Morning Lecture Recaps

Shape of Tomorrow Depends on Moral Courage Today


Hutzpah, said Rabbi Sharon Brous, means embarrassingly nervy behavior, unencumbered audacity, overentitledness and shamelessness “as in ‘there are not enough lox at a free lunch.’ ”

“I first heard the phrase ‘Holy Hutzpah,’ said Batman-style, from Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein,” Brous said. “It is the kind of clear-headed, deep insistence that things are not what they should be and we should fight for our core values.”

Brous was preaching at the 9:15 a.m. Wednesday Ecumencial Worship in the Amphitheater. The title of the sermon was “Holy Hutzpah: Our Inheritance of Willful Opposition,” and her scripture text was Genesis 18:17-33.

This kind of hutzpah started in the Bible and through the generations has become “our standard bearer for a life of faith,” she said.

In the Genesis text, the Lord was contemplating destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and wondered if he should tell Abraham what he was about to do.

“The Lord cannot do what he is about to do without informing Abraham or asking permission,” Brous said. “The Lord needs human permission.”

Brous then asked: How could Abraham be a moral leader if God did not give him the opportunity to lead when it mattered most? The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were well known to God and they caused God great pain.

“In Jewish tradition, the sins of the cities were cruel inhospitality,” Brous said. “They had a stingy spirit and would not share the abundance they had been given.”

Abraham accompanied the men he had entertained at Mamre as they moved toward Sodom and this encounter with God. When the men heard what the Lord intended to do, they went on to Sodom and left Abraham alone with God.

“How often are we more like those men?” Brous asked. “Fear led them away; not everyone is up to the task of Holy Hutzpah.”

Abraham asked God if he would sweep away the innocent with the guilty, an act which is fundamentally unjust. “Have we not asked why bad things happen to good people?” she said.

What if there are 50 innocent people; would God overrule the punishment? Abraham said to God, “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

“How many of us would speak like that to our boss, much less to the boss of all bosses?” Brous asked. “Abraham is telling God ‘you are better than this; the judge is behaving unjustly.’ There is a justice beyond even divine law and that is moral law by which even God must abide.” 

God ceded to Abraham’s moral intuition, and so Abraham spoke again and again, bargaining down to 45, then 40, then 30 then 20. How far would Abraham go? He got God to agree that if there were 10 innocent people, God would save the city.

“It was a successful negotiation, but why did Abraham stop there?” Brous asked. “The number 10 is the origin of the prayer minyan, the number needed to let holy power flow, but it might reflect Abraham’s lack of imagination. Or perhaps there is still work we need to do, to exercise our own moral intuition.”

God departed and Abraham “returned to his place.” But maybe Abraham was out of place, Brous said.

“We need to step out of place for what is right,” she said. “This was a classic act of hutzpah, the ultimate spiritual audacity, and the Holy One was charmed.”

This “successful negotiation” came because God and Abraham were in a relationship, his requests were made with humility and love.

Brous cited Moses as another practitioner of Holy Hutzpah who would not let go of God’s cloak until God changed his mind about destroying Israel after the Israelites built the golden calf.

Hannah, in the Book of Judges, is accused by the priest Eli of being drunk in a holy place. Hannah told him that if a holy place could not hold her brokenness because she could not bear a child, it was not holy.

“Imagine Hannah in a synagogue or church today,” Brous said. “She would not sit or stand when told. She would scream and protest and shatter the gates of heaven. We cannot allow our sacred ritual to become passive and devoid of heart.”

Holy Hutzpah, the refusal to accede to social norms, is ubiquitous in sacred literature.

“A life of faith, lived in obedience to God, will claim its inheritance against unjust systems and even God,” she said. “We have to find our Holy Hutzpah, our moral courage. The shape of tomorrow depends on exercising moral courage today.”

Brous talked about her trip to Liberia and meeting Leymah Gbowee, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the Second Liberian Civil War. She gathered women in prayer to end the war, and they kept praying until they won peace.

“God stands with the righteous,” Brous said. “Every social movement has one person who takes one crazy step forward. The time is coming that we will not be able to stomach cruel and heartless policies that harm families yearning for something better.”

She told the story of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his family trying to cross the Rio Grande River. From El Salvador, they had tried to migrate to the United States and were stopped in Mexico. Tired of waiting to present their case for asylum, he swam his daughter, Valeria, across the river and left her safely. As he swam away to bring his wife across, Valeria jumped into the water trying to follow him. He saved her by putting her inside his shirt, but they were both swept away by the current as his wife Tania watched. The photo of their bodies, seen around the world, shows Valeria with her arm around her father’s neck, out of love.

When we see the picture of Oscar and Valeria, “what will we do?” Brous asked. “Turn away, wish that we could do something more? Holy Hutzpah will make us rise up until our policies actually reflect our values.”

“This is not an action plan,” she said. “If we used just one-tenth of our spiritual and material resources we would find a solution.” Abraham stood up to God; all we need to do is stand up to elected officials, she continued.

We, she told the congregation, are called to lead by moral intuition, to live with hutzpah that will fuel social movements to make change and peace possible, to claim the audacity that is the birthright of the descendants of Abraham.

“That might be what we were placed here for, to use our Holy Hutzpah to fight for the change that the world so desperately needs,” Brous said.

The Rev. George Wirth presided. Lynn Stahl, who co-leads the Chautauqua Dialogues program, read the scriptures. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, led the Motet Choir in “The Lord Is My Shepherd” by Will Todd. The Edmund E. Robb – Walter C. Shaw Fund supports this week’s services.

Nikole Hannah-Jones Examines Racism From ‘Slaveocracy’ to ‘Democracy’

  • Nikole Hannah-Jones from The New York Times Magazine speaks about racial injustice and the role of African Americans in U.S. history during the morning lecture Tuesday, June 25, 2019. VISHAKHA GUPTA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

With centuries of history on her side, Nikole Hannah-Jones argues that America was founded on a lie, and has spent 250 years trying its best to cover that up.

That lie originated with the slave trade of 1619, a year she said rivals in importance with 1776.

“It was the year 1619 that our decision to become a ‘slaveocracy,’ which is what we decided, is as important as our decision in 1776 to become a democracy,” Hannah-Jones said. “You can’t disentangle those two from the identity of our country, who we would ultimately come to be and who we are as a nation right now.”

Hannah-Jones, MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow and reporter for The New York Times Magazine, spoke at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Tuesday, June 25 in the Amphitheater, continuing Week One’s theme, “Moments That Changed the World.”

In 1619, a ship brought 20 African slaves ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia; this summer marks the 400th anniversary of forced migration to North America.

“It’s an amazing story of intrigue that lands this ship here,” Hannah-Jones said. “The slave trade of taking Africans of European powers, of taking Africans across the Middle Passage into the colonies of the Caribbean and South America, had already been going on since the late 1500s by the time this ship lands on the shores of North America.”

The slaves on the ship were from Angola, which, despite the popular narrative,  was a “highly advanced” society.

The Africans were stolen by the Portuguese and as they sailed to Virginia, the ship was robbed, overtaken and other colonial powers took the slaves on board. The slaves were traded for supplies.

“So, they traded these 20 human beings who managed to make it across the Middle Passage and into the Virginia colony in order to get supplies, and then they sailed down south to drop off the rest of those enslaved people, who they treated as cargo, into the Caribbean,” Hannah-Jones said.

The decision of those original settlers to purchase human beings and force them across the ocean has left “nothing in America untouched,” according to Hannah-Jones.

“You can look across the spectrum of American life and see that that very early decision that we were going to join the African slave trade has had ramifications across every aspect of our society,” she said.

Hannah-Jones said most people are unaware of the extensive history of slavery because the majority of American textbooks only devote a few pages on the issue.

“That’s intentional,” she said. “W. E. B. Du Bois called this ‘the propaganda of history,’ that in trying to make the mythology of America, we had to downplay the role of slavery because slavery is incompatible with democracy.”

Because of that “propaganda of history,” Hannah-Jones said she still hears people make the argument that since many countries practiced slavery, the United States was not unique in its wrongdoing.

“There was no system of slavery that the world had ever known like the trans-Atlantic slave trade,” she said. “The trade went from Europe to Africa, where Africans were either stolen, kidnapped or sold into slavery, and then they were traded into the new colonies that European countries had settled in both the Caribbean, South America and the United States.”

Over the course of the slave trade, there were more than 36,000 slave voyages.

“Think about that sheer number of ships going to Africa and robbing Africa of its youngest people — 36,000,” she said. “The best number that we have is that 13 million Africans were brought across that Middle Passage. Some go as high as 20 million.”

The magnitude of slaves transported resulted in the reformation of the entire Western Hemisphere, Hannah-Jones said.

“Those countries that you are vacationing on are all black because of the slave trade,” she said. “We completely remade new countries, new black countries because we transported so many millions of Africans across the ocean to build these lands.”

Hannah-Jones told the story of Olaudah Equiano, a slave who, once free, wrote a book about his experiences being transported on the Middle Passage.

“He talked about the shrieks of the women and the groans of the dying and wishing, wishing that he would die too,” she said. “(He was) actually feeling that he wanted to join them, that he would rather die than have to endure this passage to a place that they did not know. They could only imagine how terrible the place would be where they were going if this was the way that they were getting there.”

The ironic connection to 1776 begins with Thomas Jefferson’s famous line in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“We believe this to our core,” Hannah-Jones said. “This is what makes America an exceptional country, except what we also know is even as Thomas Jefferson was using his quill pen to draft those words on parchment, he was holding more than 200 human beings in bondage himself, including his own children.”

Hannah-Jones said people try to excuse the behavior of Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers, stating they were simply men of their time who didn’t know any better.

“They know that it is wrong and they know that it is hypocritical to say that you are going to start a nation based on the individual rights of men, a nation that would be the freest and most libertarian country the world has ever seen, while holding a fifth of your population in bondage,” she said.

To deal with the conflicting nature of the issue, Jefferson wrote about slavery in the original Declaration of Independence, blaming it on the king of Britain for bringing slavery into the Colonies in the first place.

“He is attempting to have clean hands, he is attempting to say that the Colonies did not want slavery, it was forced upon them,” Hannah-Jones said. “That passage is not in the Declaration of Independence that you can go see in Philadelphia and that is because, already by this time, the economy of the United States is intrinsically connected to slavery.”

In addition to the idea that the Founding Fathers didn’t know any better, Hannah-Jones has also been told these men were unaware that “black people are human beings,” another misconception she found easy to discredit.

“One does not believe that Africans are not human beings, but make it illegal for them to read,” she said. “You don’t have to make it illegal for animals to read. You don’t have to spend so much time trying to legislate against people who are running away and rebelling and resisting if they’re not actually human beings.”

To further understand American slavery, Hannah-Jones said one has to understand how it differed from slavery that functioned in other parts of the world. Unlike slavery outside of the country, slavery in the United States fell under five different categories: It was racial, it was heritable, slaves were treated as property, they operated under social deaths and, lastly, slavery was permanent.

“We are an exceptional country in that we invented an exceptional institution of slavery,” she said.

But the discrimination of Africans did not end with slavery itself. Even people opposed to slavery were opposed to black equality.

“Most abolitionists wanted to end slavery and then they wanted to get rid of the black people who were here,” she said. “We actually believed as a nation that black people were incompatible with democracy. Once black people could no longer be used as free labor, black people should cease to exist in the United States.” 

The racism that developed to justify the trafficking of human beings became an irreversible part of America, according to Hannah-Jones.

“The institution of slavery can end, but it can’t end this belief about the inherent inferiority of black people or the problem of people who are forced to live under that system,” she said.

Hannah-Jones said the most ironic thing about the history of slavery is that black people were actually the “most American of all Americans.”

“Africans were made black,” she said. “They were shorn of any of those connections, they were forced to create a country anew here in this country. There are no countries to go back to. The names of black people are the names of people who enslaved them. There is no tongue that you could learn, there is no connection you can make. Those who were considered the least, actually ended up being the most.”

That irony echoes that of the lie Hannah-Jones said America was founded on: America was founded on the inalienable rights of men, rights that 20% of the population could not and would never possess.

“I always say that black people are the most inconvenient people in America because we are the constant reminder of that lie,” Hannah-Jones said. “We only exist because of that lie.”

Even today, it is on the backs of black people that “we get as much democracy as we have,” Hannah-Jones said. For example, black people are involved in the armed services at the highest rates of any other group in America.

“Imagine such a belief in the ideals of a country that didn’t even include you, that you would die for a country and for beliefs that you hoped would one day include your own people,” she said.

Because of the suffering black people have endured, Hannah-Jones said they often play the role of trying to assure rights for everyone, a role she saw play out in the 2016 election.

“The black vote was not split on Donald Trump,” she said. “More than 90% of black people voted against Donald Trump, more than any other group. They did not get caught up in the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment. They didn’t buy into any of that rhetoric because who knows better the cost of xenophobia than black Americans.”

According to Hannah-Jones, data shows that black people are the most progressive of all Americans, consistently voting for issues that push America toward the common good more than any other group. However, she said that this is not to say black people are more progressive because there is something “magically great” about them, but that because of their particular experience in American history, black people are “extremely empathetic to the suffering of others.”

“If we really want to be a democracy, if we really want to be a country who cares about all of our citizens, not just ourselves, if we want to live up to those founding ideals, follow the lead of your most American of Americans,” Hannah-Jones said. “Trust black women, starting with this one.”

Photographer Annie Griffiths Discusses Connectivity in Opening Morning Lecture

  • Founder of Ripple Effect Images, Annie Griffiths, speaks about her work abroad documenting foreign culture and women's struggle in different countries for National Geographic during the morning lecture as the first presenter for the 2019 Chautauqua Institution summer season for the theme "Moments That Changed The World." on Monday, June 24, 2019 in the Amphitheater. ALEX WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Annie Griffiths likes to refer to herself as an “accidental photographer.”


The plan was always to be a writer, but two years into college, she realized it wasn’t the medium she wanted to use to tell her stories. That’s when she found photography. And if it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, she now has more in her collection than authors whose ranks she once aspired to join.

Griffiths, one of the first female photographers at National Geographic, spoke at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Monday, June 24 in the Amphitheater, opening Week One’s theme, “Moments That Changed the World.”

“What I did was: I tripped over a camera and fell completely in love with it and then threw my entire heart and soul into trying to catch up and become a strong enough photographer to be published,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths would spend her days lying behind her parents’ couch, a place she chose to read and learn, uninterrupted.

“I was laying on my belly with National Geographic and Life magazine and Look magazine and there were these indelible images that reflected moments in time,” she said. “I remember the exact images, I remember the feel of the paper and I remember being brought into worlds I really didn’t understand or know existed.”

Among the historical moments in the photos she continues to gather inspiration from, there was one she also experienced firsthand: 9/11. Griffiths lost three friends that day.

