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Leadership, Liberal Arts, and the Common Good

Panel 1: Reimagining Civil Discourse

American political and civic discourse has become more and more rancorous. The divisions among people, parties, and ideologies have seemingly thrown up barriers against respectful listening, seeking common ground, respect for persons, and the ability even to agree to disagree. How should we reimagine our polity and the arenas in which civil discourse might take place with the result that the barriers fall and the great chasms of anger and disrespect are bridged? What role should liberal arts education and the leaders it produces play in shaping a new reality?


Robin Wagner-Pacifici

Robin Wagner-Pacifici is the Gil and Frank Mustin Professor of Sociology. Her work analyzes society's response to violent events, including armed standoffs and events identified as terrorist in nature — the language with which these events are described by the media, the government, and the public and what that language reveals about changing conceptions of terrorism. Wagner-Pacifici is the author of The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict's End as well as Theorizing the Standoff: Contingency in Action. Two earlier books, Discourse and Destruction: The City of Philadelphia versus MOVE and The Moro Morality Play: Terrorism as Social Drama focused, respectively on the 1985 MOVE disaster in Philadelphia and the kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978. Wagner-Pacifici holds a B.A. in comparative literature from Brown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.


Christopher Edley

Christopher Edley '73 is dean and professor of law at the University of California — Berkeley School of Law Boalt Hall. Prior to that, he served as a professor at Harvard Law School. His academic work is primarily in the areas of civil rights and administrative law. Edley was co-founder of the Harvard Civil Rights Project. His publications include Not All Black and White: Affirmative Action, Race and American Values, and Administrative Law: Rethinking Judicial Control of Bureaucracy. He holds a B.A. with high honors in mathematics from Swarthmore and a J.D. and Ph.D. in public administration from Harvard University.

Andrew Perrin

Andrew Perrin '93 is associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina. His research interests focus on democratic citizenship in the United States — the cultural and social underpinnings of democracy: what do people need to know, be, and do to make democracy work? He is the author of Citizen Speak: The Democratic Imagination in American Life (University of Chicago Press, 2006). He holds a B.A. with highest honors in sociology and anthropology from Swarthmore and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California — Berkeley.

William Saletan

William Saletan '87 is Slate magazine's national correspondent. He writes about science, technology, politics, and society. He is the author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War (2004), which argues that pro-choice and pro-life activists have lost the abortion debate to a third constituency: libertarian conservatives. He holds a B.A. with highest honors in philosophy from Swarthmore.