Monday, October 5, 2020
In The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? political philosopher and academic rockstar Michael J. Sandel explains how belief in a meritocratic ideal has had a corrosive effect on the dignity of work and has left many in our society feeling humiliated and resentful. America’s bedrock belief that hard work and talent allows people to rise is belied by the facts: it is easier to rise from poverty in Canada, Germany, Denmark, and other European countries than in the United States. The winners in our society hold the smug conviction that they deserve success and that the losers, too, deserve their fate. This attitude has led us in a straight line to the election of Donald Trump. Sandel posits that there should be an equality of condition in America, one that allows those without great power or prestige to also live with dignity and the esteem of others. This is a message we all need to hear. Join Michael Sandel in conversation with the Emmy and Peabody Award–winning host of WBUR’s Here & Now, Robin Young. 90.9 WBUR is the media sponsor of this session.
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Our interest in pathogens has peaked recently, for obvious reasons. And while this session is not specifically about COVID-19, there are many overlapping themes. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more than 50 million people, but although it was a virus that first invaded the body, bacterial infection in the lungs was ultimately responsible for most of the deaths. In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls Muhammad Zaman’s Biography of Resistance “a vivid portrayal of our fight against an opponent that has been around for more than 3 billion years. [Zaman] portrays a conflict—between humans and harmful strains of bacteria—that has played out in plagues and epidemics over millennia.” Fighting drug-resistant bacteria requires international cooperation, not to mention the participation of drug companies, which have little economic incentive to invest in antibiotic research. Drug companies are the subject of virologist and drug industry expert Peter Kolchinsky’s The Great American Drug Deal. He argues that there are solutions to the trade-off between drug affordability, innovation, and the drive for profits. In the end, it’s the insurance companies that Kolchinsky calls out for making an already bad situation worse. Kirkus Reviews calls The Great American Drug Deal a “serious, impassioned, and informed call for change.” Join us for this eye-opening and urgent session, hosted by Deborah Becker, senior correspondent and host at WBUR, the media sponsor for this session.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Let’s start with an apology. When we hurt someone else or have been hurt by someone else, the true pain often lies in the inability to fix the breach, rather than the incident itself. In A Good Apology, clinical psychologist Molly Howes guides readers through the steps of a meaningful apology, illustrating her principles with stories of clients who healed broken relationships as well as with apologies that have played out in the public sphere. From there, we move to ethical living. According to Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman, ethics are not something reserved for philosophers—we all make ethical decisions daily. In Better, Not Perfect, he offers a guide for how to clarify goals and balance competing claims to attain “maximum sustainable goodness.” And finally, if you have ever wondered how one person can have a positive impact on the world, Brad Aronson has some answers. Small, simple acts of humankindness, such as the ones that Brad and his family experienced when they went through a very dark time, can change lives. In HumanKind, he tells the stories of the transformative effects of small acts and offers over fifty ways that you too can change someone’s life. Our session on goodness will be hosted by the great Meghan Irons, who writes for the Boston Globe on how culture, politics, and social issues intersect with everyday life. The Boston Globe is the media sponsor for this session.
Friday, October 9, 2020
We are excited to partner with the Boston Globe and their Op-Talks event series in hosting Pete Buttigieg to discuss his important new book, Trust: America’s Best Chance. Trust in our institutions and each other is the glue that holds societies together, Buttigieg argues. Mayor Pete uses a blend of history, political philosophy, and memoir to show how trust has been destroyed by a confluence of forces. To confront the grave challenges facing us—climate change, racial justice, and now, pandemic—Buttigieg contends that we can and must create, repair, and deepen networks of trust. He hopes to inspire a movement to rebuild the foundations of trust that have weakened over time and which our current polarized time has stressed to the point of breaking. Join Mayor Pete as he talks to Bina Venkataraman, the Boston Globe’s Editorial Page Editor and author of The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age.
Buy Trust: America's Best Chance (A special thanks to Harvard Book Store for offering a special discounted price of $16 for attendees who purchase the book through our links!)
