 a.m. Thursday, July 19, in the Amphitheater, Polyakova, the David M. Rubenstein Fellow for Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe, will discuss the relationship between the United States and Russia, continuing Chautauqua’s weeklong look at “Russia and the West.”

Polyakova’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, among other media outlets. Her 2015 book, The Dark Side of European Integration: Social Foundations and Cultural Determinants of the Rise of Radical Right Movements in Contemporary Europe, describes the nationalist backlash to Europe’s economic integration. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor of European studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Two months before Ukraine achieved independence in 1991, a young Polyakova left the country with her family as refugees for Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from Emory University, she returned to the continent in 2004 to study in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship.

“I started to notice that there was something happening in Europe,” she said. “At the time, Europe was sort of a safe space, but even in the mid-2000s, I started noticing certain trends.”

As part of her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, Polyakova spent two years in Ukraine studying the rise of far-right political parties and interviewing their leaders. In 2012, she said she noticed a growing bond between these parties and Russia.

“I realized that if I wanted to be part of this conversation, I needed to leave the ivory tower and work on policy,” she said.

On top of Europe’s radicalized political parties, Polyakova said she was motivated to change course by the way countries like Germany and the United Kingdom were taken in by Russia’s disinformation efforts.

“I was shocked at the amount of Russian propaganda that was being launched not just at Ukraine, but at the international community,” she said, “and to what extent the Western media was uncritical of these narratives.”

In light of the Helsinki summit, Polyakova said there is no better time for Chautauquans to talk about how the United States and Russia interact.

Going into the meeting, Polyakova said that the United States and President Donald Trump held all the cards. Nevertheless, she said Trump’s lack of a clear agenda and Putin’s diplomatic experience gave Russia a victory.

“This is not his first time at the rodeo,” Polyakova said. “At the end of the day, we don’t know what happened in the one-on-one meeting between the two leaders, but certainly from the press conference I thought it was obvious that Putin ran the show.”

During the leaders’ joint press conference, Polyakova noted, Trump blamed the United States for the decline in relations, never mentioned Russian “infractions” in Syria, Crimea and Ukraine, and sided against U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.

“To my mind, this is an embarrassing moment for the United States to look so weak when that weakness is unwarranted,” she said.

While Democrats and Republicans alike have condemned Trump’s actions at the summit, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov described the meeting as “fabulous … better than super,” according to Russian media.

“You never hear Lavrov use that kind of language,” Polyakova said.

Polyakova said that Putin’s success at the summit gave a huge boost to his approval ratings, which last week were at their lowest point since before Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“Clearly, for the domestic audience, Putin got exactly what he wanted,” she said. “He was seen as (being) on equal footing with the United States and not only that, as actually leading the United States at some points in explaining U.S. policy toward Russia to the audience, to the journalists in the room. I think Putin used this moment to shine, and that’s exactly how he’s being portrayed in the Russian media.”

Polyakova said that while her lecture will address the summit, her remarks will touch on how the past four United States presidents worked with the Kremlin.

After being floated around as an idea for years at Chautauqua, this week’s theme was chosen more than a year ago for the 2018 season, long before the Helsinki summit was announced. Nevertheless, Polyakova said she appreciates the theme’s synergy with the current national conversation.

“I’m very glad that my trip to Chautauqua has fallen how it has,” Polyakova said. “It will be nice to escape a little bit from the madness of Washington.”

Ambassador William J. Burns to discuss the evolution of U.S, Russia relations

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Ambassador William J. Burns served for over three decades at the highest levels of the U.S. government, shaping foreign policy through some of history’s most monumental international affairs. As part of Week Four’s theme, “Russia and the West,” Burns will speak at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 17, in the Amphitheater.

Matt Ewalt, Chautauqua Institution chief of staff, said those decades of experience are why Burns was a perfect fit for the theme.

“Ambassador Burns brings incomparable on-the-ground knowledge of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia,” Ewalt said. “His having served under both a Republican and Democratic administration informs a perspective on how diplomacy must react to the politics of the day while also building long-term relationships that can rise above those politics.”

