From the President

Column by Thomas M. Becker

Welcome to the beginning of Week Seven at Chautauqua.

Welcome to a remarkable opportunity for a spiritual, intellectual and emotional journey with four guides who represent the finest expression of their individual fields.

Beginning Sunday, the Rev. M. Craig Barnes, president and professor of pastoral ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, will open his weeklong ministry of worship and preaching. Barnes is, unquestionably, one of the finest preachers and teachers living today. He will ask you to consider law — religious law in particular — as a means of living in freedom.

Ken Burns is with us all week at 10:45 a.m., in a series of conversations about the development of his work as a documentary filmmaker and the stories behind and in the crafting of specific work. He will take us back to the epic series on the Civil War and illuminate his discoveries of that conflict and the combatants related to 1864. He will discuss the most recent film on the Central Park Five and include, as a guest, one of the five young men falsely convicted of the crime. He will give an unprecedented look forward to a film still in the making on the subject of the Vietnam War. And he will conclude, along with his longtime collaborator, Geoff Ward, with a preview of what will be a new 17-hour series on PBS this fall covering the Roosevelts — from Teddy’s birth to Eleanor’s death.

Krista Tippett, host of the radio series “On Being,” will conduct a week-long series of discussions at 2 p.m. in the Hall of Philosophy, with selected guests on the subject of the American consciousness. Tippett has created an astounding body of work exploring faith and ethical life as seen and practiced from a myriad of views and traditions. The White House has recently announced that it will present the National Humanities Medal to Ms. Tippett this fall.

And at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Philosophy, author E.L. Doctorow will discuss his creative process in writing the novel Andrew’s Brain, this week’s Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection. Doctorow’s body of work is significant in both its scope and depth. He thinks critically about the world around him and imagines characters in the grip of those circumstances: fated and free, victim and perpetrator.

So, these are your guides for the next several days. We will explore the moral urgencies of our condition as human beings, including the balance of our ever-expanding capacity to know the world around us and the humbling awareness of the ongoing presence of mystery. You are being invited into an exploration of how, in this dizzying glut of information characteristic of our times, we find meaning; and within that meaning how we find our individual and collective path.

Finally, each of these four remarkable people has been to Chautauqua before. Each returns because of a belief that there is present on these grounds and within this experience a wellspring of hope for progress. They believe in you and your honest and earnest effort to learn and to take responsibility for what you have learned. They also know that they too have the same opportunity for growth. And they embrace that opportunity with enthusiasm. 

Welcome to the journey of Week Seven at Chautauqua.