Farewell to a Democratic Opening in Myanmar

This trip report, written February 2020, reflects the challenges and the aspirations for a democratic Myanmar. There was no forewarning of the military takeover that would come within months of our visit. I remain committed to supporting the courageous civil society leaders with whom I met.

Myanmar January 15-26, 2020

Background

My wife Cynthia and I took an Abercrombie and Kent tour of Myanmar which started in Yangon then on to Bagan, a 2 day trip up the Irrawaddy to Mandalay and finally 2 glorious days on Inle Lake. There, we visited villages and met with local artisans working on silver, weaving, cigar making. Earlier we visited a lacquerware workshop. In Yangon, we visited the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar. In Bagan, we took a balloon ride to see the 2,500 Buddhist pagodas and temples the first of which was built by King Anawrahta in 1044. A special treat was seeing a novitiation ceremony, “a coming of age ritual celebrating an aspiring young monk’s first entry to the monastery.” The trip up the Irrawaddy exposed us to rural villages and the lifeline the river plays in transporting timber and minerals, two keys to the Myanmar economy. Mandalay was the last royal capital of the Burma Kingdom and the cultural center of the country. We visited the ancient Teak Monastery, Shwenandaw, which survived World War II bombings. Our two days on Inle Lake were beautiful and peaceful. We saw real life close up. The floating farms and villages on stilts are amazing. 

On either side of the tour, I arranged visits with civil society groups including Free Expression Myanmar, Equality Myanmar, Athan, Smile, the Institute for Strategy and Policy, and the local HRW representative. Of special interest was our conversation with Thant Myint-U, grandson of former UN Secretary General U-Thant. Thant’s recent book The Hidden History of Burma, is a widely read analysis of the way forward for Myanmar given its complicated history. He has led the restoration of his grandfather’s house into a museum and is a leader in preserving historical buildings in downtown Yangon.  

Myanmar is a country of 51.4 million people, twice the size of Germany but smaller than Texas. It has over 100 ethnic groups, the largest of which are Shan, Karin, Kachin, Kayah, Chin, Mon, and Rakhine. Burmese are 68% of the population. The country is divided in 7 states and 7 regions. Yangon is the largest city with 5 million; Mandalay has 700,000. The capital is a new city Naypyitaw, which feels deserted. 90% of the population are Buddhists, 5% Christian, 4% Islamic. The economy is fueled by timber, tin, copper, jade, ruby, rice and other agricultural products. Most foreign trade is with China (38%), Thailand (25%), India (8%), and Japan (6%). 

The British were in control 1824-1948 followed by a challenging period of independence (1948-62) and then military rule (1962-2011).  

Observations

Myanmar is more open than I had expected. Civil society leaders spoke their minds freely. Their organizations are monitoring elections and free expression, have reform agendas on the economy, ethnic relations, social services. Although there is sharp inequality across the country, Myanmar is more modern than I expected: a new airport, construction of new high-rise apartments in Yangon, car dealerships for Volvo, Mercedes, Toyota, technology stores across Yangon. The streets in the places we visited were well paved, electricity widespread, modern hotels and tourist amenities available. 

I felt safe in Myanmar. People of all walks of life are warm and friendly. I think of our boat ride through villages in Inle Lake and the young children sitting in the windows of the stilted houses smiling and waving as we passed by. I am not naive about the poverty, inequality, and still controlled society. But the people impressed me with their resilience, hard work, and openness. I have an instinct of affection for Myanmar that I have not felt so strongly in most places around the world I have visited for the first time. 

With that said, the intellectuals and activists with whom we spoke are to a person disappointed with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. They recognize she faces a daunting challenge of leading a new era when the military is still all-powerful. A constitutional provision prevents someone married to a foreigner from holding the Presidency thus she has de facto leadership though this special position. 

Yet people who supported her in her period of house arrest report she is not accessible to them. And she did not continue staffing key agencies with experts brought in by the last military leader, Thein Sein. Instead, she has turned to old guard bureaucrats who do not challenge her. She is criticized for being narcissistic, even dictatorial, in her interactions with people around her. According to people with whom we spoke, she has not articulated a positive vision for the country and has not reached out to ethnic minorities. The peace process with the key groups in the North has stalled. Nor has she taken a progressive stand on the Rohingya issue. That was clear in her defense of the military in the ICJ at the Hague. As one person told us, “she is not building a cohesive nation. She needs to connect to non-privileged groups like the Shan, Muslims, and other ethnic groups”. 

