Morning Lecture Recaps

Jon Meacham shares message of hope for future of American democracy


Jon Meacham last spoke to a Chautauqua audience from a computer screen, in the middle of the 2020 virtual season on CHQ Assembly. He spoke then as the closing lecture of a week on “Reframing the Constitution” — and a lot has changed since then. So he reflected on the idea of “The Future of History” by looking into the past.

“I would not have said that the American experiment in constitutional democracy is at an existential hour, even two years ago, if we had been here. I would not have said that when we were on our (Zoom) boxes together,” Meacham said. “It was, I believe, the erosion and attempted overthrow of the American government in the fall (2020) into January 2021 that cast into the darkest relief what we face.”

Meacham, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, delivered the designated Chautauqua Lecture of the 2022 season at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, July 21, in the Amphitheater. Through stories and reflection, Meacham brought historical context to current events and issues. History may not repeat itself but it may rhyme, Meacham paraphrased Mark Twain. 

“Democracy is not guaranteed,” Meacham said. “It is the hardest of human undertakings because it requires us to see each other not as rivals, but as neighbors.”

For Meacham, preserving democracy is a human and moral commitment. 

“Without that, this experiment will not continue. I am convinced of that. And why should it? This is a human undertaking. This is a moral undertaking,” Meacham said. “Moral in the pure sense of the word. Moral means how we are with each other.”

Meacham said that this morality should be present in customs and behavior,  as well as how we view our rights and responsibilities.

“I don’t have to love you to respect you. It’s in my self-interest to respect you because we all know in our own lives, we are more likely to respect those who respect us,” Meacham said.  “Let’s be honest. As Franklin Roosevelt said, ‘The news is going to get worse and worse before it gets better and better.’ ”

Jan. 6, 2021, convinced Meacham that American democracy is in danger. 

“That convinced me that, in fact, I might not hand down the country that made my life possible to my children,” Meacham said.

In 2018, Meacham wrote The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, which argued “that manifestation of the forces we were dealing with from 2016 … were the fullest expression of perennial forces.” 

Meacham cited the forces of nativism, extremism, racism and authoritarianism. He said that while these forces began manifesting in 2016, they are still present —  changing only in degree and not type of force.

“They ebb and flow in human experience, and they are flowing. Every generation, to some extent, is judged by the extent to which it enables those forces to ebb or to flow,” Meacham said. “That’s the task that we face. What I did not foresee was a blatant attempt to thwart the concept of what I call the constitutional conversation.”

The constitutional conversation, Meacham said, is not just how the law is written, but also the spirit of the law.

“The social contract is about understanding that the letter of the law gets as close as it can to dictating and putting the guardrails up. But you don’t have to observe those guardrails,” Meacham said. “The danger we’re in, and the future of history — which is also the future of the American Republic — is, are we going to fall into this Hobbesian view of the world, that the strong should always dominate the weak? Is this the war of all against all? That was Hobbes’ state of nature.”

Sean Smith / staff photographer Meacham, after speaking to a Chautauqua audience virtually in 2020, gives his lecture on “The Future of History” in the Amp.

Meacham believes that the Founding Fathers shared Hobbes’ view of democracy. 

“You may think the founders made it really, really difficult to get anything done in the United States of America because they believe the worst of human nature, and we have done everything we can ever since to prove them right,” Meacham said. 

This country is fundamentally a social contract, and no political organization or party should have a monopoly on truth, said Meacham — noting that he does not see himself as a partisan, having written a biography on George W. Bush, as well as appear on MSNBC and work with Joe Biden.

“A democracy is the fullest expression of all of us. That is at once thrilling and terrifying,” Meacham said. “It’s thrilling, because it is up to us. If enough of us have habits of heart and mind, if enough of us have a disposition in our manners and morals to find political expression, then a course of action can happen.”

Meacham stressed that individuals not getting what they want doesn’t mean democracy isn’t working. Rather, the opposite.

“There’s progress, and then there’s a loss of ground, and there’s progress, and there’s a loss of ground,” Meacham said. “… I believe in many ways, the present and the future role of history is to tell a story that is convincing and activating.”

Meacham reflected on his children’s lived experience in the United States, with the oldest born in 2002 and the youngest in 2008. They have lived through the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the War on Terrorism, the Iraq War, 20-year war in Afganistan, the financial crisis of 2008, the Obama and Trump administrations, an insurrection and a novel pandemic. 

“For somebody under 25, what is the seminal, ambient, formative political experience?” Meacham asked. “The presidency of Donald Trump. … So why would you have a great deal of confidence in the world? Just given the basic demography of the folks I see here, our world was one in which the country — after too much time, too much treasure, too much blood, too much delay — produced civil rights, produced voting rights, which is now under assault again,” Meacham said. 

He noted that some of the audience grew up building the Cold War economy and the largest middle class in the history of the world. The key to democracy is the middle class, Meacham said. 

“There’s an expectation that if you do the work, you will thrive. Then the whole thing collapses,” Meacham said. “You can’t do it with two ends of the barbell. That leads to autocracy and aristocracy.”

In 1965, according to Pew Research Center, nearly 76% of Americans said they trusted the federal government to do the right thing always or most of the time. That number is now 9%, Meacham said. During the George W. Bush years, Gallup News reported Vice President Dick Cheney had a 20% approval rate, but now he has proven to be, along with his daughter, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a “statesman of the republic,” Meacham said. He used the Cheneys to illustrate that “this is a human undertaking.”

Meacham shared what he believes the future of history is. 

“The present and the future of history, I believe, is this: We have to tell a story that preserves the possibility of prosperity and progress and justice. … It makes the history of the United States a potent and essential element in preserving the experiment, whose danger I described at the beginning.”

Meacham shifted toward discussing the political polarity in American politics; people are complicated as well as parties, Meacham said.

“In my view, the Republican Party as currently constituted is not a functional conversational partner within the constitutional construct. That’s terrible. Because it only works if we have two. And we can argue about reforming so they can have more, that’s fine. But we need two functioning principal parties,” he said. “We don’t have them right now.”

Meacham said he wanted to be clear in terms of the left, right and center — that “this is not about both sides,” pointing to the lived experience of the younger generation that leads to the belief that the system is not worth preserving.

“We know that the right has felt that way. They are putting strength above anything else. They want power at any cost. … That’s enough of a problem for any civilized society,” Meacham said. “A problem I worry about, and the reason we talk about the future of history, is that there could come a day, not too far in the future, where the center and the left decide, ‘You know what? I’m not sure this works either.’ And when that comes, I’m not sure what happens, but it’s not good.” 

With this polarization, the left and center are asked to be patient, tolerant and forgiving; this has been seen in the past, specifically during post-Civil War Reconstruction, Meacham said. People act on incentive, thus the need for story. 

Meacham focused on two main points in the nation’s history: 100 years ago and 60 years ago. In 1922, the Ku Klux Klan was refounded. Seven U.S. senators, around 20 members of the House of Representatives and five governors were openly members of the KKK. America faced the Great Depression, World War II and the second Red Scare, and in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, they were ready for a dictator. 

“There was never a ‘once upon a time’ in American history, and there’s never going to be a ‘happily ever after.’ Because it’s us. It’s a daily, hourly, weekly struggle to decide: What rights do we want to enjoy, and what responsibilities do we owe?” Meacham said

In the 1960s, the U.S. faced the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, as well as a close presidential election. Meacham spoke about a moment in 1965, a week after Bloody Sunday, that is from his perspective one of the most important moments in presidential history. 

“Lyndon Johnson summons George Wallace to the Oval Office. … And he said, ‘George, when you’re dead and gone, do you want there to be a scrawny grave that says: George Wallace, he hated. Or do you want a beautiful stone monument that says: George Wallace, he built?’”

Meacham feels this question is still relevant in 2022.

“That’s the question for us, in the present, and therefore, what history will say of us,” Meacham said. “The question is, did we hate or did we build? Did we reach out? Or did we clench a fist? Did we add to the sum of human knowledge and grace and possibility? Or did we constrict opportunity out of fear and selfishness and anxiety?” 

Meacham said that it is our responsibility to uplift, not destroy.

“The duty we owe, the history of our own time, which is how history will see us, is to build and not to hate,” he said.

‘Start from a point of truth-telling’: Nicole Austin-Hillery traces interrelationship between human, civil rights in lecture


The discussion on civil and human rights in the United States requires a truthful conversation between two receptive, open-minded parties, as if they were old friends. 

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation President and CEO Nicole Austin-Hillery approached Chautauquans with that exact mindset, calling on them to engage in a dialogue on race based in truth and respect. 

“I truly believe that the only way we can resolve the issues that we are facing, not only in this country, but across the world right now, when it comes to the fight for civil and human rights, is to start from a point of truth-telling,” Austin-Hillery said. 

Austin-Hillery took the lectern at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 12, in the Amphitheater to closely examine how civil and human rights are inherently the same, and how the United States can move toward progress in achieving equality and civil liberties for all. 

Continuing on Week Three’s theme of “The Future of Human Rights,” Austin-Hillery was the second Chautauqua Lecture Series speaker to talk about civil liberties in U.S. systems in her lecture, following Alison Brysk, Mellichamp Chair of Global Governance at University of California, Santa Barbara, on Monday. 

A graduate of the Howard University School of Law and Carnegie Mellon University, Austin-Hillery was the first to serve as the executive director of the U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization that studies and advocates for human rights. Austin-Hillery was appointed president and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in February 2022. 

Joeleen Hubbard / staff photographer Austin-Hillery’s lecture was titled “Race: A Human and Civil Rights Issue.”

To open her speech, Austin-Hillery told Chautauqua she would be speaking the truth from her vantage point of being an advocate for civil and human rights in her career, and asked the audience to voice their truths in the Q-and-A session, as well. 

The conversation launched from Austin-Hillery’s four declarations of truth that she has made to navigate discourse about civil and human rights. The first of her declarations was that civil rights and human rights are inextricably linked. 

She read the United Nations’ definition of human rights, which says: “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.”

Then Austin-Hillery recited Merriam-Webster’s definition of civil rights, which reads: “The rights of personal liberty guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution and by acts of Congress.”

Having delivered the definitions, Austin-Hillery pointed out a glaring truth: that the meanings are inherently the same. 

“Both human and civil rights protect a human being against injustice, mistreatment and oppression, simply put,” Austin-Hillery said. “It’s based on the understanding that we have to accept and acknowledge that the two are inextricably linked and that … without accepting (the first) declaration, we cannot begin to address the problem of racial injustice in the United States. … We need one to make the other work, and we need them both to get us to the next level, to make us better.”

In accepting Austin-Hillery’s first declaration, she said people can understand her second declaration, which is that “the fabric of this country, the systems upon which it was built, and that we adhere to, have race at their foundation.”

“We have to also understand that in the history of the United States, the people who have been prevented from exercising and fully availing themselves of these rights, whether civil or human, have mostly been people of color,” Austin-Hillery said. “I don’t care what anyone says, if we look at the history of this country and the systems that have been created and the systems that have oppressed and have caused discrimination, the people who have been most impacted by that and by those systems are people of color.”

Austin-Hillery presented this statement with evidence, citing her past working in law in Washington.

The three examples she gave to support her second declaration were slavery, unequal opportunities for education and the history of the police system in the United States. Austin-Hillery drew on an article from The New Yorker, titled “The Invention of the Police,” by Jill Lepore, that explored how the police derived from Barbados slave patrols dating back to the 1600s. 

“The use (of slavery) was all about controlling these new people who were brought from Africa to serve, to till land, to till soil, to be at the beck and call of their owners,” Austin-Hillery said. “And these slave patrols are the earliest iterations of what we now call our police organizations in the United States.”

Moving on from the past to examine the present state of civil rights in the United States, her third declaration is that the United States is in a period of rights retrenchment. Austin-Hillery said the United States has come a long way in the past 60 years in terms of civil rights, but as of this moment, America is seeing a reckoning in human rights. 

“We are witnessing something wholly different,” Austin-Hillery said. “We are witnessing an effort to roll back these successes and these victories, these efforts that were put in place to expand, protect and defend hard won rights.”

She said the infringements of rights, especially for people of color, include the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade, strict voter identification laws and the police brutality that is responsible for taking the lives of Black people across the country, including George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Jalen Walker and many more African Americans who deserve to be named and honored. 

The pandemic, Austin-Hillery said, opened the eyes of many to these retrenchments that directly affect Black communities, and she was approached with a simple statement by many: “Nicole, I didn’t know.”

“They said, ‘I didn’t know,’ ” Austin-Hillery said. “Well, guess what? Now you know.”

This response led Austin-Hillery to give her fourth and final declaration, which says that we combat the retrenchment through the use of civil and human rights approaches as tools for change. 

“We no longer have the luxury of saying this issue of civil rights and human rights is for somebody else. It’s for someone else to deal with. It’s someone else’s problem,” Austin-Hillery said. “It is our problem. And we all have to take it on as a part of our individual responsibilities to figure out what in the heck we do about it.”

Austin-Hillery commended leaders in civil rights like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Eric Holder and John Lewis and their efforts in combating the stifling of civil liberties. 

She promoted a four-point agenda the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations made to advise people on how to tackle civil and human rights. Point one says to stop denying and start dismantling; point two says to end impunity and start to build trust; point three says to simply listen; point four says we must redress and confront past legacies to deliver reparatory justice. 

To conclude her speech, Austin-Hillery circled back to the beginning, with the idea that truth enables real progress and real conversation. 

“When we look in the mirror, we have to ask ourselves the question, if we are living in this nation that is suffering from the cancer of (racism), what are we doing about it?” Austin-Hillery said. “And if you are not figuring out something in your corner of the world that you can do about it, if you are not engineering how we do better, how we can be better, how we can treat one another better, how we can ensure people’s lives are better, then maybe if we’re not doing that, maybe we’re all parasites on society if we don’t rise to that challenge.”

Austin-Hillery advised Chautauquans to remember and acknowledge her four declarations in understanding race in the United States, and she asked them to reflect on their position in the universal struggle for equality.

“The question that you have to ask yourself is: ‘If not now, when? If not me, then whom?’ ” Austin-Hillery said. “We only need to follow our instincts, our hearts, and our souls, and these lessons from history to know how we have to proceed and how we have to move forward. That is what democracy looks like. That is what America is supposed to look like. And that is how we will create a union of what I like to call social justice warriors and change makers. That’s who you are. That’s what I believe you have in you.”

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis makes conservative case for climate action


With a career of challenging the norms of his Republican-leaning state, Bob Inglis, former U.S. representative for South Carolina’s 4th congressional district, chose to engage his Chautauqua audience through political comedic relief to introduce his three-step plan to becoming a conservative concerned with climate change.

