Redistricting and Representation

On November 8, 2017, Jonathan Fanton introduced a discussion on “Redistricting and Representation.” The discussion was moderated by the Honorable Patti B. Saris, and featured the following speakers: Moon Duchin, Jamal Greene, and Gary King.

The program served as the 2062nd Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the American Academy. It is my pleasure to welcome you and to call to order the 2062nd Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Let me begin with a special welcome to those coming to us from the Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s program on redistricting reform, which is co-sponsoring this evening’s event. A special thank you to Miles Rapoport, a Senior Fellow at the Ash Center and a member of the Academy’s new Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship for making this collaboration possible. I am also pleased to note that tonight’s event is being live-streamed on the Academy’s website.

The topic of this evening’s program, “Redistricting and Representation” extends back to the earliest days of the Academy, yet remains relevant today. The American Academy was founded in 1780 by 62 scholar-patriots, including John Adams, John Hancock, and James Bowdoin, in the midst of the still-ongoing revolution. They recognized that the new nation they were building would need an institution dedicated to collecting and disseminating knowledge that would “advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” The founders hoped that the collection and dissemination of “useful knowledge” would help create the educated citizenry needed to lead the new nation out of revolution into independence and democracy.

Among one of our earliest fellows was a man whose name will be familiar to most everyone in this room: Elbridge Gerry. Inducted into the Academy while serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1781, Mr. Gerry would go on to become a United States Congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, and Vice-President under James Madison. He signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, but refused to sign the Constitution in 1787 because it lacked a bill of rights.

Continue reading Redistricting and Representation

The Resilience of the Human Spirit

Reflections on a Visit to Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan
September 17-20, 2017

We traveled to the Za’atari Refugee Camp on Wednesday, an hour’s drive from Amman and 10 miles from the Syrian border. Za’atari hosts 80,000 Syrians—the largest camp in the Middle East and fifth largest in the world. It is run by the Syrian Refugee Affairs Department, but UNHCR is responsible for the management and coordination of humanitarian services. It is divided into twelve communities which hold a meeting every other week with the authorities.

We spent the better part of a day at Za’atari, starting with a briefing from the camp leadership and UNHCR representatives. We visited a Community Center and food market, were hosted to tea by a refugee family in their caravan, and met with a group of community leaders.

Signs everywhere identified the donors: government agencies like the Norwegian Refugee Council and USAID, UN agencies like UNHCR, NGOs like Mercy Corp, Oxfam, Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee.

As we moved around the camp, it felt more like a real community than a compound. There is an orderly street grid, a string of local shops commonly referred to as the Champs-Élysées, and rows of family houses that resemble metal trailers (called caravans). There are schools, places of worship, and two modern, well-stocked food markets.

Continue reading The Resilience of the Human Spirit

Induction Ceremony

On October 7, 2017, Jonathan Fanton introduced the 2017 Induction Ceremony held at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, MA. The ceremony featured historical readings by Kenneth Wallach (Central National Gottesman Inc.) and Diane Wood (U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit), as well as a performance by the Boston Children’s Chorus. It also included presentations by five new members: Ursula Burns (Xerox Corporation), James P. Allison (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), Heather Gerken (Yale Law School), Jane Mayer (The New Yorker), and Gerald Chan (Morningside Group).

Let me add my warm welcome to the Class of 2017, and to your families and friends who have joined us to celebrate this special occasion.

The Academy benefits from the wise and dedicated leadership of its Officers, members of the Academy Board, Council, and Trust.  As a result of their efforts, the American Academy is a thriving institution. We are grateful for all that they do, and particularly for the leadership and encouragement of the new Chair of our Board, Nancy Andrews.

I would also like to thank our previous Chair, Don Randel, for his friendship and dedication to this institution over the past four years.

The Academy was founded in 1780, during the American Revolution, by John Adams and 62 other scholar-patriots who understood that the new republic would require new institutions to gather knowledge and advance learning in service to the public good.

Adams dreamed that there would be a scholarly academy in every state.  As in so many initiatives of the Revolutionary period, Massachusetts took the lead, incorporating Adams’s vision into its foundational documents.

The Massachusetts Constitution was drafted in 1780 and remains the oldest functioning written constitution in the world.  Adams and his colleagues included a section called “The Encouragement of Literature, etc.”

“Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties…it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them…to encourage private societies and public institutions…for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, and good humor, and all social affections and generous sentiments, among the people.”

Continue reading Induction Ceremony

Science and the Legal System

Science and the Legal System Authors’ Workshop

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Good morning and welcome. I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the Academy.  I hope you are all rested and ready to engage in a lively discussion of your colleagues’ papers on this first day of the authors’ workshop. We have a full agenda and I look forward to the conversation.

Shari Diamond originally proposed an Academy study on Science and the Legal System two years ago, at a meeting of Academy members at Northwestern.  The idea received robust support at that meeting, and indeed, over the past two years I have found it is a topic that resonates strongly among the Academy’s members, and not only those from the sciences and law.  We are pleased at how the study has developed under Shari’s and Rick Lempert’s direction.

My own interest in this topic dates back to my days at the MacArthur Foundation.  During my tenure as president, the Foundation launched a Law and Neuroscience Project that was one of the early systematic efforts to bridge the fields of law and science. Today, this research network continues to promote the accurate presentation of neuroscience in legal cases and explores how new knowledge from neuroscience can be used to improve the justice system. Joe Sanders and Nancy Gertner have been active contributors to this project, as has Jed Rakoff, who was a valued advisor to me during its creation.