With that said, most everyone expects her party, NLD, to win the 2020 election. And most of her critics will vote for her. Some observers predict the NLD will lose seats in Parliament as the ethnic parties gain traction. Some think it possible the NLD will not have a majority and will need a coalition. Still most with whom we spoke think her continued leadership is the best alternative and real change will happen only after she retires, perhaps 5 years hence. No one could name a list of possible successors except to express the hope it would be a member of the younger generation.  

Among the people with whom we spoke, there is a mature understanding that it takes time to build a healthy and sustainable democracy. Intellectuals and activists are thinking in at least a 10 year horizon focusing on incremental improvements. Not surprising, the younger generation is more optimistic about the future than their elders who suffer from unfilled rising expectations. The growth of civil society organizations is an encouraging sign. 

Athan (voice in Burmese) was founded in January 2018 to promote free expression through research, advocacy and education. It issues periodic reports on the status of Freedom of Expression. It advocates a revision of the Telecommunications Law which criminalizes defamation which is the key tool the government uses to punish journalists it believes too critical. It has issued reports on how Parliament violated freedom of expression, compiled an inventory of 2019 protests (constitutional reform and labor rights are the top 2 issues), and monitors hate speech on Facebook which is the widely used social media platform in Myanmar. Athan has 17 staff (all under 30) and support from the National Endowment for Democracy and the Netherlands. It is central to a network of 30 civil society organization working on freedom of expression throughout Myanmar. 

Equality Myanmar involves 65 people (not all full time) and works on human rights training throughout Myanmar and helps build a network of local community based organizations. Among the issues it is focused on are forced relocations, domestic violence, forced labor and child soldiers. It aims to mitigate conflict among ethnic communities. It also advocates policy positions, for example, pushing Myanmar to sign the International Covenant on Human Rights. It will participate in monitoring of the 2020 elections. It has support from NED, Norway, Netherlands, and Open Society. 

Another group, SMILE, promotes freedom of religion and ethnic minorities; it monitors hate speech, including rating 2020 campaigns on hate speech. It has support from USAID and the Polish government and a fund of $500,000 a year for 28 staff. 

Free Expression Myanmar (FEM) has a staff of 10-15, a budget of $110,000 which comes from Sweden, UK, US governments. FEM prioritizes gender. It monitors the fate of journalists posting on Facebook with 50% of journalists saying some content has been taken down. Facebook is a key source of information for people living outside of Yangon and Mandalay where there are few print papers and radio is controlled by the government. 

I was particularly interested in learning about a CSO, Yone Kyi Yai (Belief), which aims to train people to be active citizens in a democracy. It works to bring local community leaders together with local government officials to talk about issues like the conditions of roads and access to safe water. At first, it is a shouting match but eventually both sides learn to talk in a civil fashion. This promising institution needs to expand. 

The Institute for Strategy and Policy has 20 researchers and a budget of $400,000 a year provided by NED, USAID, and Sweden. It has a quarterly journal and a quarterly TV show with 13 million viewers and a project “Myanmar 2050: What is the Vision”. Topics for its journal include: the development of civil society, social justice, electoral system reform, the growing influence of China and the future of federalism, all key issues. 

I have introduced the Institute and several other CSO’s to the New School’s Democracy 2.0 project. During the 1980’s the New School had a network of underground seminars in East and Central Europe, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and other locations. When the revolutions of 1989/90 opened a path to democracy for the region, our members were hopeful about the future. Now there is backsliding in most of the countries which raises the question of what went wrong? A new project, Democracy 2.0, will be a network of scholars in these countries plus Turkey and India. I think Myanmar would benefit from participation in the project, which seeks to understand the complex and uneven process of building a healthy and sustainable democracy. The naive notion that an election equals democracy needs to be replaced by a more nuanced understanding of how to build the cultural and political prerequisites of a democracy over time.  

