Special Lecture Previews

Bruce Rabin – “Dr. Stress” – to provide innovative advice on coping with stress


It’s the home stretch. In less than two weeks, the 2020 CHQ Assembly will officially conclude. In the meantime, however, “Dr. Stress” will be sharing sound advice for approaching personal and professional challenges as summer winds down, yet most of the uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic do not. 

Bruce Rabin, M.D., Ph.D., will give a Contemporary Issues Forum presentation titled “Understanding and Managing Stress for Better Mental and Physical Health,” at 3:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 18, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform

This will be Rabin’s fifth address at Chautauqua Institution; it is sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club. His first occurred in 1996 on the Amphitheater stage during a week on integrative medicine. 

Although he retired in January 2017 from his positions as professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, and medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Division of Clinical Immunopathology and its Healthy Lifestyle Program, Rabin has not stopped serving the greater Pittsburgh community. 

While he was completing his second book, Coping with Stress for Mental and Physical Health and Longevity, published in 2019, Rabin was also helping parents of abused and neglected children deal with stress so that they do not cause further harm to their children. During the pandemic, he has continued this essential volunteer work through YouTube videos. 

In May, David Templeton of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that “in retirement, Dr. Rabin … continues practicing what he preaches as Pittsburgh’s calmest, gentlest force — a prophet of peacefulness — that I can best describe as Mister Rogers for adults.”  

“For years he has spent his own time and dime helping city teachers, firefighters, students, doctors and journalists, among many others, to adopt certain mental and physical practices to keep predatory stress at bay, as a tamer does tigers,” Templeton continued. “… For years, Dr. Rabin taught medical students the biology of stress and how to treat patients suffering from it. But his complementary goal was preparing them to withstand the rigors of their own profession.” 

In 1959, between his first two years of college at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio (which had not yet merged with Case Institute of Technology), Rabin gained some insight into those rigors in his hometown after going to the University of Buffalo (then a private medical college), in search of a summer job. 

He said that he was directed to a woman who needed someone to wash glassware. She sat him down, they talked, and she said, “You know, kid, there should be something better you can do; follow me, kid.” 

Rabin followed her — down the hallway at a rapid pace — and found himself in front of a young man behind a desk who “said that he could use someone to hold the animals and clean up the lab.” Despite their 13-year age difference, they soon became friends. 

Because of his friendship with Noel Richard Rose, Rabin said he enrolled at U.B. for a Master’s degree and studied under Rose, who had not only earned a Ph.D. but was also attending medical school part-time. 

“‘Follow me, kid’ laid the groundwork,” Rabin said. “I met this man. He became a friend. I modeled myself after him. Two weeks ago, at age 92, he passed away. It shows how little things influence your life.” 

After earning his Ph.D. in immunology and his M.D. at the State University of New York at Buffalo — U.B. had merged with the SUNY system in 1962 — Rabin joined SUNY Buffalo’s faculty of the Department of Pathology and the Center for Immunology in 1970. 

Two years later, he was recruited to the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School as director of its Clinical Immunopathology Laboratory.

“When I was 40,” said Rabin, “that’s when I began to focus on the effect of stress on health. If your immune system doesn’t function well, the quality and length of your life don’t work as well. For 35 years we studied stress — a group of us — and defined it.”

Academically, Rabin directed an elective course for 50 fourth-year UPMS students.

Within the Division of Clinical Immunopathology, his clinical work focused on providing laboratory tests to assist in detecting autoimmune and immunodeficiency diseases, and protein abnormalities in serum, urine and spinal fluid. He also provided tests for serologic diagnosis of infectious diseases.

In addition, he maintained an active consultation service to assist in the interpretation and application of clinical laboratory immunology tests.

Rabin’s research expertise involved “implementing new technologies in the Clinical Immunopathology Laboratory (in order) to be more precise and cost-effective in the identification of antibody and serum protein abnormalities and the development and implementation of programs that enhance the quality of health by reducing the risk of disease development.”

In other words, Rabin’s research and laboratory have made substantial contributions to understanding how the immune system and brain communicate and interact, how stress affects these communication pathways, and how it influences an individual’s overall health.

To promote research in mind-body interactions, he has served on government panels in a variety of capacities, and as the secretary/treasurer and as the president of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society. 

In essence, Rabin has been trying to help healthy people remain in good health as they age.

He wants Chautauquans to know that it is important “to remain calm — as so much is changing now with so much that’s unknown — to help reduce impulsive behaviors so they can be better role models for their children and grandchildren, … speak rationally to them (and others), and keep … focused and thinking clearly.” 

How can one remain calm as the amount of stress piles up — especially during a pandemic?

First, watch and listen to Rabin’s talk. Second, follow his advice and practice the coping actions he recommends. And third, embark on a journey with Dr. Stress / Mister Rogers for Adults as a guide via his book, Coping with Stress for Mental and Physical Health and Longevity, and his YouTube video series. 

Doing so may not only vastly improve one’s overall health, but also lengthen one’s life.

ASU professor Braden Allenby to discuss conspiracy theories, free speech in Lincoln Applied Ethics Lecture Series


To Braden Allenby, people are information-processing mechanisms — and when that mechanism is overloaded, the society they live in risks collapse.


At 3:30 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 17, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Allenby — President’s Professor and Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics at Arizona State University — will present “Information Technology and the Fall of the American Republic” as part of the Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. This presentation will cover how the ever-growing digital information-scape may danger American democracy. 

For its history, the United States has operated on the idea of pluralism — in which an array of viewpoints are woven together and compromise is found in legislation. Allenby said that pluralism thrives in complexity — until a certain point. 

“If things get too complex and if people begin to lose the ability to process information effectively because there’s too much of it, then what you end up with is political failure. That’s kind of what we’re seeing today in the United States,” Allenby said, “when information gets too complicated and (the information processing system) breaks down. You can see that in our politics: Information has gotten so complicated that many people are unable to tell the difference between the statement of fact, and fairly strange conspiracy theories.”

Because people are overloaded with information as it is increasingly available at their fingertips, Allenby said many cling to certain narratives — sometimes dangerous and incorrect. 

In 2016, a man inspired by misinformation shared by InfoWars host Alex Jones attacked a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant that he believed harbored an underground pedophile ring orchestrated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The theory was proven wrong and the gunman was arrested. The incident has since been dubbed “Pizzagate.” 

“That individual believed (the conspiracy theory), and he believed it enough to come up with a gun and start shooting up the place,” Allenby said. “The reason they believed it was that if you don’t have the ability to handle everything that our society is throwing at you, you fall back on your core narrative, your core belief system. And anything that fits with that, you’re going to believe whether or not it actually makes sense.”

Allenby also noted the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory that suggests the white trails of vapor left in the sky by passing airplanes are actually clouds of chemicals released in the air to control the population or manipulate the weather. Typically, theorists believe that this is a government-driven secret mission against average people.

