Beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year, convocation audio files are archived separately from video files. View the audio archives.
- Created 16 September 2013; Published 26 March 2014Opening Convocation: Jonathan Capehart '89
Carleton’s Opening Convocation is an annual all-college assembly celebrating the beginning of the academic year and recognizing academic achievement. This year’s address will be given by Jonathan Capehart (Carleton Class of 1989).
Some days in Washington DC, Jonathan Capehart appears to be everywhere. There's his editorial in the day's Washington Post, several appearances throughout the day on MSNBC, and a few media-centric parties at night.
After growing up in New Jersey, Capehart went on to study political science at Carleton, where he took a few classes taught by the late Senator Paul Wellstone. His career started out at NBC’s Today show, but in 1993 he joined the editorial board of the New York Daily News (at the time, the youngest-ever member), spending the rest of the decade at that newspaper. Capehart and the Daily News editorial board won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for their series on the Apollo Theater in Harlem. In 2000, he left the Daily News to become a national affairs columnist for Bloomberg News and then worked as a policy adviser to Michael Bloomberg in his successful campaign for mayor of New York City. But on the morning of September 11, 2001, Capehart realized he wanted to return to journalism and even called his previous employer to ask about writing a column. Before too long, he had returned to the New York Daily News as deputy editorial page editor. Capehart is currently a member of the Washington Post editorial board where he writes about politics and social issues.
- Created 31 May 2013; Published 15 November 2013Honors Convocation: Kai Knutson '11
The Honors Convocation is held each year on the last Friday of spring term, drawing the campus community together to celebrate the awards and academic accomplishments of our students. This year’s address will be delivered by Kai Knutson, who graduated from Carleton College in 2011 with a B.A. in biology. In his junior year, Knutson was awarded the Larson International Fellowship, which provides a significant international experience for students with strong leadership potential. In his senior year, he was awarded the prestigious Watson Fellowship, which affords an opportunity to pursue a unique passion or dream for a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States. The Watson Foundation looks for persons likely to lead or innovate in the future – passionate learners, creative thinkers, and motivated self-starters who are encouraged to dream big but demonstrate feasible strategies for achieving their fellowship goals. In his address Knutson will highlight the impact of these awards on his education and his career trajectory.
- Created 17 May 2013; Published 21 May 2013Convocation: Randy Cohen
Every week for over a decade in his column on ethics, Randy Cohen took on conundrums presented in letters from perplexed people who wanted to do the right thing (or hope to get away with doing the wrong thing), and responded with a skillful blend of moral authority and humor. The wisdom and witticisms of the man behind the New York Times Magazine’s immensely popular column "The Ethicist" have been gathered in his book The Good, the Bad & The Difference – regarded as a combination of "Dear Abby," Plato, and Mel Brooks. Cohen has also won four Emmy awards, three as a writer for Late Night with David Letterman. He was the original head writer on The Rosie O’Donnell Show and has been a guest on Good Morning America. His work has also appeared in Slate magazine, The New Yorker, The Washington Post and other publications. Cohen explores the question: If we can reach a rough consensus on right and wrong (don't like, don't cheat, don't steal), why don't we all behave virtuously? Suggesting the answer lies not in our characters but our circumstances, Cohen discusses how to create the kind of communities – in our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses – in which we are likely to behave admirably. The title of his presentation is "How To Be Good."
- Created 10 May 2013; Published 16 May 2013Convocation: Bob Beckel & Cal Thomas
Based on their successful USA Today column "Common Ground," political speakers Bob Beckel, a liberal Democratic strategist, and Cal Thomas, a conservative columnist, take on the contentious issues that divide the nation along partisan lines. Whether taking on the Tea Party, unions, health care, or regulatory issues, Beckel and Thomas cut through the bickering and get to the heart of what really matters. Moving away from the archaic crossfire format, Beckel and Thomas find shared beliefs that both liberals and conservatives can agree upon. More like a conversation between friends than debate between enemies, they inspire audiences to find the common ground in their own beliefs, and put aside politics as usual. Emphasizing bipartisan cooperation and a commitment to ending cross-aisle political conflict, they seek a common ground that can end the stalemate in Washington. Their book, Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America is a discussion of how liberals and conservatives can work together to put America back on track.
- Created 3 May 2013; Published 16 May 2013Convocation: Jeff Chang
Jeff Chang, born of Chinese and Native Hawaiian ancestry, is a journalist who has written extensively on culture, politics, the arts, and music. He was a founding editor of ColorLines magazine and has written for The Nation, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Vibe, Foreign Policy, and Mother Jones, among others. He has been a USA Ford Fellow in Literature and a winner of the North Star News Prize. His first book, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, a thoroughly researched case for hip-hop as a complete and truly American culture, garnered many honors, including the American Book Award and the Asian American Literary Award. He was named by The Utne Reader as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” Chang, who has also worked as a community, labor and student organizer, and as a lobbyist for students of the California State University system, is currently the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University. The title of his presentation is "Who We Be: The Colorization of America." This Asian Pacific American Heritage Convocation is sponsored by the Office of Intercultural and International Life.
