Recordings of Convocations

Convocation: Gavin Wright

Created 30 September 2011; Published 14 October 2011

Gavin Wright, Stanford University professor of American economic history, is perhaps today's leading economic historian on the American South. Using the tools of economics to interpret historical developments, his research has looked at the history of slavery, the cotton economy, the California gold rush, and the origins of American technological preeminence. In recent years he has turned to the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s, interpreted as an economic phenomenon. Focusing on the American South, Wright asks whether the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s produced genuine economic advances for African-Americans, and whether these gains were broadly shared among low-income groups, rather than benefiting mainly the middle class. Wright also examines whether these gains came at the expense of whites, or as part of an economic restructuring that generally enhanced the wellbeing of most southerners. The title of his presentation was "The Civil Rights Revolution as Economic History: Who Gained? Who Lost?"

  • MP3 Audio (23.34 MB, 58:15, progressive download)

Other Items

  • Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson
    Created 30 March 2012; Published 10 April 2012
    Convocation: Jennifer Thompson

    In 1984, Jennifer Thompson was a 22-year-old college student with a 4.0 GPA and lofty goals for her future. Her path was dramatically altered however, when a man broke into her apartment, put a knife to her throat, and raped her. In that moment, her determination took an entirely different direction, as she focused all attention on memorizing the man's features. Searching for scars, tattoos, and any unique features that could help her identify him, she was certain that she could put him in prison for life. After a composite sketch, line-up identification, and trial, Jennifer Thompson's testimony and memory led to a life sentence for Ronald Cotton. Years later, Thompson was asked to provide a DNA sample for further analysis of the case. She agreed to the request, positive that her identification of Cotton would be held up by science. In an instant, her life changed yet again, when it was revealed that Ronald Cotton was not her rapist, and after spending 11 years in prison as an innocent man, he was released.

    In Picking Cotton, their New York Times best-selling and Soros Justice Media Fellowship award-winning book, which is being made into a movie, Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton reveal their unlikely story of friendship and forgiveness. Devastated by her mistake, Thompson became an activist, speaking out about her mistake, and working to protect the wrongfully convicted. Now a member of the Actual Innocence Commission, the advisory committee for Active Voices, the Constitution Project, and Mothers for Justice, she shares her powerful story of truth, justice, and redemption. The title of her presentation was "Picking Cotton."

  • Emily Hunter
    Created 24 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012
    Convocation: Emily Hunter

    Emily Hunter is an environmental advocacy journalist who reports from the frontlines of environmental issues and activist movements. Hunter’s 2011 book, The Next Eco-Warriors: 22 Young Women and Men Who Are Saving the Planet, is an insider’s look at the new wave of environmental activism, focusing on the stories of today's youth eco-activists. She makes absolutely clear that youth are out there in force, trying every creative tactic they can think of to safeguard the planet on which they will live out their lives.

    Hunter is no stranger to the activist world. She was literally born into the environmental movement, as her parents Robert and Bobbi Hunter were the co-founders of Greenpeace. She has sailed around the world on activist ships with Sea Shepherd helping to save animals and fighting against climate change with Today, her change making is with eco-journalism, informing and offering critical debate on the battle to save the planet. Hunter has hosted and co-produced three TV-documentaries, ranging from the Canadian Tar Sands to the Toronto G20 protests; she was one of the characters on the hit Animal Planet show Whale Wars; and she has done eco-reporting from protest frontlines at climate summits. Hunter reflects on the history and evolution of the environmental movement as a backdrop for examining where it is today and the emergence of a new generation of change-makers. The title of her presentation was "Revolutionizing the Revolution."