“So it was, for me, very personal and very tragic,” she said. “What I didn’t understand at that time is the ripple effect of these horrific things, the unintended ripple that then flows through the rest of the world and has powerful, sometimes disastrous and sometimes fabulous impact on the world.”

But before Griffiths felt she could tell the audience that story, she needed to go back to the beginning of her own.

Her story begins with that of her mother, a midwestern, “good Catholic” girl whose life was shaped by the day she was born: May 20, 1927, the same day Charles Lindbergh, American aviator, began the first-ever solo flight across the Atlantic. Her mom was told that story her entire life and eventually, she too wanted a career in aviation.

“When she finished high school she went to the Pan Am office,” Griffiths said. “She went to see if she could get a flight attendant job and they wouldn’t even interview her. So, my mom, being the woman she was, said ‘Thank you very much’ and she packed her disappointment, left and became a pilot. This is what we can all do. We can be bitter or we can be determined.”

Griffiths took that message of perseverance with her throughout her own career, which started in her home state of Minnesota.

“Fortunately, my first stories were kind of in my own backyard,” she said. “So, I didn’t have to worry as much about language and disease and passports and visas and all of that stuff.”

Shortly enough, Griffiths fell in love with exploring her own country and culture. As much as she enjoyed working with wildlife and wide open spaces, it was always the people she met who made the greatest impact.

“The people are hardworking and solid and not the people who usually make the news, and that is important to me,” she said, “not just in our country, but everywhere I go. I don’t feel like I have been to a place unless I can get the heck out of the city and into the countryside to really experience the culture.”

When her career at National Geographic began, Griffiths started traveling internationally, something she never had the opportunity to do growing up. In that, she discovered what her purpose as a photographer was.

“I started traveling, and the job at Geographic really was to take you to all of the places that maybe you had never been, or take you to places you’ve been and show them in a new light,” Griffiths said.

Along the way, Griffiths had two kids: Lily and Charlie. Because her assignments lasted around three months a year, she decided she couldn’t leave them behind.

“So, I packed them up and I took them on my assignments,” she said. “I didn’t mention it at the office, but I figured they weren’t asking the guys about their day care situations. I recognized that I needed to show, for the women that might follow me, and the men, that you can do this job without abandoning your family.”

Griffiths made sure to only travel with her kids to locations that were guaranteed to be safe. These locations included Europe, New Zealand and to much of the audience’s surprise, the Middle East.

“(The Middle East) was so safe,” she said. “I mean that from my heart. Because it was so safe, I could take my kids there and they would be safe. We lived in Aqaba, Galilee, we traveled up to Syria. These were beautiful, beautiful places that were safer than any American city.”

While in the Middle East, she was drawn to Arab women, specifically Bedouin women. The more she photographed them, the more she realized the similarities they shared could benefit them both.

“I recognized that because I was a woman, there were all of these underreported stories that I could have access to,” Griffiths said. “It was the most wonderful thing for me to realize, that so many people are underrepresented in the media or misrepresented, and the biggest misrepresentation is usually of women in the developing world.”

Then Griffiths had an epiphany: She wanted her stories and her photos to be more than beautiful. She wanted them to make a difference.

In order to work toward that goal, she started making herself available to aid organizations. She focused mostly on environmental work, capturing issues such as deforestation, the destruction of salt marshes and the melting ice in Antarctica.

“This conservation work helped me feel like I was at least part of moving issues forward,” she said.

The exposure to world issues she gained from traveling brought her back to the concept of unintended consequences she experienced with 9/11.

One day, Griffiths was photographing a mother and daughter in a refugee camp of 70,000 people. The head of the camp told her hardly any of them would ever make it out because of 9/11.

“It just broke my heart and I thought ‘Well, what am I doing?’ ” she said. “ ‘I should just give up, I should walk away. I can’t make a dent in this, this is just too hard, too awful.’ ”

Two years later she was in a refugee coordinator’s office when she saw her photo of the mother and daughter on the wall. The man she was meeting told her they were doing great, and that the woman and her husband now both had jobs.

“I thought, ‘We can’t ever give up,’ and I didn’t get her out of that refugee camp,” she said. “I take pictures. But, if my pictures can help people who can get her out of a refugee camp, then that’s what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.”

That moment is where her nonprofit, Ripple Effects Images, was born.

The seven areas Griffiths and her team try to tackle in their coverage are health, food, water, education, economic empowerment, energy and climate change. She has captured content of positive impact in all of those areas, but the examples she shared started with health.

“Women are also really smart, and if you teach them how to keep their kids healthy, they’ll do it,” she said.

Griffiths once traveled to an indigenous community in Vietnam where she said the women had little to no access to health information.

“They didn’t know about washing to keep their kids healthy, and once they learned, the incidents of infection dropped dramatically,” she said. “It’s not rocket science, it’s information.”

In terms of education, Griffiths said she’s never talked to a poor mother who didn’t want her kids to be educated more than anything else of monetary value.

“Mandatory education for all children is imperative for any country to lift itself out of poverty,” she said.

Griffiths showed a photo of the poorest woman she had ever met. It was a woman in Kolkata, India, who had lost seven children to malnutrition. When she got a $25 micro-loan, she started a food business on the side of the road. One day, an orphan walked up to her stand. The woman took her in.

According to Griffiths, the first thing the woman did when she saved enough money was buy her daughter a school uniform so she could attend classes. After Griffiths took her photo and listened to the woman’s story, the daughter asked for her pen and notebook and brought it over to her mother. To Griffiths’ delight, the woman’s daughter had taught her how to read and write.

“That’s the ripple effect,” Griffiths said. “That’s it. And women who haven’t had the luxury of going to school are smart as can be, and they can be taught.”

Griffiths said agriculture is one of the most important things for women to be knowledgeable about.

However, this field in particular is not something she sees women entering on their own.

“They are gathering together in co-ops,” Griffiths said. “The solution for women globally is groups, a safe place to gather and learn from each other.”

On an assignment, Griffiths met a group of women in an agriculture co-op. In this co-op, the farmer brings her crops in instead of taking them to a middle man, and the other women weigh, sort and test the product for quality. Then there is a “commodities broker,” who asks the market what the going rate is for specific items and lists hers for less.

“These women will never, ever go back to the middle man,” she said. “They just won’t.”

Griffiths closed her lecture with a story from a trip to Pakistan, one she said “brings me to my knees.”

Griffiths was in a small village in the desert, and the hosts brought out their best cots and blankets for the guests to sleep on. The women made them soup, and as it was getting dark, one of the women asked Griffiths if she would like music. Griffiths said yes, and out came a group of elderly men with homemade instruments who would play for them until they fell asleep.

“I promise you, they had never heard of National Geographic,” she said. “They didn’t know who the heck this crazy white lady was who landed in their village, but they did what my mother always taught me people do. She said, ‘People with the least, give the most.’ So how could I not spend the rest of my life giving back?”

Ann Hornaday discusses history of documentaries and the audience’s role

Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday speaks on what she called the golden age of documentary films on Wednesday in the Amphitheater. HALDAN KIRSCH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

When Ann Hornaday moved to New York City in the 1980s to pursue writing — against the grain of her political science and government college education — movie media coverage was coming to the fore.

Breakout documentaries like “The Thin Blue Line,” a true-crime tale with revolutionary reenactments and stylized visuals, and “Roger & Me,” a personal, provocative piece about Flint, Michigan’s relationship to General Motors, rocked “canonizers” and tastemakers.

“These all came out within a few years of each other,” Hornaday said. “In a way, each of them distills traditions in documentary filmmaking that reach back to the beginnings of the form, but they also point a way forward. And they very much ushered in — what I still consider — a golden age of documentaries.”

The work of late 20th-century documentaries boosted the current “golden age of documentaries” while galvanizing Hornaday’s career as a film critic — a career spanning four decades and 1,500 movies.

Prior to her tenure as a film critic at The Washington Post, Hornaday began as a researcher and editorial assistant at Ms. magazine, quickly transitioning to a freelance writer. She eventually went on to write for The New York Times Arts & Leisure section, later writing for the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas, and then The Baltimore Sun; she was a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

Hornaday is also the author of Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies. She spoke to the history of documentaries and the role of the audience in critically evaluating their messages at Wednesday’s 10:45 a.m. morning lecture in the Amphitheater. Her lecture continued Week Nine’s theme, “Documentary Film as Facilitator: Storytelling, Influence and Civil Discourse.”

Documentaries were the genesis of film, she said; motion captured with the early versions of the camera featured everyday activities, like people chatting in yards and trains departing from stations, in short, sparse videos. More advanced 20th-century documentaries went down like “spinach,” Hornaday said, for the children who grew up watching them.

“It was usually some sort of stock footage, usually narrated by a guy — a white guy — very authoritative, a little bit droning,” she said. “It was boring; it was bland. … It was good for you, but you’re not going to like it very much.”

But that changed with Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.” It was still a hodgepodge of archival footage, authoritative narration, unexciting and static visuals, Hornaday said; but the combination of editing, writing and music elevated the traditional, educational, historical documentary to a must-see spectacle — “they’re not spinach anymore; they probably never were,” she said.

With the increasing allure of film festivals and the onset of streaming services, documentaries are trending, according to Hornaday. HBO pioneered widely accessible documentaries, followed by Netflix, Amazon and cable networks that have recently dedicated airtime to network-produced documentary programs. In the mainstream, “RGB” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” are taking box offices by storm, she said while taking a “ceremonial sip” of water for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Also in high demand is another facet of documentary work: reality television. Through one lens, Hornaday said, reality TV is voyeurism, a human zoo.

“To put another lens on it, it’s this interest we have in each other’s lives and in each other’s behavior,” Hornaday said. “It’s a form of moral reasoning, if you will. It’s a way for us to grapple with our own values, our own judgement. It might be invidious, it might be critical, it might be negative, but it’s all a way of situating ourselves in terms of what we believe, of what we think is right and wrong. So even the most silly and stagy and tacky reality programming, I do think — I would like to think — fulfills a deeper moral purpose.”

While “The Bachelor,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “Big Brother” are notorious for being scripted-ly unscripted, Hornaday stressed the importance of not taking presented truths at face value, referencing Robert Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North” as the “first cautionary tale.”

“Nanook of the North” is an early 20th-century docudrama about Nanook, an Inuk man, and his family in the Canadian Arctic. Though it was widely revered as the first feature-length documentary, it was later revealed that Flaherty staged scenes to depict stereotypical, obsolete practices of the Inuk people.

“Because documentaries have become so much more visually sophisticated,” Hornaday said, “and because those reality show producers are evermore shrewd about blurring the lines between fact and fiction, it’s more crucial than ever for viewers to be as critically discerning as they can be about what they are watching.”

If its characters are compelling, the story is riveting, the information imparts alarming or astounding or inspiring material — let that immersion happen. But when the spell is lifted, remember: you might have gotten the facts, but you were looking at art.”

Hornaday pulled three evaluative questions from her book, Talking Pictures, for movie audiences to contemplate: what was the filmmaker trying to achieve, did they achieve it and was it worth making?

“Formal questions of what to put in and what to leave out in editing immediately lead to ethical ones when it comes to issues such as access, agendas and transparency,” she read from her book. “Did the filmmakers use reenactments along with historical footage to make their film more seamless and compelling? Did they use images from another time and place because they fit their uses better? Did they compensate their subjects, or were they compensated by their subjects while making the film?”

Despite the similarities and the parallels drawn between the two mediums, Hornaday does not see the documentary as the “new journalism.” To her, equating documentaries with journalism is alarming; she seeks to preserve documentaries as an art form — as a form of storytelling.

“They are a form of conveying a narrative and of making meaning that are deeply dependent on anecdotes. They are dependent on and expressions of one artist’s point of view,” Hornaday said. “There is a level of craft and shaping of the narrative that, in my mind, exceeds the boundaries of what we think of when we think of journalism.”

However, similar to journalism, she sees the next frontier for documentaries as “transparency” — directors letting viewers in on their processes, noting staged scenes, forged photographs or fudged footage. Such transparency, she said, would strengthen the bond between viewer and videographer.

Hornaday closed with a “how to” on watching documentaries:

“Succumb, to let it wash over you. If its characters are compelling, the story is riveting, the information imparts alarming or astounding or inspiring material — let that immersion happen. But when the spell is lifted, remember: you might have gotten the facts, but you were looking at art.”

After the conclusion of Hornaday’s lecture, Geof Follansbee, vice president of development and chief executive officer of the Chautauqua Foundation, opened the Q-and-A by asking what the line is between documentaries and fact-based fiction.

“As these filmmakers are getting more bold about mixing it up, that line is going to be blurry,” Hornaday said. “Again, I think it’s up to the filmmaker to be transparent about that.”

Follansbee then turned to the audience for questions; one attendee asked Hornaday to comment on the inherent bias of documentaries.

“To the degree that they have a point of view, yes,” Hornaday said. “That’s my point about art — they are the work of artists, and artists have a point of view. They will reflect that personal point of view of whoever is making it. Then the question is … ‘How does the filmmaker use that power and how are they then transparent about that bias?’ ”

To close, Follansbee read a question from Twitter: How does one stay true to themselves and find commercial success?

“I don’t think you can manufacture that,” Hornaday said “ … I think ‘stay true to yourself’ is the best thing because if you’re going to be living with this subject matter for goodness knows how many years, you’d better love it and believe in it and then really hope it connects with an audience.”

Authors, filmmakers Geoffrey Ward, Dayton Duncan discuss “The Filmmaker as Collaborator” in continuing morning lecture conversation

  • Documentary filmmaker and author Dayton Duncan, left, and scriptwriter and author Geoffrey C. Ward join in conversation, moderated by Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill, on their their work in film as collaborators on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018 in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Behind the scenes, Geoffrey C. Ward and Dayton Duncan work to bring the written word to life — with the occasional on-screen, or onstage, appearance.

The two filmmakers, scriptwriters and authors discussed processes and their bodies of work at Tuesday’s 10:45 a.m. morning lecture on Aug. 20 in the Amphitheater, a continuation of Monday’s “The Filmmaker as Collaborator” conversation with director and filmmaker Ken Burns.

Burns was not able to participate in the morning’s conversation, but he prepared a video message with opening remarks, in which he assured the Amp audience they were in good hands. If they enjoyed Burns’ films, he said, it was thanks to Duncan and Ward’s writing — if the audience did not, it was all Burns’ fault.

Duncan and Ward have worked extensively with Burns; Ward has collaborated with him since 1984. He was the sole or principal writer for “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “Jazz,” “Mark Twain,” “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” and “The Vietnam War.” An award-winning author, Ward has written various companion volumes for Burns’ series. His book A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

He won two Writers’ Guild Awards, seven Christopher Awards and five Emmy Awards. In 2018, Ward was awarded the Writers Guild’s Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement.