Inglis spoke at 10:45 a.m. Monday, July 4, in the Amphitheater to open Week Two of the Chautauqua Lecture Series, themed “The Wild: Reconnecting with Our Natural World,” with his lecture titled “Can Free Enterprise Solve Climate Change?”

Inglis, executive director of conservative climate change initiative, opened his lecture by asking audience members, if they were comfortable, to raise their hand when prompted to indicate if they were politically left-leaning, right-leaning or in the center. A majority of the audience was left-leaning, with about 10 right-leaning and a handful in the center.

GEORGIA PRESSLEY / staff photographer
Inglis, former U.S. representative for South Carolina, discusses policy options available to address climate change.

He then asked the left-leaning portion of the audience a series of questions: if they believe climate change is real, if they believe it’s human-caused and if they believe it can be fixed. He then asked the right-leaning portion of the audience the same questions.

All audience members, regardless of what party they identify with, kept their hands raised for each question. Inglis had a different experience during his congressional tenure.

“Conservatives aren’t interested in climate change,” Inglis said. “That’s the way it was for my first six years in Congress. I said that climate change was nonsense. I didn’t know anything about it, except that Al Gore was for it.”

Inglis represented the 4th District of South Carolina, which he said is probably one of the most conservative states in the country. After his initial six years, he went into commercial real estate law, then returned in 2004 to run again for the same seat.

“That was the year that the eldest of our five kids had just turned 18, so he’s voting for the first time,” Inglis said. “He came to me and said, ‘Dad, I’ll vote for you, but you’re going to clean up your act on the environment.’ His four sisters and his mother agreed.”

Listening to his family was step one of his three-step plan, Inglis joked, because “these people can change the locks on the doors to (my) house.”

He joined a science committee and, through a congressional delegation, visited Antarctica to see the ice core drillings at the South Pole — the second step of his plan. 

His third step was going to the Great Barrier Reef to see coral bleaching. 

Inglis said he experienced a “spiritual awakening” when snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef with his friend Scott.

“So that’s how this conservative from South Carolina got involved in climate. It was a three-step metamorphosis,” Inglis said.

Inglis then went home to South Carolina to work on his newfound climate change initiative, focusing on carbon removal.

“I came home and introduced the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009,” Inglis said. “Note to self: Do not introduce carbon tax in the midst of a great recession in the reddest state in the nation. It did not go well.”

His stats as “an actual conservative” are a 93% American Conservative Union rating, 100% from the Christian Coalition, 100% from National Right to Life, an “A” with the National Rifle Association, a zero with the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action and a 23% with the labor union AFL-CIO — which surprised Inglis, as he was hoping for a 0%. 

Inglis’ roots in the Republican Party, paired with his passion for climate change, motivated him to start

“We even spell (republicEN) differently,” Inglis said. “It’s EN for energy, entrepreneurship (and) the environment.”

Inglis then explained the second part of his lecture: policy options available in the United States and worldwide.

“We make it sound like the solutions are really complicated; they’re really not,” Inglis said. “They fall into three categories. You can regulate emissions. You can incentivize clean energy, or you can price in (the) negative effects of burning fossil fuels.”

Regulating emissions was a good idea until West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency this year, Inglis said. The Supreme Court found that the EPA “cannot seek to change the (carbon) generation capacity of the United States.”

Doing so exceeded the EPA’s authority. Inglis said he wants to imagine what could happen if the United States could regulate emissions, but the cons could outweigh the pros. 

“The risk of this regulatory approach, in all humility, even if you’re left of center, is you could go downhill on solving climate change,” Inglis said. 

Incentivizing clean energy, such as expanded credits for wind and solar power, is another concept Inglis has considered, but it has a similar outcome to regulating emissions.

“It’s got this same pitfall,” Inglis said. “Which is: ‘How do you incentivize Chinese corporations or individuals to do things to the American tax code?’ Answer — you can’t. So you might end up in the same spot.”

There’s a relatively small market for clean energy equipment — about 20-30,000 companies. Inglis worries about this industry becoming a mass market. If a lot of people end up wanting clean energy equipment, the price will remain stagnant, making it less accessible. This would reverse the effect that Inglis said would help cut carbon prices.

Inglis said the next option wouldn’t be to cut taxes somewhere else, but to divvy up the money from carbon tax to distribute among citizens so the government doesn’t get too much. The only issue with this, he said, is that applying taxes elsewhere would cause an uptick in the international market.

The problem is reflected in the cost of products, Inglis said. Increasing the prices of electricity, gasoline and propane doesn’t make people want to vote for this sort of change.

“Make sure you start with the good news, which is ‘No, we’re not going to cut your taxes somewhere else,’ or, ‘We’re going to divert the money back to you,’ ” Inglis said. “ ‘Yes, your propane is going to cost you more. It’s going to cost the actual cost of burning that stuff, but you’re going to have money in your pocket.’ ”

Ingis reflected on what  legislation has done, which is mainly correct past legislation. He said, at the end of the day, people on the left and right need to come together and realize they are all hoping for the same climate change endgame.

“I think that what was being preached earlier from this stage is the idea of grace and forgiveness,” Inglis said. “It’s incumbent upon the left to be that way toward the right in accepting people into this conversation.”

George Packer closes week with warning against contempt, loss of self-government


Abraham Lincoln once said that, “as a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” According to journalist George Packer, America is now dying a slow death by democratic suicide in a highly polarized political and social state. 

“One way to think about democratic suicide in this country is a simple loss of faith in democracy: something slow and subtle, and even imperceptible,” Packer said. “But (there’s this) gradual belief in the public that everyone is on the take; that every politician is out for their own self-interest; that the media are simply a bunch of liars; that business is corrupt and always doing dirty deals with politicians; and that essentially there is no truth. We can’t know what’s real.” 

Packer, award-winning author and staff writer for The Atlantic, took the stage at 10:45 a.m. Friday, July 1, at the Amphitheater to discuss an introspective view of what equality means in American identity through his lecture “Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal,” which shares the same name of his most recent book, published in 2021. 

Packer has been a staff writer for The Atlantic since 2018, and he worked as a journalist for The New Yorker from 2003 to 2018, where he covered topics like the Iraq War and the war crimes in Sierra Leone. Packer has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. 

After a week of lectures focusing on geopolitical strife in Ukraine and foreign affairs, Packer closed out Week One’s theme “What Should be America’s Role in the World?” by bringing Chautauquans home to examine internal democracy within the United States through fresh perspectives of international relations. 

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, introduced Packer. 

Dylan Townsend / staff photographer Packer was the closing presentation of the Week One theme: “What Should be America’s Role in the World?”

Packer launched into his presentation with a passage from Lincoln’s Lyceum Address about the need to preserve the United States by following the law and seeking out justice. The passage from the famous 1838 speech set the stage for Packer’s discussion of U.S. democracy throughout time. 

The Civil War, Packer said, was a form of democratic suicide in history that Americans know well; the closest the country has come to that “form of suicide” since 1861 was that of the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021. 

“(Jan. 6) was the best and worst of times,” Packer said. “The best of times because more Americans had gone to the polls two months earlier in the middle of a pandemic than in our history, and that election, which was put under microscopic scrutiny, turned out to be about as fair and legitimate as any election we’ve ever had. It was the worst of times because the psyche of one man could not tolerate defeat and brought us to the brink of the overthrow of democracy.”

The events that happened on Jan. 6, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, have revealed the cracks in American democracy. 

“As long as there are no political or legal consequences for what happened that day, American democracy will always have a gun to its head,” Packer said.

Consequences and loss of faith prompted Packer to examine what exactly equality means to America, and how the nation has drifted from the ideals of democracy — if it have ever even achieved it at all. 

“(Equality) is about the idea that we’re all basically the same,” Packer said. “Equality as an ideal has been betrayed throughout American history. But equality as a feeling … (what de Tocqueville called) the passion for equality: a desire to be able to enter any world, to be anything, to be excluded from nothing on the basis of where you’re born or who you are, that is what de Tocqueville felt was the most distinguishing feature about Americans: the desire to be equal with everyone else. He called it equality of conditions.” 

In analyzing equality, Packer draws four American narratives in their chronological order: Free America, Smart America, Real America and Just America.  

 “We are red and blue,” he said. “Every election tells us how deeply divided we are, but the red and blue are in turn divided within themselves.”

Free America is an ideal defined by President Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.” It promotes individualism and deregulation of government.

“That was a powerful narrative,” Packer said. “I think it’s actually been the most influential of my adult life. It became the narrative of the Republican Party, and in some ways it remains that narrative.” 

Free America, however, didn’t last. 

“Something didn’t work with Free America. That is, we are a society; we are not simply a collection of individuals. We are citizens,” Packer said. “Free America created a door that was the beginning of the inequality that I’m talking about. It was the beginning of the breakup of the social contract that had created a middle class, the biggest in history, and instead has led to the hierarchy, the stratified society that we all are familiar with today.”

Smart America is an identity of educated Americans with the belief that anyone can rise with the power of knowledge, popularized by the Clinton administration, which became the identity of the Democratic Party. 

“That narrative says we need to soften the blows of our capitalist society, but the best path for anyone is to accept the future, to accept the information age,” Packer said. 

But like Free America, Smart America created a major problem. It created a new aristocracy of the top 10% of educated individuals, which left out a majority of Americans. 

Free America and Smart America were the narratives dominating American life before large political defeats birthed two new narratives. 

“They had spectacular failures: the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the entire period of the war on terror … and the financial crisis of 2008 leading to the great recession,” Packer said. 

The third narrative, according to Packer, is Real America, a term coined by Nancy Pelosi when addressing a fundraising event in North Carolina. It consists of uneducated, white, traditionally Christian Americans who he said “led to the election of Donald Trump.”

At the same time came the fourth and last narrative of Just America, which is a younger millennial generation that believes the United States has never confronted its history of corruption, allowing the country to continue unjust practices. 

“This country is not moving toward a more perfect union,” Packer said. “It is not the best of all possible worlds. It is not a beacon of democracy to the nations. It is a country born in sin that has never rooted out that sin, that has a permanent character of oppression in its soul.”

Of the four narratives, Real America and Just America clash most frequently, representing the issue in these groups as a whole.

“Not only are we famously polarized, but we have lost what de Tocqueville called ‘the art of self-government,’ ” Packer said. “We don’t know how to talk to each other. We don’t know how to argue with each other, persuade each other. We don’t believe persuasion is possible. We only believe in power. That’s the ultimate consequence of this division, that only power is real.”

Having described his introspections of American identities, Packer laid out what he thinks is the most poisonous threat of democracy within U.S. borders: contempt and the loss of self-government. 

“Today, our culture is marked above all by contempt,” Packer said. “Contempt runs through our discourse like acid, and it corrodes everything. Contempt is really satisfying because it relieves you of the burden of having to take seriously anything that the person you despise says. Contempt is the currency of social media, and it corrodes the spirit of any democracy between equals because contempt is inherently unequal.”

While the road to preserving democracy and equality in the United States is long, and the solution unknown, Packer called on the audience to remember that the American people have no other choice than to coexist.

“We can’t choose,” Packer said. “We are stuck with each other, so we cannot stop searching for the common identity, however fragile, that lies beneath the four Americas I’ve described.”

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria explores FDR’s vision of a united world


When journalist and political commentator Fareed Zakaria joined ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” as an analyst in 2002, he often clashed with conservative commentator George Will. Despite their differences, the two men grew to be friends. When Zakaria began taking public speaking engagements, Will had succinct advice for him.

“He said to me, ‘Well, young man, make sure you have a point,’ ” Zakaria said.

Zakaria returned for his third appearance at Chautauqua and took the Amphitheater stage at 10:45 a.m. Monday, June 27, kicking off Week One’s theme: “What Should be America’s Role in the World?” Zakaria made the point that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vision of world unity facilitated America’s political and economic strength throughout the 20th century, and that the vision should serve as a guiding framework for the present day, and going forward. 

Zakaria has ample expertise in domestic and international politics. He is a New York Times bestselling author, a columnist for The Washington Post and the host of the CNN program “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

Zakaria noted the current chaos of the world, from the lingering pandemic, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

“​​Is there some sense in which we can understand where we are in a type of narrative trajectory?” Zakaria asked. “And I think there is. I think we are at a transformational moment for an international system that can probably best be described as ‘the American System’ because it was built by the United States.”

In order to understand our current moment, Zakaria traced the contours of global politics and economics over the past 80 years. He noted that the post-World War II world, with global organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank, was a product of Roosevelt’s singular vision.

Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”, opens the 2022 Chautauqua Lecture Series by discussing geopolitics and international affairs Monday June 27, 2022 in the Amphitheater. JOELEEN HUBBARD/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“(Roosevelt) created something that was aspirational, but also practical, that would actually work,” he said.

Roosevelt’s world featured cooperation, even between ostensible enemies. When the Soviet Union and the United States were locked in a political stalemate, they were still able to cooperate on other matters. The two countries, through various U.N. agencies, united to help vaccinate the world against smallpox in 1958.

The Soviet Union, nevertheless, created a political snag. Zakaria analyzed the fall of the Soviet Union to identify multiple areas of massive growth in the global economy, in connectivity and communication with the arrival of the internet, and in democracy. Nations across the world, from Eastern Europe to Africa, adopted democratic methods of government. Zakaria referred to a 1989 article titled “The End of History?” by Francis Fukuyama.

“The point of the article was that it did seem as though human beings had arrived at the final destination of the historical process by which they tried to figure out what is the best form of government,” Zakaria said. “And everybody in the world seemed to be saying, ‘I guess we all want to be liberal democracies.’ ”

But change was coming: conflict that would turn the thriving economic world on its head.

“The world never stands still,” Zakaria said.

America’s global dominance took two hits in the first decade of the new millennium, he said. The 9/11 terrorist attacks disproved the theory that the American way was the end of history because it revealed voices of dissent. And the 2008 financial crisis undermined the world’s confidence in America’s economic system.

The COVID crisis, and the U.S. government’s response, Zakaria said, further chipped away at America’s legitimacy in the world’s eyes. It also exacerbated the political divisions in the United States.

“COVID represents something much broader, which is the rising polarization in America, and polarization of a quality and character that is so sharp, so divided, so bitter that it seems difficult to imagine any national purpose, any national unity, any national project,” he said.

Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”, opens the 2022 Chautauqua Lecture Series by discussing geopolitics and international affairs Monday June 27, 2022 in the Amphitheater. JOELEEN HUBBARD/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Meanwhile, as the 21st century has brought multiple crises to bear on America, China has undergone massive economic growth, and Russia has been steadily building political power under President Vladimir Putin.

“Now you have not just the erosion of American power, but competitors to that power,” Zakaria said.

To conclude, Zakaria returned to the question that frames Week One’s morning lectures, and to his conviction that Roosevelt’s vision of the world laid the groundwork for the success and growth of the 20th century. 