- Created 25 April 2013; Published 27 April 2013Convocation: Emily Schultz '05
Emily Schultz ’05 has worked under some controversial regimes in high-profile efforts to turn around failing schools. In the fall of 2011 she was appointed the education policy director for the State of Alabama, a new position created by Governor Robert Bentley who said he needed an education expert on his staff to guide him and to be a liaison to K-12, post-secondary and higher education. Previously, Schultz worked under Michelle Rhee, who became chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools after the mayor took control of the district – a situation in which nearly two dozen schools were closed, the teacher pay scale was changed and hundreds of teachers, principals and administrators were fired. After the Washington job, Schultz worked as a consultant in Central Falls, Rhode Island, which made headlines in February 2010 when it fired all the teachers at a failing high school. The consulting group Schultz worked for, Mass Insight School Turnaround Group, went in after the mass firings to restructure the district. Governor Bentley said that Schultz’s experience in turning around failing schools and her "outside the box" mentality is exactly why he hired her.
- Created 19 April 2013; Published 27 April 2013Convocation: Sarah Kay
Sarah Kay, known for her spoken word poetry, is the founder and co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E., a group dedicated to using spoken word as an inspirational tool. A graduate of Brown University, Kay began performing poetry at the Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan’s East Village at the age of 14. She was the youngest person competing in the National Poetry Slam that year, and the next year made her television debut performing on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. She has performed at events and venues such as the Lincoln Center, the Tribecca Film Festival, the United Nations, and a widely acclaimed talk and performance at the 2011 TED Conference. Teaching poetry and self-expression at schools across the United States, Kay founded Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression) to encourage people, particularly teenagers, to use spoken word as an instrument through which they can explore and better understand their culture, their society, and ultimately themselves. V.O.I.C.E. brings together performance, writing, and a supportive environment to inspire youth to recognize that their views are significant, valid, and necessary. Kay shows how this ancient art form has been reborn in an era dominated by social media in her presentation titled "The Art of Storytelling in a Digital World."
- Created 12 April 2013; Published 15 April 2013Convocation: Zalmay Khalilzad
Zalmay Khalilzad served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. He has been involved with U.S. policy makers at the White House, State Department and Pentagon since the mid-1980s, and is the highest-ranking Muslim in U.S. Government in the history of the United States. Praised for his inclusive tactics, convivial style, and result oriented approach, Khalilzad’s record in the most turbulent areas of U.S. foreign policy earned him broad respect throughout the world. Khalilzad’s previous assignments included U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, wher he played a significant role in facilitating both countries’ constitutions, elections and formation of government. He is currently a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and president of Khalilzad Associates, an international business consulting firm based in Washington D.C. His first-hand knowledge and experience as a statesman in the world’s important hotspots give him unparalleled insights into the global issues of security, terror, extremism, state building, peace negotiation, and energy. Ambassador Khalilzad assesses the challenges the United States faces in the changing global landscape and their implications for the American people and effective U.S. strategy for the future in his presentation titled "U.S. Global Leadership."
- Created 5 April 2013; Published 9 April 2013Convocation: K. David Harrison
K. David Harrison is an authority on endangered and dying languages with particular interest in connections between language and biodiversity, ethnoecology, and cultural survival. Approximately half of the world’s 7,000 languages are predicted to go extinct in this century, and language death leads to intellectual impoverishment in all fields of science and culture. An associate professor and the chair of the linguistics department at Swarthmore, Harrison is also a fellow at the National Geographic Society and Director of Research at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, whose mission is to use multi-media projects to document, preserve, and revitalize endangered and little-documented languages. Harrison’s work involves living in the communities whose languages he is helping to document. He adopts the position that languages exist solely within a cultural matrix, and must be studied holistically and in their natural context. This means that in addition to studying abstract structures in the mind (e.g., vowel harmony), he is keenly interested in what people have to say and how languages shape the structure of human knowledge. His ethnographic research looks at indigenous knowledge, folklore, oral epics, conceptual systems, and naming practices. The title of his presentation is "Endangered Languages."