Duncan has worked alongside Ward on films including “The Civil War” and “Mark Twain”; he worked with Burns on films like “Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery” and “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” which won him two Emmy Awards. “The Dust Bowl,” which he wrote, won a Spur Award and was nominated for two Emmys.

Prior to his work in documentary films, Duncan served as chief of staff to former New Hampshire Gov. Hugh Gallen; Walter Mondale’s deputy press secretary during his 1984 presidential campaign; national press secretary for Michael Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign; and as chair of the American Heritage Rivers Advisory Committee.

The men were joined on stage by Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill, who moderated the conversation as part of Week Nine’s theme, “Documentary Film as Facilitator: Storytelling, Influence and Civil Discourse.”

Hill opened the conversation by asking the writers to describe their writing processes.

“I don’t quite think of it as a process,” Ward said. “What we do is we get interested in a subject. There is no subject that isn’t interesting, it seems to me. I wrote the history of baseball, to which I could care less. And during the year and half it took to write it, I was fascinated by it. I lost interest right after that.”

Ward said much of his process is dedicated to reading; he reads dozens of books on a topic, carefully dissecting each word. Eventually, it’s guilt — and the deadline — that forces him into writing.

“There’s a point in which you just say to yourself, ‘They’re not paying me to read; I really, really have to get started,’ ” he said. “I start with the prologue; I’m sort of simple-minded that way. I want to get the first scene set, and then everything else trails from that. I guess if there are any rules for me, (it’s) chronology is God.”

While Ward is copiously reading and scarcely writing, Burns and producers, like Duncan, are conducting interviews, which are then sliced and diced and pieced together into the script.

“The story is what we do,” Duncan said. “We tell stories that happen to have a place. We tell stories that try to put you as much as we can into that moment of history, of the contingency of history.”

Duncan, who oscillates between producer and writer, also immerses himself joyfully into literature when working on a film — something the former reporter loves doing, he said. His timeline for writing is deadline-driven, often looking over his own shoulder as a producer to nudge his writer-self along. Unlike Ward, Duncan starts writing at the first narrated scene; the prologue comes later in the process.

Eventually, the men collaborate in the editing stages, which Hill asked about next: Does collaborating on texts change their  processes?

The two writers initially collaborated by accident, when Ward fell gravely behind schedule on “The West” and Duncan swooped in to help. Since then, the men have co-written and worked on several films seamlessly. Duncan attributes this to having similar narrative voices that mesh their writing styles.

Aside from being nose-deep in a book or hunched over a keyboard, Duncan and Ward have both managed to be featured on screen — outside of the credits — in Burns’ films. Duncan made his debut in a film on what he called a captivating subject: “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

“This was something very much a part of something that I felt was an important topic to do, and I wanted for us to approach it as not just a travel log or a nature film — which it has a little bit of — but (as) a story of an idea,” he said. “It is the Declaration of Independence applied to a landscape, saying that the most majestic places and sacred places in our land are available to everyone — everyone.”

They played a clip from the six-episode series featuring the story of John Muir, whose activism helped preserve what is now Yosemite National Park. In it, Duncan spoke to Muir’s quirky nature.

Ward appeared in the 2014 documentary film “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” which he also wrote. He has written extensively about the Roosevelts in his aforementioned book A First-Class Temperament, as well as in Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley and Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt.

A scene played from “The Roosevelts” centered around President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s battle with polio. Ward was featured discussing Roosevelt’s prognosis, while dismantling the belief that “polio didn’t bother him.” After the clip, Ward commented on this history’s modern-day relevance:

“Sadly, though we a have far more civilized and intelligent view of people who are disabled, I think in this era no one as badly handicapped as Franklin Roosevelt could ever be elected president of the United States. … I think that’s a tragedy, but I think that is true.”

To close the morning, Hill asked the screenwriters and authors how writing for film differs from writing a book.

“I like them both,” Ward said. “I like the collaborative process of making films. The plus of writing a book is, it is all your own book, and hell to anybody else.”

A book cannot capture the emotion of hearing a story told through thrilling narration, Duncan said.

“When it works, it is magic,” he said.

After the conclusion of their conversation, Hill switched from the chair to the podium for the Q-and-A portion of the morning. Piggybacking off of Monday’s lecture, Hill asked: “What’s next?”

Duncan is amid production of “Country Music” — which the Amp audience previewed Monday — a documentary chronicling the history of the “uniquely American art form.” Duncan said “Country Music” will be the last documentary he will produce. He has also been commissioned to write the script for Burns’ film about Benjamin Franklin and American buffalo.

Ward is writing Burns’ upcoming documentaries on the American Revolution and President  Lyndon Johnson.

Hill then turned to the audience for questions. One attendee asked how the filmmakers, as white men, give a voice to minorities in their films.

“I am not responsible for my gender or my race,” Duncan said. “I am responsible for how I can or how I tell what I think are important stories of America in this experiment of democracy on this continent — and it still is an experiment. … (In) my storytelling, I try as hard as I can — within the limits of (being a) white kid from a small town in Iowa — to try to embrace that tapestry and the rich stories that are there and the importance of that. It’s unfinished business, and all I can be responsible for is doing my damnedest to tell that right.” 

Rev. Jesse Jackson returns to Chautauqua to join Revs. Joan Brown Campbell, Gene Robinson in discussion on urgency of Dr. King’s message, legacy

  • The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Former Director of Religion at Chautauqua The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, and Chautauqua Vice President of Religion and Senior Pastor The Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson speak in conversation about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 on the Amphitheater stage. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Common ground is not racially bound, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a discussion of his life, legacy and the work of his friend and fellow civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. at Friday’s 10:45 a.m. morning lecture in the Amphitheater on Aug. 17.

He was joined in conversation by the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, in a crossover of Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century,” and the week’s interfaith theme, “Not to Be Forgotten: A Remembrance on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

“We move along in just trying to remember — I think, which is a very important thing — the role that King played in the life of all of us, of all of the things that Jesse and I and others have gone through,” Campbell said. “We take a look now at what’s before us today and what we learned from yesterday and how we will behave in a country much in need of what it is that these people of the past have given to us.”

Campbell is an ordained Christian Church and American Baptist Church minister. She presided as the first female associate executive director of the Greater Cleveland Council of Churches; the first female executive director of the U.S. office of the World Council of Churches; the first ordained female general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; and the first female director of religion at Chautauqua Institution from 2000 to 2013.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and Chautauqua’s senior pastor, moderated the conversation. He opened by offering condolences to Jackson for the death of soulful, musical icon Aretha Franklin, who passed Thursday. Jackson and Franklin were longtime friends.

Franklin, the daughter of Baptist minister and civil rights activist C. L. Franklin, was around Jackson and the civil rights movement often, campaigning and fundraising for Jackson and his cause. Jackson visited her on her deathbed, to which he said: “I had the chance to feel the warmth of her hand one more time and to kiss her forehead. It was hard to let go.”

Robinson asked, in a week honoring civil rights activists, specifically King, is his work ever romanticized? He turned to Jackson, who worked closely with King directing Operation Breadbasket.

“Sometimes we become sentimental, and we over-conceptualized him,” Jackson said. “Next year will be the 400th year since African-Americans came here enslaved. We didn’t come as immigrants looking for a better life; we did not come as refugees in desperation. … Segregation was more violent than slavery. … Dr. King emerges out of that context.”

Campbell recalled King’s time in Cleveland, where he met with various congregations across the city campaigning against poverty and discrimination, while fighting to elect the first African-American mayor. At a meeting, King said he visited every black congregation in the area, but had yet to visit a white congregation. Campbell, being “young and naive,” invited King to her church.

Her decision was met with passive resistance; members went as far as to propose renovating the chapel during King’s scheduled visit.

“But the church had in it many more people who wanted him there than people who were fearful to have him there,” Campbell said. “They were the courageous ones. … The troublemakers became more so — more noise — but the people determined to have him also increased.”

By the time of King’s sermon, thousands of people surrounded the church — that church was never the same again, she said.

“One of the concerns Dr. King had was that we have been taught to learn the lesson well of how to survive apart — never been taught how to live together, which is our challenge,” Jackson added. “Racism, after all, is unscientific. It is well-taught. It’s a social order. Someone has to unteach a lesson learned well. The question is, will the church be a teacher or an extension of the bad lesson?”

Robinson went on to ask how King and Jackson always found the strength to preach hope, despite the seemingly hopeless circumstances.

Jackson described a wall; on one side, ignorance, fear, hatred and violence. On the other side, the people. It is not those who are evil who control the people, he said, but rather those in power over the wall. King’s philosophy: to pull the wall down takes strength, Jackson said.

He marked the immense growth in dismantling the wall, from African-American chief executive officers to redefined football rivalries, while also acknowledging politicians’ efforts to reverse this growth.

“There is a trend now to turn that back,” Jackson said. “Trump can turn the clock back, but he cannot turn time back. We ain’t going back.”

Robinson looked to current movements, like Black Lives Matter, asking how they relate to previous movements.

“Black Lives Matter is a hashtag of the old movements that matter,” Jackson said. “The abolitionists were saying ‘black lives matter’ and the anti-segregationist was saying ‘black lives matter.’ Those who were saying ‘make lynching a federal crime — by the way, lynching is not yet a federal crime, lynching is not yet a federal crime, lynching is not yet a federal crime’ — said ‘black lives matter.’ … Black Lives Matter is a hashtag; it’s the same matter of equal protection under the law.”

Robinson interjected; why is “all lives matter” a bad response, he asked.

“It’s insufficient,” Campbell said.

For Jackson, it’s agreed that “all lives matter,” but the reality is that discrimination against people of color is real and institutionalized — that “blacks were being killed without consequences.”

He related this to football; “Whenever the playing in field is even … and the rules are public and the goals are clear, the referees are fair and the score is transparent, we can accept the outcome.” But in reality, one team — white people — has the upper hand, running half as much for the same first down as a systematically disadvantaged team.

“Something about true and transparency has power, … fairness matters” Jackson said. “Hillary beat Trump by 3 million (votes), and she’s not the winner? It ain’t transparent. It ain’t fair. A ‘one person, one vote’ democracy and you win by 3 million and lose?”

Relating to institutionalized racism, Robinson gestured to the mostly-white audience and asked how people can be “white allies.”

Jackson said to “move from racial battleground to common ground” on affordable, universal health care and to equalize public education because “schools cost less than jails.”

“If the ballplayers can figure it out, surely we can figure it out,” he said. “When the young African-American male put children in the classroom, the president puts them in cages, and those in the church are silent where the cages are — that breaks the rhythm of transparency and fairness. Lebron (James) put children in classrooms, Trump put them in cages and the silence of the church is betrayal.”

Campbell looked out to the audience.

“My friends, we have power,” she told them. “We can make a difference. It is not just a matter of what could be done, what should be done, who else can do it — the fact of the matter is, I look out across all of this space, I know within these rooms and within the people sitting here, there is the possibility, maybe even the probability … that perhaps today we can take one another’s hands and say, ‘Our best selves call us today to something that will guide us into a nation that is more fair, that is more clear about who we are and where we want to be.’ ”

Jackson interjected by reiterating the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

“The difference between us is not scientific, it is social,” he said.

Robinson closed the lecture by asking if Jackson were to write a letter to the clergy, similar to King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” what would it say?

Jackson said King’s 1963 letter denouncing the church’s intolerance toward injustice planted a seed, which culminated in Alabama’s 2017 special election, where white and black people alike voted a Democrat into office.

“You can’t plant the seed today and say ‘grow,’ ” Jackson said. “Seeds have to germinate, so the people of Alabama are learning to live together.”

Robinson turned to the audience for questions; one attendee asked what King would have thought of Barack Obama’s presidency. From the Affordable Care Act, the Paris climate agreement and bringing the country out of the recession, Jackson said King would have been impressed.

To close, an audience member asked if multiculturalism prevents a common familial culture.

Before answering, Jackson listed off the handles, numbers and contact information for himself and his organization Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a multiracial, multi-issue, progress organization fighting for social change.

“We need not be of one color to have common values,” he said. “I would argue (that) we must move from racial battlegrounds to economic common ground to moral higher ground. If we make that transition, then we’ll make transitions based not upon race, (but) based upon reason. Do we want children in cages or not? Do we want to feed the hungry or not? Do you want to educate children or not? Affordable health care or not? … We must be bond by common values.”

After a standing ovation and roaring applause, Amp attendees rushed to the floor in front of the stage as Jackson shook hands and led attendees, Campbell and Robinson in prayer:

“Let us bow our heads in prayer and join hands. Join our hands and bow our heads in prayer. We pray especially today for the sick; if Aretha had had no insurance, she would have been dead 10 years ago. We pray to God for the health care of all of his children. We pray to learn to live together as brothers and sisters and not die apart as fools. For grieving families everywhere, we pray. For those who died in our cities, we pray for them. Those in the coal mines of Appalachia, we pray for them. We pray for each one of us to have a more perfect union, a better nation and a more fit nation. So touch our hearts. We fall down sometimes. We make mistakes. We get up again, same as the sinners get back up again. We fall down and get back up again because the ground is no place for a champion, and nothing is too hard for you, and so see us through. In late years I’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and yet I thank God for saving my life and for sustaining my will to work. One thing I’m sure about is once I was young, but now I’m old. I have never seen you foresake the righteous. Bless us, bless Chautauqua — let this little place be the center of the universe. Let the joy from this place flow to the streets of our nation. Amen.”

David Grann discusses forgotten history through Osage murders


A panoramic photo, a missing panel and a plot against a Native American tribe — the elements of a forgotten, rather removed, piece of American history.

In 2012, The New Yorker staffer David Grann’s interest piqued after visiting the Osage Nation Museum, when he first saw a seemingly innocent, 1920s image of Osage and white settlers gathered together; a panel was discretely removed. When asked why it was removed, the director shuddered. It was the “devil,” she said.

Her terror sparked Grann’s most recent book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, an account of sinister injustice in early 20th-century America. His first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, was a 2010 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection.

Grann summarized Killers of the Flower Moon at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Tuesday, Aug. 14, in the Amphitheater, continuing Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century.”

The Osage’s history is “tangled,” he said; they owned territory stretching from Missouri to the edge of the Rocky Mountains until the early 19th century when, within a few decades, the United States government forced the secession of over 100 million acres of land from the people.

Confined to a reservation in Kansas, the Osage people fell under siege by white settlers looking to claim land during westward expansion in the 1860s; one of those settlers was Laura Ingalls Wilder, Grann said; Wilder’s father said in Little House on the Prairie: “white people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get there first and take our pick.”

The “squatters” became more aggressive, Grann said, massacring Osage people. By the 1870s, the Osage, in the most dire of straits, sold their land to the government and relocated to rocky, infertile land in Oklahoma. In 1906, the United States government forced “allotment” — distribution of land parcels to Native Americans — onto the Osage. When negotiating with the government, the Osage added a clause to their contract: “We shall maintain all the subsurface rights, mineral rights to our land.”