Zakaria said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is both an aberration and an opportunity for the world to realign itself around the values of a rule-based international order. In order to take advantage of that opportunity, the world’s most powerful nations need strong and collaborative leadership, and Zakaria thinks the United States can lead the charge.

“​​It will require great leadership from the United States, because it’s a very different kind of leadership,” Zakaria said. “It’s leadership that is more conceptual and more cooperative.”

To close season, ‘New Yorker’ staff writer Osnos shares stories of renewing American principles



Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker, delivers his lecture “American Bedrock: Renewing the Ties that Bind Us” Thursday in the Amphitheater, closing the 2021 Chautauqua Lecture Series. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Evan Osnos spent part of his career as a foreign correspondent, reporting in places like Cairo, China and Baghdad. Once, in Myanmar, he was smuggled into the country by the rebel army in the middle of the night.

“I will tell you it would have made me very nervous, except that the soldier who was driving me spent most of the time asking me how he might get a date with Taylor Swift,” said Osnos, a staff writer at The New Yorker specializing in politics and foreign affairs.

In his many, more serious conversations abroad, Osnos found himself defending America’s virtues, saying that despite the country’s flaws and grave mistakes, U.S. citizens had a fundamental commitment to truth, law and morality. But, after he returned home in 2013, he said, quoting John Gunther, an American journalist and author, he felt like a man from Mars.

Some of the changes were subtle. When he passed by Brooks Brothers, a men’s clothing store, he noticed some of the suits in the window had an American flag pin pre-implanted in the lapel. Osnos had never seen such a pin on one of their suits before, so he reached out and asked the company, who said they started doing it in 2007. 

“I did notice that 2007 was the year in which Barack Obama was getting lambasted for not wearing a flag pin in his lapel,” Osnos said.

Other changes were more wide-reaching. He noticed 9/11 altered American’s perceptions, such as a poll in 2016 finding that on average, people thought the U.S. population is one-sixth Muslim, while it is, in fact, one-one hundreth. He was also shocked at how the country viewed gun control.

“As a country, somehow we had come to live with the phenomenon of public shootings in our most vulnerable places, in schools, in public areas,” Osnos said. “Even though they were happening on average nearly three times as often as they had been the year I went abroad.”

But Osnos’ biggest surprise was how much less faith people had in law and politics. 

“Of course, the notion of a shared truth — mental commons we might call — had fractured before our eyes, and we were seeing it play out in our politics in 2016, and eventually, in 2020,” Osnos said. “But the signs of what we were seeing were very visible to us long before the COVID pandemic, before the murder of George Floyd.”

Osnos asked himself if he had been wrong all those years when he told people in other countries about American values. So, Osnos went on the road back to places he lived before, to find out what Americans thought, and what was being done to reverse these trends toward mistrust.

Those travels informed his latest book: Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury, which will hit shelves on Sept. 9. At 10:30 a.m. on Thursday in the Amphitheater, Osnos presented his lecture, titled “American Bedrock: Renewing the Ties that Bind Us,” concluding the 2021 Chautauqua Lecture Series and Week Nine’s theme of “Resilience.” 

Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker, delivers his lecture “American Bedrock: Renewing the Ties that Bind Us” Thursday in the Amphitheater, closing the 2021 Chautauqua Lecture Series. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Osnos discussed the work of three people across the U.S. who are trying, and sometimes succeeding, to better America’s commitments to morality and truth. As well as working at The New Yorker, Osnos is a National Book Award-winning author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China; this was the first talk he’s given about his forthcoming Wildland. For Wildland, Osnos chose to explore places he already lived because he knew their past. The first place he went was Chicago, where a lot of his family is from.

“Chicago is the great American city. It is at once real and flawed, and in a constant permanent state of becoming,” Osnos said. “Chicago is the place, as Frederick Jackson Turner put it a century ago, where all the forces of the nation intersect. And, in many respects, I think that description stays true today, both for better and for worse.”

Chicago, Osnos said, is also one of the most segregated cities in America, with most of the white population living in the downtown area. 

Enter Jamal Cole, a community organizer from the south side of Chicago. As a child, Cole was struck by how people spoke in church, how preachers could make their messages strike deeper and how he, himself, could use these same techniques. 

Cole’s father, Osnos said, was addicted to drugs, and the family moved constantly. 

“Statistically speaking, Jamal Cole was not set up to succeed. He was coming of age in a country in which one-third of Black men become involved in the criminal justice system. He entered the 21st century in a country that has more prisoners than farmers,” Osnos said. “But, Jamal was also allergic to the assumptions people had about him and what was possible.”

In high school, a guidance counselor told Cole to give up on going to college and to join a trade school or the military. Cole, instead, stole pages out of the counselor’s books about different colleges, and applied, Osnos said, “almost at random.” He was accepted to Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska.

After graduating and eventually landing a job in information technology, and then as a network administrator at a trading firm at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Cole volunteered on the side at the Cook County Jail and mentored juvenile offenders. He noticed that few of these young men, despite being born and raised in Chicago, had ever spent more than a few hours in the downtown area, even though they lived close by. When he asked the mentees where they were from, they would say the names of their neighborhood, and never Chicago. Cole asked why, and they said it was because there were no Black people in downtown Chicago, and they identified more with their own neighborhoods. To help each neighborhood connect with different areas of the city, Cole helped create My Block, My Hood, My City, also called M3. The organization began by taking young people to explore areas of the city they had never been before — waste treatment plants, homeless shelters and a chiropractor’s office. They even went scuba diving together. As the organization expanded, they took on more ambitious projects, such as a program where new police officers go on tours of neighborhoods guided by the young people who live there.

“A lot of the cops really don’t know the neighborhoods until they get there in a moment of crisis. This was giving both of them an opportunity to have a conversation, for some shared experience outside the confines of those moments,” Osnos said. “As he put it to me, ‘It’s a skill that neither side really has.’ ”

Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker, delivers his lecture “American Bedrock: Renewing the Ties that Bind Us” Thursday in the Amphitheater, closing the 2021 Chautauqua Lecture Series. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

COVID-19 brought a whole host of new programs for Cole, who had to figure out how to do his work in safe ways. So Cole had the young people make wellness packages for the elderly, filled with items like hand sanitizer. M3 also partnered with a call center for seniors to train the young community members to work the phone, and if they did well, they could earn an internship.

When protests rose from all parts of Chicago after George Floyd’s murder, Cole turned to the relationships, with police and the community, he had built.

“It was no panacea, let’s be blunt,” Osnos said, “but it was, at least, a basis for some mutual understanding.”

His work even received attention from Oprah Winfrey, who gave Cole $500,000. Cole hoped to raise $1 million for M3, and ended up raising $10 million.

“To Jamal Cole, I realized, resilience is really not just fortitude, though he has that in spades,” Osnos said. “It is a strength derived from some other attributes, other muscles to use his words, like empathy and creativity, and the clarity to say with total conviction that his life deserves a greater share of what this country has to offer than he has so far received.”

The second person he discussed with was Jeffrey D. Grant, a former lawyer. 

“It’s not a story that’s easy to like, necessarily,” Osnos said. “The lessons in his life force us, however, to talk pretty honestly about some of the moral questions facing this country and what it will take to solve them.”

In the 1990s, Grant owned a law firm in Westchester County.

“As a lawyer, he specialized in real estate work, in corporate work, and he regarded himself, to use his words, as an assassin,” Osnos said. “His philosophy, as he put it to me bluntly, was ‘Win. Win. Win.’ ”

In his 40s, Grant’s life began unraveling. He was becoming erratic and was addicted to Demerol, a painkiller. He stole money from his clients, and after 9/11, he falsely claimed his office was destroyed in the attacks to receive aid. When the IRS discovered his lies, he served 14 months in prison.

“Grant had been disbarred, largely cut off from his old world — and that, he will tell you, saved his life,” Osnos said. “He had undergone an awakening of a kind that Bryan Stevenson, civil rights lawyer, describes as the power of getting proximate, getting close to people who are vulnerable, people who are suffering, people who are living a life outside of your own.”

After prison, he volunteered at the same rehab organization that helped him, and eventually became an executive of Family Reentry, an organization that helps people coming out of prison and their families, and later earned a degree in divinity at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan.

Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker, delivers his lecture “American Bedrock: Renewing the Ties that Bind Us” Thursday in the Amphitheater, closing the 2021 Chautauqua Lecture Series. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

“Jeff Grant, in one form or another, had come to recognize that the problems in his life were not about Demerol; they were not about the events of 9/11. They were born of deeper fault lines in himself and in the culture that he represented and he inhabited,” Osnos said. “And frankly, one that is common in many of the most powerful corners of American life: The instinct to win, win, win.”

The third person Osnos discussed was Katey Lauer in West Virginia. The political makeup of the state changed drastically while Osnos was abroad, from three generations of Democratic control, to the state voting mostly for President Donald Trump in 2016.

“It forces people to ask: What would it take to restore confidence in government in rural parts of this country in places where people feel as if they have become, to use Jamal Cole’s word, disconnected?” Osnos said.

Lauer was an environmental activist who had become demoralized after she was routinely outmatched and outspent. In one instance, the mining industry sponsored a program called “Coal in the Classroom.” In this program, they had a workbook on economics for children decorated with “a smiling lump of coal with arms and legs opening the door to a bank.”

“It was a wake-up call for her. She said, ‘We’re done knocking on the door of the Capitol. We need to win positions of power ourselves,’ ” Osnos said.

Although her state went for Trump in the presidential election, Lauer noticed that all the counties had chosen Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. She also noticed how Democrats in Washington were mischaracterizing West Virginian voters, simply writing them off as ignorant. These points showed Lauer that West Virginia was turning against mainstream politics. 

Lauer was reassured this was the case in February 2018 during statewide teacher strikes. West Virginia paid teachers some of the lowest wages in the country, and the striking teachers demanded a 5% raise. When they succeeded, the strike spread to other Republican states and even other industries. Osnos said 2018 saw the most strikes since President Ronald Reagan was elected. So Lauer created the organization West Virginia Can’t Wait, whose goal is to go against mainstream politics all the way down the ballot.

“They avoided the term progressive,” Osnos said, “because they knew that in West Virginia, that would hold them back. There were people who just recoiled from the language of progressive politics. They said, ‘Let’s focus instead on the matter on the page. Let’s focus on the details of the issues, not on the labels we give ourselves or give others.’ ”

Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker, delivers his lecture “American Bedrock: Renewing the Ties that Bind Us” Thursday in the Amphitheater, closing the 2021 Chautauqua Lecture Series. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

The organization found 93 candidates, half of whom were under 40, for races across the state and broke the state’s record of most small donors with 2,449. In contrast, the incumbent governor had 13.

“It will not shock you to discover that they eventually ran up against the limits of what might be possible at this moment in West Virginia politics in the 2020 election,” Osnos said. “The incumbent Gov. Jim Justice prevailed, and Donald Trump expanded his lead.”

Lauer was surprised that despite the organization’s losses, 18 more people committed to run for office within the state.

“She said one of the dimensions of the culture war that we’re fighting in this country is urban versus rural, and the idea that we should and can write people off; that there are ‘our’ kinds of people and ‘their’ kinds of people,” Osnos said. “And as long as we believe that, she said, we are putting ourselves into warring tribes, and we will never be able to reconcile.”

So, was Osnos wrong, or lying, when told people in other countries about American values?

“By the end of this process, I realized I was writing this for my kids, actually — because I needed them to see and to know of a period in which I do think we lost sight of our moral aspirations, our moral ambitions,” Osnos said. “We were drifting broadside to the judgments of history. And I think we have set out, in fact, to find our way back. And that gives me confidence.”

As part of the Q-and-A session, Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill asked Osnos how people should go about looking at different countries and cultures through a different lens, especially with the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

“There is a natural temptation to want to organize our world into convenient assignments of guilt and innocence,” Osnos said.

He also said the war in Afghanistan had an impact on American soil, especially small towns, which had more than twice the deaths of soldiers per capita than big cities. 

“This is the result of a project that has been limping along longer than it should have,” Osnos said. “And we allowed it to in this country, partly because this was not a war fought by all Americans. It was a war fought by a tiny sliver — less than one-half of 1% of Americans — and the rest of us didn’t have to bring the usual political pressure to bear.”

University Hospitals’ Adan charts course of resilience, from self-care to compassion



Françoise Adan, chief whole health and wellbeing officer for University Hospitals, speaks Tuesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Françoise Adan danced and clapped along with the audience to Gloria Gaynor’s song “I Will Survive”: “As long as I have love to give, I will survive. I have all my life to live, all my love to give, I will survive.”

“This is my song. I love this song,” Adan said.

Then Adan shifted the energy. She guided the Amphitheater audience through meditation, to find a comfortable position, to close their eyes and pay attention to their breath as it was, and try not to change anything. Then she said to visualize an image of peace, whether it was a word, symbol, or an area or person they loved. Then she asked them to silently repeat a simple affirmation: I am peaceful and present.

Then Adan told the audience to open their eyes. 

“Today, I will share with you some tools and some tips to build your resilience,” Adan said. “I will give you hope, but I will also challenge you with a call for action.”

Adan is the chief whole health and wellbeing officer for University Hospitals, as well as the director for the UH Connor Integrative Health Network based in Cleveland. At 10:30 a.m. Aug. 24 in the Amp, Adan discussed the foundational pieces of resilience, which start from self-care and end with compassion, and how people could build this skill within themselves. This was the second lecture of Week Nine’s theme of “Resilience.”

Adan has worked as a psychiatrist for about 25 years, with around 35,000 hours spent one-on-one with patients. 

“People are incredible. They taught me so much and still amazed me by how humans are resilient. People get beaten, betrayed. They feel scared, anxious, overwhelmed, anxious, guilty, sad and so much more,” Adan said. “Somehow, they emerge. Somehow, they stand back up. Somehow, they move forward and, often, thrive.”

Over those years, she learned resilience is the “ultimate equalizer.” She defined resilience as the ability to bounce back up, adapt and cope.

“I’ve seen people having everything, but, at some point in their life, in some circumstances, they don’t know how to cope anymore,” Adan said. “I’ve seen people who have nothing, who live in incredible circumstances, but, again, somehow, they find the courage, the resilience, just to take one more step.”

She also said resilience means refusing to be the victim. Resilience means choosing to spend energy on finding a solution, rather than blaming others or themselves. Resilience is a skill, which means people can get better at it. 

This all starts with self-care — and the most important word in that phrase, she said, is “self.”

“I know, often people don’t like this word,” Adan said. “We take better care of our car or dog or work or friends or children than ourselves.”

People have to take care of themselves on their best days and, especially, she said, on their worst. Self-care means doing the basics, like eating more vegetables, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep. The U.S. especially needs more sleep, she said, because 70% of the population is sleep-deprived. 