Burns is currently president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States.

Burns retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a 33-year diplomatic career. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become deputy secretary of state.

“I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate over nearly 33 years in the Foreign Service, and had wonderful opportunities and terrific people to work with,” Burns said in an interview with the American Foreign Service Association. “I realize how lucky I’ve been.”

Prior to his tenure as deputy secretary, Burns served as ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008.

“Whatever the difficulties in our relations — and, certainly, today we have profound difficulties with the current Russian leadership — it is important to develop a sense of respect for that history, and what Russians as a people have not only endured but also achieved,” he told the AFSA.

Burns speaks Russian, Arabic and French. He told the ASFA investing in the Russian language “is an entry point to understanding that society.”

“Russians are understandably deeply proud of their history and their culture,” he told ASFA. “It’s important to understand what Russia as a society has been through in recent generations, going back to the Soviet period during which the population endured the famine, the purges and the Second World War.”

Burns told the ASFA that Russia can be a difficult place to serve at times, but that is what makes the work so gratifying.

“ … (I)t can also be a very rewarding place, especially if you keep a sense of perspective, and you understand not only the sweep of Russian history, but the continuing significance of Russia and U.S.-Russian relations,” Burns said.

In 1994, Burns was named to Time magazine’s list of the “50 Most Promising American Leaders Under Age 40” and to its “100 Young Global Leaders” list. Since then, he has been the recipient of three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and more than eight Department of State awards.

However, no matter what advancements he has made in his career, Burns told the ASFA that the fundamentals always remain the same.

“Foreign language, curiosity, adaptability, integrity and honesty; a respect for foreign cultures and other societies; and understanding, as I said before, how to navigate them,” he said. “And then, not least, knowing where you’re from — having a clear sense of American purpose.”

On day of Helsinki summit, Coons to discuss U.S.-Russia relations

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It’s a big week for U.S.-Russia relations.

On Wednesday and Thursday, July 11 and 12, President Donald Trump met with European leaders at the NATO summit in Brussels, where he accused Germany of being a “captive of Russia.” On Monday, July 16, in Helsinki, Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And at 10:45 a.m. Monday, July 16, in the Amphitheater,  will open the morning lectures for Week Four, “Russia and the West.”

In his first visit to Chautauqua, the Democratic senator will lay out a “comprehensive vision for the U.S.-Russia relationship,” according to Thomas Mancinelli, Coons’ foreign policy adviser. Mancinelli said the relationship between the two countries is one that extends far beyond the events of the 2016 election.

“There’s a lot of different aspects of (that relationship) that are important to Americans,” Mancinelli said. “Part of that, though, starts with recognizing that we’re at a low point in U.S.-Russia relations as a result of President Putin’s own efforts to undermine our own democracy in an attempt to divide us as a country, to divide us from Europe and to divide European society from within.”

Mancinelli said Russia has been working to “sow discord and create chaos in democracies around the world” as early as 2007, and Coons will discuss some of the circumstances that have led the Kremlin and Putin to “wage this campaign of informational and hybrid warfare.”

Coons, the junior senator from Delaware, has been an outspoken advocate for policies that “counter Russian aggression and subversion,” he said in a February talk he gave at the Hudson Institute. Although Mancinelli said the lecture will not specifically address the ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election, Coons has previously spoken out against the president’s relationship with Putin.

On July 8, Coons told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he is “very concerned about things (Trump) might give away or say with Vladimir Putin” at the expected Helsinki summit today.

The president told reporters last Thursday that he will raise the subject of Russia’s alleged interference during his meeting with Putin.

Coons is the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and a member of the Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Appropriations and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees. In those roles, he frequently works with Republican members of the Senate to create bipartisan legislation. In April, Coons co-sponsored a bill that would limit the president’s ability to fire any special counsel through the use of an “expedited judicial, review” to determine if the proposed termination was for a “good cause,” according to The Hill.