“Nobody thought the Osage were sitting upon a fortune,” Grann said. “ … And the Osage very shrewdly managed to hold on to this last bit of their territory — a realm that they could not even see. … They had become the world’s first underground reservation.”

They were indeed sitting on a fortune, he said. The Osage settled on oil-rich land, striking metaphorical gold with every tap. In 1923 alone, Grann said, they grossed $400 million, making them the wealthiest people per capita in the world.

“As the Osage’s wealth increased, it provoked increasing alarm across the country from whites,” he said. “The U.S. Congress went so far as to pass legislation requiring many Osage to have white guardians to manage their fortunes. … This system of passing legislation requiring guardians, it was not abstractly racist — it was literally racist.”

After the introduction of such systems, the Osage suspiciously began to succumb to mysterious circumstances, specifically the family of Mollie Burkhart, who were well-endowed from “headrights” — oil production royalties allocated during allotment.

“One night in 1925, (Mollie) had a party at her house, and her older sister Anna attended,” Grann said. “Anna left the party that evening, and she disappeared. … About a week later, Anna was found in a ravine with a bullet in the back of the head. It was the first sign that her family had become a prime target of this conspiracy.”

Within days, Burkhart’s mother grew ill; within two months she stopped breathing, he said. Evidence indicated poisoning.

“Within the span of two months, Mollie had lost her older sister … and her mother,” Grann said. “ … One night, at 3 a.m., Mollie heard a loud explosion. She got up, and went to the window and looked out. And there in the distance, she could see an orange fireball rising into the sky. It looked as if the sun had burst violently into the night.”

It was the house of Burkhart’s younger sister, who moved closer to town in fear of the killings. She, her husband and their live-in housekeeper were killed.

Burkhart turned to cattle baron, reported “king of Osage Hills” and deputy-sheriff William Hale — the uncle of her husband, Ernest Burkhart, Mollie Burkhart’s ex-chauffeur and her legal financial guardian — for help. Law enforcement at the time, Grann said, was extremely corrupt; local authorities did not pursue investigations into the systemic, targeted murders. Hale issued rewards for information, going as far as to hire private detectives.

With no leads and no results, the Osage Tribal Council pleaded for federal authorities to step in. The case was taken up by an “obscure” branch: The Bureau of Investigation, modernly known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bureau, under the director of J. Edgar Hoover, enlisted field agent Tom White for the Osage murder investigation.

White put together a ragtag team of undercover agents who were deployed in Osage County. They posed as cattlemen and insurance salesmen — who sold actual insurance policies, Grann said.

“The investigations had many twists and turns,” he said. “It was less like a criminal investigation and more an espionage case. The agents’ reports were being leaked out to the bad guys. They were being followed. … Ultimately, what you need to know is they followed the money.”

The agents traced Burkhart’s headrights, linking it back those who profited from the murders.

“Now, headrights cannot be bought and sold. They can only be inherited,” Grann said. “ … Ultimately, it led them to a man who Mollie not only knew, but who she knew intimately. It led them to her husband, Ernest. The money had been funneled from each of these killings in the family to Mollie’s accounts, which where managed and controlled by Ernest, who was her guardian. Once more, these crimes and this scheme had been hatched by none other than William Hale, the king of the Osage Hills, the reported man of law and order.”

Grann quoted Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to summarize this tale of most intimate betrayal: “Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough to mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, conspiracy. Hide it in smiles and affability.”

To close, Grann revealed the missing panel from the photo — the genesis of his book. The “devil” the museum director quivered at the thought of was Hale, standing amid Osage people, an innocent smirk swiped across his face with chapeau and glasses in tow.

“The Osage have removed that photograph, not to forget what had happened, but because they can’t forget,” he said.  “And so many Americans — I include myself among them — have never learned about this history or had forgotten it.

“We have excised it from our conscience.”

After the conclusion of Grann’s lecture, Institution Chief of Staff Matt Ewalt opened the Q-and-A by asking how the Osage Nation has responded to the publication of Killers of the Flower Moon.

Grann said sharing this history and making it part of common consciousness is important to the Osage. Unfortunately, many of the cases remain unsolved due to corruption in local law enforcement and conspiracies. What Grann realized through writing Killers of the Flower Moon is that documenting injustices cannot bring justice, but it can bring accountability.

Ewalt then turned to the audience for questions; “what are the complications of (Grann) as a white man telling this story,” one attendee asked.

“All reporting is difficult,” Grann said. “The most important thing is your sense that you’re judicious, you’re fair and you are, as best as possible, truthful.”

To close the lecture, Ewalt asked how Grann’s work with the Osage will stay with him.

“When I began this story … photographs became integral to the project in a way that I had never really used before because I saw this as a working documentation, a work of chasing ghosts, a work of documenting every little bit I could,” Grann said. “ … I kept those photographs on a wall in my office, and for me that was always what the project was about, a reminder of what it was about, and that will always stay with me.”

Andrew Russeth talks art, cross-cultural collaborations at morning lecture

  • Executive Editor of ARTNews Andrew Russeth talks with Matt Ewalt about contemporary art, Thursday, August 9, 2018, in the Amphitheater. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Andrew Russeth spoke to the “art” in Week Seven’s theme, “The Arts and Global Understanding,” in a conversation with Chautauqua Institution Chief of Staff Matt Ewalt at Thursday’s, August 9, 10:45 a.m. morning lecture in the Amphitheater.

Former editor and founder of The New York Observer’s GalleristNY, the New York City-based art critic currently serves as co-executive editor of ARTnews. His writing has appeared in W, New York, Bijutsu Techo and Parkett, as well as on his contemporary art blog, “16 Miles of String.”

His lecture, titled “Crossing Over, Reaching Out: Collaborating Across Borders in Contemporary Art,” touched on artists, exhibitions and mediums that are participating in cross-cultural collaboration.

“If you look at the history of visual art, I think especially the history of art in the 20th century, pretty much every big change, every exciting development comes from some sort of cross-cultural guideline,” Russeth said. “… Then I think about cross-cultural collaboration, cross-cultural influence, … especially right now in contemporary art, where people are really trying to move beyond boundaries.”

Twentieth-century artist Robert Rauschenberg experimented with cross-cultural collaboration during his 1980s series, “Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange.” Russeth read a quote from Rauschenberg, which he said summed up cross-cultural collaboration:

“I feel strong in my beliefs, based on my varied and widely travelled collaborations, that a one-to-one contact through art contains potent peaceful powers and is the nonelitist way to share exotic and common information, seducing us into creative mutual understandings for the benefit of all.”

Rauschenberg traveled across the globe from 1984 and 1991, learning new crafts from local artisans.

His work culminated in a collection of collages featuring native prints, newspapers, photographs from the places he visited and, occasionally, trash he collected from those visits.

Similarly, photographer Gauri Gill of New Delhi documents rural India, including makeshift graves of various religious sects and west-central Indian artisan masks, while also collaborating with other Indian visual artists. Russeth quoted her:

“I think these are powerful voices and I feel like part of my job as a photographer is just to listen — it’s a kind of active listening.”

Aside from individual artists, exhibitions are also venturing into cross-cultural collaborations and exploration, Russeth said.

“The art world is in an interesting moment,” he said. “Predominantly, it’s been in Europe and North America, a very Eurocentric, very white place. But we’re seeing recently, because of activism, because of pressure, because of some policy changes in government, a real effort to embrace difference, to be more diverse.”

Russeth offered two established, large exhibitions as examples: “Prospect” in New Orleans and “documenta.”

“Prospect” grew out of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina as a way for art to heal, Russeth said. Artist Mark Bradford collected discarded wood from the wreckage of Katrina and created an ark, similar to the Biblical tale of Noah; Kiluanji Kia Henda photographed performers on pedestals where statutes of colonizers once stood; and Barkley L. Hendricks’ portraits of African-American subjects replaced European artists of the colonial period in the New Orleans Museum of Art.

“Art exhibitions are also thinking about ‘We need to get away from art as paintings, art as sculpture, art made by people who went to a master of fine arts program’ — it’s everything in the world,” Russeth said. “It’s anything culture created.”

The exhibition series “documenta” began in 1955 to bring multicultural art to Germany after the erection of the Berlin Wall. Since its conception, “documenta” has been displayed 14 times. Its 14th edition featured “The Parthenon of Books” by Argentinian artist Marta Minujín. The piece is a replica of the Athenian Parthenon made of 100,000 banned books at the site of the 1930s book burnings in Kassel.

Other featured works included that of Cecilia Vicuña, who utilizes traditional Chilean knot making; Rick Lowe, who refurbishes houses for community use; and Ibrahim Mahama, who covers public structures with jute-sack quilts from local venders.

“(Mahama) weaves them together in these giant tapestries, using oftentimes art students, oftentimes local people, and then drapes them in plazas or buildings,” Russeth said. “So it becomes this interweaving of cultures — the merchants who decided they were going to part with their work and people who stitched them together, and his work.”

Russeth also provided a smaller, lesser-known exhibition as an example: “The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness,” which featured Anicka Yi’s crossover of art and science where she combined the scent of an Asian women with the scent of an ant as a critical remark on the stereotypes of Asian people.

To close, Russeth offered three examples of cross-cultural collaboration pushing into politics and real-world issues.

The first was a piece by Christoph Büchel called “The Mosque” — a repurposed decrepit church, which served as a mosque in the historic district of Venice, Italy, where there are no other mosques. The installation was eventually shut down by police, which many in the art community saw as religious censorship, Russeth said.

Russeth then discussed Sam Durant’s “Scaffold,” a sculptural, large-scale gallows in Minnesota created to highlight the mass execution of the Dakota people ordered by President Abraham Lincoln. The Dakota people protested, arguing Durant, a white man, was not equipped to tell their story; Durant apologized and gave the Dakota people the rights to the structure, which they buried.

“Consequently since then, there have been initiatives to collect more art by Native Americans, to have community leaders involved in decision-making about curating,” Russeth said. “But it is very much a work in progress. A lot of museums now are trying to take steps to really engage a diverse variety of communities.”

Finally, Olu Oguibe’s “Monument for Strangers and Refugees” is an obelisk engraved with the book of Matthew in four languages (German, English, Arabic and Turkish) which became a source of debate in Kassel, Germany — some thought it was ugly and distasteful, others thought it was welcoming, Russeth said. Eventually, public opinion favored Oguibe, and the monument stayed in Kassel’s town square.

Russeth remarked how the piece’s simplicity — a few Bible verses plastered on a plain shape — sparked engagement about topical issues and revealed deep-rooted xenophobia in Kassel.

“See as much art as possible,” he said. “When something feels uncomfortable or you don’t like it, really then spend time with it. … When you are around great art and you give it time to work on you and you listen to it, you can understand someone’s background, someone’s viewpoint in a way that few other (media) provide. Just really listen, and when you get offended, dig in.”

After the conclusion of Russeth’s lecture, Jordan Steves, director of strategic communications and community relations, opened the Q-and-A by asking how the aforementioned artists draw attention to their work.

Russeth attributed the ever-diversifying art community to the onset of social media and the ease of sharing information.

Steves turned to the audience for questions; one attendee asked about cultural appropriation in art.

“There just aren’t easy answers oftentimes,” Russeth said. “I think the best we can hope is that these conversations about cultural appropriation lead to more thoughtful art-making, lead to more thoughtful shows.”

Other attendees asked about folk art’s role in cross-cultural collaboration, and for Russeth’s thoughts on the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the demolition of activist Ai Weiwei’s studio by Chinese authorities. Steves then asked why visual arts are an effective means of dissent.

“Humans are visual people,” Russeth said. “… It shows how powerful symbols are.”

Tayo Rockson to offer insight on embracing identity and communicating across cultures in morning lecture


Raised in Nigeria, Sweden, Burkina Faso, Vietnam and the United States, Tayo Rockson is no tourist when it comes to communicating across cultures.

The son of a diplomat, Rockson grew up in five different countries on four different continents. His unique upbringing helped shape his life and his outlook on the world. In his lecture, he will discuss the importance of being able to communicate across cultures and embrace global identity at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, August 8, in the Amphitheater as part of Week Seven’s theme, “The Arts and Global Understanding.”

“In a week in which we explore the role of the arts in fostering global understanding, and the arts take center stage in a variety of programs, we also wanted to consider the impact of greater global understanding through culture,” said Matt Ewalt, Institution chief of staff. “Following a morning with Ambassador (Barbara) Stephenson on the role of cultural diplomacy, Tayo, himself the son of an ambassador, will speak to the benefits of cultural intelligence to business, and why our understanding across borders and cultures matters more and more to companies and organizations.”

Rockson is the founder and CEO of UYD Management — a firm that advises businesses on strategies to improve diversity, hiring, inclusivity, retention and social justice.

Growing up, Rockson was exposed to a variety of cultures, and he felt pressured to fit in. This challenge caused him to struggle with an “identity crisis,” but he credits that crisis as the driving force behind his work; he said it made him realize that his life experience allowed him to “see the world through different lenses.”

Rockson is a “third-culture kid,” meaning he was raised outside of his parents’ culture for the majority of his childhood. Growing up, Rockson said that he lost pieces of himself while trying to blend in with the majority.

“Part of being (the son of a diplomat) and a third-culture kid, you’re always in different environments, and there’s this tendency to try to fit in,” Rockson said. “A lot of the time, I tried to fit in, and I would almost lose myself. By the time I was 17, I decided not to lose myself anymore.”

When he was 22 years old, Rockson quit his job to move to New York City, and in 2014, he created “As Told By Nomads,” a podcast that features people who come from multicultural backgrounds. He and his guests discuss global identity and what it means to be a global leader.

“The podcast is what launched my career,” Rockson said. “I started to ask: ‘Why do we live in a globalized, digitalized world, (but) we still have problems that prevent us from communicating across cultures?’ ”

On his podcast, Rockson said he talks to people who have unique perspectives and will ask questions he knows his audience is curious to learn about.

A lover of learning, Rockson said he has grown through his work and wants people to experience that growth in their own lives. This desire to share stories and create change motivated him to create UYD — Use Your Difference — Management.

“I started to look at two places that we spend most of our lives — school and the workplace,” Rockson said. “There are still people that don’t know how to fully be themselves in the workplace and leaders that don’t know how to bring people together. I wanted to use my research (from the podcast) to help UYD Management.”

Through consultations, UYD offers guidance to corporations so they can expand and become more inclusive.

“I think it’s important to embrace who you are because we live in a world that likes to tell people what they can and what they can’t be,” Rockson said. “When you exist in that environment, you are inevitably going to suppress a part of yourself.”

By being able understand different perspectives, Rockson thinks people learn how to empathize, imagine different solutions and solve problems in well-rounded ways.

