As Chautauquans prepare to navigate the roads and highways toward their respective homes, Ray LaHood devoted the final lecture of the 2015 season to America’s crumbling infrastructure and the measures government must take to avert — and reverse — the crisis.
When talking about “The Pursuit of Happiness,” it becomes impossible to ignore the differences in happiness from one group of Americans to the next.
In Tuesday and Wednesday’s morning lectures, Robert Putnam and Charles Murray both argued that these differences depend on what social class a person is born into. Their solutions, however, are radically different.
In the eyes of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Americans take their freedom for granted. As he spoke to the Chautauquans packed in and around the Hall of Philosophy at 3:30 p.m. Monday, he drew upon history and tradition to illustrate how vital it is that Americans engage in the discussion of freedom.
He admitted that in his younger years, he thought democracy could be given like a gift. He joked that some people think they can introduce democracy to a country, wipe their hands and say goodbye, and then democracy will be magically “installed.”
The prominent figures of Athenian society — Socrates, Aristotle, Plato — are widely considered to be the forerunners of American democracy. But according to Hunter Rawlings, classicist and president of the Association of the American Universities, these giants of history had little influence on Thomas Jefferson and the writing of the Declaration of Independence — and thus little influence on the democracy Americans enjoy today.
Rawlings’ 10:45 a.m. morning lecture in the Amphitheater was preceded by a performance by Bill Barker, a Thomas Jefferson interpreter dressed in full 18th-century regalia, complete with a tri-corner hat.
“The Iraq War was bad for just about everyone, except private contractors.”
George Packer’s summary of the war on terror, concluded from years of research in the Middle East, set the scene for his Thursday morning lecture in the Amphitheater. Packer, a writer at The New Yorker and author of the bestselling book The Unwinding, spoke about America’s failure to fight a war and win. He said the same systemic failure of institutions caused the failure of the war, resulting in Americans suffering under a “broken contract.”