Most recently, Coons was part of a bipartisan delegation to northern European countries that share borders with Russia to discuss their concerns about U.S.-Russian relations.

“I’ll remind you last month in Quebec at the G7, President Trump picked a whole lot of fights, particularly with Canada,” Coons told “Morning Joe” on July 9, “and for us to be facing a trade war with China and at the same time have President Trump be picking fights with our key allies in Europe and North America, strikes me as just nonsensical, and many Republican senators feel the same.”

Mancinelli said Coons frequently works with Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as other Republican officials who see the Russian threat with “clear eyes.” Mancinelli said this approach is crucial for developing a “pragmatic analysis of how we can go forward and improve the (U.S.-Russia) relationship.”

“Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, American, European or Russian, if we all understand one another’s perspectives and backgrounds, we can use that as a basis for developing an informed, bipartisan strategy going forward,” he said.

Matt Ewalt, Chautauqua’s chief of staff, said the Institution is excited for Coons to set the stage for Week Four with suggestions for how “we as American citizens … can ultimately serve an important role in bringing this relationship to a constructive space.”

“Coons is widely praised for his pragmatism, working across the aisle and finding common ground with his Republican colleagues,” Ewalt said. “It’s this commitment to talk across differences that gives us confidence that he’ll find the Chautauqua community and experience both personally enriching and a valuable model for community discourse.”

Original SNL cast member Newman to discuss benefits of everyday play, improv

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“The fourth wall” originated as a concept in theater. Merriam-Webster defines the fourth wall as “an imaginary wall (as at the opening of a modern stage proscenium) that keeps performers from recognizing or directly addressing their audience” It sections off the fabricated world the actors are performing in from the audience.

People often think of play as something that only takes place within the confinements of a space closed off by the fourth wall. Yet the concepts of improvisation, play and acting are not always enclosed in the imaginary worlds of theater, television and movie production.

“(While) researching the topic, it became apparent to me how much improvisation and humor are used every day in so many ways that we don’t even think about,” said Laraine Newman, actor and original cast member of “Saturday Night Live.”

At 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 13, in the Amphitheater, Newman will speak to Chautauquans about how applicable play is to everyday life, from casual encounters to easing the stress of those affected by a medical condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

For more than three decades, Newman has gained experience in the entertainment industry.

A Los Angeles, California, native, she first became interested in improvisation, acting and humor as a teenager, which eventually led her to study mime under Marcel Marceau. She was a founding member of the improvisational and sketch comedy troupe, The Groundlings, in 1974 and became an original cast member of “Saturday Night Live” a year later.

From there, Newman has enjoyed a career in acting and voice animation, appearing in episodes of iconic television shows like “Friends” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in addition to numerous animated shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “Fairly Oddparents” and “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Throughout Week Three, Chautauquans have been asked to think of play in a constructive manner. One area Newman will touch on is the importance of play during childhood, relating to her own experience of letting her children run free with their imaginations in the park.

“For a child, it affirms them,” Newman said. “I noticed in my own children when we’d play in the park … the self-confidence they gained from it was such a delight to see.”

Yet Newman plans to take a holistic approach to the importance of play, as Chautauquans have engaged in dialogue about the relevance of play in adulthood throughout the week.

For example, horror movies are often produced in response to public fear about a real-life event, such as war. During World War II, Vietnam War and post-9/11, there was an increase in horror films that related to each era’s anxieties. Newman said she will touch on how those horror films are “another form of play for people to deal and manage with stress.”

Another facet of Newman’s lecture will be about the benefits of play in terms of health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. By talking about these conditions, Newman said the discussion may make someone who has Alzheimer’s feel at ease.

“Much of the time, people with Alzheimer’s are told that their reality is not happening,” Newman said. “You can only imagine how terrifying that must be on a daily basis. To go along with what someone’s reality is … just a loving thing to do. For someone with Alzheimer’s, it relieves their stress.”

Newman said play has a number of benefits and real- world applications. She thinks play is not confined to a specific age group or professional field, and she plans to share the various ways play can be incorporated into everyday life.