Thant Myint-U’s The Hidden History of Burma ends with an epilogue that calls on Aung San Suu Kyi to articulate a comprehensive vision for the future of Myanmar during the 2020 election campaign. Among the key points is the need to find a middle ground between crony capitalism and the neo-liberal faith in free markets. He makes a powerful case that the future of a sustainable democracy in Myanmar depends on reducing inequality. And reinvigorating the peace process with ethnic minorities. In conversation, Thant mentioned other key issues like the direction of relations with China, the need to repair relations with the West, give Muslims greater access to education and public health, repatriate refugees, and resolve the Rohingya issue. 

I asked all with whom we spoke about their advice to the United States in helping Myanmar to a better future. People recalled with great affection Barack Obama’s visit to Myanmar in 2012 and the support that came from the US government. Most people feel the current US administration is at best indifferent, perhaps hostile to Myanmar. People believe that general sanctions over the years have been counterproductive. One thoughtful scholar urged US help to strengthen the education system, expand student exchange programs, support the development of civil society, increase private investment, and limit sanctions. Several advocated targeted sanctions targeting perhaps 100 individuals by freezing their assets and boycotting companies they control like Myanmar beer. Also, they urge requiring US companies active in Myanmar to adhere to high standards in labor rights and protecting the environment. 

The ruling by the International Court of Justice came out while we were in Myanmar. It requires Myanmar “to take all measures within its power” to prevent any further acts of violence against the Rohingya. Myanmar is required to submit regular reports to the Court within four months and thereafter every 6 months. Myanmar’s own Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) found that crimes against humanity were committed in Rakhine “but did not find” genocidal intent. 

Aung San Suu Kyi responded to the ICJ ruling in a letter to the Financial Times basically saying Myanmar’s own investigation had found evidence of “killing of civilians, disproportionate use of force, looting of property and destruction of abandoned houses of Muslims.” The right course now, she argues, is to give the Myanmar justice system time to bring those responsible to account. “An informed assessment of Myanmar’s ability to address the issue of violations in Rakhine can only be made if adequate time is given for democratic justice to run its course. Justice can help us overcome distrust, fear, prejudice and hate, and end the longstanding cycle of intercommunal violence. This has always been my goal.”

There was little discussion of the ICJ’s ruling among the people we talked to and her statement seemed to have strong support in the country.

Our 10 days in Myanmar were certainly eventful. Chinese President, Xi Jinping also made his first visit to Myanmar while we were in country to inaugurate 2020 the year of Tourism and Culture between China and Myanmar. It is also expected that China will increase its infrastructure investment in Myanmar as part of its belt and road initiative. China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner with exports to China worth $5.5. billion and imports worth $6.2 billion. The withdrawal of Western support and interest has forced Myanmar to be more dependent on China which is not the surest path to the kind of democracy we hope for. I believe this is a critical moment in Myanmar’s history with the possibility, but not certainty, of a positive evolution towards a more democratic future. There is an appetite among many civil society leaders and intellectuals, especially younger people, for interaction with the West. So I will be advocating that universities, foundations, businesses, civil society groups become more active in Myanmar. I say this with a sense of modesty and realism. The US and other Western nations are not the answer, but rather play a supporting role as the drama of Myanmar’s future unfolds. I think of the young man whose novitation we witnessed. At age nine or so he has a long future ahead and I hope it will be in a more democratic, peaceful, and prosperous Myanmar. I care about Myanmar and its people and I want to help them realize their enormous potential.

The Broadest Possible Education: The Future of Global and International Studies

These remarks were given at “International Education at the Crossroads,” a conference held at Indiana University on October 26, 2018. Dr. Fanton was the keynote speaker at the event.

Thank you President McRobbie, Dean Feinstein, Dean Kahn, and Professor Cohn.

I have had a wonderful tour of your beautiful campus. As I watch the students and faculty at work and play, the words that come to mind are happy, healthy, supportive, confident, optimistic about the future. It is an honor to be with you today, at the beginning of a symposium dedicated to one of the great challenges of higher education in the twenty-first century: how to adapt most effectively to a world that is, increasingly, at our fingertips; in some ways smaller and in other ways more difficult to comprehend; and at a time when our campuses, our research teams, our businesses, and our communities are becoming more international with every passing year.