One of the biggest aspects of self-care is managing stress, and the first way to cope with anxieties that Adan delved into was mindfulness. She said 80% of primary care visits are due to conditions either caused by stress or exacerbated by it. 

She then quoted Mark Twain: “I had a lot of worries in my life — most never happened.”

This is where mindfulness comes into play.

“(Mindfulness) is to be in the present as an observer. We’re not in the past. ‘What could have happened, would have happened, should have happened,’ often leads to regrets and sorrow,” Adan said. “We’re not in the future, the to-do list, the worries that lead to anxiety. We are in the present, as an active observer.”

Françoise Adan, chief whole health and wellbeing officer for University Hospitals, speaks Tuesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Mindfulness allows people to see problems as they are, instead of amplifying them. 

The second way to manage stress is to realign priority. As inspirational speaker Virginia Brett said, “ ‘No’ is a complete sentence.” Adan conceded that it is tough for her to say no.

“What I do,” Adan said, “is I don’t say yes right away. So what I do, I say, ‘Let me get back to you tomorrow.’ It gives me an opportunity to think. ‘Do I really want to do this? Do I feel like I have to do this? How does that fit in my schedule in my life?’ ”

Unlike checking a pulse or blood pressure, resilience has no surefire measure. The best way, Adan has found, to check a person’s “resilience pulse” was to ask them two sets of questions. The first: “When I am at my best, when things come easily, when I’m in my zone, how do I feel? How do I behave? What do I do?”

“For me, when things come easily, I have a great sense of humor,” Adan said. “I have a good sense of perspective, and it’s easy for me to make decisions.”

Then she asks the opposite: “When I’m at my worst, when I feel I can’t take it anymore, when the next step just seems too much, who am I? How do I behave? Where do I feel it?”

“For me, easy, I’m someone I don’t like,” Adan said. “I am judgmental, cynical, critical, impatient. Everybody. Is. So. Slow!”

Self-awareness, she said, is the key to creating resilience. This means knowing what makes us feel better, and what makes us feel worse.

“Most of us, as we are not in our zone, when we are acting at our worst, we actually do more of what’s hurting us, instead of what’s helping us,” Adan said.

Resilient people, she said, have three main characteristics. The first is that they accept life as it is — which, she said, gives people the ability to move on and not think of themselves as the victim. Instead, people who accept life as it is can spend more energy trying to change it. 

And the second characteristic is that they are positive, which Adan said is the “unstoppable hunt to look for what is right.”

Having a positive mindset is not the same as being optimistic, though. 

“We all know the analogy of the glass half-full or half-empty. We all know that seeing it half full is better, but positive people go even beyond that,” Adan said. “Even if there is not that much water, there’s still a glass. There is no glass? I have my hand. I can make a cup.”

The last characteristic of resilient people is they have purpose. This doesn’t mean they have a world-changing plan, like curing all diseases, she said, but small purposes, like being a good neighbor or friend. 

She quoted Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning: “When we are no longer able to change a situation — we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“I have a fancy title. I have a great job. I have a good income. And at the end of the day,” Adan said, “ ‘I have all my love to give, all my life to live,’ and for me, that is my purpose — to be loved and to love.”

The last step of resilience is compassion. Compassion is different from empathy, though, because empathy, she said, means envisioning oneself in another’s shoes, while compassion means doing something to help. 

“The amazing thing is being compassionate, being a listener, looking at someone in her eyes, smiling, is actually replenishing yourself,” Adan said. “So, people who are compassionate experience less burnout — not the other way around — which, to me, is incredible.”

She then shared one of the most important lessons of her life. In 1993, Adan interned at the Cleveland Clinic, and during one shift she hadn’t slept in 24 hours because of her work schedule. One of her patients was a 23-year-old mother of five children with three different fathers, who had a heart infection because of drug use. 

“I am exhausted and depleted and, you remember how I am (at my worst) — cynical, judgmental, feeling completely hopeless, and hopeless for her and for me,” Adan said. “I feel no ability to help her.”

The doctor stopped her and said, “Do you think she woke up yesterday and thought, ‘I’m going to screw this up’? We all do the best we can.”

“That moment was literally life-changing for me; realizing that this was where she was at that time. Having compassion was not only going to help her but help me,” Adan said. “The reality is we all do the best we can, sometimes great, sometimes not so great.”

Compassion, she said, also means taking care of oneself. 

“There is absolutely zero research confirming that beating ourselves up for whatever else we didn’t do is going to help us. Zero,” Adan said. “But we do it over and over and over again.”

She ended her lecture by talking about her time at Chautauqua. When she entered the front gates of the Institution, it was like she was entering a dream, where every stranger she passed looked her in the eye and said, “Hello!”

Then she asked the audience to think about this question: What is one thing from this summer they learned, and are willing to take back into the wild?

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Addario shares portraits of resilience



Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario speaks about her life and career covering conflict and human rights issues on Monday in the Amphitheater, opening the week on “Resilience.” KRISTEN TRIPLETT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Before 9/11, most of the U.S. did not know anything about Afghanistan, including Lynsey Addario’s mom, so when the young photojournalist let her mother know she was going there in 2000, her mom simply said, “Sure, have a good time.”

What Addario, now a Pulitzer Prize winner, didn’t tell her mother was that she would be photographing the lives of women under Taliban rule, where photography was illegal. She had an escort of Afghan men who kept her safe and her work a secret.

“Some of the first women that I saw on the streets, actually the only women I saw on the street, were widows,” Addario said. “They were begging because they had no man to provide for them.”

Addario would have to swiftly take her camera out of her bag, take photos and hide the camera again each time she saw a photo worth taking. Some of these images projected on the Amphitheater screens above her, from secret schools for young girls to a woman giving birth in a hospital in Kabul with what Addario described as “rudimentary” equipment.

During her third trip to Afghanistan under Taliban rule, Addario’s taxi driver said he was going to a wedding, and she asked to join him. He agreed and led her to a basement of a big cement compound. The soundtrack of “Titanic” blasted, and women, in makeup and dresses, danced.

“I had never seen anything like this in three trips to Afghanistan under the Taliban,” Addario said. “It just made me realize that the human spirit continues on, and people really have to find forms of entertainment to keep themselves going.”

At 10:30 a.m. Aug. 23 in the Amp, Addario presented her lecture, “It’s What I Do: Documenting Resilience,” to begin the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week Nine theme of “Resilience.” Addario told of her own journey of covering wars and her own kidnappings, how journalism and photography can change public perceptions and political wills, and the endless perseverance of the many people she has met over the years. Addario is a regular contributor for National Geographic, The New York Times and Time. Her New York Times best-selling memoir It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War was a finalist for the 2016 Chautauqua Prize, chronicling her personal and professional life as a photojournalist in the post-9/11 world. She also published Of Love & War, a collection of photographs from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

Addario went back to Afghanistan in 2009 and saw progress in the country. Women were graduating from a school of literature, hosting news shows, working as police and soldiers and driving cars. In 2009, though, the country had the highest maternal death rate in the world; the Badakhshan province had an even higher rate because there were few roads to travel by. She said it took some people 12 hours by donkey to get to the nearest clinic. One day in Badakhshan, Addario saw two women on the side of the road and knew “they were in trouble because they didn’t have a man (with them).”

One of the women was in labor and refused to get in the car with Addario because she needed her husband’s permission first to get in someone’s car. Addario asked one of her coworkers to take the car and find the woman’s husband — which she said wasn’t hard, because there was only one road. She then got the whole family in the car, and the baby was delivered safely in the clinic.

Addario also talked about girls who had defied their husbands. One girl was 13 and married to a man who was paralyzed; her only duty in life until she was 20 was to take care of him. When she asked for a divorce, the man’s family threw her in jail. Another girl, identified only as Bibi Aisha, ran away from her husband, and when she was caught, her husband cut off her nose and ears. She was later featured on the front page of The New York Times before she underwent surgery to have her nose and ears reconstructed.

And Addario’s first experience covering wars was during the Iraq War. She photographed people celebrating Saddam Hussein’s fall from power. 

“I took these initial pictures of euphoria: People celebrating, swimming in his palaces,” Addario said. “Saddam had diverted most of the water in the country for his own personal use, lakes around his palaces, and most Iraqis didn’t even have water at home.”

There was also a lot of chaos and looting after Hussein’s death; Addario showed a photo of a woman walking toward a factory covered in smoke. It was a propane factory where her husband worked.  Addario took the picture, then yelled to the woman that it was too dangerous to go close. The woman turned, looked at her, and said, “My husband is in there.” She kept walking.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario speaks about her life and career covering conflict and human rights issues on Monday in the Amphitheater, opening the week on “Resilience.” KRISTEN TRIPLETT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

She also photographed wounded U.S. soldiers. She witnessed and photographed the treatment of one particular soldier who had stepped on an IED, and later died. She was told she could not call the family to get permission to publish the photos. A few months later, she received a call from the soldier’s father, who asked her about his son’s death because the military had told him next to nothing.

“We had a, maybe, two-hour-long conversation. It was very tearful on both sides. I told him everything I remembered,” Addario said. 

The father later gave her permission to publish the photos, so long as they wouldn’t compromise his son’s identity. 

Addario told the story of her kidnapping in March 2011 in Libya. The Libyan government was not giving journalists visas to photograph the Civil War, so Addario snuck in through a river with a rebel army. When she was in the town of Ajdabiya, she, along with three other New York Times journalists, could see signs that the city was about to fall. Sounds of mortars were getting closer, dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s troops were closing in and civilians were fleeing. They had two cars, with two journalists in each car in case something went wrong. 

“The driver of the other car — his brother was shot at the front line,” Addario said. “And so suddenly in the middle of the battle, he pulled the car over and dumped everything they had on the side of the road, and said, ‘I’m leaving.’ ”

While they were leaving, Addario was the first to see the soldiers on the horizon. When she pointed them out, her companions laughed, because Gadhafi’s troops were in the other direction. But they were wrong, and the soldiers had flanked them in the desert. The driver panicked, stopped the car, got out and begged the soldiers not to shoot them because they were just journalists. 

They never saw him again.

“My colleagues were pulled out of the car. I, the only woman, was just left to sit in the car. That happened to me, actually, when I was kidnapped in Iraq in 2004; I guess they never really know what to do with a woman on the front line,” Addario said. “I’m watching my colleagues to the right getting roughed up.”

The rebel soldiers then opened fire on the government soldiers. 

“There was a wall of bullets coming at us. The car we were in was not armored. I knew I had to get out of the car,” Addario said. “I made the decision to lie down and crawl out the right side of the car toward my colleagues. Immediately, there was one Gadhafi’s troops on me, pulling at my cameras and, instinctively, I’m pulling back.”

Addario then realized she needed to let go of the camera, and both the journalists and troops all ran to the other side of a cement building. The government soldiers accused them of being spies and held a rifle to each of their heads.

“They put us down in the dirt,” Addario said. “We stared down, literally, the barrel of the rifle and begged for our lives. I remember looking to the right and seeing us all begging, and I, myself, was begging, ‘Please don’t shoot.’ Eventually, a commander came over and said, ‘You can’t shoot them, they’re American.’ ”

The four of them were then tied up and put in the back of a vehicle, “packed like sardines.”

“With my experience with war, I assume this is where they take me to rape me and, so, I just said ‘Please don’t hurt me,’ ” Addario said. “A soldier came up, punched me in the face and then they left us sitting on the front line for hours. For the first three days, we were all beaten, tied up, blindfolded, threatened with execution, repeatedly, and terrified, and this went on. I, the only woman, was groped. I was not raped, fortunately.”

Gadhafi later let them go free because he wanted to show the world he was a legitimate leader. The New York Times later sent a team to investigate what happened to the driver, but he was never found.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario speaks about her life and career covering conflict and human rights issues on Monday in the Amphitheater, opening the week on “Resilience.” KRISTEN TRIPLETT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Later, Addario worked in Sudan, covering the civil war in the country. On a small island, she met a 12-year-old boy, Chuol, who had seen his father burned alive by Sudanese government soldiers who were raiding his home. Chuol had jumped into the water with his grandmother and sister, and the three lived off of lily pads for two months, until they met Addario. Chuol was the man of the family, so it was his responsibility to take care of his grandmother and sister while going to a UNICEF school. The family’s goal was to get to Kenya so Chuol could pursue an education. Chuol, his sister and his grandmother did not know what happened to Chuol’s mother and other siblings. 

Addario tried to find her but only knew her name and village. Six months later, she got an assignment for a different publication to go to Lair — where Chuol was originally from — and realized his mother might be there. 

“So I went to Lair, and it was like killing fields,” Addario said. “There were skeletons everywhere and people had not eaten in months because there were no aid workers who had been providing to them.”

The next day, however, 17,000 people gathered for food from an aid agency. Addario doubted she could find Chuol’s mother in the crowd if she was there, but then a few of the workers said they found her. Addario approached the woman and asked her questions only Chuol’s mother would know the answers to. The woman knew them, and Addario realized she had found Chuol’s mother, and burst into tears.

Addario then met Chuol’s siblings and showed them the cover of the New York Times with a photo of  their brother. Addario filmed a video of the family for Chuol — his mother told him not to come to them until he graduated and got his education. When Addario then visited Chuol and showed him the video, “he was stoic, and I said, ‘Chuol, what do you think?’ He said, ‘I must get educated.’ ”

As part of the Q-and-A session, Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, asked Addario about her experience with the Taliban, and her thoughts on its recent takeover of Afghanistan.

During her three trips to the country under Taliban rule, Addario saw how oppressed Afghan citizens were. She has been making a lot of appearances on TV news channels and was on CNN the morning of the lecture. In one article she published in The Atlantic on Monday, she wrote about a “very grim future” for women in Afghanistan.

“I have been trying to show people,” Addario said, “Afghans love their country. They’ve been so happy to rebuild it over the last 20 years, and no one is happy to have to leave, but it is really a matter of life and death for most of them.”

She keeps in touch with people who helped her during her reporting, including a translator who was trampled at the Kabul Airport. 

“She lost control of her 2-year-old. She watched another baby get stepped on, and she doesn’t know if that baby is the baby who died on Saturday, but she’s super traumatized,” Addario said. “Everyone’s traumatized and really desperate, and so I am basically fielding those calls all day.”

Ewalt then asked Addario what keeps her going in her work, given she has seen the worst in humanity.

“Because I believe in it. I believe it’s important for issues to be documented. I believe it’s important for the international community to intervene when necessary. We’ve so many injustices, human rights abuses that go on in conflict and outside of conflict,” Addario said. “I think that good journalism holds people accountable.”

