Penn State College of the Liberal Arts
Penn State College of the Liberal Arts
Virtual Events

Virtual Events

Our virtual 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 the Zoom session. You will receive a confirmation email with a Zoom link upon registration.

Donna Shalala: The Future of the Democratic Party

Thursday, January 28, 4:00 p.m. ET


Political leader and scholar Donna Shalala will join us to discuss the relationship between the Democratic Party’s moderate and progressive wings, and what it means for American democracy moving forward.

A distinguished educator, she was President of the University of Miami (2001-2015), Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1987-1993), and President of Hunter College of the City University of New York (1980-1987). One of the most honored academics of her generation, she has been elected to seven national academies including the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Education and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has more than five dozen honorary degrees from American and International Universities. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

One of the country’s first Peace Corps Volunteers, her public service also includes serving as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration for eight years, and Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research in the Carter administration. She also represented Florida’s 27th District which includes most of Miami.

Anne Applebaum: Twilight of Democracy

Wednesday, February 17, 3:00 p.m. ET


From the United States and Britain to continental Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege, while authoritarianism is on the rise. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist Anne Applebaum chronicles this trend in her book Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism and will outline some of the book’s main themes in this presentation.

Informed by her expertise in Europe and her years of international reporting, Applebaum was one of the first American journalists to raise an alarm about antidemocratic trends in the West and explain why elites in democracies around the world are turning toward nationalism and authoritarianism. She contends that political systems with radically simple beliefs are inherently appealing, especially when they benefit the loyal to the exclusion of everyone else.

Applebaum is a Senior Fellow of International Affairs and Agora Fellow in Residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.. She is a staff writer at The Atlantic and contributed to Foreign Affairs, the New Republic, and the New York Review of Books.

Danielle Allen: Our Common Purpose, Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

Thursday, February 25, 4:00 p.m. ET


In an age of globalization, centralized power, economic inequality, deep demographic shifts, political polarization, pandemics and climate change, and radical disruption in the media and information environments, we face these converging trends in a constitutional democracy that feels to many increasingly unresponsive, nonadaptive, and even antiquated.

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is a chair of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, which produced the report “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century” for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She will join us for a presentation on the report and how to make the United States stronger, more equitable democracy.

Brown Democracy Medal Presentation and Lecture: Srdja Popovic

Thursday, March 25, 4:00 p.m. ET


Srdja Popovic, executive director of the Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS) will receive the Brown Democracy Medal for his work in nonviolent activism over the past 20 years. CANVAS operates a network of international trainers and consultants with experience in successful democratic movements and worked with pro-democracy activists from more than 50 countries.

Popovic will present a lecture on the book “Pranksters vs. Autocrats: Why Dilemma Actions Advance Nonviolent Activism,” a book written with Penn State’s Sophia McClennen as part of winning the Brown Democracy Medal.

Center for Democratic Deliberation Kenneth Burke Lecture: Ersula J. Ore

Civility, Rhetorical Impatience, and the Reclamation of Time: The Case of Sandra Bland

Wednesday, April 14, 12:00 p.m. ET


Dr. Ersula J. Ore is an associate professor of African and African American Studies at Arizona State University. She is a critical race rhetorician whose research and teaching interests include rhetorics of race and culture, critical race and gender studies, rhetorical theory, and Black women’s intellectual history. Her book, Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, & American Identity (University Press of Mississippi, 2019), which examines lynching as a rhetorical strategy and material practice interwoven with the formation of America’s national identity, received the 2020 Book Award from the Rhetoric Society America. 

In this lecture, Ore will place scholarship on civility in conversation with scholarship on temporality and gendered antiblack policing to consider the ways civility discourse manifests temporally as capture (Spillers, 1987) in the lives of Black women. Part of a larger project on civility and gendered antiblack violence, this lecture examines the ways (1) racism masquerading as civility tethers Black women to a past that restricts the potential for a future and a “being” beyond the black stereotyped past, and (2) how the “oppositional gaze” (hooks, 1991), among other forms of  “pushback” (Ore, 2017), offers a radical means of reclaiming time and resisting this temporalization. The July 10, 2015 stop of Sandra Bland offers an instance in which we might observe the countertemporal orientation of “black looks” (hooks, 1991) and the ways oppositional gazing enacts the Black feminist declaration to reclaim time (Waters, 2017).