  • "High priest of the pasture," Joel Salatin
    Created 17 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012
    Convocation: Joel Salatin

    Joel Salatin is a self-described "environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer," or as the New York Times calls him, "the high priest of the pasture." Salatin and his family own and operate Polyface Farm, arguably the nation's most famous farm since it was profiled in Michael Pollan's bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma and two subsequent documentaries, Food, Inc., and Fresh. Differing from today's industrial commodity-based machine-driven farms, Polyface is a local, pasture-based, relationally oriented farm. Salatin's innovative farming system—where the animals live according to their "ness," the earth is used for symbiosis, and happiness and health is key—has gained attention from around the country. Recognition for his ecological and local-based farming advocacy includes an honorary doctorate, the Heinz Award, and many leadership awards. Salatin has also authored seven books on alternative farming and sustainability issues.

    While most Americans seem to think our techno-glitzy, disconnected, celebrity-worshipping culture will be the first to sail off into a Star Trek future unencumbered by ecological umbilicals, Salatin bets that the future will instead incorporate more tried-and-true realities from the past. Ours is the first culture with no chores for children, cheap energy, heavy mechanization, computers, supermarkets, TV dinners and unpronounceable food. Although he doesn't believe that we will return to horses and buggies, washboards, and hoop skirts, Salatin believes we will go back in order to go forward, using technology to re-establish historical normalcy. That normalcy will include edible landscapes, domestic larders, pastured livestock, solar driven carbon cycling for fertility, and a visceral relationship with life’s fundamentals: food, energy, water, air, soil, fabric, shelter. We may as well get started enthusiastically than be dragged reluctantly into this more normal existence. The title of Salatin's presentation was "Folks, This Ain't Normal."

  • Michelle Alexander
    Created 10 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012
    Convocation: Michelle Alexander

    Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar who currently holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Kirwan Institute, Professor Alexander was an Associate Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinic.

    Alexander challenges the conventional wisdom that, with the election of Barack Obama as president, our nation has “triumphed over race.” Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an astounding percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a permanent, second-class status, much like their grandparents before them who lived under an explicit system of racial control. Alexander argues that the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African American men, primarily through the War on Drugs, has created a new racial under caste—a group of people defined largely by race that is subject to legalized discrimination, scorn, and social exclusion. The old forms of discrimination—discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public benefits; denial of the right to vote; and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal once you’re labeled a felon. She challenges the civil rights community, and all of us, to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America. The title of her presentation was “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

  • Author and Park Ranger Shelton Johnson
    Created 3 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012
    Convocation: Shelton Johnson

    Shelton Johnson is the author of Gloryland, the fictional memoir of a buffalo soldier—a black U.S. cavalryman and the son of slaves—who finds true freedom when he is posted to patrol the newly created Yosemite National Park in 1903. Johnson is an advocate for bringing minorities, particularly African-Americans from the inner city, like himself, to the National Parks and connecting them to the natural world. He claims that "one of the great losses to African culture from slavery was the loss of kinship with the earth." Although he was born in Detroit and spent much of his childhood there, early on he briefly lived in Germany where his father was stationed in the Army. A family trip to the Bavarian Alps planted a seed in him, a seed that was kept alive only through later experiences with nature via television and movie screens. He dreamed of mountains as a boy growing up in Detroit.

    While doing graduate study in poetry at the University of Michigan, Johnson applied to be a seasonal worker at Yellowstone, thinking the park would provide a quiet place to work on his writing. That visit would change the course of his life and his career, which has spanned twenty-five years as a ranger with the National Park Service.

    He dedicated his work to this issue when he came upon the history of Buffalo Soldiers (the African-American regiments of the segregated U.S. Army at the turn of the 20th century) in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. For the past fifteen years Johnson has told the story of the Buffalo Soldiers in print, on camera, and in person. He has traveled to public schools throughout America, tracked down descendants of the soldiers, and authored an award-winning website. All the while, he has remained true to the reason he started this work. "I can’t forget that little black kid in Detroit," he says. "And I think of the other kids, just like me—in Detroit, Oakland, Watts, Anacostia—today. How do I get them here? How do I let them know that our national parks are part of their heritage, and that they own them like all Americans?" The title of his presentation was "Gloryland: Using History and Literature as Tools for Social Change.”