Duke’s Farahany explores dangers, promise of brain monitoring tech



Nita Farahany, the founding director of The Duke Initiative for Science & Society, gives a remote morning lecture on the ethical implications of neurotech developments Thursday in the Amphitheater. KRISTEN TRIPLETT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Nita Farahany started her Chautauqua lecture with an old adage: Don’t ever put anything in writing you don’t want to see on the front page of The New York Times. She said, however, this is outdated, and  soon people should not even think — let alone write — about anything they don’t want to be broadcasted. 

Humans have thousands of thoughts a day, she said, with specific neurons firing depending on what part of the brain the mind uses. 

“As a thought takes form, like a math calculation or a number or words, neurons are interacting in the brain, creating minuscule electrical discharges,” Farahany said. “When you’re in a dominant mental state like relaxation, hundreds of thousands of neurons are firing in the brain, creating concurrent electrical discharges and characteristic patterns that can be measured.”

At 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 19, Farahany’s pre-recorded lecture was streamed into the Amphitheater, concluding the Chautauqua Lecture Series’ Week Eight theme, “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery.” It was the first Amp lecture of the season delivered virtually due to the speaker’s health concerns.

Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University and the founding director of The Duke Initiative for Science & Society and chair of the Duke master’s program in bioethics and science policy, discussed potential uses of brain monitoring, the ethical debates around companies and governments using it, and her own opinion that society should strive to protect self-determination of individual citizens around the technology — while also limiting the ability for organizations to take away people’s rights to their own thoughts.

Farahany showed the audience a recording of her own brain activity, which was an array of different colors constantly changing shades.

“What’s really interesting isn’t just how pretty my brain is. I do think I have a lovely brain,” Farahany said. “Actually, the fact is that those characteristic patterns can be decoded and parsed in great detail.”

Companies are heavily investing in brain monitoring technologies, such as video games where the controller is a person’s mind, cars that alert people when they are drowsy, robotic limbs that move from signals from the brain, swarms of military drones controlled by thoughts, and visible feedback to show people when they are focusing or in a state of mediation. 

Nita Farahany, the founding director of The Duke Initiative for Science & Society, gives a remote morning lecture on the ethical implications of neurotech developments Thursday in the Amphitheater. KRISTEN TRIPLETT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“This can be really powerful for things like ADHD. Training with a video game using one of these headsets, trying to get a golf ball into a hole, it turns out, can be more powerful if you’re able to complete about 20 hours of one of these games than even being on some ADHD drugs,” Farahany said.

Jack Gallant, one of her favorite neuroscientists, published a study in 2011 in which people lay in a fMRI machine and watched a series of YouTube videos. The machine recorded the brain activity of the subjects, and Gallant was able to “decode,” Farahany said, their thoughts to recreate a rough image of what they were viewing. 

“He essentially built a dictionary, a library, an algorithm that can start to predict if you see this type of blood-oxygenation level, this is what it means in the brain. This is where the images are that you see,” Farahany said. “He then reconstructed, just based on brain activity alone, what the images were. They are a little bit blurry. It’s not a perfect representation, but it’s pretty remarkable.”

Previously, only doctors had the technology to see into the brain’s inner workings, but now, and more so in the future, everyday citizens will have access. 

“Which raises the question: Should you have direct access to this information? Should it go through an intermediary, somebody who can interpret it for you?” Farahany said. “Is there a right to self-access? If there is, is there a corollary right to be able to do more than just access your brain? Can you change it as well?”

In sports, any physical enhancements, such as performance-enhancing drugs, are considered to give the athlete an unfair advantage. Common belief is that competitions should be won through innate physical gifts and hard work.

“Is this just what we are doing in society, or what we’re doing in humanity?” Farahany said. “Aren’t we always trying to enhance our own brains? Is that just part of what it means to flourish as a human being?”

International chess competitions, Farahany said, have banned the use of memory-enhancing pills, because they give advantages to the user, and chess players are required to take drug tests before playing. 

And she said sports industries are not the only ones interested in brain-monitoring technologies. She said many tech companies like Facebook are “all-in.” The social media giant recently released an update on their computer-brain interface. In the study, they researched people who already had a brain chip to control epilepsy, and they were able to correctly predict what a person was going to say before they said it, which could be used for people with debilitating paralysis.

The time has come to recognize cognitive liberty so that we can embrace the promise of neurotechnology, while safeguarding human flourishing.”

—Nita Farahany
Founding Director,
The Duke Initiative for Science & Society 

Facebook has already bought Control Labs, a leading company in the field, and is working on actual reality games, which are video games that interact with real life — such as Pokémon GO — and virtual reality games that use only the players’ thoughts to play, as well as computers that do not use a keyboard or a mouse.

Elon Musk is another figure in the brain monitoring industry. Recently, Musk released a video of a chimp playing a simple video game through a brain-monitoring headset.

Some of the efforts have been noticeably well-intentioned, Farahany said. IKEA, for example, wanted to create affordable artsy rugs for art lovers, but when they released the products, lines turned into brawls and the products were immediately sold online for thousands of dollars, which is called scalping. 

So, IKEA used a technology that tracked a person’s mental reaction to art, and customers could only buy pieces that they had a noticeable mental engagement with. The process worked, Farahany said, and no fights occurred and none of the art was scalped later. 

Though IKEA and its customers had a good experience with the application of the technology, Farahany said neurological surveillance needs to be limited. 

“I, for one, am not ready to hand over the keys to my brain to be part of the greater surveillance economy that has been expanding so rapidly in recent years,” Farahany said. “Especially since it isn’t just corporations, but also governments, (which) are all in when it comes to investments in the human brain.”

Every brain is unique, and Farahany said each person has a “biometric identity” that could be used in the future to unlock a laptop, or for government identification purposes.

Some governments are already implementing the technology. In a class in China, students wore headsets that had different lights that would shine based on how focused they were. Not only would it shine on their head, but they were connected to a console in front of the teacher so they could easily be monitored. The data was shared with the school and parents. The government of China also had access to the data, but Farahany said it was unclear what they were using the information for. 

“How does that affect human development? How does it quell the possibility of any dissidents or resistance, the ability to fantasize?” Farahany said. “How would that impact your ability to truly flourish, to grow, to think something novel and different?”

She said this will likely have a deep impact on children’s creativity and imaginations, and that most innovators have had their greatest ideas while their minds were wandering.

“I worry that we may have a slight increase in productivity; that is, the efficiency of the number of hours a person spends paying attention, and a plummeting result of the quality of their output as creativity starts to decline,” Farahany said.

Society, Farahany said, needs more protection around brain monitoring. Currently, there are no explicit protections around neurological surveillance in the U.S. Constitution. 

Nita Farahany, the founding director of The Duke Initiative for Science & Society, gives a remote morning lecture on the ethical implications of neurotech developments Thursday in the Amphitheater. KRISTEN TRIPLETT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

But she also stressed the right for people to choose what kind of technology they would like for themselves, such as the keyboard-less computer or more effective ADHD treatment.

“The time has come to recognize cognitive liberty so that we can embrace the promise of neurotechnology, while safeguarding human flourishing,” Farahany said. 

As part of the Q-and-A session, which Farahany conducted live from her home in North Carolina, Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, asked Farahany to talk more about IKEA using brain monitoring to sell art. When she discussed IKEA earlier in the lecture, as the audience reacted, an alarm went off in the distance.

“I also feel like,” Ewalt said, “that was Chautauqua just raising an alarm because of our love for the arts, as well as the implications of what that means, and measuring what loving art means, and who gets to define that.”

Farahany said the technology was first developed for museums, and scientists tracked the brain patterns of people viewing different works of art and asked them later how they felt about each. They noticed an innate reaction within the brain for pieces that the person likes. The technology was also used to recommend similar works of art. Farahany said it brings up the interesting question of what is defined as love.

“What does that do to how we think about our own appreciation of art, that you have to have an objective measure in your brain that somebody can visualize, and that that’s the true mark of what counts as appreciation?” Farahany said. “Our experience of appreciating art will start to be narrowed. It’s only if you love it that it counts. Well, actually, if I’m disgusted by it, then the artist has achieved something that they were trying to achieve as well, potentially.”

Neuroscientist Marlin explores how trauma can impact brain structures of future offspring



Bianca Jones Marlin, principal investigator at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, speaks Wednesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

During World War II, the Netherlands faced nine months of starvation because the country decided to protest the transport of Nazi troops. The country’s future children would face a strange phenomenon: higher rates of metabolic issues like hypertension and diabetes.

“If there is no food, something like diabetes is actually adaptive. It’s beneficial. You’re able to hold onto the sugar that you are taking in, but when we’re living in the land of plenty, that’s when it becomes a problem,” said Bianca Jones Marlin. “So scientists started to see this emergence of a metabolic memory of the past living on (in people) who had never experienced the trauma.”

Marlin is the principal investigator at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, where she researches the mechanism of transgenerational inheritance of environmental information. At 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the Amphitheater, Marlin presented her lecture, titled “Nature, Nurture and the Science of Parenthood,” as part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week Eight’s theme of “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery.” Marlin discussed her own research on oxytocin in the brains of mother and virgin mice, how fears can be passed down through generations, and what her work might entail for humans. 

Human babies show their emotions by laughing and crying, and other young mammals perform the same actions, especially when signaling for care. Take mice pups, which are the subject of much of Marlin’s work. These critters become cold very quickly, so whenever they are removed from the nest, they make ultrasonic vocalizations, which humans can’t hear, for help.

“I want you to know that it’s not allowed in the Marlin Lab to abuse mice,” Marlin said. “We use mice with such care and appreciation for the life that they give to us, so we can give life to humanity.”

While mother mice are quick to bring the young pups back to the nest, mice that have not given birth, which Marlin called virgin mice, are unlikely to do so. Virgin mice are more likely to leave the pups out in the cold, or sometimes cannibalize them. 

Bianca Jones Marlin, principal investigator at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, speaks Wednesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

So Marlin and other researchers wanted to know why there was this difference between mother and virgin mice, and where their brains vary. 

She thought oxytocin was at the center of all this. Oxytocin is released through activities like talking, eye contact and soft touch, but also during birth. 

“Given we see a change in virgins to mothers, is oxytocin the magical ingredient that makes that happen?” Marlin said. “Given the first sound that a mother will hear after birth is the sound of the litter crying, is the auditory cortex, which is the area of the brain that processes sound, the area in which the magic happens?”

Every three hours for three days, Marlin would inject a virgin mouse, while under anesthesia, with oxytocin. Throughout the days, Marlin would remove a pup from the nest and place it elsewhere in the cage. What her team found was that virgin mice, who formerly did not retrieve the pups, were learning to after they were  treated with oxytocin. The virgin mice would also have to be housed with mother mice for some time in order to achieve the best results. 

“I think this is a very important point when we think about parenthood, network, community and support,” Marlin said. “Nature has us set up to be expert caregivers, but not on our own. There’s a learning component, and there’s a communication and society component that’s essential.”

Marlin’s team mapped the oxytocin receptors in mice brains.

“We were astounded by what we saw,” Marlin said. “We saw oxytocin receptors in the left and oxytocin receptors in the right auditory cortex. However, when we looked at them together, we noticed something. There were more oxytocin receptors in the left brain than in the right.”

Bianca Jones Marlin, principal investigator at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, speaks Wednesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Marlin said the left side of the brain had twice the amount of receptors as the right. This sent “chills” through Marlin’s research team, because this meant they found “a communication center, that also expressed oxytocin receptors that was lateralized,” like human brains.

Then they wanted to make sure this change in oxytocin in mice brains was necessary for spurring on more retrieval of pups, so they deactivated that part of the brain in mother mice for a day. Mother mice that used to retrieve pups stopped doing so, and Marlin and her team found that the area of mice’s brains that told them to retrieve the pups was, indeed, the left auditory center. 

Marlin then talked about her own upbringing, and why she does her work. Her parents were foster parents, so she had many nonbiological siblings.

“When we went to bed, I would hear stories of why they were in foster care, stories of abuse, stories of neglect, stories of a broken system that had separated them from their parents when they didn’t need to be,” Marlin said, and noted her own family in the audience. “Now as an adult, I realized this is what motivated my work in parental care and parental behavior. So I thank them, and my mom is here, in the corner over there. Hi, Mom.”

Marlin’s research now focuses on how trauma in parents affects brain structures and sensory experiences in their future offspring, which is called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.

One of her studies involved almonds. She would put male mice in a cage; one side would have the scent of almonds and produce a small electric shock on the mice’s feet, while the other side had nothing. The male mice would avoid that side of the cage, and she noticed their offspring would, too. 

She ended with a quote from artist Kehinde Wiley: “We are wired to care about the needs of others. I think that is in our DNA.”

Bianca Jones Marlin, principal investigator at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, speaks Wednesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

As part of the Q-and-A session, Amy Gardner, vice president of advancement and campaign director, asked Marlin if there was a difference between left- and right-handed mothers on the side of auditory perception in the brain. 

“The majority of the animals, 70% of the mice, who had the quieting of the left auditory hearing centers, did not retrieve, but there was 30% that consistently did,” Marlin said. “Similarly, when we silenced the right, a large percentage of them continued retrieving, but a small percentage didn’t.”

This leads her to believe that the same could be true for humans.

Gardner asked Marlin if there was a difference between how male mice retrieved pups versus female mice. 

Marlin said that while females took about 3-12 hours to start retrieving the pups after the oxytocin treatment, male mice took about three days. 

Gardner then asked Marlin if there was any research done on transgenics and the impact of structural racism. 

“We’re looking at a targeted approach. It’s a jump to really call a foot shock ‘trauma.’ I have all my students test the foot shocks and feel it on their hands,” Marlin said. “The mice are tested with the foot shock five times a day for three days, so 15 light foot shocks, 15 walking around on the carpet and touching a doorknob.”

But, Marlin said this could potentially change the mice’s sperm makeup and impact the second generation. 

“We could just think about the chronic stressors like systemic racism and how much more that could be affecting the brain and the body,” Marlin said. “That’s a question that is scary, but important.”

Ornstein, Leifman, Insel discuss depth of mental health crisis in U.S., ways forward



From left, Insel, Leifman and Ornstein join in conversation on mental health and the health care and justice systems in the Amp. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Norman Ornstein had some questions for his Amphitheater audience: How many of them know someone who has a mental illness, and how many know someone with a very serious mental illness? Then he asked the people who did not raise their hands: Why were they lying? 

“The fact is that mental illness touches virtually every family in this society,” said Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the vice president of the Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation, named in memory of his son Matthew. 

And just like every family, Ornstein said, his own has been touched by mental illness.

“I’ll try and keep my composure as much as I can,” Ornstein said, “but our son, Matthew, was a brilliant, funny, warm and compassionate person who was a national champion high school debater, went to Princeton and excelled, was out in Hollywood having success when, at age 24, he had a psychotic break.”

Ornstein said his son and family went through 10 years of pain because of a broken system, from health care to court systems, that are not fit to support people with mental illness. His son was one of them, and “had no insight into the fact that he had an illness,” which is called anosognosia.