“The chemtrail conspiracy theory means that you’ve got to believe that there are tens of thousands of people in national labs and in the government all keeping this amazing secret, when we can’t even keep NSA secrets safe,” Allenby said. “So, it’s a stretch.”

But, Allenby said that theorists do not turn to these stories for their believability, but for their moral comfort. 

“(People) believe (a conspiracy theory) because it fits with their worldview. Their worldview is what they are sort of pushed into by the complexity of the world,” Allenby said. “And because they can’t go out and think about every single fact, what they do is take the position of trusted media, trusted friends, and that becomes the way they view the world.”

The internet poses more threats than just an overload of information, according to Allenby. The idea of free speech has shifted since the rise of social media. Now, the average person speaks out on social media if they want their voice heard. 

“If you want to know where speech is today — it’s in the discussions about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Because, if you can’t get on social media, you can scream all you want in your yard, nobody’s going to hear you. The way you get heard is you get on social media,” Allenby said. “So, when Twitter kicks you off Twitter, that’s a big deal — not because you care so much about Twitter, but because now you no longer have speech in today’s media environment.”

With this shift in public discussion, the regulation of ideas and public discussion has shifted, too. Allenby believes it is something to worry about. 

“A lot of people are arguing about freedom of speech in terms of, ‘Should people be allowed to promulgate clearly dangerous conspiracy theories that might encourage violence?’ That kind of argument (is one) we are having at a national level, but we’re not asking whether or not free speech as a government concept even exists anymore,” Allenby said. “Our entire idea of free speech has gone from being something that the government assures us is protected, as far as the government goes, to being a matter of the terms and conditions of social media companies. Free speech has been privatized, and nobody really notices.”

This series is funded by the David and Joan Lincoln Family Fund for Applied Ethics.

Heritage Lecture Series to screen 1923 film of community pageant


As Chautauqua Institution jitterbugged into the Roaring Twenties, Women’s Club President Anna Pennybacker was repulsed by the “vulgar amusements” of the community during Independence Day celebrations. So she set out to make a new one. 

“There were a variety of different things, (like) pole climbing and fat man races. She thought (the holiday) should be some dignified commemoration of the Declaration of Independence,” said Jon Schmitz, Institution archivist and historian. “(Pennybacker was) unhappy with the way that the Fourth of July was being observed and instead suggested that they celebrate a Citizen’s Day.”

In 1923, Pennybacker, the Institution, and the community hosted Chautauqua’s first Independence Day Citizen’s Pageant. Schmitz will present a recording of this celebration at 3:30 p.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 14, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

The pageant was a series of reenactments of American history. The script and score was written by Albion Fellows Bacon, and the New York Symphony performed.  

“They got together a bunch of people from the grounds who would play the various roles (in) vignettes from American history, illustrating what was important, the value of American citizenship and so forth,” Schmitz said. “The trouble was that the more vulgar amusements that she wanted to replace (continued) as well, so it wasn’t that much of a success.”

Nonetheless, this pageant was recorded and 50,000 copies of the script and score were distributed nationally; Schmitz estimates that 500 communities replicated it on their own. 

Pennybacker’s image of a Citizen’s Day was not originally based around a pageant.

“She suggested that those who would be voting for the first time — as women, or as immigrants — would gather and then be processed to some public domain like the town courthouse or something and they would have people talk about citizenship and then they would all take the allegiance,” Schmitz said. “Many communities actually did that.” 

Schmtiz noted that the film shows how the pageant addressed the issues.

“(The film) is also of interest because there’s such great attention paid to immigration, and immigration was pretty much the number one issue at this time — between 1921 and 1924. There had been great concern over immigration with debate over immigration at Chautauqua, but also more importantly throughout the country,” Schmitz said.

There was a fear of mass immigration into the United States following the First World War, so Congress enacted legislation to limit immigration through literacy tests and strict criteria. This legislation included the Emergency Quota Act in 1921 and the Immigration Act in 1924

“I hope (the audience) enjoy (the film), and I hope that they have a clearer view of what Chautauqua was like in the early 1900s, and how people were viewing immigration,” Schmitz said.

This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

Lincoln Institute president George McCarthy to speak on racism in land policy


In 1933, the Home Owners Loan Act allocated emergency financial relief to homeowners struggling through the Great Depression. But this legislation led to nearly a century of racist consequences — and George “Mac” McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, fears that the United States will suffer through the same series of events again.


At 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 12, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform — as part of the African American Heritage House lecture series — McCarthy will present a lecture detailing the ways in which this act and the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation failed minority communities for generations, and how the United States is risking the same mistake again. 

“The designers of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation actually went out to the different cities in the United States and they met with real estate and banking professionals. They mapped the cities and created the secret maps in which they were deciding where they would offer refunds, refinanced mortgages, and where they wouldn’t,” McCarthy said. “Basically, it was plainly stated in the way they were doing this that areas with high densities of minorities or immigrants were going to be designated as hazardous areas.” 

These redlining maps were uncovered in the 1970s in the National Archives. In the time since, people have been able to map the long-term consequences of this secret black-listing. 

“If you look at those maps, what happened in the neighborhood that they decided were hazardous for lending (in) the 1930s until the present is eerie,” McCarthy said. “Basically, almost every indicator of success or quality of life that one would have is markedly different in those areas. Every other (plan or decision made) after the Great Depression (happened) in ways that continue to disadvantage those neighborhoods.”

McCarthy noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the globe this spring, the United States has fallen into financial recession. The Great Recession of last decade, while not directly resulting in redlining, disproportionately harmed minority communities. He hopes that by bringing attention to this history, people can urge elected representatives to provide financial relief in equitable ways. 

“If we’re going to find trillions of dollars to try to stimulate this economy, let’s do it right this time,” McCarthy said. “In the Great Recession, while we bailed out … all the big banks and the car companies, we let Hispanics lose two-thirds of their wealth. Two-thirds of their wealth was lost in four years. And 53% of the wealth of African-American households was lost in four years during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2012. And if you’re white, the wealth fell by 16%, and then it was made up really quickly afterwards — but it hasn’t recovered for African Americans and Latinos.”

The presentation will feature one region in particular: the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

“Over the course of 90 years, that neighborhood has been kind of the target of what one could only describe as race warfare,” McCarthy said. “First, they deny access to financing, so people can’t keep their homes. Then they used urban renewal and eminent domain to take away a big chunk of the neighborhoods so they could build Interstate 94 right smack through the middle of it. Then they locate newly built affordable housing all around it.”

McCarthy noted that by putting affordable housing in these neighborhoods, the government was keeping children from low-income families away from well-funded public schools, among other public services. 

“Then you look at the current statistics that describe the (gauges of quality of life) — like life expectancy, wealth, income, those kinds of things — right there in St. Paul, Minnesota, the life expectancy in the neighborhood that was designated in 1933 as hazardous is 10 years shorter on average than life expectancy in a neighborhood a mile away that was considered to be one of the nicest neighborhoods in America.”

