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NEH Chairman James Leach to speak at Vanderbilt University

by Sep. 30, 2010, 10:07 AM

James Leach

As a part of the 2010 Southern Festival of Books, Humanities Tennessee and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, with additional support from Vanderbilt’s Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions, will host a series of sessions on Oct. 8 and 9 titled “Building Community in the 21st Century – Perspectives on Civility and Democracy.” All sessions are free and open to the public.

“These book festival sessions will provide the opportunity for our community to talk together about some of the divisions we currently face in our society,” said Mona Frederick, executive director of the Warren Center.  “The presentations will provide an opportunity to rethink those divisions as we consider together the ways we might transform our cultural discord into a more civil and thoughtful democracy.”

The chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, James Leach, will present two sessions on the topic: one at the Southern Festival of Books and one on the Vanderbilt University campus. Both sessions are free and open to the public.

The series begins on Friday, Oct. 8, with a discussion among Leach, retired Senator and former U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker and former journalist and founder of the First Amendment Center John Seigenthaler.  “A Conversation on Civility and Democracy” takes place from noon to 1 p.m. in the Tennessee House of Representative Chambers.

Leach will then visit Vanderbilt University to present “Civility in a Fractured Society” at 4 p.m. in Room 103 Wilson Hall.   

Nominated by President Barack Obama, Leach began his four-year term as NEH chairman on Aug. 12, 2009.  Leach previously served 30 years representing southeastern Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Just prior to becoming chairman of the NEH, Leach was a member of faculty at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where he was the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs.

Presentations [see full list below] continue on Saturday, Oct. 9, and will examine topics such as immigration and citizenship, how religion unites and divides us and black gay men of the South, among others.

For more information about the Southern Festival of Books visit For more information about Humanities Tennessee, visit

For more information about the Robert Penn Warren Center at Vanderbilt University, visit  For more news about Vanderbilt University, visit

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS: “Building Community in the 21st Century – Perspectives on Civility and Democracy.”
Sponsored by Humanities Tennessee and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, with additional support from Vanderbilt’s Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 10-11 a.m., Old Supreme Court Room
The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and a Civil Society
Presented by Janet Flammang, chair of the Political Science Department at Santa Clara University. Her current research explores the relationship between meals, conversation, community and democracy.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 11 a.m.-12 p.m., Senate Chambers
Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States
Presented by Hiroshi Motomura, an influential scholar and teacher of immigration and citizenship law. He is a member of the permanent faculty of the UCLA School of Law.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 12-1 p.m., War Memorial Auditorium
American Grace: How Religion Divides Us and Unites Us
Presented by David E. Campbell and Robert Putnam. Campbell is the John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C. Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame as well as a research fellow with the Institute for Educational Initiatives. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and founder of the Saguaro Seminar, a program dedicated to fostering civic engagement in America.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 1-2 p.m., Senate Chambers
The Myth of Digital Democracy
Presented by Matthew Hindman, an assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University. His research interests include American politics, political communication, and (especially) online politics.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 2-3 p.m., War Memorial Auditorium
Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South
Presented by Patrick Johnson, chair, director of graduate studies, and professor in the Department of Performance Studies and professor of African American studies at Northwestern University. He will be performing his “Sweet Tea” stage show, based upon his book of the same name.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 3-4 p.m., Room 16
Rudeness and Civility: Manners in 19th-century Urban America
Presented by John Kasson, who has taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1971. A cultural historian, he has received numerous awards and fellowships for his body of work.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 4-5 p.m., Old Supreme Court Room
Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative vs. Participatory Democracy
Presented by Diana Mutz, who holds the Samuel A. Stouffer Chair in Political Science and Communication at Penn State University, and also serves as director of the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.