Maxwell School

State of Democracy

The State of Democracy Lecture Series is a centerpiece of the Maxwell School’s public event offerings. It is dedicated to providing a forum for meaningful discussions of pressing public issues—both current and long-standing—which cut across disciplinary boundaries. The series enables the intellectual exploration of real-world challenges and fosters continuing discussion and debate, which is at the heart of meaningful democratic citizenship.

All events begin at 4:00 in the Maxwell Auditorium and are followed by an open reception at 5:30, unless otherwise noted.

For Videos of previous State of Democracy Lectures visit our Media Page  

2014-2015 Series

September 19, 2014
Joseph Carens
The Dispossessed: The Ethics of Refugee Policy

Joseph H. Carens, Ph.D., is Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Culture, Citizenship, and Community, which won the 2002 C. B. Macpherson Award, and quality, Moral Incentives and the Market.  In his latest book,The Ethics of Immigration, Carens illuminates one of the most pressing issues of our time. Immigration poses practical problems or western democracies and also challenges the ways in which people in democracies think about citizenship and belonging, about rights and responsibilities, and about freedom and equality. 

This lecture is made possible through a generous gift from the Norman M. and Marsha Lee Berkman fund.

2013-2014 Series

January 17, 2014
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
The American Opportunity Agenda: Proposals to help more middle-class women gain financial security, by modernizing America's outdated workplace policies 

Senator Gillibrand was first sworn in to office in 2009, and elected to a full term in 2012. She currently serves on the Senate Armed Services, griculture, Environment, and Aging Committees.  Senator Gillibrand has been a leader in transparency and open government. She advocated for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t tell,” and for health care and compensation for 9/11 first responders. She is currently working to combat sexual violence in the military, and to increase economic opportunity for all Americans.

November 8, 2013
Madeleine M. Kunin
The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family

Madeleine Kunin

Former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin will speak based on her book of the same title. Kunin was Governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991; she also served in the Vermont Legislature and as Lieutenant Governor. Following her service as Governor, she was Deputy U. S. Secretary of Education and U. S. Ambassador to Switzerland. She is currently Mars Scholar Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont.  In addition to The New Feminist Agenda, Kunin’s previous books include Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead

September 27, 2013
Richard Wolff
Can Democracy Cure Capitalism

Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught from 1973 to 2008.  He is currently a Visiting Professor in the raduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University. He also teaches at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan. He is the author of Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The lobal Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. 

2012-2013 Series

April 26, 2013
Sister Simone Campbell
"Acting on Faith: Networking, Religion, and Progressive Politics."

 Simone CampbellSister Simone Campbell is Executive Director of NETWORK in Washington, DC. She is a religious leader, attorney, and poet who advocates for systemic social and political change, with a focus on peace-building and economic justice. She led the "Nuns on the Bus" tour in the summer of 2012, during which Catholic Sisters protested the effects of proposed cuts to federal safety nets. A noted speaker and educator on public policy issues, she appears regularly in national media outlets. Most recently, she has been recognized for her work on healthcare reform, particularly as it affects the working poor. Prior to coming to NETWORK, Sister Simone served as the Executive Director of JERICHO, a California interfaith public policy organization. She also served as the general director of her religious community, the Sisters of Social Service. In 1978, Sister Simone founded and served for 18 years as the lead attorney for the Community Law Center in Oakland, California.

Margaret Thompson, Professor, History and Political Science at the Maxwell School
Most Rev. Thomas J. Costello, Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse 
This lecture is sponsored by the Norman M. and Marsha Lee Berkman Endowed Fund 

March 22, 2013
Thomas Mann and Ira Shapiro
Can Politics Be Fixed?

Thomas MannIn recent books, Thomas Mann and Ira Shapiro have decried the dysfunction inIra Shapiro various aspects of our national political system. And it seems as though things have only become worse since they wrote. With a particular focus on Congress, the two authors-Mann a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Shapiro a former senior Senate staffer and member of the Clinton administration-consider the roots of the problem, and why we might be poised for a revival.