Minneapolis has made headlines in recent months after the police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd — but McCarthy said that the police are just one entity in the city that should atone for racism. 

“It’s easy to get upset when you see something as horrifying as the murder of George Floyd. But it’s much harder to think about how you remedy 90-plus years of basically direct assault on people because of the color of their skin,” McCarthy said. “It’s not just the actions of the police that need to be addressed, it’s actually 90 — if you go back to the Civil War it’s 150 — years (of) constant assault and … an unbalancing of the scales of justice that we have built into our own public policy. Until we admit that, then we’re not really going to be able to understand the measures that we are going to need to take to kind of remedy that situation in a meaningful way.”

The presentation looks at McCarthy’s professional expertise: land policy. This largely unseen force is a major shaper of quality of life. It influences infrastructure, public health, sanitation systems, water access, public transportation, green spaces in urban areas, and a community’s ability to withstand natural disasters. 

McCarthy said that fixing issues of inequality in these areas can be difficult. It cannot be fixed by a simple band-aid: sometimes complete reconstruction is necessary.

“We built in all these explicitly racist policies or practices in our public policy, particularly in lending in housing policy. Then we decided that we were going to address it when people really realized just how unfair and unequal the treatment of (people of color), particularly African Americans was. We passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act in 1968, (and) the Community Reinvestment Act in 1976,” McCarthy said. “Every one of (these policies) was predicated as the same basic remedy to inequality — which was, ‘Now we’re going to make the opportunity equal.’ But you can’t make opportunity equal when you’ve unbalanced the playing field so far that giving somebody equal opportunity only then just maintains the difference.”

Heritage Lecture to welcome Gary Moore on ‘The History of Toilette Paper’

Gary Moore

Gary Moore has presented comical yet fascinating niche history lessons at Chautauqua Institution every summer since 2011. But this year, Moore’s lecture turned into an account of living history as the world lives through a near-dystopian era of scarcity in the wake of a pandemic. So, what is the topic?


Toilet paper. 

Or, more specifically “The History of Toilette Paper,” set to premiere at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 7, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as a part of the Heritage Lecture Series. Moore decided on this topic one year ago, with no idea that spring 2020 would be stricken with a nationwide toilet paper shortage, sparked by mass panic-buying of household essentials as the near future was uncertain. Moore used this tidbit as a new, timely segment in his presentation. 

“Basically, I had two parts to the presentation,” Moore said. “One was the history of toilet paper, and the second part was alternatives to toilet paper, and what people have used for centuries. (Now) I have a third (part) for the toilet paper shortage.”

Moore’s relationship with the Institution began in 2011, when he presented on the history of the outhouse. A mutual friend of Institution archivist Jon Schmitz and Moore suggested this presentation for a week on global health, since Moore already had a presentation on the subject from his days as an agriculture professor at North Carolina State University

“The reason I have such a lecture is — before I retired from North Carolina State University, I taught a course on the history of agriculture. In that course, we would talk about various government programs in agriculture,” Moore said. “During the Great Depression, there were a whole bunch of programs that were enacted. … There was a program where the Works Progress Administration built outhouses. It put people to work and it improved rural health.”

The lecture was a hit. Moore has presented it at the Institution, and other regional Chautauquas, several times in the years following. 

“What happens when I give the outhouse presentation — and I give it quite often — people ask me about toilet paper. ‘What did they use in the outhouse for toilet paper?’,” Moore said. “So I (told Schmitz last summer) I would like to do a presentation about toilet paper. We did not know at that time how timely this topic was going to be.”

With this presentation, Moore hopes to educate people while also inspiring them to laugh at the absurdity of life. 

“I have two objectives. One is to educate people — part of my job as an educator (is that) I want them to realize we’re in a third toilet paper shortage (and) history tends to repeat itself,” Moore said. “Then, in this time of crisis, (I want people) to laugh (and) realize life is too short to take seriously. I want to educate people, but also entertain.”

Along with his lectures, Moore writes a blog called “The Friday Footnote,” for agriculture educators across the country. In researching for his blog, he said he will fall down rabbit holes and stories that fascinate him and inspire him to write a corresponding lecture. Most recently, his blog research has inspired him to work on lectures about the Rural Electrical Administration bringing electricity to rural and farming America during the Great Depression, and the Soil Conservation Service’s work in the Dust Bowl. 

Moore said he continues these lectures, especially at the Institution, because teaching is his ultimate passion. 

“I enjoy teaching. I was a university professor for 47 years. I just really love to teach and this is an opportunity to teach,” Moore said. “I enjoy interacting with the people and the atmosphere of Chautauqua is great. I do speak at other Chautauquas, and each one has its own unique personality.”

This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

Former Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen to speak on racism in public school system


Meria Carstarphen experienced first-hand as a Black student how the American public education system exacerbates systemic racism in the classroom. This is why she has dedicated her career as an educator to serving the children who are — like she was years ago — an afterthought in the education system.


“I was in high school into the late ‘80s. I went to school (in Selma, Alabama) through a tracking system where once you were in — often based on socioeconomics and race — honors classes, you had access to rigor and education,” Carstarphen said. “Basically … it was who you were, not what you knew, that might give you access to those opportunities. Growing up in public education, I was always one of less than a handful of Black kids in any of my classes.”

Carstarphen returned to her hometown to teach middle school Spanish and documentary photography and saw the same systems of oppression shaping the next generation. She wanted to make a bigger difference — so, she went to Harvard for a doctorate specializing in superintendency. With this, she served in three capital cities across the nation — St. Paul, Austin, and most recently Atlanta. 

“I believe public schools are the canary in the coal mine. If you use your public school system, which is the gateway for anybody to get educated, to have a mind that thinks for itself, and can make decisions for itself — if you’re not doing that for everyone who walks through a schoolhouse gate, then you are literally undermining the very democracy we’re trying to preserve.”

“Before, (education inequality) was driven by laws and rules and social behavior — but today, (education inequality) is driven by housing patterns and socioeconomics. Those systems separate kids,” Carstarphen said. “You, (a student), can go to school your entire public education career and never … from pre-K to 12th grade (go to school) with a white person in the building.”

The solution to this isn’t a simple Band-Aid. Carstarphen believes that the best approach to reforming education is to reconstruct it from its base. 

At 3:30 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Aug. 5 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Carstarphen will present “The New Reconstruction: Transforming Education for the 21st Century,” the Week Six lecture in the African American Heritage House lecture series

“I believe public schools are the canary in the coal mine. If you use your public school system, which is the gateway for anybody to get educated, to have a mind that thinks for itself, and can make decisions for itself — if you’re not doing that for everyone who walks through a schoolhouse gate, then you are literally undermining the very democracy we’re trying to preserve.”

In her experience as an educator, Carstarphen has solidified her belief that a fair education system that serves all students is essential to a democracy. She pulled much of her lecture’s argument from an 1866 essay by Frederick Douglass on Reconstruction. 

