Some Books Make Us Free
We are living through what feels like an era of unprecedented division in our nation. We also have an unprecedented opportunity.
The coronavirus crisis divided us physically. The protests against deep racial injustices in our nation’s past and present have divided us further politically. All have elevated deep inequalities and exacerbated existing tensions to a breaking point.
That is why now, more than ever, we need a conversation about citizenship and American identity that simultaneously confronts the shortcomings of our past while reviving the aspirations of our future. We urgently need a discussion of our duties to one another as citizens in our community, our state, and our nation.
This October, 2020, we built upon the success of the Harrison’s first rare books exhibit that took place in July 2019. That inaugural exhibition brought to life the themes of rare, original works of history and political philosophy through art. For instance, we paired an original printing of the Gettysburg Address with an artist’s depiction of young Abraham Lincoln, who spent part of his childhood in Indiana. Another artist paired a portrait of Madam C.J. Walker—the first female millionaire who was dedicated to civil rights and empowering women economically—with an original copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication on the Rights of Women, one of the first philosophical arguments for women’s social and political equality. In addition, we hosted a series of events with students, the Indianapolis community, and public leaders to further bring to life the themes of the art and books.
This year, after a summer of civil unrest as our nation grapples with deep seated racial injustice, as well as a highly divisive presidential election, there is an urgency to counteract forces that are tearing our nation apart.
Can media elevate our public discourse? Dec 2, 2020
In this conversation, some of Indiana’s foremost leaders in the media reflected on how the media can heal our deep divides, and how to restoring trust & transparency in our news.
Panelists included Nate Feltman from the Indianapolis Business Journal, Oseye Boyd from the Indianapolis Recorder, Dan Spehler from Fox 59, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz from Abdul at Large, and moderated my Alexandra Hudson.
Over the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of curating a number of rare book and art exhibits intended to bring to life the ideas of seminal works dedicated to the themes of liberty human and dignity. The first exhibit was last July, 2019, entitled The Beauty of Front Porch Citizenry. The most recent, in October 2020, was entitled Some Books Make Us Free. To bring an additional interactive aspect to the exhibit, we put on a number of public events and private conversation on these themes, and to the end of elevating our public dialogue and healing our nation’s divides at the local level.
One million thanks to the The Sagamore Institute, The Harrison Center, and The Remnant Trust for making these exhibitions and public conversations possible.
Can beauty heal beauty heal cultural divide? Nov 20, 2020
We hear a lot about the culture wars. But we often forget that culture can be a tool of healing and reconciliation, too. This has been the case across time and place—artists create buildings, books, poems, and paintings that encapsulate and adorn a society’s values and ambitions, inspiring individuals to reflect on their ideals, and remember who they are when at their best. Can we revive that tradition today? If so, how?
Panelists included Rima Shahid, Women4Change, Alicia Zanoni, Harrison Center, Angela Braly from the Policy Circle, and Anne Snyder Brooks, Comment magazine.
The Search for a Shared American Narrative, Nov 2, 2020
How does looking at our past inform our present? Is it possible to forge a shared American identity amid a historically divided political moment? How do we teach our history in a way that inspires but also confronts shortcomings in our past? What is the role of myth, heroes, and storytelling in creating a strong American national identity?
Panlists include James Alfred White, Chairman of the North Carolina Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, Damon Linker, Columnist at The Week, Colin Woodard, author of “American Nations,” “American Character,” and “UNION,” and David Blankenhorn, President of Braver Angels—and moderated by Alexandra Hudson.
Lessons from the Law: Civility Across Deep Difference, Oct 22, 2020
What can practicing law teach us about being civil even (especially!) with those with whom we disagree? Why should we be decent to our opponents, even in hard-fought cases? Can being a lawyer help cultivate the virtue of civility?
Hon. Randall Shepard, former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, offered introductory remarks, which was followed by a conversation with Tom Fisher, Indiana Solicitor General Jane Henegar, American Civil Liberties Union, Mark J. Crandley, Barnes & Thorburg LLP, and moderated by Kian Hudson, Indiana Deputy Solicotor General.