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Introductory Remarks for “All Legislative Powers…”: Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, Then and Now

On October 15, 2018, the American Academy co-hosted a panel discussion on Article One of the United States Constitution along with the Massachusetts Historical Society. The panel was broadcast on C-SPAN. Dr. Fanton gave the following remarks as introduction.

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the American Academy. It is my pleasure to welcome you this evening to the first of a series of annual programs offered in partnership with the Massachusetts Historical Society. As many of you here tonight will know, the Academy was founded in 1780, and the Historical Society was founded in 1791.

We felt that a partnership between our two institutions would be not only logical but appropriate, and that there would be no better topic for a collaborative program than an event that took place between the founding of our two institutions: the writing of the U.S. Constitution.

The Academy and the Historical Society have a long history together. 17 of the 29 signatories to the Society’s Act of Incorporation were Academy members. And in fact Jeremy Belknap founded the Historical Society in part because he felt that the Academy’s early focus was too heavily slanted towards the sciences and natural history, and that a new institution was necessary to “establish a library to house historical sources.” Our two institutions, with their distinct missions and common values, came together in the 1890s to share space at the Boston Athenaeum for two years while the Society’s current building on Boylston Street was being built. In return, the Society generously housed the Academy as a tenant from 1899 to 1906 and again for a period of time in 1911. More recently, in 1991, we hosted the bicentennial meeting of the Society in the Academy’s Cambridge headquarters, which featured a keynote address by Senator Edward Kennedy, who presented the Kennedy Medal to the distinguished Harvard historian and Academy member Oscar Handlin. So we are delighted to be partnering with MHS yet again. Continue reading Introductory Remarks for “All Legislative Powers…”: Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, Then and Now

Speech on Undergraduate Education at Miss Porter’s School

These remarks were given at an October 12, 2018 event for the parents, trustees, and STEM Advisory Board of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, CT. The remarks introduced keynote speaker Dr. Ashley Finley of the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

Good evening Trustees, members of the STEM Advisory Board, and parents. I want to thank Kate Windsor for inviting me here this evening and for her recognition and active use of a recent report published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences entitled The Future of Undergraduate Education, The Future of America. And I want to thank my wife, Cynthia Greenleaf, a proud “Ancient” and member of the STEM Advisory Board for ALSO inviting me to be here this evening.

I greatly admire Miss Porter’s for the high-quality education it provides to young women, helping them to develop into future leaders for our country and the world. Your mission to educate your students to become informed, bold, resourceful and ethical global citizens is one that our current national and global situation surely needs. I am especially impressed with your recent curricular enhancements which challenge students to work collaboratively, make connections across disciplines and contexts, and apply what they learn to real-world issues. I also think it is important that all juniors spend time living abroad in immersion experiences to gain an understanding of another culture.

Kate Windsor recently wrote these inspiring words: “When young women have the opportunity to explore all aspects of their personalities, to have access to real-life career experiences, and to engage with the global community, they develop insights into themselves, their relationships, and the world. When coupled with ambitious goal setting, hard work, and resilience, all honed over their four years, their options are limitless.” Continue reading Speech on Undergraduate Education at Miss Porter’s School

Annual David M. Rubenstein Lecture: A Conversation with Justice Sonia Sotomayor

These remarks were given by Jonathan Fanton as an introduction to the Second Annual David M. Rubenstein Lecture with Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The lecture was held on Sunday, October 7 as part of the Academy’s 2018 Induction Weekend.

Good morning and welcome to the final session of our Induction Weekend. I now call to order the 2072nd Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

It has been a wonderful weekend.  I hope you have found it as inspiring as I have.  As you have heard, there are many ways to participate in the life of the Academy. We encourage your active engagement and we would like to hear from each of you in the years ahead.