Reconstruction was a period of 12 years following the Civil War in which the United States had to rebuild a system that included 4 million formerly enslaved people into the fabric of society. Many positive changes came from this era, ncluding the establishment of Black institutions like Howard University. However, state legislatures in the South built an unwelcome system for Black people, writing “Black codes” that restricted the labor and behavior of freed slaves. 

Carstarphen found that during this era, narrow expectations and practices for education were established that still exist, in one way or another, in 2020. 

“The idea of Reconstruction … is a great vision, but what is missing is a process that was inclusive in the first place — a process that gave those very people who were marginalized and enslaved real agency in shaping the society that they were trying to build, so someone else built it for you,” Carstarphen said. “The people who had the power, the control, the voice, driving Reconstruction — the white elite — are the very same people who had all the power, the control, the voice before Reconstruction. It’s only natural that (this) exclusive process reproduces exclusive power structures, which is why we struggle today.”

Systemic racism exists all around American cities — not just in the classroom. Carstarphen saw first-hand in her time as an educator that certain neighborhoods and communities were invested in while others were not. Oftentimes, the neighborhoods that were left in the dust were overwhelmingly Black. 

“You can go back and see how the vestiges of past behavior still are implemented today — but it’s a new kind of (repression). You see where massive tax breaks are given for development in the hottest areas of a city. Cities give the tax breaks, and they often take from public schools (or other services) to do that,” Carstarphen said. “You’ll never see them go down and develop a Black community. Like in food deserts, quality housing, health care and clinics — those (investments) don’t exist in the neighborhoods where our kids go to school.” 

Not only does this put certain communities at a disadvantage materially, Carstarphen believes that it puts a strain on a child’s psyche. 

“What (the kids) experience is a reinforced message that you will not be invested in, that we do not care if you get food or health care,” Carstarphen said.

Carstarphen argues that the solution is in a complete reconstruction of the education system, including a change in culture. 

“If you don’t change the culture — (the culture will) eat your strategy for breakfast every day. That’s exactly what happened in Reconstruction. Not too long (after slavery) the very people who created the systems (of slavery) were building the new system. So, they just made it so that Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the Ku Klux Klan were allowed to exist,” Carstarphen said. “You can’t go from Civil War to civil rights to now civil unrest. At some point, you have to actually say, ‘We have to come together as a collective spirit to not just change the laws, practices, and social behaviors,’ … and then commit to a new way of behaving.”

Carstarphen is familiar with educational culture change. In 2014, Atlanta Public Schools welcomed Carstarphen on the heels of one of the largest cheating scandals in public school history, where a number of teachers were caught modifying their students’ scores on standardized tests. In the following years, a number of teachers, testing coordinators, and administrators were arrested and convicted for racketeering

“To me, this isn’t just systemic. This was done at the hands of Black people, too. It’s not all racism — some of it is racism, some of it is systemic racism — but some of that was done by the hands and the behavior of the very people who look like the children we’re trying to help the most,” Carstarphen said. “Enacting a culture change is essential.”

When Carstarphen began her role at APS, she worked to eradicate the existing culture that stressed the importance of high-stakes testing. She then created an environment that stressed the wellbeing of the students in her district — all 50,000 of them. Her first graduating class, the class of 2015, had a graduation rate of 71.5%, which was 12 percentage points higher than the previous year. In the years following, the graduation rate hit 79.9% — a historic high for the district. 

In September 2019, the Atlanta Board of Education voted to not extend Carstarphen’s contract, which expired June 30, 2020. Carstarphen spent her final year at the district helping her students and 6,000 employees through the pandemic-induced shift online. Here, Carstarphen learned more about how disparities in technology and internet-access exacerbate the class issues that already existed. 

“I can name 10,000 kids who don’t have technology … (or) don’t have access to the internet. It’s a new barrier that no one is addressing. To me, (internet access) is as important as water these days,” Carstarphen said. “When you go and get … a home, you don’t put up the pole and the wire for electricity. The sewage is already laid in the street with a thing that goes into your house — you don’t go dig the ditch and install.”

Carstarphen said that she was excited to share these ideas of educational reconstruction for the CHQ Assembly. As a superintendent, having abstract conversations about educational systems was a difficult thing to do. 

“I’ve been in urban education for 15 years or so, and you don’t ever get to do this kind of reflection or these kinds of talks. Most people want to just hear about what we should do, should we volunteer at our school,” Carstarphen said. “I like to have a thought partnership with people who really care, and believe in this kind of discourse. But, in a respectful way, you don’t see that in our country anymore.”

Institution archives assistant to present on local women in suffrage movement

Emalee Krulish

Emálee Krulish has always been interested in studying the little guy — or the little gal. 

As the archives assistant at the Chautauqua Institution Oliver Archives Center, Krulish has worked to shed a light on how regular folks helped shape history, not just the leaders, celebrities, and elected officials that fill history textbooks. 

Since the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York in 2017, this meant studying how the women of Chautauqua County maintained the suffrage movement after major figures like Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B. Anthony planted this philosophical seed during their visits. 

Krulish poured this research into the Chautauqua Magazine article “Chautauqua: ‘The Loving Friend’ to the Women’s Rights Movement.” And at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 31, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Krulish will present on this research further in a Heritage Lecture Series presentation titled “Women Who Do Things.”

One of the goals in this research was to “name drop” as many local women as possible, and to give credit where it was due. Krulish noted that it wasn’t entirely the Institution leadership, or the nationally recognized suffragists, that kept the movement afloat in the region. 

“I’m hoping what everyone takes away from this is that … the women’s political equality movement was bigger than its leaders. It was the little people who made it happen,” Krulish said. 

In her article, Krulish addresses the many female-driven organizations founded in the era, like the Suffrage Club, Suffrage Association, Equal Rights Association, and the Chautauqua Women’s Club — which still operates in 2020. This passion from locals inspired the Institution’s first Women’s Day in 1891, which welcomed nationally recognized suffragists and discussions about women’s rights. Institution officials saw success and dubbed this celebration the “best and biggest day” in its 17-year history.

Krulish will also do some “myth-busting” in her lecture in regards to many widely held misconceptions about women and the Institution. In particular, Krulish wants to dispel the myth that temperance advocate Frances Willard was the first woman to speak at the Institution, and that no women were permitted on the platform beforehand. 

“The big thing is myth-busting. That’s how I open up (the presentation)  — there’s all sorts of myths about Chautauqua,” Krulish said. “I’ve heard and I’ve read in publications that Chautauqua did not allow women on the platform, and especially did not allow women’s politics on the platform — which is not true. The takeaway is that women were always on the platform.”

The misconception that women were barred from the platform before Willard may have come from the knowledge that Institution co-founder John Heyl Vincent opposed women’s suffrage; however, that is just Krulish’s theory. In her research, Krulish found several women who spoke in the years leading up to Willard’s presentation. 

While it is hard to track down the origin of this story, Krulish said she understands why it was easily spread. 