A biographer and a memoirist will talk about giants of the culinary world in this session on food. John Birdsall’s biography of the charismatic and legendary taste-maker, James Beard, in the words of the Publishers Weekly starred review, “ offers a tangy portrait of the backstabbing world of post–WWII food writing along with vivid, novelistic evocations of Beard’s flavor experiences…” Fanny Singer’s Always Home, titled before coronavirus but more apt now than ever, is as much an homage to her mother, food icon Alice Waters, as it is a memoir. According to Kirkus Reviews, Singer’s memoir “bursts with sensuous descriptions of tastes, fragrances, and textures as she recounts her “very rich and full and just a little bit unconventional” young life.” Bonus: there are sixty recipes included! Join us for some delicious discourse all about the epicurean life, hosted by Amy Traverso, senior food writer at Yankee magazine and author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, newly re-released in a revised and updated edition.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
A 2018 survey found that Americans reported shockingly low levels of civic engagement over the previous year. Almost half surveyed said they did nothing: no petitions signed, no volunteering for a cause, no political donations. Is 2020 the year when all that changes? Find out from three authors who have studied and practiced activism. Eitan Hersh, in Politics Is for Power, calls out folks, especially liberals, for feeling like they are being political when often they are merely political hobbyists, consuming news and virtue signaling on social media. More is needed, he cautions, if we want change. In Why We Act, Catherine A. Sanderson uses neuroscience to explain why some people are capable of exhibiting moral courage and standing up for what’s right, while others go along with the group. Sanderson believes it is possible to learn to be brave in the face of wrongdoing. In 2014, DeRay Mckesson quit his job, moved to Ferguson, and spent four hundred days on the streets demanding justice. In On the Other Side of Freedom, this civil rights activist, co-founder of Campaign Zero, and host of Pod Save the People explores the nature of resistance and gives an insider’s look at the Black Lives Matter movement. Tonya Mosley, co-host of Here & Now on WBUR, will lead this not-to-be missed session on a topic critical to our current moment. 90.9 WBUR is the media sponsor for this session.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
This wide-ranging session offers an eye-opening survey of the past, present, and future for women of color in the tech industry. In The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, materials scientist Ainissa Ramirez profiles eight significant inventions and examines how they have shaped the human experience. Among the many fascinating stories she shares, Ramirez also highlights the work of inventors of color and women whose significant contributions have previously been hidden or downplayed. Susanne Tedrick currently works in the industry as a technical specialist; her book Women of Color in Tech surveys the current climate for women of color in tech careers and serves as a handbook for how to break into the field—and find the support needed to thrive there. Mentoring the next generation of women innovators of color is the specialty of our third guest, Bridgette Wallace, one of the co-founders of Roxbury’s G|Code House, a co-living, working, and learning environment for young women interested in tech careers. Our host for this session is Carissa Romain, an experienced writer, interviewer, and host of The Formula, a digital series highlighting Black women with fascinating careers. Sponsored by the Wagner Foundation.
This session will also be broadcast live on Boston Neighborhood Network Media television stations.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
You know by now that we have major problems with our electoral process. The three authors in this session will tell us how we can fix the system. Our democracy sort of depends on whether we succeed, so pay close attention. David Daley wrote Unrigged as a follow-up to his previous bestselling book, Ratf**ked, about partisan gerrymandering. Here, he talks about the ways in which citizens can, against the odds, change laws about gerrymandering, voting roll purges, voting rights for released felons, and more, using tactics that range from taking to the streets to circulating petitions to running for office. In Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? Alex Keyssar investigates the long history of that strange artifact which has handed the presidency to the loser twice in modern times. Why do we still have it? Probably not for the reasons you think. And finally, Katherine Gehl, co-author with Michael Porter of The Politics Industry, puts forth an original analysis of the political parties as duopolies that stifle competition. She has some simple, actionable ideas for reforming electoral politics. Can we do better? Yes, we can! Anthony Brooks, senior political advisor at WBUR, 90.9 FM, will host this session. Media sponsor for this session is 90.9 WBUR.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
This session, presented in cooperation with the Museum of African American History and highlighting the MAAH Stone Book Award, brings together five notable historians whose work focuses on institutions or individuals who were key in fomenting acts or movements of Black resistance throughout American history. Moderator Kellie Carter Jackson (Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence) will interview Vincent Brown (Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War), Kerri Greenidge (Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter), Garrett Felber (Those Who Know Don't Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement, and the Carceral State) and 2020 MAAH Stone Book Award winner Jelani M. Favors (Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism). Their riveting historical accounts reveal the many forms of constant, continued resistance by Black Americans against racism and racist policies and practices from the time of enslavement through to the present, the surge of particular black radical movements at unique moments in history, and the wide range and diverse forms of activism cultivated in the Black community— from religious to academic institutions. This session aims to underscore that Black people have always known—and have always fought to make clear—that Black lives matter. Sponsored by the Plymouth Rock Foundation and the Jim and Cathy Stone Foundation.
Award-winning historian and professor Andrew S. Curran, author of Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely (out in paperback from Other Press this October), will discuss the life and work of the Enlightenment philosopher and consummate atheist Denis Diderot. Curran will appear in conversation with Jim Windolf, the media editor of the New York Times. Their discussion aims to offer insight into the ways Diderot’s teachings might be ruminated on in current times and will highlight why this eighteenth-century thinker is more relevant than ever. Sponsored by Other Press.