  • Eric Schwartz
    Created 27 January 2012; Published 20 February 2012
    Convocation: Eric Schwartz

    Eric Schwartz has 25 years of senior public service experience at the Department of State, the National Security Council, the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, as well as in the foundation and NGO communities. Currently the dean of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Schwartz previously served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration in the U.S. Department of State. He has also served as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and at the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Evidence indicates that highly effective public institutions will be critical to social and economic advancement in years and decades to come, as governance becomes more complicated and demanding. Americans may have legitimately differing perspectives on the best role for government. But Schwartz believes there should be no disagreement with the fundamental proposition that vibrant democracies require highly effective and accountable public institutions, with personnel to manage complex issues, and with political processes that prize dialogue, civility and a reasoned effort to transcend political differences. Without those elements, he suggests, we will fail to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and our failure will have profound implications for our children and for future generations. The title of his presentation was "Governance is the Solution: 21st Century Challenges and the Public Service Mission."

  • Dave Meslin
    Created 13 January 2012; Published 26 January 2012
    Convocation: Dave Meslin

    Dave Meslin, journalist and grassroots activist, calls himself a "community choreographer." Meslin's activism started with guerilla-style street antics. Painting bike lanes directly onto the street, altering billboards, and hanging pictures of Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton over "Post no Bills" signs were all part of his repertoire. In 1998, he organized the first "Reclaim the Streets" demonstration in Toronto. Seeing hundreds of people dancing in the street without a permit was motivation enough to continue organizing. Watching the police shut down the party and arrest many of the celebrants was a motivation to explore new ways to organize.

    Chosen as one of the Top Ten Activists of the year by NOW Magazine in 2000, Meslin went on to form the Toronto Public Space Committee, successfully rallying a growing group of volunteers to wage war against the commercialization of public space. During the next five years, the Committee became one of the most effective unfunded non-profits in Toronto. In 2006, Meslin coordinated a project called "Who Runs This Town?", a campaign aimed at injecting some fun and creativity into the 2006 municipal elections in Toronto, including "City Idol," an attempt to get alienated citizens to explore and share their political ideas by competing for a spot on City Council in front of a live audience. Meslin believes passionately in getting involved in civic affairs, and demonstrates what can be accomplished through advocacy with dedication, imagination, and hard work. He seeks to build a culture of political engagement in our communities by offering an antidote to apathy. The title of his presentation was "Under the Surface: The Unlimited Potential of Community Organizing."

  • Steve Brodner
    Created 6 January 2012; Published 11 January 2012
    Convocation: Steve Brodner

    Steve Brodner's award-winning career as a satirical illustrator and art journalist spans three decades. His iconic caricatures of pop and political culture have appeared in every major publication in the United States, not to mention his visual essays of political campaigns and the struggles of everyday working people and their families. His work is credited with helping spearhead the 1980s revival of pointed and entertaining graphic commentary in the United States. "The face that politicians present to the public is a mask," says Brodner. "Everyone knows it's a mask. The mask is what political cartoons comment on. You're never drawing the person; you're drawing the persona." Politicians have never hesitated to tar their opponents, and neither have their satirist contemporaries. And over his 30-plus-year career, Brodner has proven himself as nothing if not a masterful visual communicator. The title of his presentation was "The Art of Politics".

  • Steve Russell
    Created 4 November 2011; Published 8 November 2011
    Convocation: Steve Russell

    Steve Russell, a Cherokee Indian born and raised in Oklahoma, served for 17 years as an elected trial judge in Texas before becoming an associate professor of criminal justice at Indiana University. Russell views his career path as unusual. Oklahoma schools had little to offer, and he had given up on education in the ninth grade because, he said, “it had long since given up on me.” It was the Vietnam era, and Russell joined the Air Force, which he said improved his self-image and resulted in an education through the G.I. Bill. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin, convinced that his previous educational failures were the fault of a system that expected nothing of Indian children. He was trained to be a high school teacher, and that was his plan, but it had not occurred to him that no school system would hire someone who was so plainly convinced that the public schools were squandering the talent of minority children. Having no teaching offers, he proceeded to law school and set out to be a civil rights lawyer, even though he knew of no Indian civil rights lawyers and the law school he attended offered no course in Indian law.