“That’s the reason myths are proliferated over the years, because people (think) there is no reason not to believe it. It seems practical, it seems like it could’ve happened,” Krulish said. “Especially (the story of) Frances Willard — that sounds great that she was the first woman. But if you look at (just) that weekend, she shared the platform with a number of other women.”

Another major misconception is that suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton visited the Institution to speak on suffrage. While it is likely that Stanton visited the county, Krulish found no documentation that she had ever held the stage. Krulish credits misinformation like this to the discrepancies between planning and execution.

Krulish pointed to one tidbit she came across in her research, while reviewing Vincent’s journals. Every entry included his personal account and a newspaper clipping from the day. One clipping was the announcement of a reception welcoming several nationally recognized suffragettes, but Vincent had crossed out the name of one. 

With no context in existing articles or the diary, Krulish had to ask herself — did this suffragist attend? What happened between the announcement and the banquet that did not get reported on or recorded elsewhere?

“It’s important for us as readers and learners to think for ourselves and not just accept what’s handed to us,” Krulish said. “So, (we should) always have a questioning mind and look into the most enticing bits of information. We (should) question it for ourselves (and) look into it further — no matter who it is.”

Krulish said she hopes to inspire the audience to dig deeper when studying a topic, and to take into account all sources — from first-hand accounts to newspaper reports. 

“I find historical inaccuracy to be frustrating. I find myself watching documentaries and I’m like, ‘That’s wrong,’” Krulish said. “It’s very frustrating to be somebody who cares, … because now this information is being widespread to people and they digest it, and that’s how history gets written.”

This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

Fantasy melds with nonfiction in Joseph Earl Thomas’ Janus Prize-winning ‘Reality Marble’

Joseph Earl Thomas

For 10 years, Joseph Earl Thomas has been working on his memoir.


Though yet unpublished, Reality Marble begins with a scene from Thomas’ early childhood — in it, he’s scribbling drawings of sea monsters, shipwrecks and deserted islands onto a black notebook that he hides under an Easy Bake Oven.

In Reality Marble, the young Thomas is named “Joey,” and eventually his sketches of maritime mishaps morph into stories, which are themselves refracted through a lens of beautiful, lyrical prose.

Thomas writes: “A survivor might stand there in a yellow raincoat, weeping under acidic droplets falling from a dark sky, shaded by Joey’s god-like thumbs and the side of a sharp pencil. Starving, the survivor would watch sea creatures gorge themselves on the ocean’s bounty. A sea monster would drag an orca from the water, sometimes a baby, and slam its body, brain first on the rocky shore over and over again.”

“The book has a lot to do with the relationship between fantasy and nonfiction, or some people would say, fantasy and subjectivity,” said Thomas, an author, Fulbright Fellow, Ph.D. student and the 2020 winner of the Chautauqua Janus Prize. “I had to write through that problem or conundrum. And wrapped in that is the narrative that has a lot of these other things that we deal with — violence, sex and race.”

Thomas said he’s very interested in “how we might think about, and then work through thinking about, those ideas as a kind of relationship between fantasy and nonfiction.”

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 31, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Thomas and Reality Marble will be featured with a virtual celebration and presentation, in recognition of being awarded the third-ever Janus Prize — an award that honors an emerging writer’s single work of short fiction or nonfiction for “daring formal and aesthetic innovations that upset and reorder literary conventions, historical narratives and readers’ imaginations.” The prize is funded by a donation from Barbara and Twig Branch. Thomas’ work was selected from 16 finalists by guest judge Hilary Plum. 

“The book takes very seriously my own kind of subjectivity as a child, but observes it from a third-person perspective,” he said. “So I’m writing about myself as another person in order to make clear this shift that has happened — a shift that one can’t return to, really.”

When writing Reality Marble, Thomas said one of the most important techniques he used was making sure to “get out of (his) own way.”

“I needed to back away from the hyperintellectual standpoint that I might use to approach things  now, as a graduate student with a college degree,” he said. “Instead, I had to think back to what these experiences were when they happened and how they happened, and to kind of value them in and of themselves before using my adult self to intervene.”

Thomas said he was “surprised and overjoyed” to learn that he won the Janus Prize.

“I try not to get too ahead of myself,” he said. “Like a lot of writers, all of the work that you do when everybody is like, ‘whatever,’ about it, will eventually start to become part of a broader conversation.”

Johns Hopkins University professor of history Martha Jones to talk on Black women’s fight for suffrage


“Once upon a time, African-American history and American history were studied in two seperate stories,” said Martha Jones, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University.


But Jones has learned in her time as a scholar that African-American history is American history. 

As an author and educator, Jones has approached the major questions and moments of American history in the shoes of Black people living in that time. In much of her research and writing, this history was looking at voting rights, constitutional amendments, and what it meant to be a citizen of the United States. 

Jones’ lecture, “Vanguard: 200 Years of Black Women at the Front of Voting Rights,” Week Five’s presentation in the African American Heritage House lecture series, will premiere on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform at 4 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 30, without a live Q-and-A. A severe thunderstorm and power outage postponed this premiere from July 29. 

This lecture is in the spirit of her book, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, which is set for release on Sept. 8, 2020. The book, and the presentation, explores Black women’s efforts toward suffrage as they fought both racism and sexism. Jones began this research as an academic curiosity — but the more she reflected, the personal this story became. 

“When I began to be curious about voting rights in African-American women, I realized that I didn’t know the stories of the women in my own family. So, partly I headed to do the research wanting to fill in some blanks (in my family’s history) because I didn’t know where my grandmother, or my great-grandmother had been (in society) in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified,” Jones said. “So, in some ways, my work has oftentimes been inspired by questions that I have in my own family. Unfortunately, because they are no longer there to tell those stories, I had to use my historian tools in order to try and recover them.”

The history spans generations, as the books cover two centuries of Black women’s political activism as it relates to suffrage. Jones said she hopes that her lecture can help the audience trace how historical events impact current political representation. 

“The African-American women in the 21st century politics who we easily can identify or recognize — whether it’s in Congress, Kamala Harris, Val Demings, or Ayanna Pressley (or) leaders of political culture (like) Michelle Obama or Stacey Abrams — I really hope that my lecture helps us appreciate the history from which these women have emerged,” Jones said. “These are not women who are direct descendents of the politics of the Women’s Suffrage Association, or the activism of Alice Paul or Carrie Chapman Catt. Instead, they are inheritors of a distinct political tradition forged by Black women over two centuries.”

While the country has gone from withholding women’s right to vote to having Black women in high-ranking electected positions, other things are still in dire need of reform. Jones pointed to voter suppression as a prime example. 

“It’s to say that, as was true in the early 19th century, when Black Americans are kept away from the polls by law in many states, state laws appear to conflict even with the spirit of the U.S. Constitution,” Jones said. “We find ourselves in 2020 asking: What is the obligation of the state to fulfill the spirit of the Constitution that was intended to clear the way, make a way, open the pool — to women, to Black Americans, to put racism and sexism to the side in American politics?”