“Other people are going to come out of themselves,” Rockson said. “That is going to create a community that wasn’t there before.”

Two key principles that guide him through his work, Rockson said, are education and creating platforms for voices that are not often heard.

He thinks there is always more to learn and wants everyone to embrace their individuality and give a voice to those constantly tuned out by a society that is quick to judge.

“I know what it’s like to have your voice taken away from you, so just knowing that I could play a role in helping someone realize the best in themselves (makes my work worthwhile),” Rockson said.

Sarah Jaffe talks money, power, dissent

  • Sarah Jaffe speaks about her book "Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt" during the Morning Lecture on Friday, July 27, 2018, in the Amphitheater. HALDAN KIRSCH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Sarah Jaffe literally wrote the book on troublemakers — well, she wrote a book, Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt.

The author and journalist spoke to power, money as speech and the history of dissent movements in the United States at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Friday, July 27, in the Amphitheater, wrapping up Week Five’s theme, “The Ethics of Dissent.”

Jaffe covers labor, economic justice, social movements, politics, gender and pop culture with work in The New York Times, The Nation, The Guardian, The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Jaffe co-hosts Dissent magazine’s podcast, “Belabored,” and works as a columnist at The New Republic and New Labor Forum.

To open, Jaffe summed up her perspective on dissent with a quote from Irish socialist leader James Connolly:

“When her rebel sons and daughters were dead, hunted, imprisoned, hanged or exiled she would weep for them, pray for them, sigh for them, cry for them and when they were long enough out of the way, erect monuments to them. …”

When Jaffe visited Ireland in 2016, photos of Connolly were plastered everywhere despite his execution by the British for his role in the Easter Rising. His statement predicted his own future.

“When I think about dissent, and protest movements, social movements, troublemakers, which is what I wrote my book about, I think about that and the fact that we don’t often like the people who are making trouble,” Jaffe said.

The title of her book, Necessary Trouble, came to Jaffe after she interviewed U.S. Rep. John Lewis during the Dream Defenders’ 2013 occupation of Florida’s capital building after the death of Trayvon Martin. Lewis said, and Jaffe paraphrased:

“You’ve got to find a way to get in the way. You’ve got to make some good trouble — necessary trouble.”

This idea catalyzed her book, which examines social movements in America from the financial crisis of 2008 forward.

The 2008 crisis was a “rupture in the way we see the world,” Jaffe said. Decades earlier during the post-Soviet era, capitalism in the United States and around the world flourished. The threat of capitalism’s collapse proved otherwise, she said. As writer Mark Fisher put it:

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.”

The recession caused bank bailouts, stimulus bills, efforts to slow “the tide of foreclosures” and attempts to keep the banks functioning. The end of capitalism was a real threat, Jaffe said, and leaders fought to keep it from crumbling.

From the crumbling of capitalism and the height of the 2008 financial crisis came a wave of protest movements. What began as a lie-in at the Chicago stock exchange that garnered national attention turned into the 2009 Tea Party protests that disrupted town halls and Senate meetings. And it worked.

In 2011, Occupy Wall Street tried to replicate this disruption.

“You had, from coast to coast in every state and most major cities, some sort of an Occupy encampment,” Jaffe said. “You had people marching on banks, on elected officials, trying to figure out how to disrupt shareholder meetings of the major banks. … It was an attempt … to actually call attention and figure out how to change the workings of American capitalism.”

Jaffe said Occupy Wall Street owed its tactics to Wisconsin’s “Rally to Save the American Dream” protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation to strip public-sector workers of collective bargaining rights.

“Public-sectors workers, led by the graduate student union, didn’t like that idea,” she said. “So they took over the capitol building for three weeks. … They did what they could to disrupt the passage of this bill.”

As a journalist, Jaffe has spent much of her career reporting on unions, labor disputes and workers’ rights — most recently, the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case, which threatens the freedom to form unions.

According to Jaffe, the Supreme Court determined in prior cases that corporations are more powerful than unions. Hence, Jaffe argued, money equals the right to speak — and this is not limited to the union-corporate dynamic.

Jaffe referenced Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign during the 2016 election as a Democratic socialist; she stressed that a century ago, socialism was not tolerated.

“You were not supposed to say those things in this country,” she said. “The reason you’re not supposed to say those things in this country is because a lot of people in a lot of powerful positions made a lot of effort to make sure we didn’t.”

The government undertook countless efforts throughout the 20th century to contain communists and socialists in the United States. It deported and arrested communist sympathizers; executed the Palmer Raids to capture, arrest and deport anarchists; banned radical literature; and created the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act to restrict labor unions. Hollywood blacklists and the McCarthyism of the 1950s were a “spectacle of things you weren’t supposed to say,” Jaffe said.

“(These events) changed the way we talked about things — to actually express the idea that inequality is a bad thing,” Jaffe said. “It became a lot harder to do when to do so got you called a communist — organizing interracial unions got you called a communist.”

The legacy of the Red Scare left America unable to think about the changing nature of national dialogue and capitalism, she said, and thus resulted in the eight richest men in the world controlling wealth equal to that held by the bottom 50 percent of the population.

McCarthyism attempted to narrow the scope of American thought. But since the 2016 election, that scope has been widened, Jaffe said. In the wake of Sanders, politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — with once-taboo socialist agendas — are beating traditional politicians at the polls. The majority of younger people identify with socialism over capitalism, Jaffe said.

More recently, protest is seeping into everyday life; organized movements like the Women’s March, March for Science and the March for Our Lives swept across the nation this past year. However, Jaffe said, a physical, powerful, unorganized dissent took shape following the enactment of the U.S. travel ban. People rushed to airports to block security lines and gates; taxi drivers went on strike, refusing to take fares at the airport; and when Uber lowered its prices because of the strike, thousands deleted the app in rebuttal as part of a power struggle, Jaffe said.

Democracy is a power struggle — it doesn’t work for everyone, Jaffe argued; people’s policy choices are rarely ratified unless they align with a politician’s agenda.

“So the way that regular people are heard, that they get their preferences enacted, is to find a way to get in the way,” she said. “… We have to disrupt the status quo. We have to actually get unruly in order to get heard at all.”

Expect more dissent, she said.

After the conclusion of Jaffe’s lecture, Dave Griffith, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, opened the Q-and-A by quoting George Orwell. Griffith paraphrased: “When they are writing, one is either sinning by commission or sinning by omission.”

Griffith then asked what is the most compelling explanation Jaffe has heard to justify “sinning by commission” versus “sinning by omission.”

“What we have seen and what we will continue to see with President Donald Trump is a lot of people saying, ‘I can’t sit still anymore. This is not OK,’” Jaffe said. “… It is the question of ‘Am I just letting stuff happen because I’m admittedly comfortable?’ … You have to decide every day where and how to act and what risks you’re going to take, … and it’s not a simple thing to say, ‘I’m going to go out and I’m going to get arrested today as protest’ — it can affect the rest of your life.”

Griffith turned to the audience for questions; one attendee asked if there is recourse after Trump throws a reporter out of a press conference.

The short answer, Jaffe said, is no.

“The Trump administration is a little more honest about kicking people out when they ask a question they don’t like as opposed to just calling on them or giving them an artfully constructed non-answer,” Jaffe said. “But to actually do real journalism anyway, you have to find out what those people don’t want you to know, rather than the things they want you to know.”

To close the lecture, an audience member asked if power, money and hierarchies always win.

“I think there are more of us than there are of them,” Jaffe said. “… I think we have to believe it is possible in order to be willing to act. … One of the things that it takes for people to decide to get up and do something is obviously anger, frustration and the need to express something, but you also have to believe you can change things.”

Suzanne Nossel addresses current threats to free speech at morning lecture

Chief Executive Officer of PEN America Suzanne Nossel lectures on “The Future of Free Speech” Tuesday, July 24, 2018 in the Amphitheater. RILEY ROBINSON/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Factories and electrical plants surrounded Niagara Falls by the late 19th century. It took a painting, “Niagara Falls, from the American Side” by Frederic Edwin Church and the Free Niagara movement led by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to loosen industrialism’s grip on the falls.

When Suzanne Nossel visited just a few days ago during her trip to Chautauqua Institution, the footprint of the Industrial Revolution on the nation’s oldest state park was nearly obsolete.

“If (Church and Olmsted) could use a visionary masterpiece and a shoe-level movement to snatch back Niagara Falls from the clutches of industry, maybe we could use our vision and vigor to restore free speech from the forces that threaten it,” she said.

The chief executive officer of PEN America spoke to free speech and looming threats to the First Amendment at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Tuesday, July 24, in the Amphitheater, continuing Week Five’s theme, “The Ethics of Dissent.”

Chief Executive Officer of PEN America Suzanne Nossel lectures on “The Future of Free Speech” Tuesday, July 24, 2018 in the Amphitheater. RILEY ROBINSON/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

PEN America is the leading organization when it comes to igniting national conversations around human rights and free expression issues. PEN America consists of writers, journalists, editors, translators and readers, Nossel said, who strive to “safeguard the written word.”

Nossel read PEN’s — timely — charter: “PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship. … Members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.”

In her five-year tenure at PEN America, Nossel has worked on a variety of free speech issues, including censorship and internet oppression in China, constraints on civil society in Russia, free speech on college campuses and freedom of the press — but now, she is more alarmed about “how precarious our fundamental right to free speech has become” than ever.

“To protect free speech today, the First Amendment is necessary but not sufficient. … For free speech to survive and thrive in the new era, we, as citizens, need to race to defend it, even when that means rising in support of speech (from which) we personally dissent,” she said. “We need to understand new opportunities for speech, new threats to it and what it will take to safeguard discourse.”

Nossel addressed three threats to free speech: the rise of the digital age, ideological polarization, and ignorance and indifference to the First Amendment.

“In the past decade, online platforms have become a prime marketplace for our speech,” she said. “… (Social media are) also, make no mistake, markets for companies, campaigns and interests to spend millions on paid campaigns to shape where you buy, who you support and what you think. That same accessibility to openness has made social media platforms breeding grounds for hatred, harassment, manipulation and even terrorism.”

James Madison would have never predicted that while etching the First Amendment into parchment paper, Nossel said, but these platforms are not subject to the First Amendment — “our new public square isn’t actually public.”

Companies have their own community standards. It’s no longer a governmental body deciding rules and stipulations, she said.

“Everyday anonymous algorithms and individual Silicon Valley staffers in T-shirts make countless decisions about what stays and what goes — what becomes a sensation and what sinks in obscurity,” Nossel said. “Mark Zuckerberg thinks Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists are harassers, but he believes Holocaust deniers are just a little misguided.”

Twitter’s terrorists could be Facebook’s freedom riders, she said.

Like most tech CEOs, she said, Zuckerberg can enforce regulations as he pleases with minimal interference from the government because of two factors: social media platforms are international and the protections of the First Amendment do not extend outside of the United States’ borders; and menacing hate speech is protected speech.

“The utopian ideal of the internet as a beautiful, wild garden where all forms of speech can flower has become infested,” she said. “We now recognize that speech can be invasive, even poisonous, with the speech of some strangling that of others.”

The public outcries have caused companies like Facebook to grapple with “blurred boundaries” between offensive and dangerous speech on their platforms. Nossel said this is much more complicated than it seems. It matters not only what words are used, but who is using them.

“Among the most menacing forms of online content are fraudulent news and disinformation being used to skew discourse, sow divisions and even throw elections,” she said.

According to a Pew Research Center study, Americans are losing the ability to discern false from true information; 64 percent of Americans believe fabricated news stories cause confusion about basic facts of current events.

“Free expression is about more than just the right to speak,” Nossel said. “It’s the right to gather and harden information, to sort through competing ideas, engage with one another in search of a new truth, to persuade and be persuaded.”

Despite this growing discourse, most forms of “fake news” are protected speech, she said, and do not infringe on First Amendment rights except in instances like slander, libel and defamation.

“There are no easy answers to regulating speech online, but what is clear is we can’t leave it up to the courts — the First Amendment has very little to say about what you can post on Instagram,” Nossel said “… As citizens, when it comes to defending our discourse online, we have no one to turn to but ourselves. We need to summon our collective powers … to insist that with the great power of social media comes great responsibility.”

Nossel said the second threat to free speech is ideological polarization: The right is weaponizing the First Amendment, while the left is alienated and dismissive toward the principles of free speech.

Conservatives are using the First Amendment to curb government action for equality, she said. One threat to free speech from the right is President Donald Trump’s escalating campaign against the media — the “enemy of the American people.”

“If President Trump was shutting down newspapers or putting journalists in jail, … those tactics would blatantly violate the First Amendment. He’s too clever for that,” Nossel said. “He’s using his own First Amendment right for protected political speech to undercut the rights of the rest of us.”

According to a Quinnipiac poll, more than half of Republican voters agree with the president’s distrust of the media.

“This poses a fundamental threat to our system of self-government,” Nossel said. “It’s the job of the press to hold those in power accountable. President Trump knows that all too well; his is a deliberate strategy to neutralize criticism, shirk accountability … by insulting, denigrating, casting doubt on the messenger. And it’s working.”

Hate speech is also a threat growing from the right, Nossel said.

“Here in the U.S., hateful speech is mostly protected by the First Amendment, but until recently, it was bounded by strong taboos,” she said. “There were simply some things that were unacceptable in our discourse, not because of any laws, but because of a mainstream culture that shunned slurs, stereotypes and swastikas.”

The Trump administration has subverted those taboos, she said, giving rise to white supremacists like Richard Spencer. Spencer’s recent efforts have including speaking on college campuses to provoke a reaction from administrators and students.

Nossel said PEN America advises schools to allow white supremacists to speak alongside counterarguments.

“Through counterspeech, provost messages and Twitter campaigns, colleges can make it clear that allowing a platform for all viewpoints doesn’t amount to an endorsement,” she said. “But letting (white supremacists) appear denies them what they want more than anything else — reporting being shut down.”

This is tearing at liberals’ ideal of free speech, causing some progressives to question whether free speech is compatible with the values of equality and inclusion, Nossel said. And while counterspeech is imperative for combating hate speech, it can also silence other opinions.

This is the paradox of the college campus, she said.

“It’s a vicious cycle on the university quad,” Nossel said. “The right brings in offensive speakers to spread not just ideas, but partially to prove that they can. The left, in turn, calls to restrict speech in the interest of equality and inclusion. Such moves only feed right into the charges that speakers’ beliefs are oppressed.”

The final threat to free speech is ignorance and indifference to the First Amendment, Nossel said.

“We rely on the First Amendment every day, whether when we are opening up the morning paper, signing a petition, taking to the streets in protest,” she said. “It’s like the air we breathe, vital — (but) too often unused; we don’t celebrate it, teach it or, even it seems, remember it. The numbers paint a big picture:”

Nossel cited a survey in which 77 percent of Americans said they supported the First Amendment, but very few knew what it actually entails; 36 percent could name at least one of the five freedoms, and only one in the survey group of about 1,000 could list all five.

