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Upcoming Lectures

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Watch Previous Lectures

Is Free Speech Killing Democracy?


Jacob Mchangama is the founder and executive director of Justitia, Denmark's first judicial think tank aiming to promote the rule of law and fundamental human rights and freedom rights both within Denmark and abroad. He is also the host and narrator of the podcast Clear and Present Danger: A History of Free Speech.

Mchangama's talk will take seriously the idea advanced by many that free speech has been “weaponized” by extremists and turned against the very values this freedom was meant to serve, as witnessed by the attack on the Capitol on January 6th which could not have happened without a campaign of lies and disinformation that went viral on social media.  But it will use both historical and contemporary examples to argue that free speech is still the “Bulwark of Liberty” and the foundation of democracy and that using censorship and repression to protect democracy is a cure worse than the disease.

Sports and Resistance in the U.S.


Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation Magazine, and author of 11 books on the politics of sports, including his most recent book, “The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World.” He is also the producer of the forthcoming documentary, “Behind the Shield: NFL at the Crossroads.”

Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present


Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, writes frequently for C.N.N., and other news and analysis sites, on fascism, authoritarian leaders, propaganda and threats to democracy around the world and how to counter them. She discusses her new book, "Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present," the first study to place President Donald Trump in the context of a century of authoritarian leaders that use a playbook of corruption, violence, propaganda, and machismo to stay in power.

April 30, 2021

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights


Gretchen Sorin, Distinguished Professor at S.U.N.Y. Oneonta and director of The Cooperstown Graduate Program, discusses her new book, which was the basis of a major P.B.S. documentary uncovering the history of how the automobile profoundly changed African American life.

The acclaimed historian reveals how the car―the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility―holds particular importance for African Americans, allowing black families to evade the many dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road.

April 16, 2021

Post-Election Panel: What Happened and Why? What Are the Likely Policy Implications?


Join Grant Reeher and four Maxwell School faculty members in this discussion about the 2020 U.S. election. Panelists for this State of Democracy lecture are:

  • Leonard Burman, Paul Volcker Chair in Behavioral Economics and co-founder of the Tax Policy Center
  • Jenn Jackson, assistant professor of political science
  • James Steinberg, University Professor for Social Science, International Affairs and Law and formber U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
  • Margaret Susan Thompson, associate professor of history and political science

November 6, 2020

Public Service in Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments


Maxwell alumnus Michael Aktkinson, former U. S. Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, was dismissed by President Donald Trump in April 2020. In September 2019, Aktkinson alerted Congress to a whistleblower complaint regarding the president’s communications with Ukraine, pressing for an investigation into Joe Biden and his son – the resulting scandal led to President Trump’s impeachment.

Aktkinson speaks of his experience as Inspector General and in public service.

October 9, 2020

Making Sense of Impeachment: A Panel Discussion


Shana Gadarian and Thomas Keck, professors of political science, Sean O'Keefe, University Professor and Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership, and Margaret Susan Thompson, associate professor of history and political science, discussion the impeachment of Donald Trump and its broader historical and political context.

November 15, 2019

Women in American Politics: 100 Years After Suffrage


One hundred years after winning the right to vote, what are the current opportunities and challenges for women pursuing elected office? What are the roles they play as voters and as leaders of social movements? And what can we expect from the 2020 presidential election cycle, which includes a record number of women candidates?

This State of Democracy event features a panel discussion among leading scholars and regional political leaders: Susan Carroll, professor of political science and senior scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics; Joanie Mahoney, chief operating officer at SUNY-ESF and former Onondaga County Executive; and New York State Assemblywoman Pam Hunter. Moderator will be Kristi Andersen, Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy Emeritus at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, Cazenovia Town Councilor and a regular panelist on WCNY’s Ivory Tower.

March 1, 2019

Combative Federalism: Why So Many States Are Suing Trump


Alan Greenblatt, investigative reporter covering politics and policy issues for Governing Magazine, explores the divide between state and national powers under our current president, Donald Trump. As this talk follows the Midterm elections, state-level results are included in the discussion.

November 9, 2018

The Oath and The Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents


Can the president launch a nuclear attack without congressional approval? Is it ever a crime to criticize the president? Can states legally resist a president’s executive order?

Corey Brettschneider, professor of political science at Brown University, dives deep into the U.S. Constitution to answer questions that Americans are asking more than ever before. From the document itself and from history’s pivotal court cases, we learn why certain powers were granted to the presidency, how the Bill of Rights limits those powers, and what "we the people" can do to influence the nation’s highest public office―including, if need be, removing the person in it.

September 14, 2018

What Really Happened: The Hillary Clinton Campaign, and Its Lessons


Amie Parnes, senior political correspondent for The Hill and a regular CNN political analyst, and Jon Allen, columnist for Roll Call and adjunct professor at Northwestern University, discuss their experiences covering the 2016 presidential election, speculate about some of the political lessons the election suggests and reflect on the current political climate.

November 3, 2017

Farewell Address: The Need for Reflection in a Hot-Take Culture


In this farewell address from Mayor Stephanie Miner, city of Syracuse, looks back on her tenure, draws lessons learned, and connects those experiences with a broader challenge facing our contemporary political culture.

October 27, 2017

Rights and Racism: The Complex Legacies of Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Recognizing the centennial of women's suffrage in New York State, Lori Ginzberg will discuss her recent book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life. Known as a social activist and American suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton [1815-1902] was a prominent figure in the early women's rights effort.