Psychologist Gray to talk importance of ‘free play’ in children’s education

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Peter Gray thinks the best educator for children might not be schools or adults — it’s playing with other children.

Gray, who will speak at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, July 11, in the Amphitheater, has researched and taught about the psychology of children for 30 years. He is a research professor of psychology at Boston College and author of the widely used introductory textbook, Psychology.

In his lecture, Gray said he will focus on “how children learn in their own natural ways and how they can become educated that way.” He suggested that a forced curriculum common in elementary schools can actually deteriorate the natural way in which children inherently educate themselves.

“Children are biologically designed to educate themselves,” Gray said. “They are naturally playful and curious. We can maximize that instead of forcing them to do schoolwork.”

According to Gray, the retention rate for students who are genuinely interested in school material they’ve chosen is exponentially higher than that of students who are required to memorize and recite a variety of pre-chosen subjects.

The answer to the problem, Gray said, is the “natural play of a child” and a healthy mingling with their peers without overbearing adult supervision or correction.

“Over the past 60 years, there has been a tremendous decline in opportunity for children to play free of supervision because of societal fears,” he said. “As a result, we are depriving children of their ability to play and learn freely.”

Gray also said that schools have slowly become a much more “pressured community” in which children are rewarded based on performance. This, he suggested, might be one of the reasons why there have been incredibly high levels of depression and anxiety among children.

Gray’s remedy for this problem goes beyond expanded free play time. Gray is the president and co-founder of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, which promotes opportunities for self-directed education over the traditional curriculum. Instead of children being forced to learn specific subjects, the group encourages children to learn for themselves in a way that advances their interests.

“We work to make it more possible for families to remove their children from school and let them learn on their own by facilitating the child’s own interests and not forcing a set curriculum,” Gray said. “We provide parents and communities with general information on how to do this and the legalities of it.”

For parents who can afford this alternative programming, there are a few schools that have taken this idea of self-directed education as their curriculum. Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, for example, recently adopted a schedule that allowed for increased amounts of free play and encourages it students to facilitate their own learning.

Additionally, Gray is a founder and board member of an organization called Let Grow, which works to promote free play for children outdoors and in public areas without the pressure of constant adult supervision.

“We are concerned with creating societal changes that will allow children to play without adult control,” Gray said.

Let Grow works toward these goals through the creation of “capable kids communities,” in which local communities are educated on how to create a safer space and allow children to be in public spaces alone.

“Things like walking to school or being in public parks without parents can be highly beneficial for a child’s emotional and intellectual development,” Gray said.

In March, Utah passed a law referred to as the “free range kids act” which states that children are legally allowed in public spaces without adult supervision. The law redefines neglect so parents won’t be charged for allowing their children to do certain activities alone.

Gray said the law’s passage is proof that organizations like Let Grow’s methods are receiving wider support.

“Free play offers the development of a lot of traits that can’t be taught to children: controlling their emotions, building people skills, and maintaining confidence in themselves,” Gray said. “Kids are born knowing how to learn — we just have to let them do it.”

Steven Johnson to discuss how ‘play made the modern world’

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Playing into Week Three’s theme, writer Steven Johnson will speak at the 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 10, in the Amphitheater.

Johnson has written 11 books. Most recently, he published Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World, which the New York Times wrote in 2016, “makes a swashbuckling argument for the centrality of recreation to all of human history.”

Wonderland chronicles how popular entertainment has developed over time and explores those who have helped shape it.

Steven Johnson

Johnson, who graduated from Brown University in 1990 as a semiotics major, told the New York Times in a 2016 interview that he and his classmates “were all very much immersed in media theory and poststructuralist philosophy … there was very little room in that world for science, particularly for science that wasn’t, in some fashion, being deconstructed.”

It was James Gleick’s book Chaos that “broke through those boundaries” for him, Johnson told the Times, and helped spark his interest in science-related writing.

Johnson also told the Times that he was an “avid” reader growing up, and revealed that when given the option to visit a playground or a bookstore, he would choose the latter.