“He believed that for some reason, which he could not fathom, God had come for him and had taken his soul, but left his body behind inadvertently, and it was a struggle to recapture God’s grace and get back his soul,” Ornstein said. “The idea of taking medicine or getting treatment was anathema to him, because it would be taking the easy way out, and God would not approve.”

Ornstein was naive, he said, and thought medication would be a magic bullet. But in reality, it was one of many steps. 

“Now, for the rest of us, as we tried, we got no help from a system that did not provide any avenue for family members to intervene, but also left him on his own, because of the assumption that he was a person with freedom and agency,” Ornstein said. 

Ornstein said his son suffered from a “double whammy” of mental illness and cigarette addiction.

“He died in a hotel room of carbon monoxide poisoning. An accidental death, but a death that was not preordained, that did not have to happen,” Ornstein said. “And as my wife has said many times, he died with his civil liberties intact.”

His family and he had two options, he said: “Curl up in a ball into the corner and just grieve,” or, as President Joe Biden said, “Turn our grief into purpose.”

The fact is that mental illness touches virtually every family in this society.

—Norman Ornstein
Emeritus Scholar,
American Enterprise Institute

At 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 17 in the Amp, Ornstein joined Steven Leifman and Thomas Insel in a panel discussion about the state of mental health in the U.S. and ways forward through reforms in health care and criminal justice. Leifman is an associate administrative judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, and Insel is the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health. The three spoke as part of Week Eight’s theme of “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery.”

Leifman said most judges received no training on how to approach working with people with mental illness.

“The criminal justice system in America is the repository for many failed public policies, and there is no greater failed public policy than our treatment toward people with serious mental illnesses,” Leifman said. “But none of that was taught to me before I started.”

Early in Leifman’s career on the bench, he handled low-level charges for people who were still in custody. Most commonly, the people he saw in his court were defendants who had serious mental illnesses who did not know how to get out of jail.

As a young judge right before a trial, Insel was approached by the parents of the defendant. The mom was crying and the dad was shaking and begged him to do whatever he could to help their son. Their son was a nationally ranked debater in high school, a Harvard graduate and had been cycling through the criminal justice system. 

As a relatively new judge, Leifman thought he had more power than he actually did. 

“I deal in logic, and I knew if you got arrested and had a heart attack, there was an amazing health care system you would go to and you would get really good care, and I said, ‘Well, it must be the same for people with mental illnesses,’” Leifman said. “So I promised them that I would get their son help. The worst mistake I ever made as a judge.”

As Leifman started to go back to the courtroom, the mother stopped him, and said, “With all due respect, I think my son knows more about mental health than you do.” 

“Excuse me?” Leifman said. 

Her son was the former head of psychiatry at Jackson Memorial Hospital, until one day he had his first psychotic breakdown. He did not show up to work, thought he needed to be closer to God ­— which is called religious ideation — cashed in his life insurance policy, flew to Israel, was later deported for running around naked in the Orthodox sections of Jerusalem, and was now homeless.

In the trial, Leifman could see nothing wrong with the defendant; he was thoughtful and more respectful than the lawyers, to the point where Leifman thought that it might be the parents who were the problem. So Leifman asked him how, if there was nothing wrong with him, a Harvard-educated doctor ended up in his position. He triggered a psychotic breakdown in the defendant.

“It took me a long time to understand that I caused his psychotic episode. He never told me that he was a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, and as soon as I said those words to him, his brilliant, fast mind made the assumption that I must have been part of the CIA conspiracy, because how else would I know?” Leifman said. “And the one person he thought he could trust in the courtroom, the judge, had let him down.”

Leifman later did what his predecessor told him to do and ordered psychological evaluations, and all three came back that the defendant was incompetent to stand trial and met the criteria for involuntary hospitalization. Leifman was about to order he be put in a mental hospital and put on medication, when a lawyer informed him that, as a local judge, he did not have the authority to do so. 

Leifman’s only option was to send him back into society.

“This is the state of our mental health system in America. Not only did I not fulfill the promise I had made to his parents, I put him at risk, I put the community at risk, I probably put my job at risk, God forbid, (if) he went out and did something terrible, or something terrible happened to him,” Leifman said. “But I followed the law that day.”

The criminal justice system in America is the repository for many failed public policies, and there is no greater failed public policy than our treatment toward people with serious mental illnesses. But none of that was taught to me before I started.

—Steven Leifman
Associate Administrative Judge,
Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida

Insel said stories like this are not the exception. For people in mental health crises, they are far more likely, he said, to go into the criminal justice system than into the health care system. 

But he said this wasn’t inevitable, and there are plenty of good treatments throughout the world and in the U.S. — and though a lot of the focus is put onto medications, they are only a small part of treatment. 

Fifty years ago, he said, people with mental illness were not funneled into the criminal justice system.

“We didn’t send people to jail,” Insel said. “We didn’t assume that this was the job of a judge or a warden or a prison. We actually had health care for them. We had a community mental health system — wasn’t perfect, lots of problems there, too little of it actually dealt with the people who had the greatest needs.”

In the 1850s, he said society moved people with mental illness from the prisons into hospitals. He said people were at least safe in these hospitals, but were not well treated in many places, though sometimes they were. Public support for these systems decayed into the 1900s, and in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said people with mental illness and people in these hospitals should no longer “be alien to our affections.”

“All of that changed in about 1980, when the Reagan Administration basically demolished the community mental health system, which wasn’t working all that great anyway,” Insel said. “By that time, it needed to be rebuilt, and they decided to simply gut it.”

Since then, Insel said, in the U.S., beds in hospitals dedicated for people with mental illness dropped from 600,000 to 39,000, while the amount of people has only gone up, especially within unhoused and formerly incarcerated populations. 

Insel said everyone sees pieces of this “extraordinary injustice,” from people who are homeless to overcrowded jails. 

“What we don’t understand is that much of the root cause of those social ills, and sometimes the extreme poverty that we hear about, is untreated mental illness,” Insel said. “Yet, this is entirely treatable. I shouldn’t say entirely, but it’s mostly treatable. We can do so much better if we care about it and if we know about it.”

In 2000, Leifman had meetings in Miami with police, health care workers and politicians who recognized the need for reforms around how institutions treated people with mental illness. Leifman worked to educate police officers on how to work with people in crisis through a 40-hour training program.

“Over the last 10 years, we kept data on the two largest agencies, Miami and Miami-Dade. Those two agencies alone handled 105,268 cases, and out of the 105,000-plus mental health cases, they only made 198 arrests,” Leifman said. “The number of arrests in Miami-Dade went from 118,000 arrests per year before our program to just 53,000. After we did all of our training,  the program saved the county 300 years of jail-bed days.”

What Leifman and others did not expect from their work was for the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder within police officers to go down. He said police officers often do not want to seek mental health treatment within their own department for fear of ridicule, so part of their reforms was creating a better pipeline for officers to seek treatment in other departments.

What we don’t understand is that much of the root cause of those social ills … is untreated mental illness. Yet, this is entirely treatable. I shouldn’t say entirely, but it’s mostly treatable. We can do so much better if we care about it and if we know about it.

—Thomas Insel
Former Director,
National Institute of Mental Health

Another reform making its way through on the federal level is the mental health crisis line, 988. Insel said that across the country, as soon as states enact it, people can call this number to receive mental health support from a nurse, a social worker and a peer, who Leifman called the “secret sauce of the program.”

“The first thing we have to do is not to convince someone to take medication. We have to convince somebody that they want to live,” Leifman said. “By the time they end up in jail with these illnesses, they’ve given up on life. They don’t really want to breathe. They’ve lost all hope. They have no dreams. They’ve been treated like garbage by all of us, and the systems that we send them to whether it’s civil or criminal,” Leifman said.

While 988 responders will have a direct line to the police, they will not have a police officer with them when they first arrive on the scene. 

“We know that about 6% of calls will require police involvement. But that means 94% of the time, we’re going to handle this in a different way,” Insel said. 

Leifman said the next reform which might be added is more virtual crisis response. He said people in rural areas may not have access to a quick response from 988, so adding a way of treatment through phone could increase accessibility. 

Then Leifman talked about a project in the works with the University of South Florida. Leifman’s team asked them to identify a smaller group of repeat offenders with mental illness. He expected a group of 1,000 people, but USF narrowed the group down to 97 people who, over five years, were arrested 2,200 times, spent 27,000 days in Dade County Jail and cost taxpayers $14.7 million.

“Whether you’re a compassionate, empathetic person who just is horrified by this — which we all should be — or you’re really concerned about your taxes, we are all on the same page on this, because we are wasting it,” Leifman said. “Do you know what it costs in America for this problem? Over a trillion dollars a year to incarcerate this population in direct and indirect costs. Seventy percent of the people in jail have a mental illness, or substance use disorder, or both.”

Leifman said the work has been so successful that one of the jails in the area was closed because fewer people with mental illness were funneled into the system and more formerly incarcerated people received the help they needed. This is saving Miami-Dade County $12 million a year.

From left, Leifman, Insel and Ornstein discuss health care and justice systems in the Amp. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

And because the work was so successful, Leifman and his group were approved funding for a new short-term mental health service. It is a seven-story building with 200 beds, with every service needed, from a crisis stabilization unit to a short-term residential facility, primary, dental and eye clinic, a tattoo remover, a courtroom, and programs run by people with mental illnesses to teach self-sufficiency.

“Instead of just kicking people to the curb once we’ve adjudicated their case, we will gently reintegrate them back into the community with the support that they need to maintain their recovery,” Leifman said. “People can recover. This is not a death sentence.”

The three panelists want more people to get involved in this work.

“We just have to start thinking about these like other illnesses,” Leifman said. “You wouldn’t let someone with cancer or heart disease lay out on the street and walk by them. And I don’t know why we’re not madder about it. I don’t want to be the angriest man in the room. It is so offensive because we, as judges and the police, we see this every single day.”

Story science scholar Fletcher shares how literature heightens human emotions



Angus Fletcher, author of Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature, delivers his lecture “A Key to Futures Vast: Using Literature to Unlock the Secrets of Your Brain” on Monday in the Amphitheater, opening Week Eight’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme of “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery.” DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

When Angus Fletcher was in his 20s, studying and working in theater, he was called in to solve a dispute between an actor and a director. The actor was playing Hamlet and did not think it was authentic for any person to say their private thoughts aloud, so he wanted to come on stage, say nothing, and do a thinking pose for each soliloquy. The director was not pleased by this, to say the least. 

So Fletcher helped them settle on a compromise: The actor could do his thinking pose, while the words of the soliloquy were projected on the wall behind him. 

“The audience sees the silent Hamlet, and they see the words, and they think, ‘We’re supposed to be reading these words. Aloud,’ ” said Fletcher, a professor of story science at Ohio State University. “What was so amazing about it was to me, this was a moment of human creativity. It was a moment where we had all come together — the director, the actor, the audience — to do something unplanned.”

Fletcher wanted to recreate this scene in Chautauqua’s Amphitheater, so Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be” speech appeared on the hanging projector screens. The audience laughed, and then read it as one.

The Amp’s atmosphere seemed a little lighter after this, and Fletcher said experiencing stories, especially tragedies, and trying new activities can spur on creativity. 

As well as being a professor, Fletcher is the author of Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature. At 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 16 in the Amp, Fletcher presented his lecture, titled “A Key to Futures Vast: Using Literature to Unlock the Secrets of Your Brain,” as the first presentation of Week Eight’s theme of “The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery.” Fletcher explored the duality of the human brain, the power of emotions in making decisions, and how people can utilize literature to heighten the mind’s best qualities. 

What’s the secret to the human brain, and how do people capitalize the good, while minimizing the bad? This is the question that carried Fletcher to his neurophysiology studies at the University of Michigan Medical School. There, he and other scholars looked at the individual neurons of the brain, cutting the organ open to discover how it worked. 

“I had insight into cracking the secret of our brain’s power,” Fletcher said, “and that insight started with the realization that we were thinking about the brain wrong.”

Scientists used to believe the mind was a computer: the eyes took in data; memory stored it; and the mind used logic to act on it. Emotions, many believed, were misfires of the brain — simply errors. 

This is not the case, as Fletcher said. For starters, the human brain can only take in a few data points at a time, while computers can take in “zillions.” This limitation of the brain is why three ideas usually feel like a perfect amount put forth in a presentation or a book. 

While humans cannot compute thousands of points of data in a second, mankind does have positive emotions that can fuel some of humanity’s best actions.

“Where would we be in this world without love and generosity and hope?” Fletcher said. 

What makes the brain special is creativity, and this is why Fletcher studied the arts and got his doctorate studying Shakespeare at Yale University.

“There’s so much emotion and creativity in paint, in literature, in music, in dance,” Fletcher said.

Then Fletcher posed another question: When are you more likely to do something — when you think something is good or when you feel something is good? He said for most people in most instances, it is the latter. 

“Feeling is such a crucial driver of passion that we almost never do something when we just think it is important,” Fletcher said. “We have to convince our emotions by tapping into our brain’s desire to do the right thing.”

Negative emotions, like traumatic fear and grief, tell people to stop, and positive emotions, like love and happiness, tell people to go. He described this as a “go and no-go switch.” This switch, he said, is “the most important thing in our head.”

“So if you want to understand human behavior, and if you aspire, as I do, to change your own behavior, it all starts with understanding our emotions,” Fletcher said.

Artists, Fletcher said, have fine-tuned these remarkably complex emotions, all the way back to Greek tragedies. He said some people have asked why tragedies and sad stories are popular, and why people do not watch happy stories to feel better.

One possible reason, he said, is that tragedies purge the feeling of trauma, or are cathartic. In his research with veterans, he has seen the utility of tragedy at work. 

“I was a skeptic because I have seen firsthand the depths of trauma, and how tractable it is, and how deeply it cuts through the human brain, and I have met and worked with many veterans, and the idea of going to see a play can somehow have a profound effect on the human brain seemed unlikely,” Fletcher said. “As I saw myself firsthand, the effects of tragedy can be emotionally cathartic.” 

The original audience and writers of Greek tragedies were veterans, Fletcher said, and dealt with the same subjects that present-day veterans have to process. Watching these plays often helped start to alleviate the worst symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as flashbacks. 

These stories helped people process trauma where scientists couldn’t, he said. The plays worked because they approached tough subjects differently. 

“In real life, trauma hits us without warning — we have no time to brace or protect ourselves or shield our minds,” Fletcher said. “On stage, however, we can see trauma coming before it arrives.”

In Greek tragedies, such as Oedipus, the tragic ending is told at the beginning of the play through oracles or prophecy. So when the tragedy happens to the character, Fletcher said, the brain thinks “I have seen this before. I’ve gone through this already.” This gives the brain the cognitive feeling of being a survivor. 