“As a society, we’ve long had the luxury of taking our free speech protections for granted,” she said. “To us, the First Amendment is absolute, all encompassing — as sure as the ground we walk on. … For too long, we’ve all been looking elsewhere while the fault lines have deepened under our feet.”

Nossel called for a new mobilization around the First Amendment that revolves around re-educating youth through civics classes to help them better understand free speech; defending free speech as a fundamental, American value; taking free speech into the digital era; and standing up for those who can’t do so for themselves.

America hasn’t always gotten free speech right, she said, and while democracy is veering off the course, it is now that Americans need more speech, not less.

“The writers and artists and actors PEN America supports are undaunting. … It’s the modern equivalent of those women in hats and ruffled collars who marched with the sandwich boards and said ‘save Niagara Falls.’

… Citizens are activated, electrified, empowered. That gives me and artists hope,” Nossel said. “And if those of us who passionately believe in free speech can harness that energy, we can mobilize a citizens’ movement that brings new light into this most basic human freedom.”

After the conclusion of Nossel’s lecture, Emily Morris, vice president of marketing and communications and chief brand officer, opened the Q-and-A. She asked what ethical principles drive PEN America.

Nossel said PEN tries to stay focused on its mission, not dive into politics, but still calls out threats to free speech.

Morris then turned to the audience for questions. One attendee asked what PEN America’s position is on kneeling for the national anthem.

Nossel said PEN America supports the choice to kneel during the national anthem. But, to her, the president’s open opposition to it is a new form of censorship.

“The president of the United States is heckling NFL owners to punish these players; he is trying to exact punishment for speech, maybe not directly, but by encouraging and insisting that the owners impose discipline,” she said. “That’s a government punishment for speech.”

Morris then asked if forms of expression (like applauding) during public forums were harmful to freedom of speech. She was quickly interrupted by various choruses of applause.

Nossel said she thinks forms of expression during public forums or debate can shape individuals’ ways of thinking.

Alina Polyakova dissects history of U.S.- Russia interference, the future role of technology

  • Alina Polyakova, the David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Bookings Institution's Center on the United States and Europe, discusses the current issues facing the United States and Russia on Thursday, July 19, 2019, in the Amp. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

What do John F. Kennedy’s assassination, J. Edgar Hoover and the AIDS epidemic have in common? They were all influenced by Russian “active measures,” Alina Polyakova said at Thursday’s, July 19, 10:45 a.m. morning lecture in the Amphitheater.

Her lecture offered a topical approach to Week Four’s theme, “Russia and the West.”

“What a fantastic week to be talking about Russia,” she said. “I don’t think it could have been timed any better by Chautauqua Institution. I started to think the Institution actually knew something that none of us knew, but I swear to you, there was not collusion.”

Polyakova is the David M. Rubenstein Fellow at Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe. She is also the author of The Dark Side of European Integration: Social Foundations and Cultural Determinants of the Rise of Radical Right Movements in Contemporary Europe and serves as a term member on Council on Foreign Relations.

During her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, Polyakova studied far-right populism and nationalism in European countries. Her research led her to connect the dots between Italy’s right-wing Northern League, France’s National Front and Germany’s Left Party: they were all in contact with Russia.

This led her down a rabbit hole of Russian tactics, dubbed “active measures,” used to “influence the course of narratives around global events.” In the United States, these measures trace back to the 1950s.

“At that time, the KGB, the Russian intelligence services, developed a toolkit of active measures to try to undermine Western societies, discredit political leaders and also delegitimize Western values aboard,” Polyakova said.

The KGB created a subset charged with this task called “Service A,” she said.

“Service A was charged with orchestrating mostly nonviolent measures to destabilize the United States, specifically, and also to undermine U.S. public diplomacy and U.S. soft power aboard,” she said. “It would spread misinformation around the world, it would forge documents, and then it would attempt to undermine U.S. power using these techniques.”

Polyakova provided a number of colorful examples to illustrate this point; Service A tried to pin JFK’s assassination on the U.S. government, specifically that Lee Harvey Oswald was in cahoots with the CIA and FBI; it sent homophobic letters to United States newspapers claiming that J. Edgar Hoover was gay and a cross-dresser; and in the 1980s, it attempted to blame the AIDs epidemic on the United States government.

Service A escalated to more violent attacks in the 1960s when it infiltrated an activist group and set bombs off in predominantly black neighborhoods of New York City and attempted to blame the explosions on the Jewish Defense League.

“So we see this attempt to pit different parts of civilian society against each other,” Polyakova said. “And yes, in the Soviet era, the KGB also intervened in the U.S. elections.”

In 1976, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, known for his outspoken distaste for the Soviet Union, ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Soviet Union feared his potential success, so Service A forged FBI documents claiming Jackson was a “closeted homosexual” and sent them to journalists and media outlets. Jackson did not receive the nomination.

Active measures continued in the 1980s and 1990s, but died off after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“After (President Vladimir Putin) came into power in 2000, active measures have once again become a favorite tool of Russian influence,” Polyakova said. “That’s largely because Putin’s rise to power has been defined, in hindsight, by the merger of the Russian intelligence agencies … with the Russian state.”

The merger of the Kremlin and Russian intelligence agencies, Polyakova said, would be like if the United States merged the FBI and CIA with the executive branch — where there was no separation between “wet operations” and statehood.

“This is the situation we have in Russia today,” she said. “But I think the bigger question is if all of these activities have been ongoing for decades throughout the 20th century, all throughout the Cold War, why have we now, today, been taken by surprise by Russian meddling in U.S. elections in 2016, but also in the majority of European elections since then?”

Polyakova said advancing technology, evolving societies and new perceived threats have contributed to this “surprise.” After 9/11, the United States switched from fearing Russia to fearing global terrorism. But while the United States forgot about Russia, Russia did not forget about it, she said.

“The world today is not black and white — the world today is gray,” she said.

And with these changes, Russian active measures have adapted. Polyakova referenced the invasion of Ukraine as an example:

In 2013, then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a deal with the EU to bring Ukraine culturally closer to the West, and accepted a deal with Russia instead. Angered by this deal, Ukrainians protested, and Yanukovych eventually fled to Russia. Russia then invaded a weakened Ukraine.

After the invasion, Russian media broadcast an interview with a woman claiming to be a Ukrainian refugee who said she watched a mother and son get beaten and crucified during a siege by Ukrainian forces to take back the Russian- controlled East.

However, as this story spread around the world, news outlets quickly picked up on discrepancies in the woman’s story — the square in which she claimed the murders happened did not exist, nor were there other eyewitnesses, and the woman appeared in other broadcasts claiming to be someone else with another outrageous story.

Despite the inevitable debunking of this ruse, Polyakova said, the story “propped up Russia’s view that Ukraine was a fascist coup.”

“These stories that had proven to be false after a certain time were not just contained to Russian- speaking space,” Polyakova said. “They were seeping into how Americans or English or German journalists were writing about what was happening in Ukraine at that time.”

Polyakova fast-forwarded to another case that illustrates how Russia’s active measures have evolved for the 21st century:

In 2016, a 13-year-old Russian-German girl went missing. After she didn’t come home from school that day, her parents called the German police. Russian journalists quickly picked up on the story; Russia’s main channel began broadcasting that the girl was kidnapped and raped by Syrian refugees.

Eventually, the German police found the girl, who had not been kidnapped and had spent the night at her boyfriend’s house.

“What we saw in this case was evidence, really for the first time in a Western European country, of how several different elements of Russian influence work together in an orchestrated way,” Polyakova said. “First, a journalist from a Russian television station picked up the case and brought it to the main news in Russia.”

Then, Russian-operated stations broadcast the case to its affiliate stations in Germany, and the story caught fire on social media through right-wing Nazi groups pushing their anti-immigration agenda; Russian and German syndicates covered demonstrations forming across Germany.

“Lastly, the cherry on top was that the Russian foreign minister himself, Sergey Lavrov, made public comments about his concerns about the ability of the German police and legal system to take such cases seriously because of political correctness and to protect Russians abroad,” she said.

This led Polyakova to the most contemporary example of Russian active measures — the alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

“We know from congressional testimony by Facebook and other social media companies that the Russian government set up false Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts and Instagram accounts,” she said, “that the Russian government funded what it called ‘The Internet Research Agency’ in St. Petersburg, also known as ‘The Troll Farm.’ ”

“The Troll Farm” followed similar strategies conducted by Service A of the KGB, “once carried out in real life, but now in the digital domain,” Polyakova said. It set out to spread anger around “hot-button issues,” like race, immigration and gun rights. It pitted groups against each other, operating fake Black Lives Matter accounts while simultaneously fueling nationalistic movements.

“So the U.S. has been the latest experiment in Russia’s bigger test of these new digital disinformation toolkits,” she said. “And what we’ve seen emerge is this new ecosystem of disinformation, which unlike its predecessor, the Cold War, is much more cost-effective with lots of room for error. Its ambiguity is a great asset.”

The tools in Russia’s toolkit are toying with humans’ natural indulgence in “guilty pleasures,” Polyakova said.

“We as individuals, as human beings, cannot look away from trainwrecks — we like looking at information that’s illicit, that’s dirty, maybe a little sexy, that we’re not supposed to be looking at,” she said “And this is exactly what these tools are playing with.”

Recent hammers, screwdrivers and hacksaws in the Kremlin’s toolkit have been cyberattacks.

Russia struck Ukraine with a “ransomware” attack — an attack that threatens to delete data if a monetary amount is not surrendered to the perpetrator. Similar malware has been detected in critical United States infrastructures, according to Polyakova, including nuclear power plants, water treatment facilities and electrical grids.

“Think about what might happen if on election day there is a massive blackout — you don’t need to go that far,” she said. “Think what would happen if on election day, a couple hundred people show up to vote, and their names aren’t in the registry because those logs have been deleted. What will that mean, not really for the results of the election, but for the trust in the electoral process?”

But cyberattacks aren’t the only Russian active measure the United States should be wary of, Polyakova said.

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning can create increasingly humanlike bots and imitate celebrities, even presidents, which Polyakova demonstrated with a video of a photorealistic artificial intelligence representation of former President Barack Obama that can be programmed to say anything.

Putin has said that whoever rules AI “will become the ruler of the world.” However, Polyakova does not think that will be Russia; instead, she thinks China will become a leader because of the immense data it collects on its people, which is crucial to the success of AI.

Putin is charged with rebuilding Russia as a superpower, per his social contract with the Russian people. They gave up their political rights and prosperity, but Russia will once again become a global player, whether it be through AI or through the annexation of Crimea, Polyakova said.

“In a way, what Russia is trying to do, what the Kremlin is trying to do, what Putin is trying to do, is balance out what is a very weak hand in the global economy, in the global geopolitical environment Russia has, by investing in these nonkinetic, asymmetric tools of influence,” she said. “They cannot compete in a real way with the United States or Europe on the economic front. …

“So chaos is cheap and Russia is very poor.”

After the conclusion of Polyakova’s lecture and a roaring applause from the audience, Dave Griffith, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, opened the Q-and-A by asking how technology, specifically technology used for fakery, will affect education.

“Already I think AI and machine learning are the most popular majors at MIT and CalTech,” Polyakova said. “So students, young people, understand this is the future and they want to have success in the skills they’ll have to have. This is happening less so in Europe; I think the United States will continue to lead in the tech center for those reasons.”

Polyakova also stressed the importance of civic education to better equip young people to navigate disinformation and “fake news.”

Griffith then asked a question from Twitter: Does the United States engage in active measures?

“The United States has made some terrible mistakes in its foreign policy — there’s no question about that — but we have a very different system here,” Polyakova said “… It’s because we have our democratic process here, wherethe independent media acts as a check on our government, where people are free to demonstrate or protest when they don’t agree with government actions … and eventually the government is held accountable.”

To close the morning, Griffith asked, “What gives you hope?”

“I actually have a lot of hope in younger people, not because I think young people are innately democratically minded … but because I think these young people grew up embedded in this new ambiguous digital environment and they are very skeptical,” Polyakova said “… But this is not a 20-minute problem, this is a 20-year problem that faces us. … I am hopeful, but what I like to do is sound the alarm.”

Nina Khrushcheva sees new global Russia emerging, threatening Putin

  • Nina Khrushcheva, Professor of International Affairs at The New School, speaks about Russia, Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in the Amphitheater. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

President Boris Yeltsin left the Kremlin in 1999, leaving a vacant office and a hungry Vladimir Putin. After his landslide victory for the presidency, Putin, determined to show a unified, powerful Russia, set out to travel all of the country’s 11 time zones on New Year’s Eve — a Russian Santa Claus, as Nina Khrushcheva described it.

Putin’s plan proved flawed, and he never delivered his intended hourly speeches through his vast country. Khrushcheva, however, picked up where he left off; her journey inspired her upcoming book In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones, and her 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Wednesday, July 18, in the Amphitheater.

Khrushcheva is a professor of international affairs at The New School in New York City, a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is an author, as well; her second book, The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey Into the Gulag of the Russian Mind, documents the history of former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, her biological great-grandfather and adoptive grandfather, and his oldest son, Leonid.

She opened her lecture with technical difficulties — the projector malfunctioned, causing Khrushcheva to gesture to a blank screen behind her. She referred to the ordeal as another hacking attempt by Putin, making light of the situation. After a few moments, the display reappeared, and she recommenced her Week Four lecture on “Russia and the West.”

“This week’s topic, as we have mentioned a couple of times already, couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said, “even if the man of the hour, Vladimir Putin himself, would have arranged it.”

It can be difficult for the United States and Russia to view each other beyond the context of recent developments in Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election, or the countries’ shared bleak, war-torn history, Khrushcheva said. For the United States, Putin is no more than a “villain,” she said, but in Russia — despite political and social corruption throughout his presidency — he has repaired infrastructure, and his people are rallying behind him.

“It has been over a quarter- century since the collapse of communism in 1991, but the U.S. has never quite stopped seeing it as a Cold War foe, and Russia itself often, and sometimes, prefers to be feared and not loved,” she said.

Her journey across Russia’s federal districts led her to dissect the attitudes of Russians, attempting to soften their perceived rugged behavior. She traveled from the far west, to a town bordering Eastern Europe, to the far east, on the border of Russia and Japan. While in the east, she stopped to “proudly wave at Sarah Palin,” she joked.

During this time, she observed three things about the country: Russia is “inherently incoherent;” it is defined by its past while longing for the future; and it is “homogeneous” despite its size and diverse regions and cultures.

Khrushcheva said U.S. foreign policy “should remember that Russia is not linear,” meaning that Russia holds tight to its narrative, rarely straying from its origins. She provided an example: an image (on a now working projector) of an emporium selling a portrait of Putin alongside the Russian Empire’s coat of arms — the double-headed eagle.