Earlier this summer, Shannon Rozner, Chautauqua Institution chief of staff and vice president of strategic initiatives, described the 2020 season as an informal voting guide for the upcoming election. Each week pertains to issues that many Americans are concerned with: climate change, ethics of technology, and public education to name a few. 

Jones said that the history of Black women and the fight for suffrage is a cautionary tale that parallels many current issues in the United States, including voter suppression. 

“We know that voter suppression disproportionately affects communities of color, working people, and women,” she said. “The urgency of that is not new, but it is profoundly urgent and I hope that some talks and discussion and reflections in these weeks will help us press lawmakers, policymakers, local officials, to ensure that every American who is entitled to vote, has the opportunity to cast their ballot in November.”

The presentation will also touch on a Chautauquan connection that Jones found in her research. Many of the women she studied were trained elocutionists who used their education for public speaking, including the daughter Chautauquas that spread across the country in the late 19th and early 20th century. Jones focuses in particular on Hallie Quinn Brown, a student turned speaker who went on to become an educator, organizer, and suffragist that headed the largest Black women’s political organization in the country: the National Association of Colored Women.

Women’s rights, equality topic of NY Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s talk


In his concluding remarks to the CHQ Assembly on Friday morning, July 24, Harvard University political philosophy professor Michael J. Sandel spoke about “the need to find our way to the politics of the common good.”


At 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 28, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul — a recipient of the 2020 Harriet Tubman Freedom Award — will address essential components of the common good: women’s equality and genuine equality.

Her talk is titled “Equal Rights Now: The Fight for Equality 100 Years Later.” As part of the Contemporary Issues Forum lecture series, it is sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club.

Hochul serves as the highest-ranking female elected official in the state, and among many other responsibilities, the chair of New York’s Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. For more than three years, she has been overseeing the programs and events celebrating ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — by New York in November 1917, and the United States in 1920.

This hard-earned, 28-word Constitutional amendment asserts as follows: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

For Hochul, her CIF talk is an “opportunity to draw a connection between the early Suffragette Movement that we’re celebrating this year, in particular because it’s the 100th anniversary of women securing the right to vote nationwide, and to talk about those challenges, the people, the barriers they had to overcome. And to bring that up to the present, 2020, and the societal movements that are being undertaken and fought in real time.”

“Before this year, I would not have been able to write the same speech,” she continued.

In August 2017, when she delivered her speech, “Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years in New York State,” as part of Chautauqua Institution’s Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, Hochul said she focused on “the early Suffragettes and what they overcame, and how society … rebelled against the idea that women should have the right to vote. It took 70 years of fighting after the seminal 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. So I had a different perspective just three short years ago.”

This summer, however, as she thought about what she wanted to share with Chautauquans, she said she “realized that (she) would be absolutely remiss to not talk about current events, and how what is occurring now is not unlike the women’s rights movement, but is still unfinished business. And it’s still a recognition that a conference of certain rights — such as the right to vote 100 years ago for women and guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act of 1968 for African Americans — those do not confer true equalities.”

Hochul said she will discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and the state of women in general, including economic and employment effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, political influence, and representation in Albany and Washington, D.C.

A Buffalo native and resident, Hochul earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Syracuse University and her law degree at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation, she worked in a D.C. law firm, and then as legal counsel–legislative assistant for Congressman John LaFalce (Buffalo) and U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (NY).

An elected member of the Hamburg (NY) Town Board from 1994 to 2007, Hochul was appointed Erie County (NY) Deputy Town Clerk in 2003. She was appointed, and soon elected, Erie County Clerk in 2007.

Four years later, she won the special election for New York’s 26th Congressional District. As a member of Congress, Hochul served on both the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, and traveled with a bipartisan, all-women delegation to war-torn Afghanistan.

In 2014 and again in 2018, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo named Hochul as his choice for lieutenant governor. After she won her Democratic primary elections and Cuomo won his, together as a ticket they won both general elections.

According to Hochul, while serving as lieutenant governor she has “championed the ‘Enough is Enough’ law to prevent sexual assault on college campuses, spearheaded the state’s Paid Family Leave program, and is continuing to work to eliminate the gender wage gap, expand access to affordable child care, and combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace and beyond.”

In addition, she has led the Cuomo administration’s state-wide economic development and job creation initiatives, advocating daily “for policies that help all New Yorkers make ends meet.”

Reflecting on her CIF talk, Hochul said, “(women) represent 52 percent of the population. Would the early Suffragettes be satisfied with where we are 100 years later?”

In other words, with respect to women’s rights and true equality, have Americans found their way to the politics of the common good?

Carnegie Mellon University professor David Danks to speak on predictive policing, cultural algorithmic biases


Algorithms are everywhere — from finances, to the workplace, to policing. And where there is an algorithm, David Danks said there is likely to be an unintended cultural bias.


“In my experience, almost nobody who’s building or using technology wants to be unethical. Nobody thinks, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna build something that’s racist.’ What people think is, ‘I’m gonna build this thing that’s going to help people,’” said Danks, L.L. Thurstone Professor of Philosophy and Psychology and head of the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University. “The biggest ethical challenge we have is that many people who develop and deploy these systems have very narrow understandings of what it is to help other people.”

At 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 22, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Danks will present Week Four’s African American Heritage House lecture, “Fixing the Cultural Biases in Algorithms.” In this presentation, Danks will explain what algorithmic bias is and where it comes from. 

Algorithms in many ways reflect the data that they are provided. So, if the data are from historically systematically biased communities and practices, the algorithm will learn to reflect that,” Danks said.

Danks pointed to predictive policing as one example. This is a system where AI compiles recorded data to point out crime hotspots and potential criminals in an effort to allocate police force to prevent crime in the first place. However, when historical data is based on racist and biased practices, law enforcement disproportionately polices communities populated by people of color

Many have compared predictive policing programming to the practice of “broken window” policing. This is a practice, often used in the 1980s, where law enforcement heavily policed neighborhoods that appeared to have more crime by cracking down on lower-level offenses to deter more serious crime. As a result, people of color were excessively targeted and the practice has since been seen as a failure. 

“Algorithms in many ways reflect the data that they are provided. So, if the data are from historically systematically biased communities and practices, the algorithm will learn to reflect that,” Danks said.

Danks began noticing these issues about a decade ago. While people flocked to the development of cutting-edge AI, Danks started to notice ethical dilemmas. 

“There were a lot of people who wanted to talk about the technology. They wanted to talk about the ones and zeros,” Danks said. “It seemed to me that we were losing sight of what really should be at the heart of these discussions — which is people. How are people helped? How are people harmed? How do we ensure that technology serves us rather than the other way around?”

At Carnegie Mellon, Danks’ work falls at the intersection of philosophy, cognitive science, and machine learning. This research is always conducted with the people affected by tech in mind. 