Johnson has written about the origin of inventions like batteries and pencils, Joseph Priestley (a scientist friend of Thomas Jefferson’s), popular culture and a political philosophy he calls “peer progressivism.”

He also hosted the six-part PBS series “How We Got to Now” and the podcast “American Innovations.”

In January, Johnson published “Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble” in the New York Times Magazine. In the piece, he discusses “the Cycle,” a term he derives from Tim Wu’s book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. The “Cycle” Wu and Johnson refer to is that of “all major information technologies,” which inevitably wind up “in the hands of multinational corporations fixated on maximizing shareholder value.”

In the article, Johnson defends the blockchain, though he acknowledges that it “may seem like the very worst of speculative capitalism right now” and is “demonically challenging to understand.”

Johnson’s next book is slated for release Sept. 4. Farsighted: How We Make The Decisions That Matter The Most, is about “the art and science of life’s most difficult choices,” according to Johnson’s website.

“My hope is that you will come out of reading the book with a practice for making hard choices in your own life,” Johnson wrote on his website. “Whether those choices are personal, professional, or civic ones.”

Vialet to speak on benefits of play for both adults, youth to open week

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Week Three, “The Art of Play,” will kick off with a lecture by Jill Vialet, who has been dedicated to expanding and promoting play in children for the past 22 years through her nonprofit organization, Playworks.

At 10:45 a.m. on Monday, July 9, in the Amphitheater, she will share her experiences at Playworks, as well as her findings about the importance of play.

Vialet founded Playworks in 1996 after an elementary school principal in the San Francisco Bay Area asked her to help make recess more constructive. The program began with two schools, and today is used in more than 1,800 schools in more than 20 cities across the country.

According to its website, Playworks will reach almost one million students this year by helping schools establish inclusive environments for play.

“The idea is that play has the possibility and potential of bringing out the best in kids,” Vialet said. “What is great about the program is when it is intentionally worked into a school, it allows kids to feel seen, feel included and develop teamwork skills. Then, these morals can become really established and habitual.”

Vialet directly oversaw the programming in the original two schools as executive director, but said her role has since evolved over the years to include “fundraising, public speaking, creating partnerships, identifying opportunities for expansion.”

Vialet said her findings are not limited to children. Play has the ability to also impact adults’ lives.

“Play infused into a workplace or a society more intentionally creates an opportunity to build trust and rapport across the messiness of human interaction,” she said. “And it’s not necessarily through dialogue. The experiential opportunity and the ability to experience common ground and common interests is necessary to create an environment that enables dialogues to enhance democracy.”

Vialet said play and systems of play are “inherently ammature,” meaning that one must have a love for it and recognize the way that it presents itself naturally. She will expand on this concept at her lecture.

“Another thing I have been thinking about a lot recently is the idea that play is kind of a design element that can change the experience,” she said, “and how we might make opportunities to participate in democracy in a more constructive and engaging way.”

Vialet is also the author of Recess Rules, which tells the story of a group of middle- schoolers who are unhappy with the way their recess is going and begin to create a Playworks-like framework by themselves.

“It’s really about kids leading and finding their own power of play,” Vialet said. “That’s a common theme in both the book and the Playworks framework.”

Amy Chua to close week examining political tribalism and identity politics

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When Amy Chua wrote her most recent book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, she said she was instantly criticized by both liberals and conservatives. That’s because the book dishes out pointed criticisms of both sides of the aisle.

But she doesn’t just point out the follies of liberals and conservatives — in Political Tribes, Chua describes how tribal identities can affect political divides and how Americans often underestimate the importance of those tribes. In the book’s last two chapters, Chua tries to recapture “some form of a national identity that can resonate for all Americans.”

Chua, the John M. Duff Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School, will present that vision at 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 6 in the Amphitheater to close the Week Two theme, “American Identity.”

Chua thinks this kind of national introspection is necessary because identity politics has taken hold of American politics, locking it in a stalemate of stubborn ideologies that seem to be moving further apart. And in her view, it’s not the standard, expected partisanship.