    Russell’s experience and education has led to a number of articles about the judicial process. His research focuses on the necessity to redefine national sovereignty to settle disputes arising from globalization and the need for American Indians to redefine tribal sovereignty and Indian identity in response to national and international change. Russell examined the recent challenge over the status of the Cherokee freedmen in his presentation titled "Race and Citizenship Inside and Outside the Cherokee Nation."

  • Jeff Lieberman
    Created 28 October 2011; Published 3 November 2011
    Convocation: Jeff Lieberman

    Jeff Lieberman is the star of Discovery Channel’s Time Warp, where cool science is s-l-o-w-e-d down to better understand movement as an art form. Lieberman is also a physicist, roboticist, sculptor, musician and photographer. He explores the connections between the arts, sciences, education, passion, creativity, and the potential future of human consciousness, using technology to see beyond the limits of our normal human perception. He composes music in the duo gloobic, and has performed in Carnegie Hall. He shows technological sculptures around the world, to help people make an emotional and mystical connection with science and the universe.

    Having finished four degrees at MIT in physics, math, mechanical engineering, media arts and sciences, he is exploring the applications of technology to evolving and shifting human consciousness. Lieberman presents a fantastical view of the merging of art and science as he helps perceive the world in a whole new way. The title of his presentation was "Asking Why? The Nature of Curiosity."

  • Martin Loken
    Created 21 October 2011; Published 3 November 2011
    Convocation: Martin Loken

    Consul General Martin Loken serves as Canada’s senior representative in the Upper Midwest states of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota. Canada and the U.S. enjoy a unique partnership as the closest of friends, partners and allies. Strong business links are an engine for economic growth for both countries. More than $1 million of goods and services cross the borders every minute of every day. During the past three years, two-way goods trade between Canada and the five-state region of the U.S. averaged $28.8 billion per year, supporting 343,800 U.S. jobs. Canada is by far the number one export customer for each of the five states. Canada is also the largest foreign supplier of oil, natural gas, electricity and uranium to the U.S. The consulate’s business development team provides contact and advisory services to help Canadian companies make the most of opportunities for mutually beneficial trade, investment and technology partnerships in the region, while the political and public affairs team builds relationships with decision-makers and the media, promotes Canadian culture, and supports the study of Canada.

    Loken has previously been assigned to the Canadian Embassy in Prague and at Canada’s Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization and the United Nations in Geneva. In the course of several Ottawa-based assignments at the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, he has been responsible for a range of geographic and functional issues, including science and technology relations with Japan and global human rights. Serving in the Trade Policy and Negotiations Branch, he worked on several major trade agreements and negotiations, such as free trade talks with Colombia, Peru and the European Free Trade Association, as well as involvement with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    Despite having a different history and culture, the United States and Canada share similar challenges. Loken contends that the United States has never had a more important ally than Canada. The title of his presentation was "Canada, Minnesota and the United States: A Vital Partnership."

  • James Schamus
    Created 14 October 2011; Published 21 October 2011
    Convocation: James Schamus

    James Schamus is an award-winning screenwriter (The Ice Storm) and producer (Brokeback Mountain), and is CEO of Focus Features, the motion picture production, financing, and worldwide distribution company whose films have included Lost in Translation, Milk, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Pianist, Coraline, and The Kids Are All Right. The author of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “Gertrud”: The Moving Word, Schamus is also Professor of Professional Practice in Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where he teaches film history and theory. It is generally assumed that Hollywood movie studios and their brethren in the television industry are the epicenter of our culture’s mass production of narrative. But Schamus suggests that the greatest narrative-producing machines ever assembled in the history of the world are located not in Hollywood, but in Bethesda, Maryland; Alexandria, Virginia; and Washington, D.C. The title of his presentation was "My Wife is a Terrorist: Lessons in Storytelling from the Department of Homeland Security."