Lori Ginzberg, professor of history and women's studies at Pennsylvania State University, focuses on the lessons Elizabeth Cady Stanton's life and work offer for modern feminism and democracy.

October 6, 2017

No Slippery Slopes: Same-Sex Couples, Monogamy and the Future of Marriage


Will same-sex marriage lead to more radical marriage reform? Should it? Some warn of a dramatically slippery slope from same-sex marriage toward legalizing polygamy and adult incest, and the dissolution of marriage as we know it; others embrace such changes.

Stephen Macedo, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, argues that both sides are wrong: the same principles of democratic justice that demand marriage equality for same sex couples also lend support to monogamous marriage.

March 3, 2017

Racial Mobility: The Dynamics of Race and Inequality in the United States


Most studies of inequality in the United States assume that a person’s race is an input into our stratification system: a static, individual attribute that is ascribed at birth and helps to explain who accrues advantages or disadvantages throughout life.

Aliya Saperstein, professor of sociology at Stanford University, demonstrates instead that race is both multi-dimensional and malleable: how Americans see racial difference has been shaped by centuries of discrimination and inequality, so a person’s race does not simply pre-date their upward or downward mobility; how we perceive each other and identify ourselves is also a result of those experiences. This “racial mobility” represents a vicious cycle between racial categorization and inequality that has important implications for both data collection and public policy.

October 28, 2016

Democracy for Realists


Assailing the romantic folk-theory at the art of contemporary thinking about democratic politics and government, speakers Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels argue that democratic theory needs to be founded on identity groups and political parties, not on the preferences of individual voters.

Achen is the Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences and professor of politics at Princeton University. Bartels holds the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University.

April 15, 2016

From Kandahar to Aleppo: Applying the Lessons of Afghanistan


Robert Grenier is a highly decorated twenty-seven year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Clandestine Service and a renowned expert on the Middle East, South Asia and counterterrorism.

In this State of Democracy lecture, Grenier speaks about his experiences of the "southern campaign", which drove al-Qa’ida and the Taliban from Kandahar, its capital, in an astonishing eighty-eight days.

March 4, 2016

Making and Opposing War in Peacetime: American Democracy After 9/11


In this lecture Sidney Tarrow, Emeritus Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Government at Cornell University, draws from his book War, States and Contention, which shows how "contentious politics"—disruptions of the settled political order caused by social movements—sometimes trigger, animate and guide the course of war; sometimes rise during war—and in war's wake—to change regimes or even overthrow states.

Tarrow draws on evidence from historical and contemporary cases, including revolutionary France, the United States from the Civil War to the anti—Vietnam War movement, Italy after World War I and the United States during the decade following 9/11.

November 6, 2015

The Politics of Inequality in the United States: How does growing inequality in income affect political equality in the United States?


Martin Gilens, professor of politics at Princeton University, discusses his research on representation, public opinion and mass media, especially in relation to inequality and public policy. Following Gilens talk is a panel discussion with Christopher Faricy and Spencer Piston, both assistant professors of political science, and Amy Ellen Schwartz, Moynihan Professor of Public Affairs.

"The ability of citizens to influence government policy is at the heart of democracy. But citizens are quite unequal in their ability to shape government policy to their liking,” Gilens says. “This vast discrepancy in government responsiveness to citizens with different incomes stands in stark contrast to the ideal of political equality that Americans hold dear. Although perfect political equality is an unrealistic goal, representational biases of this magnitude call into question the very democratic character of our society."

March 20, 2015

Does Citizenship Require Sacrifice


Almost everyone agrees that citizenship carries with it both rights and responsibilities. But how far do the responsibilities extend? Must individuals be willing to sacrifice something important in order to be good citizens? Does good citizenship, rightly considered, necessarily involve some kind of meaningful sacrifice?

Those questions are called here, among a panel of distinguished Maxwell School faculty with a wealth of varied personal, professional and academic experiences related to the topic.

February 13, 2015

Can American Democracy Survive Corruption?


An immensely talented and creative scholar, Zephyr Teachout, professor of law at Fordham University, brings a rich background in laws governing political behavior, both domestically and abroad, as well as the insights of her original work on corruption and its constitutional history.

Teachout is the former National Director for the Sunlight Foundation, and was the Director of Internet Organizing for Howard Dean's Presidential campaign. Most recently she ran against Andrew Cuomo for the 2014 Democratic Party nomination for Governor of New York. Teachout is a political consultant for nonprofits, political campaigns, and citizen journalism. She is the author of Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United.

November 14, 2014

The American Opportunity Agenda


United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand addressed proposals to help more middle-class women workers gain financial security by modernizing America's outdated workplace policies.

Gillibrand was first sworn in as U.S. senator from New York in January 2009. Prior to her service in the Senate, she served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing 10 counties in upstate New York's 20th congressional district. She serves on the Senate agriculture, armed services, and aging committees.

January 17, 2014

Can Democracy Cure Capitalism?


With Richard Wolff, emeritus professor of economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts

October 3, 2013

Trump Revealed


Michael Kranish, Washington Post reporter and 1979 Syracuse University graduate (Newhouse and Maxwell), discusses his latest book, Trump Revealed, which he co-authored with Marc Fisher, senior editor at The Washington Post.

September 14, 2012

Campbell Public Affairs Institute
306 Eggers Hall