The double-headed eagle is a prominent and important symbol in Russia, she said. Originating in the Byzantine Empire in the 1450s, the image has since become standard for the Russian coat of arms throughout centuries. For Khrushcheva, the double-headed eagle represents the “split personality” of Russia.

Aside from Byzantine, Christian antiquity, Putin’s Russia has also preserved pieces from its communist past; a hammer and sickle sculpture sits outside a Joseph Stalin-era detention camp.

“That’s how Russia sees itself — all the way back in history,” she said.

Khrushcheva said Putin keeps these relics as “signs of great power.” She compared this to the preservation of Confederate flags and military statues in the American south.

In Russia, Putin has erected and maintained over 7,000 statues of Russian leaders, saints and inventors, including Stalin, Vladimir Lenin and Ivan III, better known as Ivan the Great.

While traveling, Khrushcheva stumbled upon a statue isolated in the center of a roundabout. The statue, despite having stairs leading up to it, is inaccessible by car and dangerous to approach by foot. Skateboarders, however, are able to make it to the island.

Khrushcheva followed a group of skateboarders to the statue, and eventually to a coffee shop appropriately named “New York Coffee.” As a New Yorker herself, she felt compelled to go in. On the menu was a drink ominously named “Trump.”

“I ordered the drink. I thought, ‘I want to know what a Trump drink is’ — it had this disgusting orange syrup on top of it,” she said over a roar of laughter. “It (had) little to do with coffee, as little as Trump has to do with (the) presidency. I asked the waitress if (the drink) was in awe or in mockery (of Trump). She said it was whatever you want. That’s that split personality.”

Khrushcheva turned back to the statues and what they mean to both men in both countries. She compared Trump’s towers to Putin’s statues. For Putin, “these statues essentially … are monuments to Putin himself.”

He commissions statues of strong leaders he strives to mirror, saints to show “God is on Russia’s side” and military giants to demonstrate Russia’s power. Trump built Trump Tower to show off his wealth and power and, Khrushcheva said, as free advertising.

Putin’s demonstration of his state’s military power through monuments, specifically that of Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, is evident of Putin’s paranoia of an international conspiracy against Russia, she said, its readiness for war, and Putin’s belief that he is “the protector of the motherland.”

“Russia celebrates the fact that it is culturally at war,” Khrushcheva said.

Khrushcheva continued to her last point: that Russia is a homogenous country despite economic, religious and geographic diversity.

“It is not a civilization, as Russians often say about themselves, but it is certainly a universe — it is a fortress of its own greatness,” she said.

On the screen flashed an image of Crimea and Vladivostok, a cosmopolitan city on the opposite side of Russia about 500 miles from Japan. The difference between the two is vast; however, Russia holds a firm grasp on Crimea as the key to its unified identity.

Russia claims Crimea to be its rightful territory because it was the location of the baptism of Vladimir I. Vladimir I was the grand prince of Kiev and is known as a prominent political figure in ancient Russia.

Khrushcheva read a sign painted on the side of a Vladivostok highway that was more telling: “The island — the Crimea island — is Russian, and Crimea is of Russian origins.”

“Just imagine,” she said, “a world apart, all of those time zones apart — you still have Crimea (completing) that fortress of greatness.”

For Khrushcheva, however, what makes Russia great is not the statues, the symbols, its power or its territories — it is the resilience of its people, which she said was evident when Russia hosted the World Cup earlier this month.

She began and ended her lecture with the World Cup, displaying photos of crowds gathered on the streets of Moscow and “alpha-male” Putin standing under an umbrella while other diplomats, including French President Emmanuel Macron, stood in the rain. According to Khrushcheva, Putin’s popularity has gone down since the World Cup because Russia’s people realized they don’t need the Kremlin or annexation to be great.

“During the World Cup, Russia didn’t launch any missiles, it didn’t take any territories, it didn’t stun the world with any new military initiatives, it didn’t show any new maps with potentially Florida,” she said. “Russia just followed the global rules for an international event and thus appeared for the world as a ‘regular country’ … and not a besieged fortress. This newly discovered globalism may prove challenging to Putin’s next years in power.”

After the conclusion of Khrushcheva’s lecture, Geof Follansbee, chief executive officer of the Chautauqua Foundation and Chautauqua Institution’s vice president of development, opened the Q-and-A.

He asked how this new “globalism” in Russia compared to the introduction of democracy after the Cold War.

“When Russia lost the Cold War, America was not a gracious winner. I’m really sorry, I hate to tell you that,” Khrushcheva said. “And so Americans came in and started telling Russians what to do and how to be. … At the time, Russians were willing to accept this teaching and lecturing, but one of the great appeals for Putin is that he said, ‘We’re not going to do it. Who are you to tell us what to do?’ … The Russians have had enough time since the Soviet time to grow into this democratization.”

Follansbee then opened the floor to questions from the audience. One attendee asked what Khrushcheva thought Putin’s biggest foreign policy mistake has been since his presidency began and what the Russian people think of his policies.

“Foreign policy is generally viewed favorably,” she said. “I think his mistake probably was the meddling (in the 2016 election). I don’t know if he would do it the same way this time around because he was warned that he would not be able to hide the Russian hand.”

To close the program, Follansbee asked if Khrushcheva if she could share some childhood memories of Nikita Khrushchev.

“It is wonderful to see Chautauqua and the beautiful nature and … I feel that, with sadness, it is wasted on me because when I was growing up, Khrushchev … was a great farmer. … And our chores would be to collect strawberries or do farming chores, and I think I started hating nature so much after that because I wanted to play,” she said. “And so now when I see a tree, I usually cross the street.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons opens Week Four with a comprehensive look at U.S.-Russia relations


In each generation there is a moment when Americans must stand and act — for Sen. Chris Coons, now is that moment.

“We have a fight on our hands,” he said to a filled Amphitheater at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Monday, July 16, drawing back the Iron Curtain for Chautauqua Institution’s Week Four theme, “Russia and the West.” This was Coons’ first visit to Chautauqua.

Coons said he knew he was in “a place where people listen to one another.” In other words, a place “utterly different from the United States Senate.”

Coons knows the Senate floor all too well; he was elected in 2010 as Delaware’s Democratic junior senator. He sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Appropriations, Judiciary, Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Ethics committees.

His appearance came at a critical time in the United States’ relationship with Russia; Coons’ lecture overlapped with President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, and days after the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers.

“I take no joy in delivering this message,” he said. “It is deeply discouraging to have to say anything that speaks ill of our president when he is outside our nation on foreign soil, but the timing of this speech and the timing of that summit were set, perhaps by providence or accident, and I think this is a time that calls for us to speak clearly about where we are (in our relationship with Russia).”

He opened his lecture, and the week, with a “stark warning.”

“The current Russian government under Vladimir Putin is a persistent danger to our democracy, to our European allies, to democracy globally,” he said. “At a time when overseas, China and North Korea, Iran and terrorism command our attention, we ignore Russia at our peril. … Only a clear eye can truly find bipartisan strategy to confront Putin’s Russia and contain it to prevent it from further damaging our society.”

Despite its looming threat, Russia is a cultural powerhouse with a rich and vast history that should be appreciated and better understood, Coons said.

“Russia is not some recent artificial, geopolitical creation, but a proud nation with a history that stretches back a millenium. … Its writers, its composers, its scientists have influenced the course of global culture, European history for centuries,” he said. “In a place like Chautauqua, where you celebrate literature, movies, music, dance, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how much Russian has contributed to human civilization.”

But its cultural renaissance cannot mask the “dark side” of Soviet Union-era labor camps, devastating famines caused by Joseph Stalin’s misuse of power and, more recently, Putin’s interference with the 2016 U.S. election, he said.

In 1993, Coons visited post-Cold War Russia, where he met with entrepreneurs “hoping to channel innovation and creativity to bring prosperity to their country and families.” The 1990s brought great political and economic instability to Russia, marked by food shortages and job loss. The hopes of its people failed to materialize, Coons said.

At the center of this mass insecurity was former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who fought tirelessly to demolish the Russian parliament; his efforts laid the foundation for Putin’s reign.

“The sufferings of post-Cold War Russia represent a lost opportunity,” Coons said. “Economic dislocation, widespread political corruption and Yeltsin’s consolidation of power tarnished democracy and capitalism in the eyes of many Russians and prevented their nation from fully joining and benefiting from the U.S.-led international rule-based system.”

Coons experienced the country’s “sense of lost glory” during his visit, which he said facilitated Putin’s ascension to power. Putin’s promise of “law, order and a return to prestige” restored the public’s faith in their country.

Since then, Putin has declared the fall of the Soviet Union — not the Holocaust or the World Wars — as the “greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.”

With the conclusion of the Cold War came the rise of the 16-nation alliance, NATO. Since its conception, NATO has expanded to include 29 members.

“The idea was that … Russia, having lost the Cold War, would have an incentive to join the international community, perhaps even partner with NATO in the multilateral institutions we helped build following secular order,” Coons said. “The idea was that the West, led by the United States, would offer Russia real diplomatic incentives.”

At the time, U.S. foreign policy makers thought that Russia and dozens of former Soviet regimes would slowly transition to democracies with minimal support. While most former Soviet states have done so, Coons said Russia has rejected the “overtures of the West.”

“While Putin believes the United States hasn’t honored its post-Cold War pledges, Russia, too, has broken its promises,” Coons said.

The 1994 Budapest Memorandum agreed that, in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons, the newly independent Ukraine would be safe from Russian invasion. Coons said Putin abandoned that pledge in 2014 when Russia forcely invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

At the time of Coons’ 1993 trip to Russia, almost identical numbers of Democrats and Republicans reported that Russia was the United States’ greatest threat, he said. Since then, the disparity at home has grown — the percent of Democrats who believe that statement is double that of Republicans (40 percent to 20 percent, respectively). He said in the last two years, the number of Republicans who view Putin favorably has doubled, while the number of Democrats that view Putin unfavorably has risen 20 percent between 2015 and 2017.

“For those that grew up in the post-Cold War period — where school children no longer have to participate in air raid drills (or) the sense of the United States as the free world because there is a world behind the Iron Curtain — we have attitudes much less uniform, much more reflective of our attitudes of President Trump,” Coons said.

Trump is a polarizing force — with the widespread distrust of media and the echo chambers of “fake news,” Coons encouraged the audience to read the January 2017 declassified report on “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.”

This report, according to Coons, has been endorsed by senior cabinet officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

“Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the Senate, Republican senior leaders of the Trump administration have a uniform view of what is upwind. There is just one figure missing,” Coons said: Trump has refused to accept these findings.

Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election is not the end of its cyberattacks. The Intelligence Community assessment concluded that Russia may replicate its U.S. attack on European elections. Some European countries have already taken measures to ensure this does not happen, Coons said.

“Putin will only stop when we stop him,” he said over thunderous applause.

Coons said Congress can play a role in stopping Putin. He offered four suggestions; the first that the U.S. and European Union maintain sanctions on Russia.

Last summer, the Senate passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act 98-2, which is an array of mantorary sanctions to hold Russia accountable for its malicious actions, Coons said. Trump signed it into law, but has yet to impose those sanctions.

“Putin will only cease these actions when you impose costs on him and others for Russia’s misbehaviors,” Coons said. “The administration should fully utilize the tools Congress has given them to punish Russia.”

The second suggestion is that the U.S. must hold a “strong military posture” in Europe. Russia’s actions in Georgia and Ukraine demonstrate the need for American troops in Europe to ensure stability in the continent and among NATO allies, he said.

“An important part of our policy has to be convincing our NATO allies to invest more in our common defense — President Trump is right on this issue,” Coons said. “I may wish that he went about making demands of our allies in a different way, maybe a more private way, but he is absolutely right.”

Coons is referring to the president’s July 9 tweets:

“The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the U.S. is at 4%, and NATO benefits Europe far more than it does the U.S. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment …”

Coons acknowledged Trump’s success in encouraging allies to raise NATO’s budget, as well as increasing troops, but he chastised Trump for not fully recognizing the increases that have been made, and the 1,044 non-American troops fighting with the U.S. in Afghanistan.

“And while it is right to press our allies to invest more in their security and our common defense, it is wrong to mistake them as free-loading on our generosity,” he said.

His third suggestion requires Congress to hold social media corporations responsible for accounts run by Russian “bots.”

“We invented Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and Snapchat and all this stuff, and yet we allow it, with virtually no accountability whatsoever, to be used as a tool to mislead and undermine our own citizens as they vote,” Coons said.

Coons described his interaction with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. Coons asked why the company did not flag “a paid political advertisement, bought in Moscow and paid for in rubles.” Zuckerberg responded, “Senator we didn’t know those details.”

“Are you kidding me?” Coons said over a roar of laughter. “You know whether I’ve met my daily step goal.”

Coons also stressed the importance of free, independent journalism in the United States and worldwide.

“We ourselves, as citizens, have to do a better job of discerning real news from ‘fake news’ and educating our families and social circles about the difference,” he said.

Finally, he pushed the need for the U.S. to defend human rights — “Do you remember when that was the first principle of our foreign policy?” Coons asked.

In February, Coons joined Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in an effort to rename the street in front of the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., after Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov was a Russian physicist, liberal politician and outspoken critic of Putin until 2015, when he was assassinated.

“I took this action with Sen. Rubio to give a voice to someone Putin tried to silence,” Coons said, “and it is my hope that someday, Russian diplomats that travel in and out of their embassy in Washington, representing a future Russian government, will be proud to walk alongside a street named for Boris Nemtsov.”

Coons said the relationship between Russia and the West, while fraught with division, has the potential to be one of collaboration.

“During the Cold War, we were prepared to go to war at a moment’s notice, and nearly did on several occasions ” he said. “Yet at the same time we negotiated cultural, scientific and nuclear agreements with that enemy with who we were prepared to fight at moment’s notice — the Soviet Union. We found the areas of real and deep and meaningful cooperation, despite the tension between us. There is no reason why we cannot do the same today.”

Coons said the United States needs Russia’s collaboration in combating global warming, conflict in North Korea and Iran, and international terrorism.

“Yet if we fail to recognize the reality of strategic confrontation under Putin, if we abandon our willingness to fight for our values, we will never achieve lasting cooperation based on anything other than a Russian tactical effort to gain short-term advantage over us,” he said. “… Our democratic world is at greater risk today than at any other time in my life, and I am certain it is worth fighting for.”

After the conclusion of Coons’ lecture, Institution President Michael E. Hill opened the Q-and-A with Putin’s statement from the Helsinki summit about the alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

“The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including election processes,” Hill read over gasps from the audience.

Hill summarized Putin’s suggestion that Russia and the U.S. examine any issues together in a “joint working group on cybersecurity.”

As the laughs and shock died down from the crowd, Hill asked if there is a pathway of joint engagement between the United States and Russia.