As survivors, the audience can figuratively reach out to the character with empathy.

“One of the most effective ways for us to heal from trauma is to assist someone else through their trauma. This feeling of helping someone else builds what is called self-efficacy in the brain,” Fletcher said. “It is the reason that Greek tragedy is so effective at helping military veterans — because it gives them the experience of reaching out and saying, ‘I have been there before’ in a safe space, and starting to unlock their own mental feelings of self-efficacy.”

Fletcher ended with two thoughts. The first was that society is spending too much money and energy on computers.

“Computers and artificial intelligence are often portrayed today as these mighty, invincible machines, poised to take over the globe,” Fletcher said. “But as anyone who has worked up close with AI will tell you, it is extremely fragile.”

Artificial intelligence depends entirely on large amounts of transparent data and stable environments, he said, “and guess what environment isn’t transparent and stable: Life.”

“The human brain has evolved emotion and creativity,” Fletcher said. “Emotion and creativity can work with low, and even no, data.”

The second was that education needs to focus on art. Fletcher said even in arts and literature classes, schools emphasize critical thinking over creativity and exploration. 

“School is neglecting the major psychological needs and major psychological strengths of students’ human brains,” Fletcher said.

So how can people attend to these needs and strengths?

“Well,” Fletcher said, “it’s gonna be a challenge. But lucky for us, we have just the tool to get the job done. That marvelous, go-go-go, creative force we call our brain.”

As part of the Q-and-A session, Geof Follansbee, senior vice president and chief advancement officer, asked Fletcher how people can proactively use the arts to help heal trauma from the pandemic. 

Fletcher said human connections are frayed, to say the least, by the pandemic, and connections are created through empathy. He said empathy must be practiced, and one way to do this is by reading books written by authors with a variety of perspectives.

People often say Fletcher’s craziest idea is that he never assigns books for his literature classes. Instead, he asks his students what books they enjoy or what authors they respect, and he gives them the “scientific tools” to explore them in a therapeutic way. This practice has made the books they read very diverse and shifts the balance of power away from him and toward the students. 

“The point here is that literature did not function as something to be imposed, and literature does not generate empathy by being imposed,” Fletcher said. “The best thing about going to the library is the feeling of opportunity, of choice, of thinking, ‘I could take any book off the shelf here I want,’ and see all those human minds on their shelves, and think that I can have a conversation and a friendship with any of them.”

And he said adults have to be models for students and younger people.

“What you are doing now as an adult in the world is modeling courage,” Fletcher said, “modeling curiosity, modeling empathy, modeling behaviors — not modeling knowledge.”

Harvard’s Henderson discusses need to reimagine capitalism to better society



Rebecca M. Henderson, author of “Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire” speaks Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021 in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

The world is burning. Temperatures are rising, countries are flooding and democracy seems to be failing. So, Rebecca Henderson asked, why not get rid of capitalism, which many believe to be driving much of the harm to the planet?

“Free markets are, I believe, one of the great drivers of human progress,” said Henderson, one of 25 University Professors at Harvard. “Genuinely free markets, where prices reflect the real costs, where everyone can play, where the rules of the game are respected, have generated untold prosperity and opportunity.”

To decarbonize the economy, remanage the agricultural system, create “not millions, but billions of good jobs and to reimagine capitalism,” she said, people must first rethink the role of the firm. She said the philosophy of business people for decades has been that maximizing profits inherently betters society. 

“Business people have fundamentally believed that putting their heads down and maximizing profits creates jobs, airplane trips, lights to go on and incredible innovation,” Henderson said.

Instead, the goal of firms should be to make the world a different, better place, and those purpose-driven organizations have performed extremely well. 

“These firms are not only feasible but often significantly more creative, innovative and strategically adept than conventional firms,” Henderson said.

Henderson holds the John and Natty McArthur University Professorship on the faculty of Harvard Business School and is a Research Fellow at the National Bureau for Economic Research, which is a sustainability adviser to several of the world’s largest companies. Her book Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire was shortlisted for the FT/McKinsey 2020 Business Book of the Year Award.  At 10:30 a.m. Aug. 12 in the Amphitheater, Henderson presented the last lecture of Week Seven’s theme of “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?” She discussed fundamental changes companies need to make, the power and innovation of purpose-driven businesses and trends within industries and investors toward more sustainable, equitable models. 

The top 10% of companies are twice as productive as the bottom 10%.

“I spent 20 years in windowless conference rooms trying to make this result go away,” Henderson said. “Seriously, we controlled for differences in education, in location, in market and price-cost margin. It could not be that some firms were simply better managed.”

But Henderson was wrong. 

“We now are quite sure,” Henderson said, “that those firms that use high-performance work systems, that treat employees with dignity and respect, that give them the resources they need to do their job, that communicate widely, that delegated authority, are very significantly more productive than their rivals.”

And psychologists have found that when the beliefs of employees match those of the leadership, morale and productivity increase. When leaders have great business minds and their thoughts are in line with their workers, great things can happen. Take Elon Musk, for example, whose early gamble on electric vehicles pushed the industry ahead an estimated five to 10 years. 

“It is not a coincidence that Elon Musk is so rich,” Henderson said. “Elon Musk went into electric vehicles 10 years before anyone else thought there was a business there. Why? Because he wanted to change the world. He built, now, one of the most valuable companies in the world off the wild idea that the future might be different from today.”

Japan-based Toyota, too, had the initially wild idea of delegating power to the bottom of their organization, listening to their workers’ ideas about how the cars should be made, and their business sprouted, while Western companies took 25 years to catch up with the practice. 

“Purpose gives you both productivity and authentic commitment to work, intrinsic motivation and deep levels of trust,” Henderson said. “So you have an organization that can respond and is flexible, and the vision to see beyond because the world is changing.”

For 20 years of her career, Henderson studied why some businesses could not respond effectively to shifts in the industry. 

“I spent six months of my life trying to persuade Nokia that Apple was a serious threat. At the time, they were sending a million cell phones a week. So here’s the results of 20 years of research in three minutes. Are you ready?” Henderson said. “I learned that change is really hard.”

She said firms tend to deny the world is changing.

“They’re always the last time that you need to do something different,” Henderson said. “When they’ve worked out the world is changing and they say ‘OK, alright, putting in renewables is profitable.’ They tell you that they are too busy, they don’t have the right people and somebody else can lead the way.”

Purpose-driven businesses, on the other hand, often have high levels of trust from employees and innovative leadership.

“Every time I found a firm that has really changed, and believe me I was looking for them after working with Kodak and Nokia,” Henderson said, “they turned out to be emotionally committed to making a difference in the world.”

While governments have a large role to play, the private sector has to lead the change of capitalism.

“We don’t have the perfect government — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re having a few political problems,” Henderson said. “Having the private sector as an ally, having the sector stand up and say, ‘You know, I think that voting rights are actually a good idea,’ (creates change).”

Historically, businesses have stepped up when governments didn’t.

“In Denmark, in the 19th century, it was a businessman who suggested maybe, maybe business should be in partnership with labor and with government to build a society that worked for everyone,” Henderson said.

After World War II, businesses in Japan and Germany committed themselves to be inclusive to all, and remain as some of the most equal, and thriving, economies. 

This trend of the private businesses leading the way can still be seen today with industry using palm oils. Unsustainable palm oil, Henderson said, is an “environmental disaster,” causing massive deforestation and land poisoning, as well as poor treatment of the workforce. So Unilever, a British multinational consumer goods company, wanted to change to 100% sustainably-grown palm oil. The problem was, Henderson said, this alternative was 80% more expensive. 

So the company went to industry rivals and discussed an industry-wide commitment to using more sustainable palm oils, which were more expensive, but reduced the number of carbon footprints. Sixty-seven percent of the world’s public traders of palm oil companies signed up to grow only sustainable goods.

“Seven to eight years ago, I thought this might change the world, that industry-wide voluntary cooperation was how we were going to solve the problems we faced was wrong. So were a bunch of other people. I will tell you that they made a lot of progress,” Henderson said. “In the Amazon before the new Brazilian administration, deforestation almost stopped because the big growers were selling to big firms who only wanted good stuff.”

It’s not just companies expanding their actions against climate change. 

“A bunch of investors are saying, ‘You know, I appreciate the profits, but the bit about destroying the planet and my society, I’m not so keen on that. Could I please put my money in firms that don’t do that?’ ” Henderson said. 

So what can people do? Henderson said to eat less meat, fly less and insulate houses. She said those in leadership have to be courageous and take the first steps. She said employees need to act from where they are and also get politically involved. 

“It’s easy to think the world is driven by heroes because that’s how our minds work. We want to think the civil rights movement was because of Martin Luther King Jr. or that India found its independence because of Dr. Ghandi — and of course, individuals make a difference,” Henderson said. “(But) when you dig deep in every organization, every social movement, there are thousands of people driving change.”

She ended by telling the Amp audience not to despair.

“Despair is easy … It’s easy to think of humans as greedy and selfish and short-sighted, but humans are amazing. We have the technology and the resources to solve the problems that we face,” Henderson said. “At least my own experience has been that trying to change things is way more fun than giving into despair.”

As part of the Q-and-A session, Matt Ewalt, vice president and the Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, asked Henderson how COVID-19 has changed the way that firms think. 

“In the beginning, my colleagues thought I had lost my mind. I think they liked me, so they were very polite about it, but you could tell they thought I had gone off the deep end,” Henderson said. “A year ago, one of my colleagues formally apologized to me. They said, ‘Rebecca, you were right the whole time.’ ”

In the past, Henderson said she was a fringe speaker, receiving low ratings from the audience. Recently, she is routinely top-rated, and she said that is not because she is doing anything different. Now, more people lean forward when she speaks about climate change and ask her how they can get involved. 

“The pandemic, I thought it might blur this whole agenda; that people would be too busy to think,” Henderson said. “But, in fact, what it’s done, I think, is made us viscerally aware of how things can change like that.”

She says every indicator shows there has been a shift in how investors and businesses think. 

“I hold the pandemic responsible for that,” Henderson said, “and the massive floods, fires in California and floods in Bangladesh. I really think that concatenation of events has really, really changed things.”

Atlanta Federal Reserve’s Bostic shares need to create economy that serves all



Raphael W. Bostic, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, delivers his lecture “An Economy that Works for All” Wednesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Maximum employment is not straightforward, and it is not helpful that Merriam-Webster has three definitions for maximum: the greatest quantity or value attainable or attained; an upper limit allowed (as by a legal authority) or allowable (as by the circumstances of a particular case); and the largest of a set of numbers.

“All three of these definitions,” said Raphael W. Bostic, president of the Federal Reserve of Atlanta, “make clear that setting a benchmark for the successful attainment of maximum employment requires figuring out what that greatest quantity or largest number is.”

In the short and medium term, maximum employment can be achieved when everyone who wants a job gets one. 

“Now this, obviously, can’t be true at every moment in time,” Bostic said. “In a dynamic economy like the United States, hundreds of thousands of jobs are created and lost every month.”

Because finding a new job takes time, the unemployment rates will never truly be zero, even when the economy is at its strongest. 

In the longer term, Bostic said, maximum employment will look different.

“The shorter route, opportunities, tend to be constrained by a person’s training, experience, the availability of jobs, and so on,” Bostic said. “But over time, these things will change in positive ways so that economic potential can increase. If we realize these changes in the longer run, then maximum employment means everyone has the opportunity for gainful employment, not just in any job but, rather, in work that is consistent with their full potential.”

And this is integral to the Federal Reserve of Atlanta’s “more colloquial tagline,” he said: An economy that works for everyone.

Raphael W. Bostic, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, delivers his lecture “An Economy that Works for All” Wednesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

“This has required us to examine a basic question: For whom is the economy not working? To put it another way: Who is being held back from fully participating in the economy?” Bostic said. “If we are truly going to make meaningful progress toward our maximum employment goal, the people and communities who are the answers to these questions need attention.”

At 10:30 a.m. Aug. 11 in the Amphitheater, Bostic presented his lecture, titled “An Economy that Works for All,” for the Chautauqua Lecture Series in partnership with the African American Heritage House as part of Week Seven’s theme of “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?” Bostic discussed what demographics are held back from fully participating in the economy, actions the Federal Reserve and other groups are taking and the roles every person plays in creating a financial system that serves everyone. 

Early in his career, Bostic sat on a jury. There was little doubt the defendant was guilty of shooting three, all nonfatal. As the trial went on, it became clear to Bostic and the other jurors that the man could barely read or write. He got 20 years in prison without parole, and he was happy because he thought he got off easy. 

“As a research economist, I’m trained not to lean too heavily on anecdotes like this. But for me, the case was emblematic of the way our entrenched structures have left too many of our fellow citizens from being well served,” Bostic said. “The point is, you don’t need to feel sorry for this man to grasp the reality, a greater reality, that he was one more case of someone who was not well-served by our society.”

Stories like these are backed up by data. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that, since 1972, the average rate of unemployment for Black men 20 years and older is twice the rate for white men in the same age group. 

“These gaps are simply too persistent and too wide, really, to explain away as individual differences in motivation, or innate skills, or talent,” Bostic said. “No, these differences are the bitter fruit of flaws in the system that underlie our employment market.”

These differences in employment, Bostic said, are also reflected in access to education and job training, as well as getting loans to start small businesses.

But, things were looking up, at least before COVID-19. Bostic said Black workers were just beginning “to make material headway in the labor market, late into their recovery from the Great Recession.”

Atlanta Federal Reserve economists took a look at the data, and found that COVID-19 largely reversed that progress. Similarly, they discovered, the lack of progress over the last few decades was due to structural inequalities — not the cyclical punches of economic downturns, but consistent lack of opportunity. These trends are more than just data, Bostic said, and are “insidious” in the ways they affect individuals and families. The median Black household receives 60 cents, and Hispanic households 74 cents, per dollar that a white household receives. These figures have not changed much in the past 55 years.

The average white family has eight times the wealth of the average Black family and five times the wealth of the average Hispanic family.

Geography and gender also play a large part in how the economy impacts a person. Rural areas have half the employment growth compared to cities. With older populations having fewer children and younger residents leaving to find work elsewhere, many rural economies are struggling.

If you think it’s burdensome to provide better workforce development, craft policies to dismantle benefit cliffs and the like, remember that the social and financial costs of sitting still are substantial, and, in some cases, they’re higher.

—Raphael W. Bostic
Federal Reserve of Atlanta

“I will note that this reality also exists just a stone’s throw from where we stand, or where I stand and you sit today. Jamestown, just down the road, is a classic example of this unfortunate dynamic,” Bostic said.

Rural communities are also disadvantaged online. Seventeen percent of people in rural communities do not have access to broadband internet, compared to 1% of people in urban communities. And women still receive less pay and experience less upward mobility. 