“For the first time in our history, the United States is starting to display these destructive political dynamics that are more typically associated with developing and non-Western countries, like populism and blasts of ethnonationalism,” Chua said.

Before she wrote Political Tribes, Chua was more focused on the differences between the United States and those developing and non-Western countries. For 20 years, she taught a course on international business transactions, in which she emphasized that the United States’ social, political and ethnic dynamics were so different from those of developing countries, which led to critical misunderstandings and foreign policy blunders.

“At a certain point, I read a passage from my first book (World on Fire) that said Americans tend to romanticize democracy,” Chua said, “and democracy can sweep to power a politician with no political experience who, to the horror of elites, rides a wave of ethnically tinged populism to power.”

At that moment, Chua paused and looked out at the class. She said they were all thinking the same thing: That description sounded a lot like the current political climate of the United States.

This was a “lightbulb” moment for Chua. It caused her to turn her lens on the ways that the United States was similar to these nations and, to some degree, susceptible to the same social and cultural forces.

“Once you see the United States as part of a larger global pattern, I feel like it’s much easier to diagnose the problem,” Chua said.

The problem, she said, isn’t tribal identities themselves.

“Telling somebody to get rid of their tribal identities would be like telling somebody to stop liking their sports team,” Chua said. “You know, just think about that — stop liking the Buffalo Bills, or stop liking the Dallas Cowboys. I mean, good luck with that.”

Instead, Chua said the United States must acknowledge the many tribes within its borders and allow them to flourish under a larger national identity that can resonate with all Americans.

For Chua, the linchpin of that larger national identity is the set of principles that America was founded on, particularly the Constitution.

“I think it’s probably because I’m an outsider — my parents are immigrants that just love this country — but I tend to feel that a lot of Americans take some of these special and unique principles for granted,” Chua said. “We forget how unusual it is to have a constitution that actually has no established religion, that is on its face ethnically and religiously neutral.”

Chua acknowledged that the United States has failed to live up to those principles again and again, and it has not yet fully realized the ideals that it claims to uphold. But she’s an optimist — she closes Political Tribes with this excerpt from the Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again.”

“O, let America be America again — The land that never has been yet — And yet must be— the land where every man is free. … O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath — America will be!”

Brooks to analyze week’s topic with conservative lens

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David Brooks has a special, unofficial label for his work at The New York Times. He’s not just an op-ed columnist — he’s a conservative columnist.

Brooks has defined this label further:

“Well, I’m an American conservative,” Brooks recently told the podcast “Conversations with Tyler.”

During his third lecture at Chautauqua Institution, Brooks will have the opportunity to expand on the meaning of that label, continuing Week Two’s exploration of “American Identity.” Brooks will take the podium at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 5 in the Amphitheater.

“I hope it gives voice to those who would identify as conservative. I hope it challenges those who consider themselves solidly liberal,” said Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “I think one of the interesting things with David, and it’s one of the reasons that he both appeals and occasionally frustrates both sides of that aisle, is that he refuses to be put in a camp of left or right.”

Brooks has written columns for the Times since 2003, following stints as a foreign correspondent and op-ed editor for the Wall Street Journal. Brooks appears every Friday as a commentator on PBS’s “News- Hour,” as well as on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In addition, Brooks is the author of four books, the most recent of which is The Road to Character, which is a New York Times best-seller.

Brooks last visited Chautauqua in July 2013 when he gave a lecture titled, “Moral Geniuses: Public Figures to Admire and Imitate.” This was before Brooks became a frequent and strident critic of President Donald Trump.

In partisan political discourse, Brooks is a uniquely nuanced voice, Hill said. Brooks does not equate conservative with Republican, a point he argued in his June 25 column, “Republican or Conservative, You Have to Choose.”

“Trump is an assault on the sacred order that conservatives hold dear,” Brooks wrote.

But while critiquing both sides of the aisle, Brooks also analyzes cultural trends such as “wokeness,” questioning the common space in what can feel like a national Venn diagram of opposing views.