  • Pedro Noguera
    Created 7 October 2011; Published 14 October 2011
    Convocation: Pedro Noguera

    Pedro Noguera is one of America's most important voices for healthy public education. As a leading urban sociologist, he examines how schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment. What are the challenges they face in providing safe, academically rewarding environments? What is the state of race relations, racial inequality? What is the role of diversity? What is the impact of violence, parents, and school vouchers? What factors promote student achievement? Which detract from it? What is the impact of immigration and migration?

    Noguera holds faculty appointments in the departments of Teaching and Learning and Humanities and Social Sciences at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Development, as well as in the Department of Sociology at New York University. He is also a part-time high school teacher, the author of several groundbreaking texts, and a regular guest on CNN and NPR. Recently, he helped launch A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, a group of public policy experts in various fields (housing, education, civil rights), and from across the political spectrum, working to break a decades-long cycle of reform efforts that promised much and have achieved far too little. The group works in areas that research shows must be addressed if we are to keep our promises to all of America's children.

    A dynamic speaker who translates social theory into concise, hip language with emotional impact and intellectual rigor, Noguera examines the hurdles faced in providing equal education to all – and then unveils the solutions that are already working to overcome them – in his presentation titled "Creating the Schools We Need: A Broader and Bolder Approach to School Reform."

  • Historian and professor, Gavin Wright
    Created 30 September 2011; Published 14 October 2011
    Convocation: Gavin Wright

    Gavin Wright, Stanford University professor of American economic history, is perhaps today's leading economic historian on the American South. Using the tools of economics to interpret historical developments, his research has looked at the history of slavery, the cotton economy, the California gold rush, and the origins of American technological preeminence. In recent years he has turned to the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s, interpreted as an economic phenomenon. Focusing on the American South, Wright asks whether the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s produced genuine economic advances for African-Americans, and whether these gains were broadly shared among low-income groups, rather than benefiting mainly the middle class. Wright also examines whether these gains came at the expense of whites, or as part of an economic restructuring that generally enhanced the wellbeing of most southerners. The title of his presentation was "The Civil Rights Revolution as Economic History: Who Gained? Who Lost?"

  • Bryan Garsten
    Created 23 September 2011; Published 26 September 2011
    Convocation: Bryan Garsten

    Bryan Garsten is Professor of Political Science at Yale University, and serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the program in Ethics, Politics and Economics. He writes about the history of political thought and contemporary political theory, with a special interest in the themes of persuasion and judgment. He is the author of the prize-winning book Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment.

    In today’s increasingly polarized political landscape it seems that fewer and fewer citizens hold out hope of persuading one another. Even among those who have not given up on persuasion, few will admit to practicing the art of persuasion known as rhetoric. To describe political speech as ‘rhetoric’ today is to accuse it of being superficial or manipulative. Garsten uncovers the early modern origins of this suspicious attitude toward rhetoric and seeks to loosen its grip on contemporary political theory. Revealing how deeply concerns about rhetorical speech shaped both ancient and modern political thought, he argues that the artful practice of persuasion ought to be viewed as a crucial part of democratic politics. He provocatively suggests that the aspects of rhetoric that seem most dangerous—the appeals to emotion, religious values, and the concrete commitments and identities of particular communities—are also those which can draw out citizens’ capacity for good judgment. Against theorists who advocate a rationalized ideal of deliberation aimed at consensus, Garsten argues that a controversial politics of partiality and passion can produce a more engaged and more deliberative kind of democratic discourse. Garsten shared his thoughts about the role of a liberal education in his presentation titled "What Is College For?"

Podcast Feed

What's a podcast, and how does this work?