September 14, 2012
Michael Kranish, author and Washington Bureau Deputy Chief of The Boston Globe
"The Real Romney"

Michael KranishMichael Kranish is an author, historian, and Washington correspondent for The Boston Globe. With degrees in political science and journalism from Syracuse University, he began his newspaper career in Florida at the Lakeland Ledger and the Miami Herald. Kranish then moved north to The Boston Globe in the winter of 1984 and became the paper’s New England correspondent. Kranish eventually returned to his hometown and joined the Globe’s Washington Bureau, where he has covered national affairs and presidential campaigns for the last 20 years. He currently serves as the bureau’s deputy chief. 

2011-2012 Series

March 30, 2012
Arthur Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute
"The Future of Conservatism"

Arthur BrooksArthur C. Brooks is the president of AEI. Until January 1, 2009, he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is the author of eight books and many articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to applied mathematics. His most recent books include The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future (Basic Books, May 2010), Gross National Happiness (Basic Books, 2008), Social Entrepreneurship (Prentice-Hall, 2008), and Who Really Cares (Basic Books, 2006). Before pursuing his work in public policy, Mr. Brooks spent twelve years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles. Mr. Brooks is the author of the forthcoming book, The Road to Freedom, to be released on May 1st 2012. 

This Lecture Sponsored by Marilyn Morris Malmuth '51.

October 28, 2011
Jon Oberlander, University of North Carolina
"The Future of Medicare"

 Jonathan Oberlander Medicare is the most politically charged of all the “third rails” in the current debates over reducing the debt and deficit, and addressing entitlement spending.

How will the politics surrounding Medicare play out?
How will the health care reform law affect the program?
What is the program’s likely future? Might it look completely different ten years from now?
Should Americans be thinking differently about their health care needs as they plan their retirements?

A leading expert on the program will help untangle these vexing questions.

Jonathan Oberlander is Professor of Social Medicine and Health Policy & Management at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His research focuses on health care politics and policy, health reform, and Medicare. Oberlander is author of The Political Life of Medicare and is co-editor of a 3-volume book series The Social Medicine Reader. His articles have appeared in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Health Affairs, and the Annals of Internal Medicine. He comments on health reform for a number of media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the New York Review of Books, National Public Radio, the BBC, CBS News and PBS.

September 30, 2011
Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago Divinity School
“Democracy on Trial Revisited”

Jean Bethke Elshtain
Regularly named as one of America’s foremost public intellectuals, Jean Bethke Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, Divinity School, The University of Chicago, with appointments in Political Science and the Committee on International Relations. She is also holder of Georgetown University’s Leavey Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom.

Respondents include Rochelle Gurstein, an Independent Scholar, Peter Levine, Director, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, and Research Director at Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University and Wilfred M. McClay, SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


2010-2011 Series

Anne Kornblut, White House correspondent for The Washington Post and author of Notes from the Cracked Ceiling.
Video Archive

Roger Hardy, former Middle East and Islamic Affairs Analyst with the BBC World Service and author of The Muslim Revolt: A Journey Through Political Islam 
Video Archive

Jon Trickett, is a Labour Member of Parliament, former Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Mayor of Leeds.


2009-2010 Series

Laura Nader, University of California, Berkeley

Len Burman, The Maxwell School

Claudia Goldin, Harvard University

2008-2009 Series

The 2008-2009 series was sponsored by Betsy Levitt Cohn and Alan Cohn

Nancy Foner

Charles Murray

2007-2008 Series

Michael E. Toner

James Hunter

Irshad Manji 

2006-2007 Series

Jacob Hacker

Shibley Telhami

Thomas Mann

Deborah Stone

2005-2006 Series

Toby Moffett

Harvey C. Mansfield

2006 Constitution Day Lecture: Peter Schuck 

Thomas Carothers 


Michele Moody-Adams

E.J. Dionne

Michael Walzer


Jeffrey Rosen

Jonathan Schell

Kay Hymowitz

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