Our Induction Weekend is an elaborate undertaking, requiring a very precise choreography. I want to take a moment to thank the Academy staff for making the weekend as welcoming, as substantive, and as seamless as possible.  Would the staff who are here please raise your hands so we can recognize your extraordinary efforts?  In particular, I would like to thank Kristin Josti, our events coordinator, who has been your point of contact for the past six months. Kristin has done a terrific job to ensure the weekend’s success.

As the defense attorney for the British soldiers who fired into the crowd of colonists during the Boston Massacre, John Adams, the most prominent Boston lawyer of his era, described what he considered the ideal operation of the legal system: “The law no passion can disturb.” Adams continued, “‘Tis void of desire and fear, lust and anger…[W]ithout any regard to persons, [it] commands that which is good and punishes evil in all, whether rich or poor, high or low.”

As we know, Adams would soon lead a revolution against the very people he was representing when he spoke these words, and his image of justice—objective, impersonal, the same for everyone regardless of financial means or social status—would become an essential aspect of his vision for the new nation. What Adams proposed in his defense was that all persons—angry colonists and frightened soldiers alike—should have equal access to justice.

Continue reading Annual David M. Rubenstein Lecture: A Conversation with Justice Sonia Sotomayor

2018 Induction Ceremony Remarks

These remarks opened the 2018 Induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in which the 238th class of new members were welcomed to the Academy. The class included 150 US-based Fellows and 25 International Honorary Members.

Let me add my warm welcome to the Class of 2018, 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 and 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 for the Academy, and especially for the leadership and encouragement of our Chair, Nancy Andrews.

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. Their determination to create this Academy, at a time of such peril to themselves and their families, is a sign of their confidence in their cause. It is also a testament to their faith in the free exchange of ideas as the basis of a thriving democracy.

In the Preface of the Academy’s first publication, the Memoirs, published in 1785, the Founders reflected upon their brave decision:

“[T]o the honor of our political Fathers be it spoken, that although the country was engaged in a distressing war, a war the most important to the liberties of mankind, that was ever undertaken by any people, and which required the utmost attention of those who were entrusted with our public concerns—they immediately adverted to the usefulness of the design, entered into its spirit, and incorporated a society…to promote most branches of knowledge advantageous to a community.”

Today, as members of the Academy, we preserve this legacy for future generations by working together to fulfill our Charter mission “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” We do this through our major initiatives to advance scientific research, humanistic inquiry, education, international security, and the vitality of our civic institutions; through our lectures and programming around the country; through our publications including Dædalus; and through our fellowship programs fostering the next generation of scholars.

Members of the Class of 2018, I invite you to join in our current endeavors but also to think about new challenges and opportunities in our quest for a more just, humane, and peaceful world. I look forward to meeting each of you, to hearing your ideas, and to finding new ways to include you in the work of this important fellowship. Once again, congratulations on your election.

Celebration of the Arts and Humanities

These remarks preceded and concluded the Friday, October 5 Celebration of the Arts and Humanities, the first event of the 2018 Induction weekend. 

Welcome

It is wonderful to welcome our new members and to be with so many friends and colleagues.

I would like to acknowledge the Academy Officers and the very dedicated members of our Board, Council, and Trust. The work of the Academy would not be possible without your vision, guidance, and support.

Those of you who are being inducted tomorrow join an institution rich in tradition, but also an institution that is always looking forward, toward the future, to the production of new knowledge and new forms of expression.  Distinctive among learned societies, the American Academy draws together leaders from the sciences, social sciences, arts, and the humanities; from law and medicine; and from business, public affairs, and philanthropy.  By combining the insights of this broad range of disciplines and professions, the Academy offers fresh ideas and new perspectives in its mission to serve the common good.  Each of you is now invited to participate in this important work, to add your particular talents and expertise to a greater cause—in the words of our Charter, to advance “the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

In 1941, the distinguished philosopher and metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead delivered an address to the Academy entitled “Statesmanship and Specialized Learning.” In that address, he praised the wisdom of our founders, who created an organization through which all of the disciplines and professions come together in productive collaboration:

“The comprehension of existence requires the combination of Arts and Sciences. In concrete human action, there is always a Science lurking behind an Art and there is always an Art stimulating a Science. This is the reason why one Academy should include both.”