Monday, October 19, 2020
Some of you may be thinking that unbridled capitalism is what got us into our current mess, and our panelists don’t really disagree. But they also see the power of capitalism as a force to change the world for the better. In Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire, Rebecca Henderson, the McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, believes that the restructuring of capitalism, already underway, has the potential to solve the three great problems of our day: environmental degradation, economic inequality, and institutional collapse. Myriam Sidibe is a public health expert who, as Unilever’s first social mission manager, is responsible for leveraging the company’s Lifebuoy soap brand into a vast initiative to save lives by promoting handwashing in Africa and Asia. Her book, Brands on a Mission, presents many case studies to bolster her argument for using purpose-led marketing to invigorate sales while also promoting healthy habits and positive norms around behavior. Our host for this timely discussion is Mark Kramer, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and co-founder of FSG, a social impact consulting firm that works toward social progress and racial equity around the world.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
At the same time that racism is being used as a call to action by Republicans, Black voters are poised to be the determining voter block in 2020. On-air political analyst and founder of The Beat, Tiffany Cross examines how the political system has excluded Black voters and how the media has been complicit in her "lively memoir and polemic," Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy. Bowdoin professor of government Chryl Laird, co-author of Steadfast Democrats, argues that Black voters are uniquely influenced by the social expectations of other Black Americans to prioritize the struggle for equality. Laird’s work explores how Black political norms are enforced and what it means for the future of Black politics. In her award-winning book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, Leah Wright Rigueur, the Harry Truman Professor of American History at Brandeis University, adds fascinating texture to the discussion with her study of conservative Black activists who fought to influence Republican policy. This discussion, led by Callie Crossley, host of Under the Radar on GBH Radio, is essential pre-election viewing. Sponsored by the Wagner Foundation, with media sponsorship by GBH.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
This session will challenge your assumptions about how we meet, marry, love, and reproduce. Debora L. Spar, in Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny, surveys human history and concludes that the decisions we make about our intimate lives are driven, and always have been driven, by technology. These days, it’s assisted reproduction, robotics, and artificial intelligence that will be guiding our personal choices. Dr. Merle Berger, a pioneer in reproductive technologies like IVF, describes, in Conception: A Fertility Doctor’s Memoir, the rapid development of those technologies, the decoupling of sex from reproduction, and the ethical conundrums we will continue to face in the future. This fascinating session will be hosted by Carey Goldberg, WBUR’s host of CommonHealth and author of Three Wishes: A True Story Of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak and Astonishing Luck On Our Way To Love and Motherhood. Media sponsorship by WBUR 90.9 FM.
Friday, October 23, 2020
Founder and principal of MASS Design Group, Michael Murphy, writes in the introduction to the firm’s beautiful monograph, Justice is Beauty, that “architecture is not agnostic about ethics.” While Murphy was still a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, he was hired by Paul Farmer to design a hospital in Rwanda. MASS has gone on to design many hospitals and schools in Africa and Haiti, and their partnership with artist Hank Willis Thomas produced the winning entrant for Boston’s MLK Memorial. Murphy may be best known, however, for working with Bryan Stevenson to design the enormously moving and monumental National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. He and his partners at MASS, which stands for Model of Architecture Serving Society, believe that good design is not solely for the wealthy—that the search for beauty is the search for justice. Join Jared Bowen, host of Open Studio on GBH, for an inspiring conversation with Michael Murphy. This session is sponsored by Ann and Graham Gund, with media sponsorship by GBH.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and journalist Sheryl WuDunn sought out stories of the so-called personal failures of the working poor. Most of the stories are from Kristof’s hometown in rural Oregon, where one in four of his peers have died from substance abuse, suicide, accidents, or treatable medical issues. The resulting book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, is a companion piece to the works of Michael Sandel and Pete Buttigieg. It speaks of the self-hatred of those who tried but failed to keep afloat and who have bought into the lie perpetrated by elites that failure is their fault and not the fault of a system that is stacked against them. Kristof and WuDunn highlight programs that help and that could potentially scale. As they point out, this is no longer an issue of Republicans or Democrats. It’s all of us. Arun Rath, host of GBH’s All Things Considered, will lead the discussion.
Guy Raz has interviewed dozens of successful entrepreneurs on his enormously popular radio show, How I Built This. In his new book, How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs, Raz distills the lessons learned from his probing and infectiously energetic and enthusiastic interviews. Guy Raz likens the path of the entrepreneur to the hero’s journey—setting off from relative safety into the unknown to meet both daunting challenges and essential helpers along the way to fulfilling the journey’s goal. From Allbirds to Stacy’s Pita Chips to Warby Parker, Raz explores each entrepreneur’s varied and winding path. Join Guy Raz and the Boston Globe’s Managing Director, Linda Pizzuti Henry, for a fascinating conversation about How I Built This. The media sponsor of this session is the Boston Globe.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Are you troubled by what you read about surveillance capitalism, malign conspiracies on Facebook, and the obviously addictive quality of our devices? Dipayan Ghosh, a computer scientist turned policymaker whose work in the Obama White House and at Facebook informs his views, believes that the internet is no longer the space of individual freedom that it was in the beginning. Today, the internet is a corporatized structure that conducts uninhibited surveillance to generate profit. And the same algorithmic curation utilized to sell us products is also being used to radicalize individuals to extreme political views. His book, Terms of Disservice: How Silicon Valley is Destructive by Design, proposes a regulatory scheme to safeguard individual privacy and ensure that the internet works for society at large, and not just Silicon Valley. Speaking of Silicon Valley, have you ever thought about the workers who make it all possible? In Voices from the Valley, Ben Tarnoff and Moira Weigel sit down with workers at all levels of Silicon Valley tech companies to learn what life is like when you work in tech. This session will be in the capable hands of Meghna Chakrabarti, host and editor of WBUR’s On Point. The media sponsor of this session is 90.9 WBUR.