The Academy study on Science and the Legal System explores similar issues in the context of the broader scientific community. Scientists’ willingness to get involved in the legal system has consequences for the quality of expert advice. This question has not been fully explored by previous studies, nor has prior work systematically examined the variety of alternative approaches that might be used to encourage and introduce better quality scientific advice.

Continue reading Science and the Legal System

Challenging Corrupt Practices: America, Brazil, Globally

On June 26, 2017, Jonathan Fanton introduced a discussion on “Challenging Corrupt Practices: America, Brazil, Globally.” The discussion was moderated by Robert Rotberg and featured the following speakers: Sergio Fernando Moro, Zephyr Teachout, and Mark L. Wolf.

The discussion was streamed to a group of Academy members and guests gathered in New York City, at the offices of Skadden, Arps, hosted by Mark Kaplan. When the panel concluded its presentations, Michael Sovern moderated the discussion in New York City.

The meeting served as the 2056th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Good evening. It is my pleasure to welcome you and to call to order the 2056th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

I am pleased to note that tonight we are streaming this meeting to Academy members and guests gathered in New York City, at the offices of Skadden, Arps.  We are grateful to Mark Kaplan for hosting our group in New York.  When our panel concludes its presentations, our members and guests in New York will have their own conversation, moderated by Michael Sovern, President Emeritus of Columbia University and Chancellor Kent Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.

This week, a group of scholars and practitioners from around the world are convening at the House of the Academy to discuss drafts of their essays for a forthcoming issue of Daedalus on Anti-Corruption: Best Practices.  The essays in this Daedalus volume will try to provide answers to the following question: How can individual countries, as well as the global community of nations as a whole, reduce, if not end, corrupt practices? The authors are asking, very simply, what really works?

We are delighted that the Daedalus authors are joining us this evening and that three of them, as well as the guest editor of the issue, Robert Rotberg, will be speaking with us tonight. I am grateful to Robert for shaping the issue and for assembling an outstanding group of contributors.

Continue reading Challenging Corrupt Practices: America, Brazil, Globally

Communicating Scientific Facts in an Age of Disbelief in Experts

On May 18, 2017, the American Academy held a discussion, in partnership with the Carnegie Institution for Science, on “Communicating Scientific Facts in an Age of Disbelief in Experts.” Matthew P. Scott introduced the evening’s topic before handing the program to Jonathan Fanton. The discussion was moderated by Richard A. Meserve, and the featured speakers were Mary Sue Coleman, Alan I. Leshner, and Joe Palca.

The meeting served as the 2055th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

As President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I am pleased to call to order the 2,055th Stated Meeting of the American Academy.

It is a particular pleasure to convene this program in partnership with Matthew Scott and the Carnegie Institution for Science. Since their founding, our two institutions have shared a common mission of advancing knowledge in service to society.  And several Academy members have served as Carnegie Institution scientists, including its first two presidents, Daniel Coit Gilman and Robert Simpson Woodward.

Woodward, in fact, served as the Academy’s delegate to the centennial celebration of the University of Virginia in 1921. In his report to Academy President Theodore Richards on June 13, 1921, he lamented that

“Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and [Teddy] Roosevelt are the only, almost, American statesmen who had anything like a competent knowledge of science.”

The situation may have improved slightly since then, but I imagine most of us would agree there is still room for improvement.

The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other leaders who helped to establish the United States. In the midst of the American Revolution, they believed the key to America’s long-term strength and survival was, in the words of our charter, “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

From the beginning, the Academy’s purpose has been not to simply honor excellence in a broad range of disciplines and professions. Its members also conduct studies of critical policy issues and debate the most pressing issues of the day.

Continue reading Communicating Scientific Facts in an Age of Disbelief in Experts

“How Do We See?” A Discussion on Visual Perception

On May 17, 2017, Jonathan Fanton introduced a discussion on visual perception, entitled “How Do We See?Ken Nakayama moderated the discussion between Charles Gilbert and Dale Purves.

The discussion served as the 2054th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the American Academy. It is my pleasure to welcome you and to call to order the 2054th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Our topic this evening is “How do we see?” As you can imagine, questions about how vision works have been ever-present throughout the life of the Academy. In fact, an issue of the Academy’s Memoirs from 1809 contains a communication from Peres Fobes, a Massachusetts clergyman elected to the Academy in 1780, entitled “A Curious Phenomenon of Vision.” His letter describes the case of a 46-year-old man named Pierce who had “a kind of ulcer collected in his head,” which confined him to his home with weak eyesight and extreme sensitivity to light.

One night the ulcer broke, and Mr. Pierce awoke free of pain, feeling well and composed. He arose and went to look out a window, and, as Reverend Fobes described,

“to his great surprise [Pierce] saw, at a place called Reed’s ware-house, near the ferry, at the distance of near two miles, a cart and yoke of oxen. He could plainly discern the color of the oxen, the rounds in the cart, the stones on the beach, and even the courses and joints in the shingles on the ware-house. This extraordinary degree of acute, telescopic vision continued for about one hour; after which his sight returned to its usual state.”

The letter goes on to vouch for Mr. Pierce’s character and judgment.

Continue reading “How Do We See?” A Discussion on Visual Perception