Over the course of this weekend, we will explore together the ways in which the arts and sciences are combined in this Academy, through our projects, our publications, our programming, and our efforts to connect members from every discipline and profession, from around the country and the world, to share ideas and experiences in service to the public good.

Continue reading Celebration of the Arts and Humanities

Jefferson, Race, and Democracy

Jefferson, Race, and Democracy

2,065th Stated Meeting

February 6, 2018

 

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the American Academy. It is my pleasure to welcome you and to call to order the 2,065th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

As you entered the Academy this evening, you may have walked past the Gilbert Stuart portrait of John Adams that is hanging in the lobby. Adams, along with James Bowdoin and other scholar-patriots, founded the American Academy in the midst of the Revolutionary War. Even with the great upheaval around them, they recognized the need, I quote, “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” They saw people as the greatest asset to a democratic republic. Adams would go on to become the Academy’s second president, as well as the second president of the United States – posts he held concurrently for a time.

You may also have walked past Thomas Jefferson’s letter in response to his election to the Academy in 1787. Written in 1791, he praised the work of the Academy while simultaneously keeping a distance, saying:

“however wedded by affection to the objects of [the Academy’s] pursuit, I am obliged to unremitting attentions to others less acceptable to my mind, and much less attracting. I read with pleasure whatever comes from the society, and am happy in the occasion given me of assuring them of my respect and attachment…”

After this, less attracting pursuits won out, and our archives hold no further communication from Jefferson.

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Academy at Risk: Challenges of the 21st Century

“Academy at Risk: Challenges of the 21st Century”

European Humanities University

Vilnius, Lithuania

January 26, 2018

It is an honor to be back here at EHU, a university I first came to know in 1995 when I visited Minsk in my capacity as President of the New School for Social Research and as Chair of the European division of Human Rights Watch. It was my privilege to support EHU as President of the MacArthur Foundation with substantial grants over the years. Most recently, as Chair of Scholars at Risk, I have continued my support for EHU and scholars facing repression around the world.

I also feel a deep bond to Vilnius. It is a particular pleasure to be here in Vilnius this special year – when Lithuania commemorates a centenary anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Vilnius plays a special role in the history of many nations; being a capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it has also become a cultural center for generations of Jews, Poles, and—certainly—Belarusians.

As Chair of Helsinki Watch I first visited Vilnius in late January 1991. I saw then the courage and determination of the Lithuanian people. I will never forget coming through the sandbags and volunteer guards that ringed the Parliament to meet with President Landsbergis.  The spirit of freedom was alive in the entrance gallery full of young people singing songs of tradition and liberation.  The President told me, “If we are not crushed completely in a short time, this process of independence will succeed.”  How right he was.

I am proud that MacArthur provided support for the critical relocation of EHU from Minsk to Vilnius. And I was honored to join President Adamkus and Rector Mikhailov at the opening ceremony of the European Humanities University International in June 2005. In my remarks I said:

At today’s occasion, I cannot help but recall that the Graduate Faculty of the New School was founded 72 years ago this month as the University in Exile.  The New School rescued scholars from Germany and elsewhere in Europe, giving them safe haven from Nazi terror.  The faculty adopted as their guiding principle “To the Living Spirit,” words etched on the main building of the University of Heidelberg and defaced by the Nazis.

In the 1980s, when dissident academics in East and Central Europe were subject to persecution, the New School supported their underground seminars, brought forbidden books and journals in, and brought censored manuscripts out for publication in the West. So through the New School tradition, I feel a special kinship to scholars in peril.

MacArthur was drawn to supporting EHU for intellectual and pedagogical reasons: We saw in EHU, the European University of St. Petersburg, the Central European University, and the New Economic School a force for strengthening the Humanities and Social Sciences. We saw a generation of scholars yearning to meet international standards through open inquiry and exchange. And a desire to connect research with policy at a time when we hoped that democracy and wider freedom would take root in the post-Soviet space.

EHU has been a leader in creating research centers, libraries, and institutes. I think of the Center for Gender Studies, the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism, and the Center for Constitutionalism and Human Rights as shining examples, producing research that informs and improves policy.

Continue reading Academy at Risk: Challenges of the 21st Century

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.

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