“The big-picture goal is (to have) people produce and be able to use technology to advance the values that are important to them. By that, I mean all people — not just the privileged technological ‘haves,’” Danks said. “The more immediate goal is to have people who produce technology be aware and deliberate about the choices they make in terms of the ethical and societal impacts that they have.”

Before his 3:30 p.m. EDT presentation, Danks will participate in a panel on ethics and technology with two other Carnegie Mellon University-affiliated academics, Illah Nourbakhsh and Jennifer Keating, at 10:45 a.m. EDT the same day on CHQ Assembly.

The beauty in nature, the beauty in music: Friesen to present musical Interfaith lecture using his cello


There’s the rosewood scroll, the strings, the bridge, the tailpiece and the bow. It all comes together to form a cello, a vehicle through which a person can create music and harmony.


But for renowned cellist Eugene Friesen, the instrument is also a vehicle for expressing love — in his case, love for nature.

“The music that I make is really inspired by the time I spend alone, outside, especially in the woods here in New England and in the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River,” said Friesen, a composer, conductor, teacher and four-time Grammy Award-winner. “I’ve been with the whales in Baja, California, I’ve been to Siberia and Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. These experiences are inspirational and transformational.”

Friesen’s experiences outdoors are “a kind of nature mysticism” that directly informs his music-writing process. 

“At its best, the music really comes from those experiences,” he said. “It’s not stuff that I make or workshop, it’s stuff that just appears, pretty much fully formed.”

At 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 15, Friesen will present his lecture, “The Beauty We Love,” on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of Week Three’s theme for the Interfaith Lecture Series: “Art: A Glimpse into the Divine.”  

The importance of nature in creating art is something Friesen champions as being essential for young musicians today.

“It’s become more difficult — I’m not even talking about the pandemic. I’m talking about being able to get out of the city and into nature that’s really pristine,” he said. “When we think about some of the greatest works of art that we revere the most, many of them are either describing nature, or making metaphors from nature.”

According to Friesen, a whole generation of inner-city kids will not understand the “musical language” that nature provides.

And equally important, Friesen said, is the need for orchestral musicians who are classically trained to nourish their creativity.

“And nourish not only our performance abilities, but also our improving abilities,” he said. “I like to say that it’s not what we play, it’s why we play. Those experiences in nature and the values we have from our spiritual lives as well as our families — these are the things that should shape the sounds we make.”

Friesen said his lecture will consist of a musical program made up of his original compositions.

And though the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted Friesen’s busy schedule of touring and performances with the Paul Winter Consort, he said it’s been “incredible” to be stuck at home for these last months.

“I’ve been able to really go deep into my studies, as well as into my own music,” he said. “I wake up every day really enthused about working on the music, because I never really know what’s going to come out.”

This program is made possible by the Lois Raynow Department of Religion Fund.

Annual Buffalo Day Panel to welcome Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist, more

Buffalo Day
Swan-Kilpatrick, Crockatt, Lin-Hill, Murphy, Zyglis

Eleven years ago, Dennis Galucki was struck by the idea of a city where the aesthetic values of Chautauqua Institution existed not just nine weeks a year, but all 52. Galucki attached this idea to his Western New York hometown, which he felt uniquely embodied these values when he established the Institution’s annual Buffalo Day. But as years have passed, Galucki has come to believe that Buffalo Day shouldn’t stop at Buffalo.

“I hope others do explore that connection (of bringing Institution values elsewhere). Why not have an Atlanta Day at Chautauqua? In a digital age, why not think that way?” Galucki said. “It’s not about everybody from Atlanta or San Francisco going to Chautauqua that day — it’s about highlighting a connection (of values), and nurturing it back in your hometown.”

Galucki hopes to inspire Chautauquans to consider these ideas at 12:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 14, on the Virtual Porch in a Buffalo Day panel discussion titled “The Sacred Nature of Art & Democracy: Exploring Life’s Aesthetic Values – Beauty, Truth, Goodness, & Justice.” The panel will be moderated by Galucki and Emily Morris, Institution vice president of marketing and communications.

The panel will feature Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy; Joe Lin-Hill, deputy director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Michael G. Murphy, the president of Shea’s Performing Art Center; and Adam Zyglis, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist at The Buffalo News.

The week’s theme of “Art and Democracy” spoke to Galucki. He first started to recognize the similarities of Buffalo and Chautauqua through art and architecture in Buffalo. When looking at historical landmarks, Galucki found that they spoke of pillars and values that defined Buffalo at the time of their construction: art, architecture, history and nature

These four values reminded Galucki of the Institution’s four pillars: arts, education, religion, and recreation. Just like Chautauqua, he saw Buffalo’s potential to foster life-long learning, and this sparked what he called the Buffalo-Chautauqua idea. This idea is further exemplified with the Institution’s theme for Week Three. 

“I can connect Buffalo really legitimately with this theme: ‘Art and Democracy,’” Galucki said. “After 11 years it was, in my mind, the best theme that came along to go ahead and do this.”

Galucki believes that this discussion on “Art and Democracy” also comes at an interesting time in history, because current social justice movements have inspired powerful works of public art. 

“Perhaps the most significant art this year is the three words ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Galucki said. “I could argue that the painting of that (phrase) in front of municipal buildings, including the White House, may be the most profound work of art in a long time.”

Galucki said that the panel’s message of justice — along with truth, goodness and beauty — can be relatable across the country. He hopes that the audience can connect to this panel’s message and inspire similar work in their own regions.

“Hopefully people are entertained and find the experience worth wanting to know more about Chautauqua if they are first-timers, or reinforcing their support of Chautauqua if they are folks that have been around,” Galucki said. “That should be why anybody speaks. Yeah, educational, informative, fine. But I would argue that it better be entertaining.”

This program is made possible by the Buffalo-Chautauqua Idea and Connection: Galucki Family Endowment Fund.

Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus to cover Brett Kavanaugh, conservative takeover in Robert H. Jackson Lecture


An American’s daily life is driven by forces unseen, but perhaps the strongest force is that of nine unelected individuals constantly shaping United States law.

“The things that keep public order, the things that protect individual property, the things that protect individual mobility, liberty, health, etc. — those are all systems that are in law. That’s all in the Supreme Court’s bucket. The Supreme Court is one of those grand forces, seen and unseen,” said John Barrett, professor of law at St. John’s University.

Barrett will return to Chautauqua for the 16th Annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States at 3:30 p.m. EDT Monday, July 6, on CHQ Assembly. Barrett is welcoming Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor at The Washington Post. Much of the discussion will spark from the research Marcus did for her 2019 book Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover.

Marcus has written about Supreme Court appointments since 1987, with President Ronald Reagan’s rejected attempt to appoint Robert Bork. In 1991, she covered the appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas, and the preceding hearings in which former employee Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Her experience covering Thomas and Hill informed her decision to investigate Kavanaugh in her new book.

