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Swarthmore Discussion Group

Swarthmore College beautiful fall foliage at building

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 2021 Series — September, October, November, and December—  will be held remotely using Zoom. A decision about whether the Spring 2022 Series will be remote or in-person will be made 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 2021 series of four monthly presentations on Wednesday evenings. We will meet online using Zoom. The membership fee includes a food item — a small appetizer with dessert — 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 2021 Swarthmore Discussion Group Series

Sept. 22  "GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance "

 "GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance"

Angela Lee Duckworth, Psychologist, MacArthur Fellow, and Character Lab CEO​​​​​​

Who succeeds in life and what lessons can we learn from them? Dr. Angela Duckworth reviews her research on grit, the tendency to pursue long-term goals with perseverance and passion. Dr. Duckworth shows how grit and talent are different, and explains why grit predicts achievement in challenging situations including the National Spelling Bee, West Point Military Academy, urban teaching, and sales. She reveals the beliefs, strategies, and habits that make gritty individuals special and provides recommendations about how to cultivate grit in yourself and others.

Oct. 20  “Challenges of an Empathy Bridge”

“Challenges of an Empathy Bridge”

Arlie Russell Hochschild '62, Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

Drawing examples from her five years of research about Trump’s influence in southern Louisiana and her ongoing interviews in Appalachia, Dr. Arlie Hochschild relates what she calls the “deep story” of the far right, leading up to and following the January 6th Capitol insurrection. As the split deepens between “country-club” and “populist” Republicans, and AOC and Biden Democrats, how, she asks, do we extend a strategic empathy bridge that permits civil talk of difference?

Nov. 17  “Ecosystem of Crisis: Politics, Healthcare, and Social Justice”

“ Ecosystem of Crisis: Politics, Healthcare, and Social Justice”

Josh Green '92, Lieutenant Governor, State of Hawaii

An “ecosystem of crisis” identifies the homelessness and poverty, mental health and drug addiction intersection that creates a ground zero for the most severely suffering individuals in a community. To address these various facets, collaboration between government, healthcare and community will be required. It’s time to recognize homelessness as a complex medical condition, ‘prescribe’ housing as healthcare and bring together government, healthcare professionals and community to solve one of the most urgent needs in our society.

Dec. 8 “Creativity, Imagination, and Thinking Through the Post-Covid Future”

“Creativity, Imagination, and Thinking Through the Post-COVID Future ”

Agustin Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

There are multiple paths towards post-COVID futures. Humans are creative, imaginative and hopeful, in mind, body and community. How might we deploy those skills to facilitate a better post-pandemic world? In his talk, Dr. Agustin Fuentes will lay out that human skillset, reflect on what has transpired, and offer thoughts for how we can redo this next phase better.

When and Where

SDG's Fall 2021 Series convenes on the second or third Wednesday of each month from January through April. While we have previously gathered at the Inn at Swarthmore, due to COVID-19 we will hold our Fall 2021 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 an email with the link to participate in the Zoom meeting one week prior to the meeting.


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

Location, Cost, and Registration

The Fall 2021 Series will be held online using Zoom. The fee for the series of four presentations is $80 per person. Registration opens June 9, 2021. Maximum 100 participants. Registration closes Sept. 10, 2021. To register, click on "Membership and Registration" in the sidebar at left, or by selecting "Membership and Registration" from the menu.


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