“I think it is possible, if we are strong and determined and clear-eyed in joining with our allies, to say on these key issues — sanctions for invading and occupying Crimea, interference in our election — we will oppose (Russia),” Coons said. “But if (Russia is) willing to step back from those actions and honor (its) commitments … we are willing to then work with (Russia).”

Hill turned to the audience for questions. One attendee asked if there will ever be a liberal democracy in Russia.

“Given the sophistication and complexity of (Russia’s) culture, given the determination of its journalists and its human rights activists and given the possibilities of the human spirit — which Chautauqua is all about celebrating — I can believe in the dream of a democratic Russia,” Coons said. “I am not optimistic about its achievement in the short-term.”

Finally, to close the lecture, an attendee asked to how to keep high ideals and moral standards in a democracy at a time when it seems like they are lacking.

“Know who you are, know your history,” Coons said.

Finally ready for prime time: Newman closes week with laughs

  • Laraine Newman, an original cast member of SNL and founding member of improv group The Groundlings, discusses the emotional benefits of improv, play and humor on Friday, July 13, 2018, in the Amp. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Laraine Newman knows play is an art.

The original “Saturday Night Live” cast member spoke to “basically how improv and humor can save the world” (and she was not kidding) at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Friday, July 13, in the Amphitheater as the punchline of Week Three’s theme, “The Art of Play.”

“Eve Arden, Madeline Kahn and Richard Pryor were my first major influences,” Newman said. “They led me into my life of comedy, they led me into understanding ‘The Art of Play.’ ”

Her comedy career began as a young girl in a toy store. Sweet and innocent, Newman said she would walk aimlessly through the rows of toys and then, in a flash, she would stuff rubber animal erasers down her underpants and run out of the store. Her scam worked — until she brought an unseasoned thief along.

The accomplice got caught by a salesperson. Newman, in a fit of panic, used her improvisational skills.

“We got those over at Newberry’s and if you don’t believe me, you can come with us over there and ask them,” she said.

The salesperson let them go.

“You might be saying to yourself, ‘Well that’s not improv, that’s just lying,’ ” she said over a burst of laughter. “And you’d be right, but it’s the lie of a 9-year-old pretty much feeling like she is fighting for her life. So the way I guess you say it is, ‘survival itself is an improvisation.’ ”

Newman explained the guiding principle of improv: to say “yes, and,” to any — and every — thing. This means that every response should be an affirmation, not a “no, and” or a “yes, but,” which Newman said is the same as a “no.”

“Yes, and” is not exclusive to improv; giving positive affirmations should extend into everyday life, Newman said, including for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Newman described her friend and fellow comedy writer, whose mother suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s.

Her friend began giving positive responses to her mother’s complaints that someone was in her house, with questions like, “Why do you think someone is there, what do they want?” rather than, “No one is in your house, Mom.” Both her and her mother’s frustrations rapidly decreased.

“Of course, it was always possible that she was actually being robbed, but that’s the risk with improv,” Newman said over an epic roar of laughter.

Improv can also be a problem solver and character builder, which she illustrated through an anecdote about being locked in a room in New Orleans with fellow “SNL” Not Ready For Prime Time Player Gilda Radner.

Too scared to leave for fear of being mobbed, the two sat in an empty room for hours waiting for a cue from the “SNL” crew that it was time to leave. Hungry, bored and cold, Radner fashioned a puppet out of the only other thing in the room — a trash can with a foot pedal.

“I remember saying something like, ‘Man, I am hungry,’ ” Newman said.

In response, Radner said, in a half-Italian, half-Oscar the Grouch accent, “I might have something for you to eat. I think I have some peanuts — oh no, sorry, there is something disgusting all over them.”

“Man, I’ve got to pee,” Newman said.

“Don’t look at me,” Radner (as the trash can puppet) said.

This banter continued throughout the day.

“It really made the four hours go by faster,” Newman said, reflecting on that fiasco. “We made the best of the fact that we were cold, bored, thirsty, hungry and had to pee.”

Later on in her career at “SNL,” Radner and Newman took part in a presentation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. That day, Newman was ill and took medication for her symptoms. Midway through the rehearsal of their speech, Newman’s jaw clenched and her tongue dropped to the bottom of her mouth from an allergic reaction to the medication.

They scrambled to come up with a routine, eventually landing on an act where Radner did all the talking and Newman accompanied her with sound effects. Newman’s noises ranged from a possessed chicken to a crying baby to a dog whose paw had just been crushed.

Newman, unexpectedly, demonstrated the shrieking dog for the audience. The high-pitched, ear-shattering noise threw the Amp into a frenzy of admiring “oohs” and painful “ahhs.”

“These moments with Gilda felt so dire, but thank god for her,” she said. “And thank god for our improv training, that fellowship that we both belonged to. The experience of imaginative play can transport us to a reality of our own making, and sometimes that reality we create can help us manage our fear.”

Play to manage fear translates into two fascinations of the early 20th century: haunted houses and horror movies, in which simulated horror gives people a feeling of invincibility.

“There are so many scary things in this life that we cannot control — economic failure, terrorism, a host of other things I don’t know if I should mention because I don’t know who I will offend, but you know what I mean,” Newman rattled off.

Haunted houses and scary movies aside, there are other ways for adults to enjoy play, she said, like cosplay or Dungeons & Dragons — “How great is it that dress up is no longer the exclusive domain of children?” But more universal than that, play is found in just playing with children.

“I think that we can all agree and recognize that there is something so intimate about shared, fun experiences that involve listening, cooperation and laughter,” she said. “It’s a special kind of bonding that shows (children) what relationships can be like out in the world.”

Play appeared in Newman’s parenting through party planning, creating and embodying the personality of their family dog and, of course, improv. Newman stressed the distinction between stand-up, improvisational and sketch comedy.

“A lot of people assume that if you have a comedy background, you’ve done stand up,” she said, violently shaking her head and pulling her arms tight against her chest. “No. God, no. … It’s an entirely different animal.”

Newman admitted she was “never a good improviser,” but when in character, like an angry Jewish poet, a flight attendant, an eccentric chef or a British groupie, she was “free.”

“When I first performed (my characters) and the audience responded, I felt like crying,” Newman said. “I mean the idea that what I saw — what other people saw — (meant) I wasn’t so alone in my perspective. I hope this doesn’t sound too overblown, but it really did feel like a Communion.”

Those characters helped create some of “SNL’s” iconic sketches. At Lorne Michaels’ loft in New York City, the cast of “SNL,” in the beginning stages of the show, met to improvise. Prompted by the phrase “alien family,” Newman, Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin took a trip to Easter Island using a kooky voice Newman created, and “Coneheads” was born.

“Some of the greatest improvisers I’ve ever seen seem to have an open channel to their unconscious,” she said. “Their unconscious is pretty damn funny.”

And before anyone fears ridicule or humiliation for trying something new, whether it be a hairstyle or improv, Newman had a reminder: “We’re all going to die.”

“How (can play, improvisation and humor) be a bridge for communication and empathy?” she said. “How it can evolve fellowship and community? … Every time you make someone laugh, follow someone’s lead, even if it’s a stranger, … every time we accept a child’s reality, we are giving love and affirmation. And how can that not make for a better world? Now go out and play.”

After the conclusion of Newman’s lecture, Chief of Staff Matt Ewalt opened the Q-and-A with the daily reminder:

“As we enter into our Q-and-A, I know a few of you have to leave for other programs, please be as respectful as possible —”

“Yeah, I’m not taking it personally at all,” Newman said as she sarcastically cried into her hands.

After Ewalt and the crowd had a good laugh, he asked Newman if the relationship between people onstage and people in the audience is important in improv comedy.

“(The audience is) really appreciative and they know how hard it is, so if you’re even slightly funny, they really appreciate it,” she said. “And also you’re working off of their suggestions, so they’re kind of invested in your success. But I do think that they are very different from a stand-up audience because the nature of stand-up is so different, and improv really does involve the audience.”

Ewalt continued the Q-and-A by asking that while previous lecturers established that there is a play deficit among children, is there a play deficit among adults?

“I think that there is something considered slightly shameful if we behave in a way that isn’t expected of adults,” Newman said. “More and more now, actually, our culture is supporting (play) as in things like cosplay. … So I guess it has changed somewhat to where people are really given the permission to play more.”

The audience was then given a chance to ask questions; one attendee asked what type of comedy works in the country’s polarized political climate.

“Irony. … I mean, to do comedy, you have to have critical thought, you have to be a reflective person. You have to be able to see the irony of things and be very sensitive to things, and I think that’s kind of more conducive to liberals,” Newman said, cringing and incrementally lowering her voice.

To close Week Three, Ewalt asked if Newman had any tips for someone looking to break into comedy.

“Listen to everybody so that you start where they leave off, so that you’re not a derivative of anybody that’s come before because originality is absolutely key,” she said. “Also, read — read, read, read.”


Laraine Newman, an original cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and founding member of improv group The Groundlings, discusses the emotional benefits of improv, play and humor on Friday in the Amphitheater

PeacePlayers co-founder Brendan Tuohey extols power of sports’ ability to unite communities


Malak and Romy were drastically divided — Romy is Israeli and Malak is Palestinian. Their backgrounds left them bitterly opposed to each other, but basketball and PeacePlayers International brought the girls together, bridging their differences and creating a long-lasting friendship on, and off, the court.

Brendan Tuohey, co-founder and executive director of PeacePlayers, spoke to sport’s unique ability to unite people, like Malak and Romy, at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Thursday, July 12, in the Amphitheater, putting a full- court press on Week Three’s theme, “The Art of Play.”

“There’s been a long-standing debate about the role of sport and its impact in society,” Tuohey said. “For some, sports is all about competition, with the main goal being one side vanquishing the other. And, yes, there are a lot of instances about sports serving as a divider, … But just as sport has the capacity to overinflate feelings of nationalism, prejudice and sometimes leads to violence, it also has the unique and powerful power to advance social cohesion.”

Tuohey and his brother, Sean Tuohey, founded PeacePlayers to “(unite) communities in conflict” and educate thousands of young people in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus and the United States through basketball and other sports.

The Tuohey brothers both played sports in high school and eventually college. After college, Sean Tuohey coached basketball in Northern Ireland, a region where Catholics and Protestants are sharply segregated. Catholic and Protestant youths are separated by neighborhoods, schools and sports — Sean Tuohey saw the power of basketball as a way to bring youth together.

A friend suggested the Tuoheys’ approach would be beneficial in South Africa. The brothers rallied $7,000 from friends and family and created PeacePlayers International.

During its time in South Africa, PeacePlayers used its platform as an educational resource to inform people about HIV and AIDS, which was a growing epidemic in the post-apartheid country. Eventually, the Tuoheys’ organization gained enough traction to bring a white school into a primarily black township for a basketball game — something that was unheard of at the time.

“(The white students were) greeted by a thunderous ovation of cheers and the two captains of the teams exchanged flags, the kids played on mixed teams,” Tuohey said. “The South African broadcast channel interviews kids and the coaches and the parents afterward to get their reaction. There was one common refrain from both, from everybody — ‘I was afraid, it was great, let’s do it again.’ ”

Throughout history, sports have always had the power the Tuohey brothers captured in PeacePlayers, like when the newly democratic South Africa hosted and won the 1995 World Cup, or when British, French and German troops ceased fire and conversed over a soccer game in the “Christmas Truce of 1914.”

Tuohey also referenced revolutionary U.S. athletes like Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, and Magic Johnson, who publicly announced he tested HIV positive in 1991.

Because of its overwhelming influence, sport has been adopted by organizations as a way to create change. The United Nations has listed sport as a “means to promote education, health, development and peace.”

“Why sport?” Tuohey said. “It’s universal, right. Go to a soccer game, and it’s the same thing you see in Brazil and South Africa. It’s a level playing field; it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what color you are, where you come from. (The) question is, ‘Can you play?’ Competition brings people together, to achieve a common goal. Sports draw people, often young people, to activities that open the doors to education, to job training and to avenues to improve their lives.”

However, competition, while it may dilute conflict, is not enough, Tuohey said. To find “positive peace,” where “opposing groups are able to constructively manage disputes and interact non-violently,” societies need to look across party lines and form relationships, which peace studies stress is the most important factor.

“What better way to get this done than sport?” Tuohey asked. “Sport provided the platform to develop positive relationships — to see people that might look different or come from different backgrounds as human beings and to be judged on who we are, not the color of our skin, our religion or how wealthy we are.”

Tuohey turned the audience’s attention to the screen behind him and a video of the Israeli girls’ under-18 national basketball championship. The team won thanks to a down-to- the-wire two-pointer. In a fit of excitement, the girls, five Palestinian and five Israeli, embraced one another as parents ran onto the court.

“What other vehicle could make that happen other than sport?” he said.

At first, one of the Israeli team members was hesitant about playing with Palestinians. Tuohey described how she would attend intermittently, often just watching from the sidelines and not telling her parents about the program, fearing they would disapprove. Eventually, she picked up the ball, with her parents’ support. At the end of the season, her father invited the team over and expressed his love for the team, despite their backgrounds.

This fall, she will be playing on the first mixed-Israeli-Palestinian women’s professional team in the Middle East.

PeacePlayers replicated the Middle East program in Cyprus. According to Tuohey, Cyprus has been divided since the 1970s after the invasion of Turkey into the island nation. In the first years of the PeacePlayers Cyprus branch, which was located in the buffer zone, attendance and interest was low. Eventually, interest was piqued, Tuohey said, and for the first time in two generations, people crossed the border between the Greek and Turkish occupied Cyprus.

“I think one of (the) real special things about sports, and what we’ve been able to do, is that we make things happen that weren’t happening before,” Tuohey said, “and people see it — whether it be a white school going to a black township (in South Africa), a Catholic kid playing rugby with a Protestant kid or a Palestinian kid playing in an Israeli national league.”

After the conclusion of Tuohey’s lecture, Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Chief Brand Officer Emily Morris opened the Q-and-A. She asked what PeacePlayers is measuring for in terms of success and how it’s doing.

Tuohey said that the organization is tracking how children are creating positive relationships through and outside of the program. They are measuring this through evaluations and questionnaires.

Morris then opened the floor to the audience. An attendee asked what the gender balance was across the programs. Tuohey said in Israel, the ratio was 70-to-30 girls, but in other countries, the mix is more balanced.

“You look at the need, particularly in Palestinians and the stigma around sports, we felt really strong that we (needed to) give girls opportunities to play, which has led to them advancing their own college educations and self-confidence,” he said. “For us, it’s important to work with both (boys and girls).”

To close the Q-and-A, Morris asked what the next five years look like for PeacePlayers. Tuohey said in the next two years, the organization will be working on developing more programs in the U.S.

“Unfortunately, there is no shortage of need for the type of work that we do, and I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that that work is needed back here in our country,” he said.

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