He acknowledged conflicting ideas of American identity in his May 2017 Times piece, “The Four American Narratives.”

“America has always been a divided, sprawling country, but for most of its history it was held together by a unifying national story,” Brooks wrote. “But that civic mythology no longer unifies.”

Hill expects Brooks to discuss both America’s historical narrative and current events in the dizzying national news cycle.

“I can’t predict which thing he might bring up,” Hill said. “It could be anywhere from the Supreme Court vacancy, to what’s happening with the border, to how he sees the social fabric of America.”

Chautauquans may notice there is no title listed for Brooks’ lecture. Hill said he expects this presentation to be an entirely different experience from the last one Brooks gave in the Amp.

“Part of the reason why there’s not a title, and I really applaud this about David, is that he’s probably writing it right now,” Hill said. “I think David is just extremely educated, nuanced and thoughtful at how he looks at issues, and I suspect that this will be one of the best lectures we have all season because of those qualities.”

‘Our Towns’ authors Fallowses to examine nation’s ideals in context of current climate

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The American identity is changing, according to James and Deborah Fallows.

The Fallowses will discuss how cities are redefining American ideals and their new book, Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, at their 10:45 a.m. lecture Wednesday, July 4 in the Amphitheater to continue Week Two, “American Identity.”

“(Chautauqua Institution) has a way of understanding how the long-term elements of the American identity and American ideals match the realities of this moment of the political trends and emerging crises,” James Fallows said. “It’s particularly relevant right now because a lot of both national and local politics involve this effort to figure out what is America, who are Americans and what does it mean to be of this country.”

Over the last five years, the Fallowses have traveled by prop airplane, reporting on smaller-to medium-sized cities that are reshaping what it means to be an American on a local level. This project, in partnership with The Atlantic and “Marketplace,” is called “City Makers: American Futures.”

Along their journey, the couple met with civic leaders, factory workers, immigrants and entrepreneurs — Our Towns is a collection of those interactions, “an account of a country busy remaking itself.”

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic — he has written for The Atlantic since the late 1970s. James Fallows was the chief White House speechwriter under former President Jimmy Carter for two years and served as editor of US News & World Report for two years. He has authored Breaking the News: How the Media Undermines American Democracy and China Airborne. He is also the author of Blind Into Baghdad and Postcards From Tomorrow Square; these works are based on writing from The Atlantic.

He is a fifth-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, which he won once, recipient of the American Book Award for non-fiction and a NewYork Emmy Award-winner for the documentary series “Doing Business in China.”

He and Deborah Fallows have lived in Shanghai and Beijing, travelling through China for three years.

Deborah Fallows is the author of Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language, a reflection on her struggles while learning Mandarin. She is also a contributing writer for The Atlantic and co-creator of “City Makers: American Futures.”

Deborah Fallows is a graduate of Harvard University with a Ph.D. in linguistics. She has worked in research and polling for the Pew Internet Project and data architecture for Oxygen Media.

For their morning lecture, the Fallowses will touch on the contrast of American identity at the local and national levels.

“At the national level, there’s just a really pinched battle about who can be an American,” James Fallows said. “We’re contrasting that to what we’ve seen in the local level, where there is this city-by-city, ongoing reinvention of the American identity, which we’re saying is actually much closer to what has been over the century.”

The Fallowses have visited the Institution many times over the last few decades.

“Since we’ve gotten to know a lot of people at Chautauqua, we’re looking forward to seeing them again,” Deborah Fallows said. “We always look forward to the kind of community family village atmosphere of Chautauqua that’s different compared to maybe our hometown.”

James Fallows said he is interested in the way the Institution has evolved.

“One of the things that makes Chautauqua most distinctive in American life is the tradition,” he said, “the way it is deliberately set apart from modern chaos and trying to give people a chance to think seriously about ideas and books and matters, both of reason and of faith and of culture, and all those things have been consistent since its foundation. … It’s recognizably the same place, but is also clearly responding to the new ideas, challenges, opportunities of each age.”

