Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts


Our events bring thought-provoking conversations about democracy to the Penn State community and beyond. All events are free and open to anyone. Please click on the link associated with each event to register for in-person or virtual attendance. 

Carol Anderson: One Person, No Vote

Tuesday, September 21, 4:00 p.m ET
The State Theatre or virtual


As states across the country seek to strengthen voting regulations and enact new restrictions, the history of voting access in the U.S. has perhaps never been more critical to examine.

Join The McCourtney Institute for Democracy on Tuesday, September 21 at 4:00 p.m. EDT for a presentation by voting rights scholar Carol Anderson, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.

In this lecture, Anderson will chronicle the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision that many argue eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She follows the story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding as more and more states seek to restrict voter access through photo ID requirements, gerrymandering, poll closures, and other measures.

Anderson’s latest book is The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. Both One Person, No Vote and The Second will be available for purchase at the lecture.

We are offering both in-person and livestream attendance options for this event.  Please register to reserve your spot at the State Theatre or receive the livestream link via email the day before the event.

Charlie Dent: Can Congress Overcome Partisanship to Get Things Done?

Tuesday, October 19, 4:00 p.m. ET
Hintz Family Alumni Center or virtual


At a time when Congress seems more gridlocked than ever, is it still possible to move forward on issues that matter to Americans? What happens to our democracy if Congress is too paralyzed by polarization?

McCourtney Institute Visiting Fellow Charlie Dent served seven terms in Congress, where he worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He will offer his perspective on the past, present, and future of the legislative branch during a lecture on October 19 at 4:00 p.m. ET. 

Dent is Executive Director and Vice President of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, CNN Political Analyst, and Senior Policy Adviser at DLA Piper. In Congress, was a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee where he chaired the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. Additionally, he served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Ethics from 2015-2017.

We are offering both in-person and livestream attendance options for this event.  Please register to reserve your spot at the Hintz or receive the livestream link via email the day before the event.

2021 Brown Democracy Medal Lecture: Desmond Meade

America’s Disenfranchised: Why Restoring Their Vote Can Save the Soul of Our Democracy

Thursday, November 11, 4:00 p.m. EDT
Hintz Family Alumni Center or Virtual


For Desmond Meade, the right to vote is not simply a bedrock of American democracy. It is a personal struggle. He knows what it’s like to lose that right and he has spent the past 15 years working to help formerly incarcerated people in Florida fight to regain it.

Meade, the executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), will be honored for his work as a democracy advocate with the McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s 2021 Brown Democracy Medal. Under his leadership, the FRRC launched Amendment 4, a ballot initiative that asked Florida residents whether voting rights should automatically be restored for people with prior felony convictions. The measure passed in November 2018 with support from 65% of the state’s voters.

Event registration will be available later this semester. Both in-person and virtual options will be available.