“The COVID pandemic, unfortunately, has exacerbated (these inequalities as) pre-existing weaknesses in our economy,” Bostic said, “just as it exploited pre-existing conditions in individual human bodies.”

Bostic said women work in more fields that require on-site involvement and direct contact with people, so COVID-19’s shutdowns disproportionately affected them. Women are also expected to raise children, so when schools closed down, many mothers left their jobs to take care of their young children. 

To help address these inequalities, the Federal Reserve has deepened its efforts on many fronts.

In terms of research, the Federal Reserve created webinars where experts in different fields discuss structural racism. One of the most interesting pieces of history Bostic has learned from these webinars was regarding the GI Bill after WWII, where Black men received few benefits. Of the 3,200 houses created under the bill in 13 Mississippi counties, two went to Black men. The counties’ collective Black population came to 40%. 

“The GI Bill’s approach to implementation locked African American veterans from this path to affordable homeownership,” Bostic said, “and in turn, and importantly, from the seeds of intergenerational wealth.”

And, Bostic said, each person has a role to play in creating a more equitable economy. He said people often have big, far-reaching plans to solve all the nation’s problems, and when those plans do not pan out, they give up.

He shared a story of one of his employees as an example of playing a unique role. This employee was not high up on the leadership ladder, but planned and implemented an internship program where students from a local high school would come to work at the Fed. 

Bostic also said sharing information is integral.

“Just learning about opportunities and knowing the general rules of the game can help someone immensely,” he said. “As studies tell us, low-income high school students and rural students face these kinds of information gaps that often keep them from applying for scholarships and avenues to more selective colleges.”

Bostic ended his lecture by stressing the importance of action.

Raphael W. Bostic, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, delivers his lecture “An Economy that Works for All” Wednesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

“If you think it’s burdensome to provide better workforce development, craft policies to dismantle benefit cliffs and the like,” Bostic said, “remember that the social and financial costs of sitting still are substantial, and, in some cases, they’re higher.”

As part of the Q-and-A session, Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill asked Bostic what his opinion was of American Enterprise Institute President Robert Doar’s claim on Tuesday that poverty, especially child poverty, has dramatically reduced since the 1960s and increasing minimum wage would hurt the economy. 

When it comes to poverty, “I think that is right,” Bostic said. “Poverty has declined since the worst (point) of the situation in this country. The question that I always ask myself is: What’s the level of poverty we should be OK with?”

Bostic also said increasing the minimum wage does put more financial strain on employers, but it also gives more money to workers. There’s no obvious answer. 

“Every community has got to weigh these two, and have a conversation about what value we’d rather place on solving one problem versus the other,” Bostic said. “Reasonable people can come out on both sides, depending on where they think more value will arise. I know that’s probably not what you guys want to hear, but I think that’s the right answer. These are hard questions, and what we need is thoughtful people to come together with goodness in their hearts to try to reach a conclusion.”

AEI’s Doar discusses success of America’s action against poverty



Robert Doar, president and Morgridge Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, delivers his lecture “Poverty in America Before and After COVID” Tuesday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

The tale of government action against poverty is almost always told in a pessimistic tone. President Ronald Reagan once famously said, “The federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won.” In March, Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “Poverty in America has become a death sentence.” 

Both are wrong, according to Robert Doar, Morgridge Scholar and president of American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank.

“In fact, accurate, more complete, data on the real condition of American households reveals more optimism about our safety net than pessimism,” Doar said. “Since the 1990s our country has made remarkable, yet often overlooked, strides, to improve the lives of millions of low-income Americans.”

Poverty has been defined, since the 1960s, as a family of three earning less than $21,000 a year and a family of four earning less than $25,700 a year. He said politicians and the media often use statistics that do not take into consideration government aid. When aid is considered, he said, the picture painted is very different.

When taking this into consideration, Doar said child poverty has decreased from 16% to 4% in the last 30 years, and Americans in the bottom 20% of income have experienced a 91% cumulative growth in their incomes. 

“Our war on poverty is largely over, and a success,” Doar said. “Now, this might seem like an overstatement, but it really isn’t. In terms of the goal we set for ourselves, historically and consistently, to get the poorest Americans above a certain standard of material well-being, we’ve clearly succeeded.”

Poverty, however, is not the end of the story, he said. Americans in the lower middle class need more, and different, support that promotes greater skills, higher wages, more jobs and faster economic growth.

“Families just above the poverty line face difficult challenges. They are not safely in the middle class,” Doar said. “Public policy ought to be focused on helping them move up. But public policy also needs to recognize that the challenge we face now is not to end poverty — we did that — but to help people move up.”

Doar joined AEI in 2014, after serving in leadership positions for more than 20 years in the social service programs of New York and New York City under Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 10 in the Amphitheater, Doar presented his lecture, “Poverty in America Before and After COVID-19,” as part of Week Seven’s theme of “The State of The Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?” 

He discussed how social programs need to require and reward work, how effective American aid has been for low-income citizens, and how politicians should be hesitant to keep COVID-19 financial relief measures into the future. 

Doar has thought for a long time that experts are misleading the public about poverty in the country. 

“Experts were purposely pessimistic about our successes, even when they knew the truth. They were afraid to say too much because they worry that the good news will make further spending harder for them to justify,” Doar said. “Now, that may be an understandable political strategy, but it’s also dishonest — and, I think, unhelpful to those who we really want to help, because the pessimistic rhetoric focuses our attention on the wrong problem.”

He said the key to the success of the movement against poverty has been a bipartisan understanding that the best way to help the most vulnerable is to give government aid and to encourage people to work. One example of this bipartisanship was when President Bill Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich worked together in 1996 on reforms that established an expectation of work for cash-assistance recipients, as well as other efforts.

“Since then, these supports have been greatly expanded. This combination of requiring and rewarding work is what produced the precipitous decline in poverty for everyone, and for children,” Doar said. “We have learned that it takes work and support to lift a family out of poverty.”

The benefits of these measures are not limited to income. They include better health, stronger communities, greater social standing, less substance abuse and more parental support. 

And family is a large factor in a person’s likelihood of coming out of poverty. Doar said children in single-parent households have a higher likelihood of not finishing high school, and higher instances of teen pregnancy and incarceration. 

“It is vital that we speak honestly about these challenges, with young people especially, and dedicate ourselves to alleviating the challenges of single parenthood by encouraging greater participation and support from the nonresident parent,” Doar said.

Over the past 30 years, rates of teen pregnancy have decreased in large numbers, from 100 in 10,000 to 16 in 10,000.

The economy is another large factor in poverty. 

“As anybody who works in social services will tell you,” Doar said, “it’s much easier to help struggling families when the economy is strong.”

In 2008, the financial crisis made it much harder for struggling families to move up the financial ladder. But from 2017 to 2019, the U.S. saw the lowest rates of poverty ever, he said, “no matter how you measure it.”

Then the pandemic came. With the large absence of jobs, the government had to give out aid, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, enhanced unemployment benefits and direct stimulus payments. These efforts kept millions out of poverty.

“I am certain, and any academic would be certain, that when we look back at income, savings and consumption data for Americans during the pandemic,” Doar said, “we will find, for those at the bottom, their resources increased significantly, and did not decline, as you would expect.”

Doar said while the costs were necessary for the short term, these measures can become problematic in the long term. 

“I hope the system will return to the way it was before the crisis,” Doar said. “We do not need enormous benefits flowing to nonworking, able-bodied adults in a world in which jobs are available.”

The Biden Administration and other high-ranking Democrats, Doar said, are interested in making many of these aid programs permanent. He said these programs take the emphasis off of work, which has been a proven part of raising people out of poverty.

“Our success in responding to the COVID crisis,” Doar said, “may lead us to forget the lessons we learned prior to it, and undermine our focus on work, leading, I’m afraid, in the long term, to less employment, and as a result, more family dysfunction, and higher poverty rates.”

As part of the Q-and-A session, Amit Taneja, senior vice president and chief Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) officer, asked Doar to talk about inequality in regards to poverty.

In his work with poverty, Doar doesn’t focus on inequality. One reason Doar thinks a focus on inequality is counterproductive is that the people he served in state and local government did not focus on it.

“When I would see people coming in seeking assistance, their focus was not on the difference between them and me or the difference between them and wealthy people,” Doar said. “Their focus was on getting ahead, getting a start. They respected achievement. They honored people that had been very successful. They weren’t really interested in the inequality discussion; they just wanted to start.”

Another reason, he said, is “efforts to address inequality risk harming the economic growth that produces opportunities for low-income Americans.”

“I don’t want to dismiss it completely, because there are aspects of our current condition that are troubling,” Doar said. “But I think it’s a distraction from what we really need to focus on. I’ve said we’ve been successful in poverty alleviation, raising people’s material well-being. What we’re not doing well is helping people move to the next step, building the skills they need so that their incomes can rise, and they can become safely middle class.”

‘Marketplace’ senior reporter Nancy Marshall-Genzer explores state of economy



Nancy Marshall-Genzer, senior reporter for American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” speaks Monday in the Amphitheater, opening the theme of “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?” DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

If Warren Buffett was on a desert island and only had access to one indicator to see how well the economy is faring, he would choose freight rail. This is because, as Nancy Marshall-Genzer said, what society moves on those trains is the economy. 

“I started loving trains when my kids were little. They grew out of it. I didn’t,” said Marshall-Genzer, senior reporter at American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” a nonprofit news organization that promotes economic intelligence. “Those intermodal trains are just running with the consumer goods that people are demanding, and that’s a good sign. It shows that people have money to spend, and they’re willing to spend it.”

In July 2021, freight rail was up 3% from the same month in 2020, though it has been harder to gauge how well of an indicator freight is this year. This is because many U.S. ports are backed up with ships, in part because the Suez Canal was blocked for a week earlier this year due to a ship running aground. 

August, Marshall-Genzer said, will be a very important month for the U.S. economy because products for Christmas will start arriving. If they arrive late, because of labor shortages or problems at ports, stores will offset the shortages by raising prices. 

At “Marketplace,” Marshall-Genzer reports “on the intersection of Washington and Wall Street, explaining how the decisions made here impact your wallet,” according to her bio on the nonprofit’s website. At 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 9 in the Amphitheater, Marshall-Genzer explored several indicators, from freight rails to consumer spending, of how well the economy is doing and why those aspects are believed to be important. This was the first lecture of Week Seven’s theme of “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?”

The six indicators Marshall-Genzer delved into were consumer spending, freight rail, consumer confidence, inflation, unemployment rates and GDP.

The second indicator was consumer spending, which drives 70% of the U.S. economy. 

In June 2021, consumer spending had grown 1%, though it dropped one-tenth of a percent in May. She said this recent increase is mainly attributed to growing comfort among consumers who are spending money for restaurants, airlines and hotels. 

The COVID-19 Delta variant, she said, may cause consumers to spend less money in the coming months — though economists predict a massive uptick in spending, as much as 9%, after the pandemic because people have saved up money during COVID-19. Marshall-Genzer said this would be the largest increase in the indicator since 1946, right after World War II ended.

The third indicator was consumer confidence. In the Consumer Confidence Index by The Conference Board, economists interview 3,000 consumers a month, and ask them about their views on the economy and their own financial situations, such as how secure they, and people they know, are in their jobs; if they would consider buying a house; and their thoughts on the stock market. They found optimism has grown from June to July.

She said expectations about inflation are especially important.

“If they expect prices to increase, they go to their bosses and say, ‘I want a raise.’ Their boss gives them a raise. The boss may pass that cost onto his consumers or her consumers, and they end up paying higher prices,” Marshall-Genzer said. “That’s called the wage-price spiral.”

The fourth indicator was inflation. She said older and less-educated Americans tend to expect higher inflation.

“Now that makes sense, because many of them are living on fixed incomes,” Marshall-Genzer said. “So, they tend to track prices more closely.”

The Core Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index (CORE PCE), was up 3.5% in July, the biggest gain since December 1991, which is over the target of 2% inflation. 

As a journalist, all I can really do, with the help of these economists, is make some educated guesses, and hope consumers keep doing their job, spending, safely, even if they have to wear a mask.

—Nancy Marshall-Genzer
Senior reporter, 

The fifth indicator was GDP, gross domestic product. This year during the second quarter, the GDP grew, she said, “at a screaming 6.5% annualized rate.” Marshall-Genzer said this was due to restaurants and music venues opening, and people spending money, as well as government loans to small businesses

“GDP won’t stop growing after this summer. This is partly because of the all-important holiday shopping season. Retailers are planning for and hoping for lots of retail consumer spending,” Marshall-Genzer said.

The sixth indicator was unemployment rates. In July 2021, the U.S. unemployment rate, she said, was 5.5%, which is 6 million people less than at the start of COVID-19. 

“There are more than 9 million job openings across the country, and roughly one unemployed American for each of those jobs, but employers say they still can’t find enough workers,” Marshall-Genzer said. “So what’s going on?”

She attributed people not taking these openings to how long looking for a new job takes, fears about COVID-19, and unemployment benefits. Marshall-Genzer said more people are not returning to the jobs they were laid off from, and job searches can sometimes take months. She also said some people are hesitant to return to fields where they have regular close contact with strangers, especially given the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

Unemployment benefits, which were raised during the pandemic, are being reeled in by the state governments to encourage people to work again, she said.

“It’s not clear yet if that’s worked,” Marshall-Genzer said. “Maybe because we don’t have all the data. We’ll know a lot more in the middle of the month when we get state-level jobs data.”

Though other factors, which Marshall-Genzer called wildcards, can prove economists’ predictions wrong. The biggest wildcard is COVID-19.

“If consumers need to stop going out to eat, cancel their trips, the economy would take it,” Marshall-Genzer said.

Marshall-Genzer ended her lecture by talking about about her own work.

“I hope this wasn’t too nerdy for you but I really do like freight trains, and I love diving into the details,” Marshall-Genzer said. “As a journalist, all I can really do, with the help of these economists, is make some educated guesses, and hope consumers keep doing their job, spending, safely, even if they have to wear a mask.”

As part of the Q-and-A session, Emily Morris, senior vice president and chief brand officer, asked Marshall-Genzer if more affluent people are more represented in consumer indexes. 

Marshall-Genzer said this was the case. 

“It’s really hard to get polls right,” Marshall-Genzer said. “It’s hard to reach people who are struggling.”

During one story she reported on for “Marketplace,” Marshall-Genzer looked for an American who was struggling to pay for health care. The person she found had been putting off gallbladder surgery because they couldn’t afford it.

“When she finally did get insurance, it cost $4,000, and she’s still paying off that debt,” Marshall-Genzer said. “She has slipped discs in her back. She has skin problems. She needs a root canal. She’s doing all that.”

And Marshall-Genzer was lucky to be able to interview that person. 

“It is equally hard to reach low-income people, and they’re the people that we worry about the most,” Marshall-Genzer said.

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