- Created 22 February 2013; Published 1 March 2013Convocation: Siri Hustvedt
Minnesota-born writer Siri Hustvedt is the author of a book of poetry, five novels, two books of essays, and a work of non-fiction. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages. She also lectures and publishes regularly on the intersections among philosophy, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience. Hustvedt’s works repeatedly pose questions about the nature of identity, selfhood and perception. In The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves, an interdisciplinary account of her own seizure disorder, Hustvedt states her need to view her symptom not “through a single window” but “from all angles.” These multiple perspectives do not resolve themselves into a single view but rather create an atmosphere of ambiguity and flux. Hustvedt presents the reader with characters whose minds are inseparable from their bodies and their environments, and whose sense of self is situated on the threshold between the conscious and unconscious. Her characters often suffer traumatic events that disrupt the rhythms of their lives and lead to disorientation and a discontinuity of their identities. In her convocation presentation, Hustvedt will focus on the source of creativity, and the role of the self in the production of fiction. “The secret to creativity,” she writes, “lies not in the so-called higher cognitive processes, but in dreamlike reconfigurations... that take place unconsciously.” With brief readings from her own creative work to illustrate this idea, Hustvedt will explain how personal experience and memory become transformed into narrative. The title of her presentation is “Reflections on Creativity: Memory, Imagination, Narrative and the Self.”
- Created 15 February 2013; Published 1 March 2013Convocation: Brenda Brenner
Brenda Brenner, associate professor of music (music education) at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, drew international interest with her ground-breaking work with underprivileged and underachieving elementary students in Bloomington. Through an outreach program supervised by Brenner, first-graders at Fairview Elementary in Bloomington are taking violin lessons three times a week throughout the school year. Fairview Elementary serves low-income Bloomington neighborhoods; approximately 90 percent of its students qualify by family income for free or reduced-price school lunches. Brenner’s research through this program is looking at whether kids are more likely to attend school when they have violin class; parental involvement in school and attitude toward school improves; WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) cognitive test scores taken at the beginning and end of the year (compared with a control group from Bloomington's Highland Park Elementary School) improve; participation in the program has an effect on cognitive development. The title of her presentation is "Finding Our Shared Humanity: Cross-Cultural Connections in Music."
- Created 8 February 2013; Published 15 February 2013Convocation: David Gergen
A true public servant, David Gergen put his country above his personal politics, serving as an advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and then Clinton. Today he helps audiences break through ideological barriers to recognize simple and lasting political truths. Gergen's unique vantage point—serving as an Oval Office insider to presidents from different political parties—provides him with insights that few others can match. For more than 30 years, Gergen has been an active participant in American political life. He currently serves as editor-at-large of U.S. News & World Report, as director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and as a regular television commentator for CNN. Author of Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton and an upcoming book on presidential transitions, he offers an inside glimpse into the corridors of power and the leadership challenges presidents face, bringing clarity to the most complex international and domestic issues.
- Created 8 February 2013; Published 26 February 2013Convocation Highlights: David Gergen
Highlights from the February 8 convocation with David Gergen, trusted advisor to four presidents and to both political parties. A true public servant, he served as an advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and then Clinton. Today he helps audiences break through ideological barriers to recognize simple and lasting political truths. Gergen's unique vantage point—serving as an Oval Office insider to presidents from different political parties—provides him with insights that few others can match.
View the entire convocation in our archives section.
- Created 1 February 2013; Published 15 February 2013Convocation: Ebony Utley
Ebony Utley, associate professor of communication studies at California State University Long Beach, is an expert in popular culture, race, and romantic relationships. Her critically-acclaimed book, Rap and Religion: Understanding The Gangsta’s God, addresses all of the above by closely examining the juxtaposition – and seeming hypocrisy – of references to God within rap music. Rap music has been condemned for inciting violence, promoting misogyny, perpetuating racial stereotypes, and encouraging religious blasphemy. Despite these assessments, Utley asserts that religion has always been part of the urban environments that birthed rap music, and she shows exactly how a God-sanctioned gangsta identity can be empowering. The title of her presentation is "The Rap on Rap and Religion." This Black History Month Convocation is sponsored by the Office of Intercultural and International Life.
- Created 25 January 2013; Published 15 February 2013Convocation: Helene York
Helene York is a food activist who has managed product sourcing for a large restaurant company, an advocate for humane meat production systems who happens to be vegetarian, a teacher, and a writer who has thought a lot about what Americans eat.
Conscientious consumers who want to "chew the right thing" can head for their local farmers market. But what about a corporation that serves 135 million meals a year in 32 states? From 1999, when Bon Appétit Management Company launched its Farm to Fork program, to February 2012, when it announced it was entirely phasing out pork from pigs confined in gestation crates and eggs from hens in battery cages, Bon Appétit has pioneered socially and environmentally responsible practices. The company's first director of purchasing strategy, and the architect of many advances for which the company is known, York will talk about the complexities and ethical challenges of how Carleton's food service provider influences our food system and works to make more sustainable food available for everyone. The title of her presentation is "Supporting Consumer Activism: The Role of Corporate Change Making to Affect a Sustainable Food System."