“After Bork, I covered the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. And so when Kavanaugh was nominated, and when Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations arose, it seemed like the combination of the ideological stakes of the Bork battle and the issues of the Clarence Thomas hearings all rolled into one high-stakes nomination battle,” Marcus said. “So, it kind of felt like it was almost destiny for me to write the book.”

Marcus began her decades-long writing career at The Washington Post as an intern while attending Harvard Law School. She attended Harvard with the intention of returning to journalism after graduation, not to practice law. Marcus said it was her way of expanding her horizons and sharpening her way of thought.

While Marcus’ writing experience extends far beyond politics, Barrett invited her to deliver this year’s Jackson Lecture because of her expertise on the Supreme Court. Barrett said that the Robert H. Jackson Lecture has always sought to bring the nation’s top experts to the Institution, which aids the series’ recurring popularity. 

“Every year, there’s stuff that’s on the front burner that’s just happened, or is happening, at the Supreme Court,” Barrett said. “In a more enduring way, the Supreme Court has a big way of shaping all of our lives. For Chautauquans to have this opportunity to hear from, think and engage with a top Supreme Court expert is what the lecture is about.”

In the 2020 season, the lecture falls at the end of a Court term that brought rulings protecting scholarship access for students at religious schools, abortion rights, and codifying protections against workplace discriminations for LGBT people. This Court term, according to Marcus, would have interested Jackson himself. 

Jackson began his law education as an apprentice at a Jamestown law office outside of Chautauqua. Despite having never attended college, Jackson became a lawyer in 1913 and practiced law for two decades in the area. He moved to Washington D.C. and took on a series of government positions, including Attorney General for the United States during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. 

On July 11, 1941, Roosevelt nominated Jackson to the Supreme Court, and he was confirmed by the Senate the same day. During his time on the Supreme Court, he served as Chief United States Prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials. After 13 years as a Supreme Court Justice, Jackson died in 1954 at 62 years old.

“When he died, the eight surviving justices came for the funeral (in Jamestown). They all said, ‘We want to see Chautauqua, we’ve been hearing about it for years.’ Seeing Chautauqua is what the Jackson Lecture has actually accomplished in some very high-level places,” Barrett said.

Much like the surviving justices, Barrett said that many notable figures flock to the Institution because of Jackson, only now it is in the form of a lecture established in his name.

In week of Chautauqua sermons, the Rev. Traci DeVon Blackmon to focus attention on importance of story

Traci DeVon Blackmon
Traci DeVon Blackmon

A West African proverb sits at the top of the Rev. Traci DeVon Blackmon’s biographical profile on the United Church of Christ Website: “Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero.”

“During my week (of sermons), I will attempt to call attention to the importance of story,” said Blackmon, who is serving as the Week Two chaplain-in-residence on CHQ Assembly. “So much of Jesus’ recorded teachings were done through the reframing of narrative. Currently we are living in a time of social, political, and theological distortion of story. This distortion is amplified through various forms of media.”

Blackmon will preach Sunday, July 5, through Friday, July 10, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. On Sunday, July 5, her sermon will be broadcast during the 10:45 a.m. EDT Service of Worship and Sermon. The title for her sermon is “We, Too, Sing Of Freedom.” From Monday, July 6, through Friday, July 10, her sermons will be recorded and broadcast as part of a live 9:15 a.m. EDT morning devotional service. Her sermon titles include “Where Are The Dreamers,” on Monday, July 6; “Story Matters,” on Tuesday, July 7; “Faithful Without Fanfare,” on Wednesday, July 8; “In Defense Of The Ravens,” on Thursday, July 9; and “You Might As Well Throw The Rock” to close the week on Friday, July 10.

“I believe one of the marks of faithful discipleship is as keepers of the story,” she said. “At its core, this is the Bible as we know it, a compilation of sacred story. As people of faith, we are called to preserve a faithful narrative for our generation and generations to come.”

Blackmon is the Associate General Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri. At first ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Blackmon later became ordained in the United Church of Christ and was installed as the first woman pastor in the 162-year history of Christ The King. 

A registered nurse for over 25 years, Blackmon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham – Southern College, and a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary. Throughout her ministry, her work has focused on communal resistance to systemic injustice. Her response in Ferguson to the killing of Michael Brown resulted in national and international recognition; her work is now featured in several Ferguson Uprising documentaries.

Appointed to the Ferguson Commission by then-Governor Jay Nixon and to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House by President Barack Obama, Blackmon is a recipient of the NAACP Rosa Parks Award; The Urban League of St. Louis Woman in Leadership Award; and the National Planned Parenthood Faith Leader Award, among others.

Blackmon co-authored “White Privilege – Let’s Talk,” an adult education curriculum designed to invite members to engage in safe, meaningful, substantive and bold conversations on race for the United Church of Christ. She has toured the nation proclaiming the need for a moral revival in America with the likes of the Rev. William Barber of Moral Mondays and Repairer of the Breach and Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus.

Blackmon is listed as one of Ebony Magazine’s 2015 Power 100. She is a graduate of Leadership St. Louis and currently serves on the boards of The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Chicago Theological Seminary, and WomanPreach! She was named 2017 Citizen of the Year by The St. Louis American and as one of St. Louis’ 100 most influential voices.

This program is made possible by the Mr. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy and the Robert D. Campbell Memorial Chaplaincy Fund.

Braden Allenby to Discuss Representative Democracy in Lincoln Ethics Series


In relation to the Week Eight theme, “Shifting Global Power,” Braden Allenby will dive into the past and present of fulcrum points in the geopolitical world.

His lecture, “1788, 1938, and Today: Fulcrum Points in Geopolitical Evolution,” will be held at 12:30 p.m. Monday, August 12 in the Hall of Philosophy, as part of the Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. Allenby is the President’s Professor of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering and Law, and the Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, at Arizona State University.

Allenby will be discussing the changes that representative democracy is undergoing.

“We all know that representative democracy has been under attack,” Allenby said. “The latest testimony on (Robert) Mueller went back to the fact that the Russians in particular have been very effective in attacking representative democracy.”

Allenby said that more people should be questioning whether representative democracy is still effective; he said he will discuss the ways in which technological trends have altered the effectiveness of representative democracy.

“The underlying question of whether representative (democracy) remains the most effective form of government has not been asked,” Allenby said. “What I’m going to talk about is the probability that, in fact, the underlying technological trend, particularly in AI and information technology, significantly shifts the balance of effectiveness from representative democracy to soft authoritarianism.”

Allenby said he hopes Chautauquans will leave his lecture with a better understanding of the “deep challenges” of modern-day governance. He said such understanding also involves considering the roots of national challenges and that “by trying to work on some of those issues before they become crises, we may be able to save important parts of the American experiment.”

Allenby will also lead master classes this week in the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall; the classes are fully enrolled.

“(The classes) look in more detail at some of the sources of the challenges applied to case study and what AI, combined with other technologies, might be able to do as soon as 2020, and gives an idea of the kinds of challenges that are posed for fundamental democratic institutions like freedom of speech, checks and balances and others,” Allenby said.

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