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Swarthmore Discussion Group

Fall foliage on Swarthmore campus

Department Overview

A Special Message from the Board of the Swarthmore Discussion Group

The Swarthmore Discussion Group board considers the health of its members to be its highest priority. Therefore, our Fall 2020 Series — September, October, November, and December —  will be held remotely using Zoom. A decision about whether the spring series will be remote or in-person will be made in November. Spring registration information will be sent via email later this fall. Until we can safely gather together again at the Inn, we hope you'll join us for a memorable online experience.

Learn more about Swarthmore College's response to COVID-19.


The Swarthmore Discussion Group (SDG) offers members the opportunity to hear knowledgeable speakers and engage in lively conversation with local community members as well as Swarthmore College staff, faculty, and alumni.

Our speakers are distinguished scholars, community leaders, and experts in their field. Following their presentations on topics including politics, foreign affairs, economics, cultural, and social issues they welcome the questions, discussion, and debate engaged in by members.

We hope you’ll join our Fall 2020 series of four monthly presentations on Wednesday evenings. We will meet online using Zoom. The membership fee includes a food item — alternating dessert and appetizer — from the Inn at Swarthmore, available for pick-up between 4:30–5:30 p.m.  the day of the presentation. No refunds are available.

Fall 2020 Swarthmore Discussion Group Series

Sept. 16 "MyBarackObama: How Social Media Ate Our Elections and What We Can Do About it"

 "MyBarackObama: How Social Media Ate Our Elections and What We Can Do About It"

Claire Bond Potter, author and professor of history, New School for Social Research ​​​​​​

Social media created a new campaign style - modern, youthful, and interested in you - that lifted Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008, but at what cost?  Digital alternative media created a historic victory but also produced the hyperpartisan environment we grapple with today. Potter is a political historian and the author of Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked Us On Politics and Broke Our Democracy.  Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Politico, and The Guardian.

Oct. 7 “The State of the LGBTQ Movement”

“The State of the LGBTQ Movement”

Rea Carey, executive director, National LGBTQ Task Force

Fifty years after the Stonewall Riots, Where is the LGBTQ movement headed? Through HIV/AIDS, anti-violence work, securing some non-discrimination protections, and winning marriage rights, the LGBTQ movement has been resilient, adaptive, and creative. Now is the time to think expansively about a movement grounded in racial, economic, gender, and social justice – one that allows each person to be "all of me, all the time." Carey has spent three decades in leadership roles in the LGBTQ movement, and serves on the board of the Freeman Foundation and the Flamboyan Foundation. 

Nov. 11 “The 2020 Elections: What Happened? What's Next? ”

“The 2020 Elections: What Happened? What's Next? ”

Jason Zengerle, writer at large, The New York Times Magazine

Zengerle will explore the recently completed political campaigns, discussing the key issues, players, and moments that contributed to the results. He will assess what those results mean going forward – for the next year, the next election, and beyond. 

Dec. 9 “Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 in Philadelphia”

“Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 in Philadelphia ”

Robert Hicks, senior consulting scholar, College of Physicians in Philadelphia 

What happens when disease strikes a city of 2 million people, sickening half a million and killing more than 12,000 in just six weeks and thousands more over several months? Taken from a public health campaign in 1918, "Spit Spreads Death" warns against the transmission of the virus that killed more people globally then both the First and Second World Wars combined. Hicks discusses the pandemic as a social catastrophe and considers its memorialization today. Have lessons from the 1918 flu been applied to today's pandemic? Hicks is a William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and former director of the Mutter Museum.

When and Where

SDG's Fall 2020 Series convenes on the second or third Wednesday of each month from September through December. While we have previously gathered at the Inn at Swarthmore, due to COVID-19 we will hold our Fall 2020 Series remotely using Zoom. Please make sure that you use your current email address when registering as that is the email address you will use to attend the meeting. You will receive a link to participate approximately one week prior to the meeting.


6:30–7 p.m. Table Talk via Zoom
7–8:15 p.m. Talk and Q & A

Location, Cost, and Registration

The Fall 2020 Series will be held online using Zoom. The fee for the series of four presentations is $80 per person. Registration opens July 15.


Contact Marty Roelandt at