Carnegie Mellon University
November 19, 2021

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SIG - Friday Forum - “Dispelling the Myths of the Founding Fathers” with Carol Berkin

Friday, December 3 at 1pm - NEW DATE!

Were all the framers of the constitution brilliant?  Did they believe in democracy? Was the constitution they designed full of original ideas? This talk examines the myths surrounding the men who wrote the constitution and offers some reasons why we should continue to admire them. In this presentation, Ms. Berkin will discuss the Constitutional Convention and examine some of the issues raised in her book, A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution.

We are privileged to have CUNY Presidential Professor Emerita Carol Berkin talk to us on a topic on which she is a preeminent historian. Berkin is a frequent contributor to PBS and History Channel television documentaries on early American and Revolutionary Era history and is often a panelist on programs at the New-York Historical Society. She is the editor of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s online journal, History Now and has directed numerous summer institutes for teachers for Gilder Lehrman, Mt. Vernon, and the New-York Historical Society.

Carol Berkin is the author of many other books, including First Generations: Women in Colonial America; Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence; Civil War Wives: the Life and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant; Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte; The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties; and most recently, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism.

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SIG - Friday Forum - “Hope and Despair: The Teachings of Vaclav Havel” with David Gilbreath Barton

Friday, December 3 at 1pm - NEW DATE!

How do we live in a society that seems to be coming apart in every way?

How do we remain human in a world dehumanized by titanic forces that threaten both culture and the environment?

Vaclav Havel struggled with exactly these questions as a playwright, intellectual, and the most important dissident in Eastern Europe during the Soviet era. For Havel, the totalitarian system in his own country was a complete expression of the absurdity of modern life and of certain tendencies in the Western tradition to dominate and control both human nature and the natural world. In this sense, he regarded the systems of control in his own country, Czechoslovakia, as “one of the possible future-ologies of the world.” His life and politics teach us how to face these systems and how to face the alienation and despair that comes from living within them. The path out of despair, Havel suggests, is to re-discover our own moral consciousness and then to accept the sacrifices we will be called to make in order to live in accord with our own ground of being. 

David Barton is the author of Havel: Unfinished Revolution. He is a former tenured professor at Northern New Mexico College and the former director of the Salt Institute. He is currently a psychotherapist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives with his wife.

The University of Pittsburgh Press describes the book in this way:

Václav Havel (1936–2011), the famous Czech dissident, intellectual, and playwright, was there when half a million people came to Wenceslas Square to demand an end to Communism in 1989. Many came to hear him call for a free Czechoslovakia, for democratic elections, and for a return to Europe. The demonstrators roared when he spoke. “Havel to the castle,” they chanted— meaning Havel for president. And a few weeks later, Havel became a most unusual president. He was sometimes misunderstood and not always popular, but by the time of his death in 2011, the world recognized Havel as one of the most prominent figures of the twentieth century. In this intimate and sweeping portrayal of Havel, David Gilbreath Barton reveals the eccentricities of the last president of Czechoslovakia, and the first president of the Czech Republic.

If you are interested in purchasing the book Havel, the University of Pittsburgh Press has provided a link and 20% discount code.  Use these to purchase the book:

Discount Code:  HAVEL20