Deborah Fallows said the Institution “maintain(s) some of the things about American society that the country has always valued.”

James Fallows agreed.

“(American identity) has been one of (the Institution’s) trademark themes over the decades of understanding both the permanent and continually changing nature of the American identity,” he said, “permanent in the ideals of inclusion, mutual effort to make a more perfect union and all the other aspects that were said at the start, but changing and continuing with the ethnic mix and international and domestic challenges.”

For Deborah Fallows, the Institution, despite its isolation and microscale, ignites inspiration for change across the nation.

“I think (Chautauqua) offers something different, which is maybe a chance to be more creative about the kinds of changes and renewal that are possible,” she said. “That comes from hanging out in the summer with people you don’t live with every day during the winter and the community problems you don’t live with during the winter, so it’s a chance to, in a micro-cosmic way, listen to the country at large.”

‘New Yorker’ staffer Cobb to examine intersection of race, social justice

William Jelani Cobb on Feb. 13, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Chautauqua is set to engage in a healthy dialogue surrounding race and culture.

Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at The New Yorker covering race, police and injustice in America, will speak at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, July 3 in the Amphitheater as part of Week Two’s theme “American Identity.”

Cobb, a Queens, New York, native, has earned accolades like the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism and a 2017 Walter Bernstein Award from the Writers Guild of America East. He is a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and former director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut.

He is the author of books such as The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress; To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic; and The Devil and Dave Chappelle and Other Essays. His work has previously appeared in publications like Essence, The Progressive and The New Republic.

Matt Ewalt, Chautauqua Institution’s chief of staff, said the Institution needed a voice like Cobb’s as part of this week’s lecture series that focuses on the intersection of social justice and identity at a time when “few things are more critical to the national conversation than race.”

“When we decided on a week for ‘American Identity,’ knowing identity has been the core of our national dialogue throughout our history, but particularly the past couple of years with deeper polarization of the American citizenry in how we define ourselves as Americans, we knew there were a few voices and thought leaders that had to be part of this dialogue,” Ewalt said. “Jelani Cobb is one of the country’s leading thought leaders, particularly on issues of race, culture and identity in the United States.”

Ewalt said Cobb is aware of Chautauqua’s platform because of its prominence in American history and its educated and well-read audience, and believes Cobb wants to engage this larger community in themes around American identity he wrestles with in his work.

“He’s eager to contribute to a dialogue on these issues of American identity, knowing we’d be looking at them through a lot of viewpoints,” Ewalt said. “I think there are many in Chautauqua who are New Yorker readers and familiar with Cobb’s work and respect his thought leadership and incredible gifts as a writer, regardless of one’s policies.”

Cobb stressed the importance of continuing the dialogue about racial injustice and not getting comfortable with the current social climate in his 2015 article “Murders in Charleston.” The article focuses on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and Cobb wrote that “the daisy chain of racial outrages that have been a constant feature of American life since Trayvon Martin’s death, three years ago, are not a copycat phenomenon soon to fade from our attention.”

He stated a similar discourse in his 2014 piece “The Anger in Ferguson” about the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old, unarmed African-American, in Ferguson, Missouri, and how common racial profiling is in the United States.

“Yet what happened on Staten Island and in Dearborn Heights, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Sanford have culminated, again, in the specific timbre of familial grief, a familiar strain of outrage, and an accompanying body of commentary straining to find a novel angle to the recurring tragedy,” Cobb wrote. “The conventions are so familiar that … the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown began circulating on Twitter, with thousands of tweets pointing to the ways in which incidents such as these play out.”

Ewalt has no doubt Cobb will bring this kind of honest reckoning and wrestling to Chautauqua.

“He’s prepared to have a difficult conversation about race with a predominately white audience, but that dialogue has to happen,” Ewalt said. “I hope, totally recognizing there’s a range of political viewpoints represented in that audience, that we can engage and challenge one another, but in doing so, believe the conversation matters.”

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